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January 04, 2015

One Big Fluke

Here's a first taste of what's coming in Effective Python. The full text of Item 17: Be Defensive When Iterating Over Arguments. If you haven't hit this gotcha already, it's only a matter of time. I describe the symptoms and a reasonable solution.

by Brett Slatkin (noreply@blogger.com) at January 04, 2015 09:29 AM

Doc Searls WeblogDoc Searls Weblog »

FlightAware’s Amazing MiseryMap

FlightAware's Misery MapThat’s FlightAware‘s MiseryMap. Go there now, click on the blue “play” button and watch what happens. If you’re close to now (8:56pm EST), you’ll see what weather does directly to major airports in Chicago, New York and Atlanta, and indirectly (by delayed flights due to unavailable airplanes, mostly) to Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, etc. If you’re at some other time in the future, it will still show weather and flight delays, because we always have both.

The MiseryMap is also one of the coolest and most useful examples of data visualization on the Web. And a trifecta winner for weather, aviation and geography freaks like me.

by Doc Searls at January 04, 2015 02:01 AM

confused of calcutta

Thinking about 2015

A new year is upon us, particularly if we are of the Gregorian persuasion when it comes to calendars. Even if we aren’t of that persuasion, it helps to have a label to refer to a bucket of time, particularly when said bucket comes in 365-day sizes. I hope and pray that … Continue reading Thinking about 2015

by JP at January 04, 2015 12:49 AM

January 03, 2015

CrossFit Naptown

Project GLOC Registration Tomorrow!

Sunday’s Workout:

CrossFit Rowing Class 10:00-11:00

Open Gym 11:00-12:00 and 12:00-1:00

 

Friendly Reminder!

 

Calling all gorgeous and bada** CrossFit NapTown women! Tomorrow is the day to register for this year’s Project GLOC competition hosted by our friends at CrossFit Carmel. Check out this blog post from earlier this week for full information and be sure to set your alarms in the morning to be at the ready when registration opens.

by Anna at January 03, 2015 11:58 PM

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

Amanda Pays and John Wesley Shipp

The TV show THE FLASH from time to time gives little gifts to the fans of the comic, not to mention fans of the shortlived 1990-1991 show from a while back. Has it really been that long?

http://www.comicbookmovie.com/fansites/JoshWildingNewsAndReviews/news/?a=112174

Personally, I always thought Amanda Pays was one of the best things about the show. That said, I the writers of the new version have added many clever and dramatic elements, including the ongoing story line of Barry Allen seeking to free his falsely accused father and find the murderer of his mother, not to mention a clever love triangle between Barry, his unofficial stepfather’s partner (who thinks the Flash is a menace) and Iris West, here playing a curious Lois Lane type tracking down rumors of the Flash. Another shout-out to fans is that the original Flash (John Wesley Shipp) is playing the Flash’s wrongfully imprisoned father.

Amanda-Pays

 

 

by John C Wright at January 03, 2015 07:39 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

6 Discoveries From Near and Far: Volume XXVI

Vakil mosque panorama

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.

  • Worth It All — How do you know if what you’re slaving over is really worth it?

###

Image: Feature Shoot

by Chris Guillebeau at January 03, 2015 04:00 PM

Inconsolation

*fte: An epic tale of text editor discovery

I do have a history of backing my way into programs, and discovering later that there were easier options available.

Today was a good example. I had efte on my list as a menu-driven text editor, and found fte by way of an AUR search. I dutifully installed both, only to be met with these messages in tty1:

kmandla@jsgqk71: ~$ fte
$DISPLAY not set? This version of fte must be run under X11.

kmandla@jsgqk71: ~$ efte
XeFTE Fatal: could not open display: NULL!

Usually that’s enough of a sign for me to throw down whatever program I am dangling before my goggling eyes, and move on to something more amenable. But I felt a certain small affinity for both fte and efte, mostly because their X-based performance seemed to be on the right track.

2015-01-03-jsgqk71-fte 2015-01-03-jsgqk71-efte

I couldn’t see a text-based flag for either program in what I had installed, so I did one last search through Debian as due diligence, and came up with both fte-console and fte-terminal — versions of fte intended for emulators and virtual consoles, respectively, and decompress to include vfte and sfte, respectively.

Both ran fine under Arch in spite of their Debian pedigree, which made me wonder if there were similar binaries included with the AUR versions.

To make a long story short, fte includes the aforementioned sfte and vfte, and efte includes nefte and vefte as analogues. The underlying idea of this long and drawn-out post, is that fte and efte (and their accompanying versions) should give you something along the lines of this:

2015-01-03-jsgqk71-sfte

And so I can more or less conclude this text editor epic by pointing out that fte and efte are full-screen, menu-driven text editors with a feature set aimed at programmers. Color is great, syntax highlighting is turned on by default, both start up with a file chooser and both can do split windows, interactive dialogs, horizontal panning and a bunch of other fun stuff.

Now I can claim to have finished looking over not one, not two, but six text editors without ever bashing vim or emacs. I can cross that off my list of achievements. ;)


Tagged: editor, text

by K.Mandla at January 03, 2015 03:00 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

Extracurricular Activities 1.3.15 — The Law of Moses, Robert Alter, Moses Myth?

Justin Taylor Interviews David Dorsey on The Law of Moses and the Christian

A Q&A summary with David Dorsey’s essay, “The Law of Moses and the Christian: A Compromise,” JETS 34 (1991): 321-34:

What was the purpose or design of the law of Moses?

  1. The corpus was designed to regulate the lives of a people living in the distinctive geographical and climatic conditions found in the southern Levant, and many of the regulations are inapplicable, unintelligible, or even nonsensical outside that regime.
  2. The corpus was designed by God to regulate the lives of a people whose cultural milieu was that of the ancient Near East.

Fred Sanders on ““All the Prophets Proclaimed These Days” of Acts 3

In Acts 3, near the end of his sermon in Solomon’s Portico, Peter says that “all the prophets, as many as have spoken, from Samuel and those after him, also predicted these days” in which God would bring salvation in Christ.

Old Testament scholar R. E. Clements once pointed out that this New Testament text contains two crucial assumptions which run counter to much Old Testament scholarship: (1) that it’s possible to summarize what “all the prophets” said, and (2) that such a summary is a message of salvation.

In an article that takes Clements’ observation as a starting point, H.G.M. Williamson puts it this way:

David Lamb Asks if Moses Was a Myth, and Sees 2 Problems

A few days ago some InterVarsity friends (Jon, Dan, Tim, and Jesse) and I were discussing an article that appeared in theGuardian asking if Moses was just a myth.  The article quoted biblical scholar Philip Davies who said, “Moses himself has about as much historic reality as King Arthur” (Davies introduced me in Oxford in 2008 when I presented my Trash Talking paper.)

The topic of Moses is obviously timely in the advent of Exodus: Gods and Kings which comes out December 12, 2014…

I don’t think Moses was a myth, but we need to acknowledges that there are several historical problems with the Exodus.

PART 1:  Problem # 1: Egyptian records don’t mention the Exodus.

PART 2:  Problem #2 Moses isn’t mentioned anywhere outside of the Bible. 

Carl Trueman Shares a Medieval Perspective on Identity Politics

[W]hile revising my Medieval Church lectures over Christmas, I was reminded of just how medieval I am by the new book from Larry Siedentop, Inventing the Individual. The book tells the story of individualism from ancient Greece to the late Middle Ages, with the major focus being on the latter. It also sheds unexpected light on some of the most pressing of modern political issues.

Siedentop’s central thesis is provocative and plausible, though inevitably in need of further documentation and argument. In essence it is this: Christianity, by stressing the equality of all human beings before God effectively undermined previous categories which divided up or stratified society. Family, polis, and social hierarchy were all ultimately relativized in the light of the concept of a universal human nature.

An Interview with Robert Alter on How “Exodus” Compares to the Bible

For nearly a century, Hollywood has been turning out cinematic adaptations of the biblical book of Exodus. There have been Technicolor versions, animated versions and even a silent version. Now, filmmaker Ridley Scott has a 3-D contribution: Exodus: Gods and Kings.

NPR’s Robert Siegel asks Robert Alter, a professor of Hebrew and comparative literature at the University of California, Berkeley, for his thoughts on the film. Alter has translated most of the Hebrew Bible, including the five books of Moses, and he’s a leading secular scholar of Scripture.

BONUS: Tim Challies Offers a Prayer for a New Year

We have come to the final day of 2014 and are at the cusp of a new year. I find it only appropriate to close the year with prayer—prayer that thanks God for the year that was, and prayer that looks with joy and expectation to the year that will be. Here is my prayer:

My Good and Gracious Father,

You have brought me safely through another year. This was a year in which I saw and experienced so much of your goodness. You were good when you gave, and you were good when you took away; you were good when the sun shined upon me and you were good when the night fell around me. You were only, ever good.

________________________

Extra-Curricular 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 January 03, 2015 02:41 PM

The Urbanophile

The Urbanophile 2014 Year in Review

Happy New Year everybody! I’m back after the holiday with a look back at the previous year here at the Urbanophile. Thanks so much for your readership and support.

As I mentioned, I’m going to be dialing back my posting frequency this year. To keep up without having to keep checking back to see if I’ve posted anything new, the best way is to subscribe by email (which includes exclusive content) or subscribe by RSS for those of you like me who prefer newsreaders.

Here are some of the best pieces from the last year.

January
I make a major case that state economic development strategies should be metro-centric.

February
Michael Scott examines the overlooked potential of urban alleys.

March
Eric McAfee takes a visit to Wal-Mart’s hometown of Bentonville, Arkansas.

April
Over at New Geography, I examine the rise of the executive headquarters.

May
As more businesses move downtown than anywhere else I’ve seen, I ask if something is wrong with Chicago’s suburbs.

June
I talk about how Dallas is an an inflection point in its development trajectory, and that one thing it needs to address is its challenging pedestrian environment downtown.

July
I ask: do cities really want economic development?

And I rake Rhode Island over the coals in City Journal for its failed economic policies. I also give a three part installment on how to fix it: part one, part two, and part three.

August
I take a look at how the small industrial city of Kokomo, Indiana is trying to reinvent itself.

I also talk about how the loss of hometown banks and other operating businesses turned many cities from growth machines into decline machines.

September
I talk about my paradigm of the new donut.

October
Daniel Hertz shared some stunning maps of New York City segregation.

November
Pete Saunders talks about the three generations of black mayors in America.

December
Steve Eide uses Hollywood to explore the three ages of boss rule in American cities.

These are but a few highlights. Check out the full archive of posts in my left sidebar.

Again, thanks so much for reading. Have a great 2015!

by Aaron M. Renn at January 03, 2015 02:24 PM

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

Women and Children First

This is my EveryJoe Column for the week of 12 17 2014. I reprint it here in hope of luring some of my kind readers to comment on my writing site there. You may also want to do yourself a favor and read Colonel Kratman’s column.

* * *

A civilization whose citizens have lost the ability to admire its virtues, beauties, benefits and strengths is one whose citizens are losing the ability to defend that civilization. Before we pull stone from stone to dismantle the wall that separates civilized life from the chaotic bloodshed, cruelty, and misery of barbarism outside, it behooves us to examine the wall, and ask three questions of it: What is Civilization? How is it maintained? What can undo it?

To define civilization is like defining an elephant: the thing is too big to take it at a glance. Nonetheless, by imagining its absence (for example by watching a MAD MAX movie) we can see what it provides.

In the absence of civilization, there is no law hence no property, ergo no man has any reason to check any craving for the land currently occupied by another, any fruitful plot or pleasant hunting ground, if he has strength enough to dispossess him. Personal chattel or cattle are even less secure, because a trespasser can carry them away without the effort of assaulting or, once in possession, holding the envied real estate.

Where there is no law hence no rights, any stranger has just as good a claim to lands and chattel as the first possessor, if his strength is the same; and if the stranger be weaker, it is prudent to destroy him ere he grow stronger. The inhuman calculus of prudence says that it improves one’s safety to have a reputation for strength and brutality, so that potential threats might seek elsewhere for prey, and so that indecisive neighbors become allies or clients.

Hence in this state of nature without manmade laws, your equals will invade to despoil you because they covet; the weaker because they fear you; the stronger because they do not fear you, for glory, or the mere pleasure of bloodshed.

In such a state, labor is vain, because whatever is built or made may be taken; cultivating the earth is vain, because an invader may harvest what you sow, and drink the wine of your grapes; there is no trade nor travel by sea, because there is nothing to transport; no machines for moving or removing great weights; no works of canals, bridges, walls, fortress, dams; no draining of swamps, nor clearing of forest; no knowledge of distant places; no reckoning of times and season; no lasting nor reliable record of years past, hence no accumulation of lore and learning between generations; no medicine, no letters, no arts; and, above all, men live wretched and impoverished lives, and brief.

Now, with all due respect to Thomas Hobbes, this description of perfect desolation in nature is inaccurate. The one thing missing from this picture is that real barbarians, past and present, enjoy the company, comradeship and protection of their family, clan and tribe. Real barbarians do not fear and mistrust every man as potential robbers and murderers, but only strangers outside their kin. For their mutual protection, the families have strong reason for brothers to gather with their fathers, uncles, nephews, and cousins in forming hunting parties and war bands, and, in tribes who live without letters or written law, oral lore, chants and epics, long-held customs, and the wisdom of grandfathers suffices to give the tribe the unity needed to survive against other tribes.

Such lore will stave off the perfect desolation of nature, as brother will respect the chattel and cattle, wives and wigwam of his brother, and in return will share as need and seniority dictates. And over time simple crafts and skills, rites and decorative arts will be learned and passed down.

There is no assurance, no invisible law of evolution, which says that tribal lore and custom must always accumulate and never lose these gradual, hard-won gains. There are peoples in Australia whom anthropologists believe once had knowledge of the bone needle, the art of sewing, the napping of flint and the making of spearheads, and lost them all.

Once a tribe learns the art of husbandry, and learns that in order to enjoy the fruit of their tillage, houses of stone, or, better yet, a wall to enclose a stronghold, can be erected, and smithies to smelt the gleaming bronze of sword and spear, wealth unimaginable heretofore pours into their coffers: sheep and oxen, donkeys and hunting dogs, gleaming arrowheads, slaves and wives, and all fashion of pottery and fabric. With this wealth, there is leisure, and specialization of labor. Where before all men in the tribe were at once warriors and hunters and herdsmen, slavers and tillermen, now emerges the figures we see already established when history first puts stylus to clay: the king and his fighting men, the priesthood, the merchant counting his coins, the peasant tilling the soil, the slave toiling in fields or mines or canals.

The priest can count the days and seasons, and watch the stars, and calculate the acreage of fields, and measure where boundary stones lie. Writing is theirs: not without reason that the word clerk means both man of the cloth and man of the pen.

The easy sharing of goods with brothers in need seen in tribal life is less because there is less need of it. The laws can be written, and, whenever the day comes when the priest tells the king that the king is also bound by the laws he enforces, then civilization exists.

This check on the lawlessness of the king is the last stone set in place to erect the wall of civilization; and since he is the force of law in the land, it must be a spiritual idea, a cult or faith or article of philosophy, and invisible and impalpable idea, which makes the king mortar that stone in place.

So to remove that last stone, first one must erode the mortar of the idea.

This requires a treason of your clerks. Your priests have to undermine and undercut the legitimacy of the idea of civilization in the mind of your king to make that stone wobble and fall. This can best be done by having the priests outlaw from the public agora whatever gods support the city and uphold civilization, and instead introduce gods of irrationality, barbarism, and chaos. Such priests eliminate their own priesthood first of all.

If you don’t have priest, the treason can issue from whoever or whatever it is to whom you entrusted your common intellectual and spiritual heritage, such as your academics, media, singers of songs and tellers of tales, the press and philosophers.

The treason of the philosophers begins when they reach philosophy is pointless, truth is relative, and all words are meaningless.

The treason of the press is complete once journalism is dead, and instead of a fair, truthful or balanced version of world and local events, you hear nothing but lies, lies, lies and shameless and damnable lies. The press makes real the vision of the philosophers of a world without truth.

Likewise when the treason of the singers is complete exchange love songs for song about bitches and whores and shooting cops, for then all songs are ugly.

When the storytellers all tell tales wherein your civilization is always depicted as wicked, worthless, hypocritical, vile, they the imagination of the people is fill with a gray and murky disgust for the wall of civilization.

All that the lying academic need say at this point is that something better and brighter than civilization is on the other side of the wall, for example, the People’s Republic of Utopia, and that therefore the allegedly protective wall is instead prison wall.

If enough people and if the King believe it, then the first stone to go is the last one put in place. Everyone is told that the King must be granted a plethora of unlawful powers in the name of breaking down the wall blocking the way to Utopia. One this first stone trembles, once it falls, civilization begins to crumble at an ever increasing rate.

Do not be deceived: a tyranny like that seen in Stalin’s Russia or Mao’s China is as barbaric and wretched as Hobbes’ state of nature, despite that the state is totalitarian. A king with no check on his power is an anarchist, and he savages the people under his alleged protection no less than the dangerous strangers marauding through the bloody landscape of the Hobbes.

Hobbes and many enlightenment writers had the insight that civilization was a social contract. They did not literally mean that every soul before birth signed a bit of paper on which the mutually agreed terms defining civilization were written in black ink. The writers meant that there was an organic and mutual reciprocity between subject and sovereign. Hobbes thought that the king could violate this reciprocity with immunity; Locke and other writers, including those inspiring our Founding Fathers, held that a sufficiently damaging and permanent violation freed the other party to the deal, the people, from any continued obligation of fealty or allegiance.

So, the first thing that can start the dissolution of civilization, and place our foot on the long, blood-soaked, sad path toward that aboriginal tribe that has forgotten how to make needles or sew, is the treason of the clerks.

One the king is convinced (or in these more degenerate and democratic times, the parliaments and congresscreatures who have kingly duties but no sense of a higher power to whom they are obligated) that he has authority to overrule the laws of civilization, perhaps to make the pathway clear to the alleged utopia that the priests said surely will arise once anarchy is unleashed, then the legitimacy of his state is gone, and he is merely a raving beast like a mad man-eating lion.

The first thing the lion eats is the sense of honor that keeps his fighting men in check. His fighting men includes what in the modern day is both the military and the police. The police are made more and more militaristic; they are cast as the enemy of the people; and the military is degenerated from its ancient precepts of honor and courage, and instead becomes sensitive and friendly to womenfolk or sodomites.

Now, to be clear, in a modern bureaucratic state, any one who has the power to enforce the law and harass the people is, for all practical purposes, a policeman, a soldier, a fighting man of the king. We would call these bureaucrats, everyone from the tax man to the clerk on a planning and zoning board enforcing an irrational eco-nutbag regulation.

The sense of honor needed to keep soldiers and civil servants in check evaporates as the lawlessness of the anarchic King spreads down the wall to the next row, and the soldiers, police, and civil servants become young lions, red in tooth and claw.

Once the fighting men are corrupted, next oldest support of civilization vanishes: the burghers, the townsmen, the bourgeoisie, the merchants, the shopkeeper and tradesman, and middle class. Their corruption is far easier and far quicker, because trade and possession depends on a faith in objective law and evenhanded enforcement of contracts, not to mention the soundness of coin or currency. The middle class can be taxed out of existence, as they were in ancient Rome, which collapsed the Western Empire in one generation, and kept the Eastern Empire in a state of servitude and poverty for the remainder of its millennium.

The merchants who turn to the King to make a sweetheart deal create crony capitalism, which is also, more correctly, called fascism. The industries, such as are left, become organs of the state and are protected by increasingly one-sided and nakedly unfair taxations and regulations.

The important point to note is that the treason of the merchants undermines the unspoken social contract which allows trade and manufacture, or even guilds and small shops, to exist: that is, namely, the unspoken social contract provides that spoken contracts shall be upheld, and trade be fair and free. This idea is laughed into nonexistence, and the merchants are no longer merchants, but become jackals slinking and slouching in the shadows of the lions consuming the people, greedy for scraps.

But no civilization of this is possible without the brotherhood of family and clan. And that is not possible without marriage and an institution of paternity.

So the final course of stones to go is the social contract, the bargain, between fathers and mothers, between male and female. The deal is that, in return for the bearing the burden of bearing children, the womanfolk will be protected and cherished. When the barbarians attack, the women and children go first to the stronghold, and the men man the walls; the iceberg strikes, the women and children go into the lifeboats, and the men go to death in the icy water. In return, the women preserve and reproduce the race.

In barbaric ages and nations, this was done by polygamy, where the women were chattel, and in Christian civilization, by monogamy, where the women could not be divorced nor put aside except for fornication.

To prevent the menfolk from killing each other, or slaying the bastards fathered by other men on their wives, the women uphold modesty and chastity. Modesty deters unwanted extramarital or premarital sex; the chastity confirms the paternity of offspring, and expels a cold marriage of convenience in favor of a warm and romantic Christian marriage.

The first crack in this base course of the wall of civilization was the legalization of no-fault divorce, which was widened by contraception, and then a free-love sexual free-for-all which has, for all practical purposes abolished marriage among our urban poor.

The crack was widened again by feministic hypocrisy and insanity, which somehow demands all the burden of paternity be bourn by the father, even though he can be divorced at any time, and cast away; but that men take care not to offend women, no, not by so small a trifle as wearing a loud shirt or using the wrong pronoun; whereas women can do as they please, and whore around.

Such harlots seek to become the chattel of the strongest young lion or the richest sniveling jackal, and the idea of a modest matron raising children becomes as laughable to the corrupt harlot’s mind as an honorable soldier or an honest merchant.

Obviously no one believes that women can both be equal to men in facing all danger, and yet at the same time must be protected by trigger warnings lest they faint away. No one believes it, feminists least of all. This rampant hypocrisy has been clear ever since the days they rallied around Clinton, the Adulterer-in-Chief, and with their silence damned to hell all the women mutilated, enslaved, humiliated, falsely accused, and slain by Shariah Law.

In the same way the priests betray and eliminate the idea of the sacred, and the kings betray and eliminate the idea of legitimate authority, and fighting men and public servants betray and eliminate the idea of honor and duty and faithful executions of the laws, and the merchants destroy the idea of a fair deal, the feminists destroy the mystical concept of womanhood.

The feminists hatred for the feminine is accomplished, and their treason is complete, when motherhood is as purely despised as maidenhood, and women are once again possessions of the strongest.

It is noteworthy that, in the current day, all the courses of the stone wall, from lowest to highest, are cracking, creaking, and tumbling, and the loudest traitors cry that the stones are oppression, blocking and hindering us from skipping down the road of yellow bricks; they scream that the Emerald City of Oz is just outside the gate, which we must throw open to welcome the Wonderful Wizard who will grant all our contradictory and childish wishes.

And the bloodthirsty lions and jackals awaiting without are never mentioned.

Whether the traitors are blind but sincere, or merely suicidal and malign, makes no difference to the end result.

 

 

by John C Wright at January 03, 2015 06:02 AM

Take it from a Newspaperman

I just wanted to share with my readers the benefit of my years of experience in the newspaper business.

The press lies. They lie their hindquarters off, and lie, and lie and lie. Sometimes the lie when it costs them money and readership. The lie even when they lose advertisement. They lie like Baghdad Bob saying the American army was defeated while tanks were visible in the background shot closing in. They lie like Walter Duranty.

Walter Duranty. Remember him?

“There is no famine or actual starvation nor is there likely to be.”

–New York Times, Nov. 15, 1931, page 1

“Any report of a famine in Russia is today an exaggeration or malignant propaganda.”
–New York Times, August 23, 1933

“Enemies and foreign critics can say what they please. Weaklings and despondents at home may groan under the burden, but the youth and strength of the Russian people is essentially at one with the Kremlin’s program, believes it worthwhile and supports it, however hard be the sledding.”

–New York Times, December 9, 1932, page 6

“You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.”

–New York Times, May 14, 1933, page 18

“There is no actual starvation or deaths from starvation but there is widespread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition.”

–New York Times, March 31, 1933, page 13

There is a more telling Duranty quote, not in his dispatches, which is reported in a memoir by Zara Witkin, a Los Angeles architect, who lived in the Soviet Union during the 1930s. (“An American Engineer in Stalin’s Russia: The Memoirs of Zara Witkin, 1932-1934,” University of California Press )

Arnold Beichman, writing for the Weekly Standard says this:

The memoirist describes an evening during which the Moscow correspondents were discussing how to get out the story about the Stalin-made Russian famine. To get around the censorship, the UP’s Eugene Lyons was telephoning the dire news of the famine to his New York office but the was ordered to stop because it was antagonizing the Kremlin. Ralph Barnes, the New York Herald Tribune reporter, turned to Duranty and asked him what he was going to write. Duranty replied:

“Nothing. What are a few million dead Russians in a situation like this? Quite unimportant. This is just an incident in the sweeping historical changes here. I think the entire matter is exaggerated”.

And this was at a time when peasants in Ukraine were dying of starvation at the rate of 25,000 a day.

Lying out of fear or covetousness I understand. I don’t do it, and am rather proud of my ability to resist this one temptation with manly fortitude, but I grasp it. I get the concept. They lie even when the lie increases their danger or creates the loss of their goal. They lie even when no one is fooled or could be fooled.

Why? Why do they lie, and love lies, and lie even when it damns them, and it does no damned good?

It is like asking why the Grinch hates Christmas. No one quite knows the reason.

So whenever I hear the report that Gamergate is dead, and that the Social Justice Warriors won a signal victory in this arena, I assume, even if I hear it from a source I ordinarily would trust, that it is a lie. The writer might easily be deceived, because, alas, some people do believe the press, and do not believe the lies are coordinated.

Likewise if I hear how much the fans loved and the rating soared for the last two minutes of the last season of LEGEND OF KORRA, where the writing team declared retroactively that Korra and Asami holding hands displays not that they are friends, but that they are teen sexual deviants.

The press reports all the fans swooned. Who, after all, does not love with giddy transports of love the idea of unmarried underage clamlickers pleasuring each other and calling it true love? And teaching children likewise. There is nothing remotely offensive in that. We don’t need no stinking families: the State is Father, the State is Mother.

And whoever thinks that sex is sex and that sex is not non-sex is a bigot. To the Left, the law of non-contradiction is a hate crime. War is peace, after all, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength.

There is no friendship in the world of the Left, and no sex, only sexual deviance. There is no one who disagrees or has reservations on any Leftist issues, only haters and heretics not with the program: all victories are total and absolute, and Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.

Likewise if I hear about how anthropogenic Global Warming, or Global Cooling, or Global Something is now absolutely settled science, as settled as Newton, as settled as the Geocentric Theory, as settled as Lamarck! Science never investigates evidence nor welcomes questions once a matter is settled. Skepticism is outlawed in scientific discussions among the Left. Science, for them, is a matter of wide eyed total belief, belief without question, with one’s mouth hanging open.

In the spirit of the New Year, as we say farewell to 2014, destined to become known in history as the Year of Lies, I suggest we all watch this, my single favorite video from Andrew Klavan.

 

by John C Wright at January 03, 2015 05:43 AM

January 02, 2015

CrossFit 204: Fitness in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Workout: Jan. 3, 2015

Nice job, Linz!

Nice job, Linz!

As many reps as possible in 10 minutes of:

12 kettlebell swings (55/35 lb.)

8 box jumps or step-ups (24/20 inches)

Rest 5 minutes

Every minute on the minute for 10 minutes:

Even minute – max wall balls

Odd minute – max burpees

by Mike at January 02, 2015 11:59 PM

Workout: Jan. 4, 2015

Coach Dave tangles with a heavy one!

Coach Dave tangles with a heavy one!

Press 5-5-5

Push press 3-3-3

Partner workout: 100 box-over burpees

Skills

3 rounds, not for time, of:

100-foot waiter walk (left arm)

100-foot waiter walk (right arm)

200-foot farmer carry (walk slowly)

60-second plank

60-second glute bridge (one leg, each for 30 seconds, is also acceptable)

by Mike at January 02, 2015 11:58 PM

CrossFit Naptown

CrossFit Kids and MFFL Training Today

Saturday’s Workout:

50 Calorie Row
40 Chest-to-Bar Pull Ups
30 Push Ups
20 Thrusters (75/55)
10 Ring Dips
50 Back Squats (75/55)
800 Run

 

CrossFit Kids 12:00-1:00pm 

 

Today we will be hosting our first of three CrossFit Kids weekends. Click here for a link to the information on CrossFit Kids and how you can sign up for today or the coming weekends!

 

Masters Functional Fitness Session 1:00-3:00pm

 

After the kiddo madness, the adults will have their time to play from 1:00-3:00pm. Check out the full details on the Masters Functional Fitness League here. From 1:00-3:00 today we will be hosting the Masters competitors to take on the MFFL workouts in a super awesome environment!

by Anna at January 02, 2015 10:35 PM

512 Pixels

141 episodes →

It's hard to believe we've been making shows as Relay FM for 20 weeks already.

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by Stephen Hackett at January 02, 2015 08:57 PM

Light Blue Touchpaper

Systemization of Pluggable Transports for Censorship Resistance

An increasing number of countries implement Internet censorship at different levels and for a variety of reasons. Consequently, there is an ongoing arms race where censorship resistance schemes (CRS) seek to enable unfettered user access to Internet resources while censors come up with new ways to restrict access. In particular, the link between the censored client and entry point to the CRS has been a censorship flash point, and consequently the focus of circumvention tools. To foster interoperability and speed up development, Tor introduced Pluggable Transports — a framework to flexibly implement schemes that transform traffic flows between Tor client and the bridge such that a censor fails to block them. Dozens of tools and proposals for pluggable transports  have emerged over the last few years, each addressing specific censorship scenarios. As a result, the area has become too complex to discern a big picture.

Our recent report takes away some of this complexity by presenting a model of censor capabilities and an evaluation stack that presents a layered approach to evaluate pluggable transports. We survey 34 existing pluggable transports and highlight their inflexibility to lend themselves to feature sharability for broader defense coverage. This evaluation has led to a new design for Pluggable Transports – the Tweakable Transport: a tool for efficiently building and evaluating a wide range of Pluggable Transports so as to increase the difficulty and cost of reliably censoring the communication channel.

Link Obfuscation and Pluggable Transports

While blocking can take place at any point(s) in the network, the link between the censored client and entry point to the CRS has been a frequent target (corresponding circumvention being termed as link obfuscation). It is relatively easier for a censor to block information while it is in transit given that the censor is typically a powerful nation-state adversary that controls network infrastructure within the censored region. A CRS is effectively the composition of multiple components, each designed to defend against a set of attacker capabilities, either by itself or in combination with other components. A design trend in the development of CRSs is to separate the modules which handle link obfuscation while rest of the system can chose from a range of implementation choices, as simple proxy or full blown anonymity system. This kind of separation simplifies some of the complexity inherent in link obfuscation schemes as these defend against all blocking techniques available to censors. Also, as no one scheme has proved resistant to all potential adversaries, an arms race has developed resulting in the evolution of link obfuscation techniques to have dramatically sped up compared to other modules of a CRS. Finally, link obfuscation is a relatively new area so it is unclear which design decisions are optimal.

The concept of link obfuscation is embodied by Pluggable Transports, the de facto API for link obfuscation schemes to integrate with a CRS. This API specifies a layered framework in which application layer messages on a sender are passed on to an intermediate pluggable transport layer which obfuscates the data in some way before passing it on to the network. Data flows in the reverse direction on the receiver with a view to deobfuscation. A modular approach like this simplifies implementations while factoring out redundant components. Originally this API was designed for use with Tor, but it has since been generalised and now there is a wide variety of pluggable transport providers as well as a growing number of pluggable transport consumers in addition to Tor, with Lantern and Psiphon now able to make use of pluggable transports.

Seeing the forest for the trees

Despite the inherent complexity of link obfuscation/pluggable transports and the breadth of work in this area, there is no principled way to evaluate individual systems and compare them against each other. We recently carried out a study where we mapped 34 link obfuscation schemes to a comprehensive model of a censor’s blocking capabilities, and benchmarked the circumvention capabilities of these schemes using an abstract link obfuscation model. We note that there is a tendency for tools to cluster around resistance against either address-based blocking or content-based blocking. In reality, effective circumvention has to accommodate both “transform this byte stream to obfuscate censorable information” (content-based blocking) as well as  “whom to connect to with the obfuscated traffic” (address-based blocking).

The Way Forward: Tweakable Pluggable Transports

Although the pluggable transport architecture serves as a unified framework for “plugging-in” a link obfuscation scheme to a CRS, we note that most link obfuscation schemes themselves have been designed as monolithic systems that are hard to modify and extend.  Such a design is orthogonal to the requirements of CRS: speed of development is particularly important for censorship resistance because there is no one approach which is optimally efficient and resistant to all censorship mechanisms (temporal agility). A study of network traces collected at an ISP in Pakistan indicates that the country initially blocked YouTube through DNS redirection and HTTP 302 redirection to a block page in September 2012 [1]. A year later, HTTP redirection was replaced by absence of  HTTP response (for example, by injecting a TCP reset after observing HTTP request for a blocked host) . Moreover, the exact mechanism through which censorship is enforced varies across different countries [2] and requires link obfuscation schemes tailored to the given location (spatial agility). To address these limitations, we present Tweakable Pluggable Transport (TPT) — a stacked architecture that represents link obfuscation schemes as a series of components, with each component defending against one or more attacks, either by itself or in conjunction with other components. This approach assists the design process by providing a set of patterns to follow, and a methodology for evaluating the censorship resistance features which are offered.

Our full report can be found on arXiv.

[1] Sheharbano Khattak, Mobin Javed, Syed Ali Khayam, Zartash Afzal Uzmi and Vern Paxson. A Look at the Consequences of Internet Censorship Through an ISP Lens, in the proceedings of the 14th ACM SIGCOMM conference on Internet measurement (IMC ’14).

[2] Ronald J. Deibert, John G. Palfrey, Rafal Rohozinski and Jonathan Zittrain (Editors) Access Denied: The Practice and Policy of Global Internet Filtering (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2008).

by Sheharbano Khattak at January 02, 2015 08:21 PM

Software Carpentry

Books You May Enjoy

I didn't read (or re-read) much in 2014, but I enjoyed these:

There aren't any programming books in the list: I read several, but they all felt tired. On the other hand, Spot It and Forbidden Island were a lot of fun, and I'd recommend both.

by Greg Wilson (gvwilson@third-bit.com) at January 02, 2015 07:00 PM

Jon Udell

How Federated Wiki neighborhoods grow and change

Federated Wiki sites form neighborhoods that change dynamically as you navigate FedWiki space. Sites that are within your current neighborhood are special in two ways: you can link to them by names alone (versus full URLs), and you can search them.

Here’s one neighborhood I can join.

A row of flags (icons) in the bottom right corner of the screen (1) indicates that there are five sites in this neighborhood: my own and four others. The number next to the search box in the bottom middle (2) says that 772 pages can be searched. That number is the sum of all the pages in the neighborhood.

From each site in the neighborhood, FedWiki retrieves a summary called the sitemap. It is a list of all the pages on the site. Each item in the list has the page’s title, date, and complete first paragraph (which might be very short or very long). FedWiki’s built-in search uses sitemaps which means that it only sees the titles and first paragraphs of the pages in your neighborhood.

Here are the sites in this neighborhood:

  1. forage.ward.fed.wiki.org
  2. jon.sf.fedwikihappening.net
  3. sites.fed.wiki.org
  4. video.fed.wiki.org
  5. ward.fed.wiki.org

You can find these names by hovering over the row of flags. If you are technical you might also want to observe them in a JavaScript debugger. In this picture, I used Control-J in Chrome to launch the debugger, then clicked into the Console tab, then typed the name of the JavaScript variable that represents the neighborhood: wiki.neighborhood.

Why are these five sites in my neighborhood? It’s obvious that my own site, jon.sf.fedwikihappening.net, belongs. And since I’ve navigated to a page on forage.ward.fed.wiki.org, it’s not suprising to find that site in my neighborhood too. But what about the other three? Why are they included?

The answer is that Ward’s page includes references to sites.fed.wiki.org, video.fed.wiki.org, and ward.fed.wiki.org. A FedWiki reference looks like a paragraph, but its blue tint signals that it’s special. Unlike a normal paragraph, which you inject into the page using the HTML or Markdown plugin, a reference is injected using the Reference plugin. It’s a dynamic element that displays the flag, the page name, and synopsis (first paragraph) of the referenced page. It also adds that page’s origin site to the neighborhood.

Two of the five sites in this example neighborhood — jon.sf.fedwikihappening.net and forage.ward.fed.wiki.org — got there directly by way of navigation. The other three got there indirectly by way of references.

To add a reference to one of your own pages, you click the + symbol to add a factory, drag the flag (or favicon) of a remote FedWiki page, and drop it onto the factory.

To illustrate, I’ll start with a scratch page that has a factory ready to accept a drop.

In a second browser tab, I’ll navigate to forage.ward.fed.wiki.org’s Ward Cunningham page, the one with the three references we saw above. Then I’ll drag that page’s favicon into the first browser tab and drop it onto the factory. Dragging between browser tabs may be unfamiliar to you. It was to me as well, actually. But it’s a thing.

The setup in this example is:

Tab 1: http://jon.sf.fedwikihappening.net/view/welcome-visitors/view/scratch

Tab 2: http://forage.ward.fed.wiki.org/view/ward-cunningham

Here is the result:

How many sites are in this neighborhood? When I did this experiment, I predicted either 2 or 5. It would be 2 if the neighborhood included only my site and the origin of the referenced page. It would be 5 if FedWiki included, in addition, sites referenced on the referenced page. Things aren’t transitive in that way, it turns out, so the answer is 2.

Except that it isn’t. It’s 3! Look at the row of flags in the bottom right corner. There are three of them: jon.sf.fedwikihappening.net, forage.ward.fed.wiki.org, and mysteriously, fedwikihappening.rodwell.me. That’s Paul Rodwell’s site. How did he get into this neighborhood?

This closeup of the journal will help explain the mystery. The page was forked 5 days ago.

We can view the source of the page to find out more.

And here’s the answer. Early in the life of my scratch page I forked Paul Rodwell’s scratch page from fedwikihappening.rodwell.me.

So we’ve now discovered a third way to grow your neighborhood. First by navigating to remote pages directly. Second by including references to remote pages. And third by forking remote pages.


by Jon Udell at January 02, 2015 06:57 PM

Justin Taylor

The Law of Moses and the Christian: A Compromise

A Q&A summary with David Dorsey’s essay, “The Law of Moses and the Christian: A Compromise,” JETS 34 (1991): 321-34:

What was the purpose or design of the law of Moses?

  1. The corpus was designed to regulate the lives of a people living in the distinctive geographical and climatic conditions found in the southern Levant, and many of the regulations are inapplicable, unintelligible, or even nonsensical outside that regime.
  2. The corpus was designed by God to regulate the lives of a people whose cultural milieu was that of the ancient Near East.
  3. The Mosaic corpus was intended to regulate the lives of people whose religious milieu was that of the ancient Near Eastern world (particularly Canaan) and would be more or less inapplicable outside that world.
  4. The code of laws was issued by God to lay the detailed groundwork for and regulate the various affairs of an actual politically- and geographically-defined nation.
  5. The corpus was formulated to establish and maintain a cultic regime that has been discontinued with the Church (cf. Heb 8:18; etc.).

Should the law be divided into three parts—moral, ceremonial, and civil—such that the ceremonial and civil have been fulfilled by Christ, but the moral continues on into today?

  1. The scheme of a tripartite division is unknown both in the Bible and in early rabbinic literature.
  2. The categorizing of certain selected laws as “moral” is methodologically questionable.
  3. The attempt to formulate this special category in order to “save” for NT Christians a handful of apparently universally-applicable laws—particularly the ones quoted in the NT—is an unnecessary effort. There is a more logical, Biblically supported approach to the law that retains for Christians not only the very heart of the so-called “moral” laws but also the underlying moral truths and principles, indeed the very spirit, of every one of the 613 laws.

What role does the Mosaic law play in the lives of Christians today?

“Having suggested that the Mosaic law in its entirety be removed from the backs of Christians in one sense, I would propose that the corpus be placed back into their hands in another sense: the entire corpus—not just the ‘moral’ laws but all 613—moral, ceremonial, civil. If on the one hand the evidence strongly suggests that the corpus is no longer legally binding upon Christians, there is equally strong evidence in the NT that all 613 laws are profoundly binding upon Christians in a revelatory and pedagogical sense.”

How then do we apply the OT laws to our own lives today?

“I would suggest the following theocentric hermeneutical procedure for applying any of the OT laws, whether the law be deemed ceremonial, judicial, or moral:

  1. Remind yourself that this law is not my law, that I am not legally bound by it, that it is one of the laws God issued to ancient Israel as part of his covenant with them.
  2. Determine the original meaning, significance, and purpose of the law.
  3. Determine the theological significance of the law.
  4. Determine the practical implications of the theological insights gained from this law for your own NT circumstances.”

For similar (though not identical) perspectives, see:

 

by Justin Taylor at January 02, 2015 05:41 PM

512 Pixels

On selling outside the Mac App Store →

Realmac Software's Dan Counsell:

When you get swept along in the shininess of the App Store it’s easy to forget that you no longer know who your customers are. You don’t have any of their details, you can't even respond to them when they leave a review on the App Store. The fact of the matter is they are really Apples customers, not yours.

When you sell directly outside of the Mac App Store you get the contact details for every single person that buys your products (and rightly so), this is often overlooked but it’s key to running a healthy and sustainable business.

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by Stephen Hackett at January 02, 2015 04:53 PM

Karen De Coster

Facing the Grip of Your Masters

People are so easily corrupted by power. This corruption tends to be the case even if that power is an untenable perception backed by nothing more than a trivial hierarchical ranking. This seems to be a simplistic statement, but alas, most of our fellow humans do not fully understand this notion, even though this observation requires only an elementary level of scrutiny and evaluation. So goes the Acton quote that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

We libertarians convey this sentiment often, but we usually couch this expression in terms of the state and its minions, mouthpieces, allies, enablers, and dictators. This is because we tend to view the state as the single greatest threat to liberty, and therefore we ultimately view the state as the most formidable menace to our daily, individual freedoms. So the state is a self-evident enemy. Therefore libertarians tend to focus on the state, and while this theme is valid and necessary, they oftentimes lose sight of the individual trees within the whole of the forest.

I wrote an article in 2003 titled “The Totalitarian Impulse” where I discuss the impact of the self-anointed dictators we face in our everyday life, but from the perspective of those who attempt to control our actions via legislative exploits and special-interest coercion. Forgive the dated material (12 years old), but still, I impress upon you that the totalitarian impulse is alive and well in our everyday lives as mini Führers attempt to control and corral others in order to assert their so-called position power and ascend up the ladder of dominance. We may witness this in our daily interactions, family, relationships, or especially, in the workplace.

The libertarian world is full of useful and necessary advice in terms of survival as it relates to imploding events combined with civil unrest or failures of the state and its monopolies (power grids, economic shortages, and monetary upheaval). However, an even more basic freedom is often lost in the shuffle, such as freedom from everyday impediments brought about by debt, sketchy employment, shoddy human relationships, and the lack of availability of across-the-board options.

In order to conquer these impediments, I stress that, always, one must set up the appropriate boundaries and stick by them, allowing no trespassing beyond those boundaries without an approved rationale. Additionally, you should have a bug-out bag of options that include a buildup of monetary savings/investment, lack (or minimum thereof) of debt, authentic friends and relationships, and a profitable skillset that can keep you capable of seeking alternatives and selling your services down new avenues when you need to escape the prison others are trying to build for you. As the power grabbers around you attempt to underwrite their own climb up some mindless hierarchical ladder, a portion of any route to the top surely runs right through you. See Larry Reed’s 1998 “Hayek Was Right: The Worst Do Get to the Top.” To quote:

These two benighted characters on the stage of international politics don’t know it, but they are reading from Hayek’s script. In his “Why the Worst Get on Top” chapter, he says of the central planner or “potential dictator,” “. . . he will be able to obtain the support of all the docile and gullible, who have no strong convictions of their own but are prepared to accept a ready-made system of values if it is only drummed into their ears sufficiently loudly and frequently.”

A good New Year’s motto – better than one that promises to start going to the gym! – is one that declares your right to self-ownership, and thus the two convictions I covet most: sanity and soul. This points to the power of making your own potential opportunities and being ready, and able, to pursue them when necessary in order to maintain your happiness, dignity, and freedom. Also, at the core of your sanity is the ability to be in a position of strength where you are able to deny others the opportunity and foundation for taking away your freedom and choice(s).

As you are often charged with turning back the would-be captors, always vow to win. The victory may have its short-term setbacks and/or temporary erosions, but in the end a human being’s sanity and soul are the key to thriving beyond just surviving. To survive means to exist, but to thrive means to prosper. Happy New Year, to all.

 

by Karen De Coster at January 02, 2015 04:49 PM

The Brooks Review

Photo Stitching without Photoshop

Speaking of my photoblog, I posted a little thing about photo stitching without Photoshop.

Please consider becoming a member to support my writing. All writing is 100% member funded.

by Ben Brooks at January 02, 2015 04:33 PM

CrossFit 204: Fitness in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Top Six Fitness Tips for 2015

Speed demons.

Be active!

With the New Year upon us, we’re receiving lots of general questions about fitness. People want to know how to start a program, how often to work out, how long it will take to improve, how they should eat, and so on. We realize starting a program can be confusing, and we’re happy to help out.

Below, we’ve collected our top six tips for getting fit in 2015. These tips are the result of six years of experience teaching individuals and groups how to get fitter. This is not a complete recipe for success, but we’re confident that these six tips will put you on the right path and help you start improving your life today.

1. Commit to a program for at least three to six months and then evaluate your results, making changes as needed. You can see improvements in fitness in a short period of time, but results are not immediate. If you go in expecting instant changes, it will be all too easy to quit a program after a month and go back to old habits. Fitness is a long-term goal, and it is achieved over months, not days and weeks. Predetermine evaluation dates and realize that any progress is a very good thing indeed, and progress generally comes more quickly once you get some momentum behind you.

Yoga: Tuesdays at 8 p.m. $10.

Build a healthy lifestyle.

2. Realize that the exercise guidelines published by most authorities are approximate minimums. Walking for 30 minutes five times per week is a good start if you have never been active before, but it is a mistake to think that consistent improvements will come from “being active” for a total of 2.5 total hours each week. Think of the level of activity of a farmer in 1850 and compare it to the level of activity of a modern office worker who drives to work, sits for eight hours and returns home to the couch. Our bodies are made to move, and they need to move regularly to become fitter. We recommend working with a qualified trainer who can help you safely exceed the minimum recommendations and truly improve your fitness.

3. Be prepared to work. Working out should be fun, but it shouldn’t be easy. To become fitter, the body needs to be challenged. In fitness, there is no reward without some degree of work. The amount of work does not have to be excessive, but you have to sweat and feel some burning in your muscles in order for changes to come. Remember this Tony Robbins quote: “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”

Eat less sugar.

Eat less sugar.

4. Work out and stay active. We believe there is a difference between going from the gym to the couch and going from the gym to the back yard to rake some leaves. In addition to working out, supplement with additional activities that don’t involve sitting: walking, hiking, gardening, playing a recreational sport, etc. This is part of building an active lifestyle, and it will amplify gains made in the gym.

5. Eat better. Diet can be complicated, but we’ll simplify it for you to start and encourage you to do more research: Eat less sugar and processed foods, and eat more vegetables. If you shop for groceries once every two weeks, we can guarantee you’re eating too many processed foods. Shop every two to three days for fresh vegetables and fruits, and avoid processed carbohydrates and foods with added sugar. If you reduce the amount of sugar in your diet and increase the amount of nutrient-dense vegetables, you’ll be supporting fitness with healthy eating. With simple fixes in place, you can then research more detailed nutrition strategies tailored exactly to you and your body.

The best part of any coach's day.C

Work with a trainer who can help you meet your goals.

6. Work with a qualified trainer who will ask you about your goals and help you achieve them. A good trainer explains the program he or she creates for you, modifies it regularly and monitors your performance. If you walk into a fitness facility feeling lost, or if you walk out feeling like you didn’t accomplish anything, know that qualified professionals can help you get results. If you would hire a mechanic to fix you car, you can see the value in hiring a trainer to help you improve your fitness.

If you need more advice on how to get fitter, or if you aren’t getting the results you want, we can help. Located at 483 Berry St. in Winnipeg, 204 Strength and Conditioning and CrossFit 204 offer personal training, bootcamps, and CrossFit classes in our fully equipped 6,000-square-foot facility. You can view our programs here, and you can review the qualifications of our trainers here. To contact us, email info@CrossFit204.com or call 204-880-1001.

Read this Winnipeg Free Press article about our program: “This Year Proved Good Journalism Can Change My Life.”

by Mike at January 02, 2015 04:32 PM

The Brooks Review

Photo a Day – 2015

For 2015 I have started a photo a day project over on my photography site/blog. Follow along if you want, subscribe to the RSS if that's your thing.

Please consider becoming a member to support my writing. All writing is 100% member funded.

by Ben Brooks at January 02, 2015 04:31 PM

Inconsolation

echat: Serverless chatter

I’m stuck again with a chat tool that I can’t really demonstrate because I don’t have the supporting network structure. This is echat:

2015-01-02-jsgqk71-echat

And that’s as much as I expect I’ll see from it. Judging by the home page, echat is designed to work in serverless environments, such as LANs or office networks. I see elsewhere that echat is intended for Vypress networks, and can interact with Windows- or other OS-based clients (I would expect no less).

A lot of that is completely foreign to me, and so I approach echat from a completely neutral angle. No, I can’t see it running at full speed, but I can see a few positive points that might make it work investigating:

  • Nice screen arrangement, and flexible size.
  • Decent man page, and enough onboard help to prevent instant floundering.
  • Good use of color.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but I can recognize standout traits where I see them.

You’ll have to set up echat with a Vypress network to see if it works as well as it promises. If you get that far into the mix with echat, please send us a proper screenshot, so we can all bask in the full force of it’s glory. :D


Tagged: chat, client, instant, irc, message

by K.Mandla at January 02, 2015 03:45 PM

Crossway Blog

How to Foster a Gospel Culture

1. Love and Prioritize Gospel Doctrine

Gospel doctrine creates a gospel culture. The doctrine of grace creates a culture of grace.

When the doctrine is clear and the culture is beautiful, that church will be powerful. But there are no shortcuts to getting there. Without the doctrine, the culture will be weak. Without the culture, the doctrine will seem pointless.

Gospel doctrine with gospel culture is prophetic. Francis Schaeffer wrote:

One cannot explain the explosive dynamite, the dunamis, of the early church apart from the fact that they practiced two things simultaneously: orthodoxy of doctrine and orthodoxy of community in the midst of the visible church, a community which the world could see. By the grace of God, therefore, the church must be known simultaneously for its purity of doctrine and the reality of its community. Our churches have so often been only preaching points with very little emphasis on community, but exhibition of the love of God in practice is beautiful and must be there.

Schaeffer’s words “by the grace of God” are crucial. We need strength from beyond ourselves, because it’s hard to hold on to gospel doctrine. It’s even harder to create a gospel culture, one so humane and so attractive that people want to be part of it. Schaeffer also wrote: “If the church is what it should be, young people will be there. But they will not just ‘be there’—they will be there with the blowing of horns and the clashing of high-sounding cymbals, and they will come dancing with flowers in their hair.”

2.Love and Prioritize Gospel Culture

We accept that the truth of biblical doctrine is essential to authentic Christianity, but do we accept that the beauty of human relationships is equally essential? If by God’s grace we hold the two together—gospel doctrine and gospel culture—people of all ages will more likely come to our churches with great joy. It is more likely that they will think, “Here is the answer I’ve been looking for all my life.”

Doctrine or Culture?

Every one of us is wired to lean one way or the other—toward emphasizing doctrine or culture. Some of us naturally resonate with truth and standards and definitions. Others of us resonate with feel and vibe and relationships. Whole churches, too, can emphasize one or the other.

Left to ourselves, we will get it partly wrong, but we won’t feel wrong, because we’ll be partly right. But only partly. Truth without grace is harsh and ugly. Grace without truth is sentimental and cowardly. The living Christ is full of grace and truth (John 1:14). We cannot represent him, therefore, within the limits of our own personalities and backgrounds. Yet as we depend on him moment by moment, both personally and corporately, he will give us wisdom. He will stretch us and make our churches more like himself, so that we can glorify him more clearly than we ever have before.

These equations help me define the matter more simply:

Gospel doctrine – gospel culture = hypocrisy

Gospel culture – gospel doctrine = fragility

Gospel doctrine + gospel culture = power

Several years ago, author Anne Rice said, “Christians have lost credibility in America as people who know how to love.” There might be many reasons for that negative assessment, not all of them convincing. But I cannot dismiss her comment. Neither does the problem that she highlights register as a low priority in the Bible, one we might get around to someday. In fact, few things are more urgent for us than to regain credibility as people who know how to love, for Jesus’s sake, so that his glorious gospel is unmistakably clear in our churches.

This excerpt was adapted from The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ by Ray Ortlund.


Raymond C. Ortlund Jr. is the pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee. He is the author of several books, including The Gospel and Preaching the Word commentaries on Isaiah and Proverbs, as well as a contributor to the ESV Study Bible. He and his wife Jani have four children.

by Nick Rynerson at January 02, 2015 02:16 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Checking Your Bank Accounts Will Not Make More Money

8474532085_6d010ee8d0_z

Seems obvious, right? We wouldn’t expect that driving past the gym will make us any healthier.

But when it comes to money, those of us who are self-employed tend to spend a lot of time on activities that do nothing to help the bottom line, either directly or indirectly.

I don’t just mean “administrative work,” because some administrative work has to be done even if it’s not particularly exciting. You still need to do customer service, update outdated info, and so on.

No, I mean the tendency we have to log-in just to see something. I’ll just check one more time… says the addict.

So here’s an idea: the next time you feel like checking website stats or bank account numbers, hold off a moment. First, do something that matters. Do something that will actually increase or improve whatever metrics you’re tracking. Then, go ahead and check them—because that’s human nature. But make yourself work for it first. Make yourself earn it.

###

Image: Epsos

by Chris Guillebeau at January 02, 2015 02:05 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

Make 2015 the Year of Evangelism by Rethinking and Redefining It — An Excerpt from “The Unbelievable Gospel”

9780310516699In his new book The Unbelievable Gospel, Jonathan Dodson throws down a challenge for us this year:

Rethink and redefine what it means to evangelize.

His aim “is to recover a believable evangelism, one that moves beyond the cultural and personal barriers we have erected in contemporary evangelism to rediscover the power of the biblical gospel.” (14)

In order to recover a believable evangelism to share the unbelievable gospel, we need a new definition of what it means to share in the first place. In the excerpt below Dodson looks to missiologist David Bosch for help and urges us to think about and define evangelism in this way:

“Evangelism: (1) is gospel-centered, (2) is proclamation oriented, (3) calls for a response, (4) includes the church, and (5) points to the Spirit.” (28)

At the doorway to another year of ministry engage Dodson’s challenging book to help you and your people make 2015 the year of believable evangelism in order to share the unbelievable gospel!

Before we move on, it’s important we establish a working definition for evangelism. I like the definition by missiologist David Bosch: “Evangelism is: the core, heart, or center of mission: it consists in the proclamation of salvation in Christ to nonbelievers, in announcing forgiveness of sins, in calling people to repentance and faith in Christ, in inviting them to become living members of Christ’s earthly community and to begin a life in the power of the Spirit.” Note five distinct contributions in this definition. Evangelism: (1) is gospel-centered, (2) is proclamation oriented, (3) calls for a response, (4) includes the church, and (5) points to the Spirit.

Bosch’s definition is gospel-centered in that it focuses on the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is not heaven-centered, like much of the evangelism of the twentieth century. The goal is Christ, not heaven. It is proclamation oriented, unlike many deed-driven descriptions of evangelism. The gospel is good news to be shared, not good deeds to be observed, though it clearly issues into marvelous deeds of grace. Bosch also includes the importance of calling for a response, repentance and faith, as well as becoming a part of what we are converted into — the church — which is all too often overlooked in contemporary, individualistic evangelism. The church is not a loose collection of spiritually-minded individuals but a family knit together in the unshakable love of the Father. This is what we get and what the world needs to see. Finally, this definition inspiringly reminds us that our new life is not lived in our own power but in the power of the Spirit. Modern methods give lip service to the Spirit while 90 percent of training is aimed at the head. This definition gives us a clear target for evangelism. As the book unfolds, these five evangelistic distinctives will surface informally over and over again.

How, then, do we rethink our evangelism with these distinctives in view? New methods aren’t enough. Our whole understanding of evangelism needs to change—our motivations, our methods, and even our message. The sections of this book broadly correspond to each of these, though there is some natural overlap and repetition. The first section, “Evangelistic Defeaters,” addresses our motives and primarily focuses on our heart and mind — why we evangelize. The second section, “Re-Evangelization,” addresses our message and what we communicate. The third section on “Gospel Metaphors” addresses our methods, primarily how we say what we say.

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Our motives, message, and methods are all intertwined, pulling us together as humans on mission. If we take the time to untangle the strings, examining what is really there, pulling out a few threads that don’t belong, and weaving in some new threads that are absent, we may end up not only with a reshaped evangelism but also with a revitalized Christian faith.

The gospel is central to how and why we evangelize. People need to see how the gospel speaks to their particular and unique needs. The gospel brings us exactly what we need: acceptance, approval, forgiveness, newness, healing, worth, purpose, joy, hope, peace, and freedom — all in Jesus. As we get started, we will begin by considering exactly why people find this gospel unbelievable. We need to pay attention to these evangelistic concerns and learn from them. Otherwise, we will perpetuate the distance between ourselves and those outside the faith. There are several obvious evangelistic defeaters — reasons why Christians often choose not to share their faith with others. Let’s begin with the first of these defeaters — a genuine concern that our witness not be impersonal. (pgs. 26-30)

by Jeremy Bouma at January 02, 2015 01:18 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

2014 in review

First, a list of posts I particularly want to remember from this year. If any of them sound interesting, feel free to check them out – I’d love to hear what you think.

Second, a snapshot of everyday life, so that I can remember what it was like at this time. My routines haven’t changed much since last year, except perhaps that I spend more time writing, cooking, and snuggling with W- and the cats. I try to drop by my consulting client on Thursdays, having successfully off-loaded most of my responsibilities to the team members I’ve trained. I go to Hacklab most Tuesdays to help cook a free vegan dinner for the open house; it’s enjoyable cooking practice, and sometimes I get interesting conversations out of it. W- has taken on a bigger role at work, but that still gives us plenty of time for family projects (we’re working on the basement at the moment). J- often has friends over to study and hang out, so we keep the house stocked with a variety of snacks.

Some memories from this year:

  • We took our cat Leia for a lion cut to deal with some of the mats in her fur. It was very amusing.
  • I started keeping a more deliberate private journal using Org Mode and Evernote. It’s a good complement to blog posts.
  • Mixed results in the garden, but we were pleasantly surprised by getting one zucchini, two bitter melons, and two winter melons out of it. We’ll keep trying.
  • I became a Canadian citizen! I’ve been remiss about actually applying for the passport, though. I’ll get that sorted out soon.

2014-12-25 2014 Review

Third, overall themes:

In 2013, I resolved to spend more time focusing on my own things instead of giving in to the pull of consulting. So in 2014, I collected more resources into e-books (and even one print book). I experimented with writing a four-part course. I took a Coursera class on analyzing data with R. I played around with Emacs and wrote blog posts for hours.

And yet my data tells me I actually spent more time working on other people’s projects. It went from 9% of my time in 2013 to 12% of my time in 2014, which works out to about six additional hours extra per week. This is coincidentally the same number of hours I reduced my socializing by, although a chunk of that can be explained by shifting socializing to Hacklab (which I track under Business – Connect).

The special project I did in September really changed the balance (27.5% of my time in that month!), as did the fact that I didn’t take any month-long breaks. Even hermit-mode November involved working from home 6% of the time (~10 hours a week).

It’s funny how perception doesn’t match data. Despite the extra time spent consulting, I felt a lot more self-directed this year – maybe because I produced more tangible stuff, and my tasks were more aligned with each other. But I’m drifting off course from becoming my own main client, and I want to adjust that heading in 2015.

Category 2014 % ~h/wk 2013 % ~h/wk change in h/wk
Business – Earn 12.4 21 9.1 15 6
Personal care 14.6 25 12.7 21 4
Discretionary – Productive 7.8 13 6.7 11 2
Sleep (~ 8.9h per day) 36.4 61 36.7 62 -1
Business – Connect 4.2 7 4.4 7 0
Business – Build 7.0 12 7.5 13 -1
Unpaid work (chores, etc.) 7.0 12 7.8 13 -1
Discretionary – Play 5.0 8 5.2 9 -1
Discretionary – Family 4.0 7 5.5 9 -2
Discretionary – Social 1.2 2 4.9 8 -6

Data collected using Quantified Awesome – compare 2014 and 2013

In terms of technical skills, I picked up more experience in:

  • Tableau: I learned how to take advantage of custom SQL and filter actions, and I became more comfortable with calculated fields, parameters, and filters.
  • Javascript: I got better at writing short Javascript functions and testing them. The new API for the social platform I work with on my consulting gig allowed me to build all sorts of nifty new tools. I’ve also been helping another developer pick up skills.
  • NodeJS and AngularJS: I built a prototype survey tool that also automated other things we wanted to do during a special event.
  • Rails 4: I finally upgraded quantifiedawesome.com to Rails 4.

Also, Emacs Chats and Emacs Hangouts have been awesomely fun and inspiring. Can’t wait to set up more of them!

In terms of writing, I got better at working with outlines as a way to organize my thoughts within each blog post. I’m still working on getting the hang of outlines to help me organize my thoughts across multiple blog-post-sized chunks, but the basic Emacs Lisp course was a good start. I also started building up an Emacs Org to EPUB/MOBI/PDF workflow for quick publishing and updating, so that I can can get more e-books up on Gumroad. Because I offer these resources on a free/pay-what-you-want basis, every time someone does buy it, I’m delighted to have that opportunity to connect.

My 2013 review included a number of themes:

  • Smooth consulting transitions: We’re on the way there, I think. I’ve been training one of the team members to cover the work I used to do, which is great.
  • More initiative-taking: Yes, especially in terms of professional development and publishing. I’m getting better at figuring out what I would like to learn and how to try things out.
  • Cardio and strength exercise habits: W- shared the Couch-to-5K program he picked up at work. We’d gotten all the way through it together (even though I covered much less distance than he did), but then I had to drop the habit because of other considerations. I’d also started the Exercise Ladder, but it got hit by the same restrictions. We’ll see how next year turns out! It’s good to know that I can do it and enjoy it, and I’m looking forward to starting even if I have to start from scratch.
  • Intentional interaction: I love spending time with W-. I’ve also been spending more time connecting with people in person at Hacklab open houses (at which folks are welcome to visit me, too, so it’s a great way to have low-commitment conversations). I feel great about my online conversations, too; there’s resonance there.On the flipside, I spent less time setting up get-togethers in person or treating people to lunch. I didn’t bother with a birthday party for the second year in a row; I realized I enjoy the peace and quiet.

    I’ve been pulling myself in, focusing on a small core. Still, compared to last year, this year’s interactions feel more natural and more relaxed for me. Perhaps I’m more selfish and withdrawn than the ideal, but I’ll grow at my own pace. I’m probably going to stay similarly reserved in 2015 to give myself space to explore things, but I’ll reconsider this in 2016.

  • Simple living: Wow, Epictetus, dude. You do make it easier to separate what’s important and what’s just nice to have. Aristotle has a lot to say about the good life, and Seneca has something to say about the short life. Good stuff.This year, I let go of quite a few anxieties, attachments, previously-unexamined commitments, and desires. I am getting a little attached to flexibility, though, so that’s something I may want to experiment with.
  • More harvesting and sharing: That worked out well. I’m excited about writing bigger chunks with outlines and using my publishing workflow to package even more useful resources. This will be fun.

It’s been a good year for the stock market, although all of that is still paper gains for me since I haven’t sold any stocks and all my dividends are reinvested. We had some pretty large expenses (in line with our priorities, at least) that required me to dip into my savings. I issued my first dividends last year, so if things work out the way I expect them to at tax-time, planning should be smoother.

Here’s a more detailed time breakdown of some things I care about:

Activity 2014 % 2013 % Change in hours/year
Emacs 1.8 1.1 61
Drawing 2.6 2.2 35
Writing 3.2 3.0 18

Hmm. I didn’t spend that much more time, but it feels a little awesomer this year; the posts grew into more conversations with people, and I learned more from those. Maybe it’s that test-driven learning thing. What you learn becomes more real to you and more useful to others when you create something from it, so it can make sense to aim for creating something from the beginning.

I’m getting a little clearer about what I want to do with my writing, drawing, and Emacs-tweaking:

  • Learn more stuff myself: Because this is fun and it tickles my brain
  • Delight and inspire people with the cool stuff out there. (Selfish reason: I get to learn, too!)
  • Connect with people: something about resonance and swapping notes and casting a little light on different roads…

Experiment update: 2015 will be the fourth year of my five-year experiment. Boggle! When I thought about what five years looked like in 2012, it felt like such a big space – more than university, more than the time I spent at IBM.

  • The first year, I learned how to experiment with business models, hitting the ground running with consulting.
  • The second year, I focused on consulting and event sketchnoting.
  • The third year (2014), I scaled down consulting so that I could learn more about creating.

2014 was the year that people’s generosity showed me that I really like writing as a way of creating value. There were countless conversations and even the occasional purchase of free/pay-what-you-want (PWYW) resources. I liked waking up in the morning to a notification that someone had decided to express their appreciation and invest in me (and themselves!). I liked the responses to my thank-you notes, the questions and suggestions and ideas. It was more of a gentle thrum rather than the highs and lows of programming, but I liked it.

If my life can continue to fit within investments and savings and little streams of income, I’d like to keep doing this. It’s not going to be an extravagant life, but there’s room for what’s important. So the fourth year, 2015, will be a good opportunity to explore sharing further. Can I keep this going through the extra uncertainty we might be dealing with next year? Can I create and receive value with this commitment to openness instead of following the trend toward exclusive courses and premium content? Can I build resources that will save or improve 10-100 hours of people’s lives so that they’re willing to give me the equivalent of a few of their hours to make this even better?

In 2015, I’m looking forward to:

  • Improving my technical skills:
    • Getting even more deeply into Emacs and taking advantage of the many useful packages that are available
    • Writing shorter, better-tested code in Javascript and Rails
  • Writing with even more resonance and helpfulness: digging deeper into the things I’m learning and sharing them with other people in ways that help and engage
  • Successfully taking on more uncertainty with even better safety nets and equanimity

It’ll be fun. =) Thanks for great year!

Previous reviews:

The post 2014 in review appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at January 02, 2015 01:00 PM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

TGC Spotlight 01.02.15

TGC Spotlight highlights TGC articles from earlier in the week, previews articles coming next week, and links to items around the web that you might have missed. 

Most Read TGC Articles for 2014

Here are the most-read articles in 2014:

1. What Christians Should Know About the Ebola Crisis | Miguel Nunez

2. Thoughts on Ferguson | Voddie Baucham

3. FactChecker: Is ISIS Beheading Children in Iraq? | Joe Carter

4. Do You Still Want to Be Like Mike? | Matt Smethurst

5. 4 Things Jesus Didn't Die For | Caleb Flores

6. Sex and the Single Woman | Fabienne Harford

7. Dating Advice You Actually Need | Derek Rishmawy

8. 5 Sure-Fire Ways to Motivate Your Son to Use Pornography | Rick Thomas

9. I'm Southern Baptist, and I Love a Man | Chad Ashby

10. You Are What—and How—You Read | Rosaria Butterfield

11. On Daughters and Dating: How to Intimidate Suitors | Jen Wilkin

12. Alex and Brett Harris Are Doing Hard Things | Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra

13. 9 Things You Should Know About Pornography and the Brain | Joe Carter

14. What if Your 20s Weren't What You Expected? | Jackie Knapp

15. My Wife Has Tattoos: Marriage and New Birth | Spencer Harmon

16. 4 Things God Says to Singles | Vaughan Roberts

17. Help, I Married the Wrong Person | Courtney Reissig

18. 5 Common Small Group Myths | Steven Lee

19. 4 Questions to Ask Before Joining a Church | Brian Croft

20. On Some Recent Changes at TGC | Don Carson and Tim Keller


Most Read Articles by Featured TGC Contributors

1. Five Questions for Christians Who Support Gay Marriage | Kevin DeYoung

2. Are We Missing the Point of Frozen's Let It Go? | Trevin Wax

3. Annoying Things in Worship Songs | Justin Taylor

4. The Mars Hill Postmortem | Trevin Wax

5. 5 Observations About Younger Southern Baptists | Trevin Wax

6. David Platt on Why You Should Not Believe Heaven Is For Real | Justin Taylor

7. Following God Can End Badly | Trevin Wax

8. 10 Personalities That Have No Place in Christian Marriage | Kevin DeYoung

9. 7 Signs We Are Worshiping the Family | Jason Helopoulos

10. I Wish I Had Held Her Hand More | Justin Taylor

11. Facing the Music with Jennifer Knapp | Trevin Wax

12. Evangelicals and Hollywood Muck | Trevin Wax

13. Why I Believe the Grand Jury Got It Wrong and Injustice Triumphed | Thabiti Anyabwile

14. World Vision and Why We Grieve for the Children | Trevin Wax

15. 10 Promises for Parents | Kevin DeYoung


Coming Next Week at TGC

Must All Regulative Principle Churches Look the Same? | Trip Lee

Trip Lee asks, "Must all regulative principle churches look the same?" The answer is very simply, yes and no.

The Most Important Neglected Prayer | Drew Hunter

Drew Hunter explains what it means to pray, 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name' (Matt. 6:9).

4 Ways to Win the Battle Against Busyness | J. D. Greear

Busyness is an epidemic in our Christian culture, and J. D. Greear gives four strategies for finding rest for your soul amid the hectic life.

 

Upcoming Events

Albuquerque Regional Conference (March 20-22, 2015)

Assembled Under the Word: Preaching and Christ. Speakers include Alistair Begg, D.A. Carson, and David Helm.

2015 National Conference (April 1-15, 2015)

Heading Home: A New Heaven and a New Earth. Speakers include Tim Keller, D.A. Carson, John Piper, Mark Dever, Voddie Baucham, Philip G. Ryken, Ligon Duncan, and many others.

Remainder Bin

(Remainder Bin will return next week.)

by Joe Carter at January 02, 2015 07:11 AM

Table Titans

Tales: Re-Roll

News

After nearly being mauled to death by a bunch of Kobolds lead by an especially nasty one we dubbed "Star Fox", our party found a hidden cavern with a magical pool of water and a mysterious locked treasure chest. The chest was being guarded by a sleeping baby White Dragon.

Our one-handed Eladrin…

Read more

January 02, 2015 07:00 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

New Year’s Resolutions: Aim for Godliness and God’s Glory

You know it’s a new year when every commercial on TV is an ad for either gym memberships or diet supplements. Then, of course, there are all the magazines whose covers are littered with ideas and products for organizing the home. Office supply stores are stocked with calendars and systems to keep schedules on track and organized. And everyone is talking about their goals and resolutions for the year.

I’ve made many resolutions over the years. There was the time I resolved to cut out caffeine (it didn’t last). Another year I decided I wanted to develop a green thumb (I didn’t). One year I resolved to write more poetry (only a handful was produced). Then there was the year I decided I wanted to read all the works of C. S. Lewis, until I discovered just how many books he actually wrote!

In all seriousness, it’s a good thing to set goals and work toward them. We ought to be purposeful, intentional, and determined in the way we live. We don’t want to waste a second of the brief time God grants us on this earth. The apostle Paul spoke of his own work toward his life’s goal in Philippians 3:12-14:

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

When it comes to resolutions, perhaps the best list I’ve ever read were written by Jonathan Edwards when he was a late teenager. Edwards, the 18th-century New England Puritan preacher, is most famous for his involvement in the First Great Awakening and for his sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." But before he became the famous preacher and theologian, he wrote a list of 70 life resolutions. These resolutions cover broad areas of life from time management to relationships; from spiritual growth to eating; from how he faced suffering to his devotional habits. We can all learn from this list, especially as we start a new year and consider making our own resolutions.

Here is just a sampling of his resolutions (taken from the excellent book The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards by Steven J. Lawson):

#7: Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.

#25: Resolved, to examine carefully, and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and to direct all my forces against it.

#58: Resolved, not only to refrain from an air of dislike, fretfulness, and anger in conversation, but to exhibit an air of love, cheerfulness, and benignity.

#67: Resolved, after afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them, what good I have got by them, and what I might have got by them.

Three Elements

If you are considering your own resolutions for this year, there are at least three elements to Jonathan Edwards’s resolutions we can use in developing our own.

1. Edwards pursued God’s glory. The Westminster Shorter Catechism tells us that our purpose in life is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Edwards’s life resolutions reflect this purpose. Item number four on his list perhaps puts it best: “Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.” May all our resolutions begin with and be founded on this goal as well.

2. They were life resolutions, not temporary ones. The resolutions Edwards made were not like the kind we make where we give up on them by February 1. Rather, his resolutions were lifetime goals. These were resolutions that he shaped his life around and by which he measured himself. He kept regular track of his progress, journaling about his struggles and progress along the way. He reviewed his progress on a regular basis, weekly, monthly, and yearly.

3. He drew from God’s strength. These words precede his list of resolutions: “Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.” Edwards knew that he depended upon God’s grace for all things, including his growth in holiness. No amount of resolve and no matter how good our intentions, we cannot do anything apart from the grace of God at work in us. Whatever our goals and resolutions, we must humbly depend upon Christ and rely on his grace to enable us.

If you are making resolutions for yourself this year, consider reading those of Jonathan Edwards. You can find a complete list of the 70 resolutions here

by Christina Fox at January 02, 2015 06:01 AM

Look and Live

Matt Papa. Look and Live: Behold the Soul-Thrilling, Sin-Destroying Glory of Christ. Bloomington, MN: Bethany House, 2014. 256 pp. $15.99.

The quest for novelty is often exhausting. A technophile’s delight with his newest phone or computer quickly turns to discontent when the CEO of Apple stands up to announce next year’s product release. Fashion trends drift from year to year, requiring the fashionista to search for new styles with each successive turn of the clock. Theology, too, can be exhausting when the quest for novelty trumps the pursuit of delighting in already understood truth. Indeed, Christian maturity is often better displayed through a blossoming understanding of the implications of gospel truth than a growing breadth of information and background knowledge.

Matt Papa has written a book that contains practically nothing new. He is unafraid to extensively credit the fountains from which he has drawn his understanding of the magnificent worth and glory of God. Quotations from Jonathan Edwards, John Piper, Blaise Pascal, and R. C. Sproul adorn practically every chapter. In many ways Look and Live: Behold the Soul-Thrilling, Sin-Destroying Glory of Christ surveys contemporary Reformed thought concerning the majesty of the glory of God.

Arrested by Glory

So what does a book short on novelty that quotes sources many will already be familiar with have to offer? Grit and zeal. Papa writes theology like Cormac McCarthy writes drama. A vision of the glory of God has arrested his heart, and he will not rest until his reader feels the radiant joy of understanding the magnitude of God’s person and God’s work grip their own hearts. “[A]fter being a worship leader for 15 years,” writes the singer, songwriter, and worship leader at The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, “I have chosen to focus on the topic of glory rather than worship. Worship is the natural byproduct of seeing glory” (25). Papa’s words rise up from the page as if to say, “I have read the same books as you have, and my understanding of the greatness of God has produced this passionate response of joy in my heart. Has it done the same for you?”

Papa quickly identifies two kinds of “glory” in the Scriptures. The first he dubs “glory-be,” which essentially is internal excellence. God himself is the fullness of “glory-be,” as he is the only perfectly holy, loving, and just being in existence. “Glory-be” then compels “glory-to.” As human beings behold God’s “glory-be,” they respond by giving glory to God through delighting in their understanding of and relationship with him.

The problem for humanity comes from our inherent distaste for “glory-be.” Papa insists: “We are all facing some deity. Some glory has swept us off our feet, and this very moment like a rabid animal we are pursuing it” (11). Because of Adam’s curse we would rather worship objects of lesser glory than the Creator who is the source of all things. For Papa, the solution to this problem is not work or determination, but seeing the King in all of his magnificence.

Sight Over Sweat

Papa’s great premise is that experiencing the glory of God will be sufficient to break the chains of whatever idols we most naturally bow before in our hearts. The secret to overcoming sin and temptation, then, is not sweat but sight. As our sight of God’s magnificent worth and excellence becomes clearer, our redeemed hearts are drawn toward greater love for him. That love then transforms our affections, increasing our desire to live in the manner most pleasing to him. Temptation has strength because counterfeit deities seem to have something to offer that the true God does not. Such impostors appear to be full of glory-be only because we do not properly behold the unrivaled glory-be of the Lord. This idea runs counter to every self-help book gracing the endcaps of supermarkets and retailers. Sanctification is not based on the works that we do, but rather draws its energy from a deeper sight of the worth of God.

If sanctification is predicated on sight instead of diligence, how can we actively participate in our own growth in godliness? Is sanctification merely a happy accident in which we are passively transformed apart from our own effort?

The answer lies in content. And this is where Papa’s book proves itself to be greatly helpful. Gaining a greater sight of the magnificence of God does not happen naturally. The world is full of glimpses of his magnificence—the delicacy of a blossoming flower, the complexity of a fly’s eye, the joy of a loved one coming home after a long time apart. These glimpses, however, need an interpreter. And the Scriptures are that great storehouse of wisdom and knowledge about God. In them is revealed the wonder of the Trinity, the sorrow of the dying Savior, the unexpected wonder of his resurrection, the promise of rest with his return. While the created world is a glimpse of God’s majesty, the Bible is his own self-explanation to mankind.

New Shades

In sum, Papa’s book is a plea for biblical literacy. As he explained the concept of his book to his wife, she asked, “So you’re writing a book telling people to read their Bible and pray?” In a word, yes. The Scriptures are living and active, working surgery on our hearts to behold the wonder of God and his work. A former pastor of mine likened this process to “changing the pricetags” in a person’s life. Things that were once valuable become worthless, and things that were once worthless become the most treasured possessions of all. What can the objects of our temptation offer in the face of God’s radiant perfection and love?

I hope people will pick up Look and Live and discover new shades of God’s radiance. A seasoned believer will be blessed by its passionate delight in the person of God, and a new believer will learn much about how to grow in such newfound faith. Papa has given a gift to the church; may God use it to bless us all.

by Nate Brooks at January 02, 2015 06:01 AM

Caelum Et Terra

Enter 2015

Dark-CloudsB

Beginning Now

I generally do not make a big deal over New Year’s Eve. The change of the year is an arbitrary human construct to me most of the time, and I can’t remember the last time I stayed up until midnight with the kids.

But last night I stayed up until 4 am.

I have never been so glad to see a year end. It was an amazing, traumatic, crazy spin around the sun, both in the wide world and my own little circle, catastrophe followed by calamity followed by strife.

At the same time it was the year when I got stripped down to bare bones and first principles, a time of great realization and clarity, even if it was the clarity of unknowing. And shot through with glory and beauty and wonder.

And it ended with a very strange Christmas.

But I will accept the artificial construct of the ‘New’ Year for a chance to begin again here and now.

Happy New Year.

The First

While his apologists are right and other popes have said things very much like what Francis says about capitalism and injustice and inequality, those other popes generally spoke diplomatically. Francis is the first pope to speak like a Catholic radical. Even if his enemies triumph and Cardinal Burke is the next pope they cannot undo the miracle of Francis.

Trickling Up

It was only a few years ago that it was laid off factory and mill workers who were suffering from the class war initiated by the ruling class.

Then the phenomenon appeared of people who worked hard at low wage jobs needing food stamps and Medicaid to make ends meet, if the ends did meet.

More recently people in traditionally decent jobs have found themselves in need, as wages stagnate and prices rise (gas will soar again when ISIS and Russia and Venezuela have crashed). I know of blue collar union workers, college professors and others who now receive assistance.

But it gets worse. An old friend whose husband once brought home six figures, who lives on acreage in a nice outer suburb, has, because of changed circumstances, joined the ‘takers’, as that evil woman Ayn Rand called the needy.

If we do not wake up it will not stop until all that is left is the billionaires and their millionaire servants, lording over the rest of us.


by Daniel Nichols at January 02, 2015 02:47 AM

CrossFit 204: Fitness in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Workout: Jan. 2, 2015

Thanks to everyone who came out to start the year off with fitness!

Thanks to everyone who came out to start the year off with fitness!

Bulgarian split squats 12-12-12-12

Romanian deadlifts 8-8-8

2 sets max unbroken muscle-ups

Rest 2 minutes

2 sets max unbroken pull-ups or body rows

Rest 2 minutes

2 sets max unbroken ring dips

Rest 2 minutes

2 sets max unbroken toes-to-bars

Skills

Snatch 2-2-2-2 @ 65 percent of 1RM

by Mike at January 02, 2015 02:25 AM

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

Anonymous Conservative on Me, Morlocks and Hate

My readers might be interested in this:

http://www.anonymousconservative.com/blog/john-c-wright-social-justice-warriors-and-hate/

John C Wright, the amazing Castalia House author who everyone is raving about lately, (and whose new book, The Book of Feasts & Seasons, with an amazing 4.9 Amazon rating,, is available at the Castalia House Store for only $4.99), has given this site some much appreciated linkage recently.

In one post though, he pointed out that he felt the work here was incomplete, because it didn’t deal with the spiritual. He is correct, of course. If you meet pure evil, face to face, you will realize that there is clearly something much deeper than a mere mechanism, which happens to produce evil as a byproduct of some other purpose. As one examines evil up close, the only answer which really makes sense is that the evil are soldiers, with a mission, serving some authority. They will sacrifice their own interests, destroy their own lives, and fall on their own swords, in a genuinely selfless pursuit of their evil purposes. They will even do evil when it doesn’t matter, and when there is no sense to it. Their evil mechanism is so self-sacrificial that it seems the type of thing which nature would eliminate over time. He is right about the spiritual lacking here, and I encourage others to not mistake its absence here for some endorsement of a non-spiritual world model.

One part of his response I take issue with however, is his assertion that the rabbits hate him because he exposes them to truth. A proper explanation of this touches on the spiritual, in part because a full understanding of the rabbit’s hate offers a window into the same hatred Satan holds for the good.

In short, the rabbits do not so much hate John, as they hold him in contempt. Hate is more of a visceral rejection of some moral or emotional aspect of something. Hate can be applied to anything – you can hate a beggar or hate a King. Contempt carries with it a subtle air of rejecting something due to inferiority or weakness. Hate is a raw emotion that you express without regard to your enemy’s status. Contempt is reserved, solely for the weak, whom you can afford to hold in contempt, and it is most often expressed by cowards who only attack their lessers, and who hold little in regard beyond their own immediate safety.

Rabbits have contempt for John because he is kind, rational, and compassionate, and they see that all as weakness.

Read the whole thing.

by John C Wright at January 02, 2015 01:34 AM

CrossFit Naptown

Project GLOC

Friday’s Workout:

Open WOD 11.5:
20:00 As Many Reps as Possible
5 Power cleans (145/100)
10 Toes-2-Bar
15 Wall balls (20# to 10′ target, 14# to 9′ target)

 

Post Workout:
1:15 Max Effort Burpees

 

Project G.L.O.C. 2015

 

The Gorgeous Ladies of CrossFit competition is back in 2015 and looks to be even bigger and better than ever! Each and every year CrossFit NapTown has sent quite a few fierce ladies to this fun and badass ladies-only competition and we hope to do the same this year. The actual competition is April 26th and registration opens on January 5th. It sold out the first morning of registration last year so have your browsers ready to go to save your spot for this year’s competition. Below is a TON of information on the event including links to the full website where you can find more info and ask questions of the GLOC founders themselves!

Click here to visit the Project GLOC Facebook page! You can check out a ton of information here, see other questions that other ladies and gents have asked, and view photos from previous years’ competitions. 

 

Projectglocchanges

Check out these FIERCE women!

 

There are a lot of changes in store for this year’s GLOC competition that will make the event bigger, better, and more inclusive than ever. Click here to see the full details of these new and exciting changes and decide which direction you will head to participate in this year’s event. Not into clicking on links? Here is a basic run-through of the changes but it is probably a good idea to keep checking back as information continues to be updated and more complete details can be found on the sites.

 

GLOCupdates

 

Last but not least, here is the link to the official Project GLOC website. This page is complete with details on the event, sponsors of the competition, and why Project GLOC exists in the first place:

 

gloclogo

fiercewomen

by Anna at January 02, 2015 01:19 AM

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

On the Sexual Nature of Man

Here below is a republication of a long essay I wrote back in 2009 under the general title Apologia Pro Opere Sui.  At the request of more than one reader, I have stripped out the specific comments related only to the event that provoked it, in order to frame the argument in more general terms.

*   *   *

As a faithful Roman Catholic who was an atheist for all his adult life (and most of his childhood) I occupy an interesting position in the ongoing debates concerning the social turmoil caused by sexual unchastity, particularly that unchaste practice which issues forth from what is delicately called same-sex attraction.

One is tempted automatically to assume that atheists should support or ought to support the sexually liberated position that declares all sexual acts licit between two or more consenting adult partners in their right wits. One is tempted to assume that no rational grounds to condemn sexual libertinism exist, aside from the dogmas and supernatural reasoning of Christian theology.

This temptation must be resisted at all costs, since not only is it untrue, it is foolish, for the drives the conversation out of the realm of natural and logical reasons to avoid sexual immorality and into the realm of the supernatural and theological. Once the issue is falsely labeled as a theological one, is the falsely libeled as an issue where all discussion is offlimits for being a personal matter of irrational faith, then the topic is ejected forthwith from the public forum.

Allow me, then, to give a personal account of how it was that I, resting only on my human reason and with no particle of loyalty to or faith in any theological speculations (which, at the time, I frankly dismissed as egregious and base superstition), was drawn step by step against my will and very much against my inclinations away from the comfortable libertine and libertarian opinions of my youth to the conclusion that the sex act is licit only within marriage, that unchastity is illicit, and that unnatural sexual acts are illicit as well as unnatural.

There are perfectly natural and worldly reasons for a rational atheist to support the Christian position on sexual morality. The following argument shows that the Christian position is the only logical position to hold, given the realities of human nature.

One a personal level, I did not change my conclusions about sexual morality because I became a Christian. The cause and effect was the other way. After cold logic lead me to the conclusions that the only logical position to hold just so happened to be the one held by my (at that time) hated enemies the Christians, I began to look at their egregious and base superstition with a less hostile gaze.

  1. PRELIMINARY REMARKS

In order to make sense of the argument that persuaded me to change the conclusions of my youth and early adulthood, I must make mention of what my conclusions were. Forgive the length of this, but the field is rife with misunderstanding, I would rather impose on the patience of my readers than mislead them by omitting a crucial point.

I should explain at the outset that I was (and to the degree not incompatible with Christian faith, still am) a Stoic, a follower of the writings of Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and others. The Stoics persuaded me concerning the necessity of self-control, the objectivity of the morals, and the utility of the virtues.

Stoics are somewhat of a morbid school of thought: their primary concern is how best to live one’s life in preparation for an honorable and tranquil death, an eventuality they contemplate with equanimity, even favor. The examples of Socrates in the Crito or Cato of Utica are constantly in the thoughts of a true Stoic. I mention this because the thinking here is not hedonist, nor Epicurean, nor eudaemonist: the argument that something should be done because it is pleasant, or because it extends life, is not within their contemplation.  Any argument issuing from Hedonistic roots need not be addressed here. For this argument, all that need be established is that there are non-Christians who are also not hedonists, and I was one such.

1.1.   ON SELF CONTROL

The Stoics reason as follows: of things, some are within our control, and others are not. Things within our control include the reason, which is the seat of logic and judgment, the passions, which is the seat of honor and virtue (good habits or bad), and the appetites, which is the seat of desire. Things not within our control include externals: your flesh, your money, your rank in society, your reputation in the eyes of others, the fortunes of war, whether you are healthy or sick, whether you live or die. You can influence these things only indirectly; you can try, but you cannot be assured of success.

Even a cursory inspection of the human condition provides us with ample experience that the passion and appetites cannot be controlled unless habituated. One cannot, merely by a momentary effort of will, create or put aside a passion or an appetite, until and unless those passions and appetites are by long habit of self discipline subject to the sovereignty of the reason. The power to put aside unreasonable passions and appetites is called “virtue” (indeed, originally, the word “virtue” simply meant “power.”)

Because it is unusual to make a distinction between passions and appetites, let me emphasize the difference. The word “appetite” here is being used to mean a self-centered desire for a specific physical pleasure: lust is the appetite for copulation, thirst is the appetite for drink, hunger the appetite for food, and so on. “Passion” by contrast is not necessarily self-centered, and is not necessarily satisfied by any physical pleasure: the desire of a bold soldier for glory in combat, for example, or the desire for a mother to protect her children, or the desire of a friend to come to the aid of his friend, or the desire of a patriot to see his home and nation honored. Many, if not most, passions are connected to imponderables: love and loneliness, shame and honor, glory and humility are matters that concern the passions.

Unlike the brute beasts, a man can train and domesticate his passions to serve his reason rather than his appetite. I do not see the need to dwell further on this point: the literature and philosophy of all mankind through all history dwells primarily on the human condition, of which the tension between these three parts of the mind is the primary reality. A skeptic unconvinced of this point is directed toward those writings.

That man has a duty to so domesticate his passions to serve his reason we can deduce from the raw fact that the appetites are a multitude of contradictory desires, easily able to be inconsistent with surrounding facts of reality. If I desire to keep my cake and eat it too, the reason must arbitrate which desire shall prevail, since both cannot. If I desire to eat the moon, the reason must put aside that desire, since reality will not comply.

Some desires are vain, and it is vain to pursue them.

From this we can conclude that, even from a merely utilitarian motive of arranging our desires so as to satisfy them in the greatest number, or by the highest priority, or in the most efficient fashion possible, self-control is a necessary, indeed, an inescapable duty of any human being. Since this self-control cannot be effectuated by an instant effort of will, or even by a shallow-rooted and momentary conviction, it must be pursued by a recurring habit. This habit is called virtue, and the success of this habituation is also called virtue. The absence of virtue, i.e. self-indulgence, is called vice.

1.2.   ON THE OBJECTIVITY OF MORALS

Even a cursory inspection of the human condition provides us ample evidence that there is a moral component to virtue and vice. Aside from the merely practical arrangement of the passions and appetites needed in order to sate one’s hungers efficiently, the reason makes a judgment on the fitness, wholesomeness, goodness or righteousness of the passion or appetite. The seat of moral judgment is called the conscience.

There are those who claim these judgments are relative, or arbitrary, or are the by-product of Darwinian social evolution, or are the product of a programming imposed by economic class-interests. Their claim is that the judgments of the conscience either have no jurisdiction outside a narrow sphere, or have no jurisdiction at all. Their claim, simply put, is that all moral judgments are subjective, therefore illegitimate. To prefer virtue to vice (so the argument goes) is as arbitrary and personal a judgment as to prefer pie to cake.

We can dismiss the claim that moral judgments are all subjective merely by inquiring whether or not we ought to inquire into the claim.

Ought we to inquire whether or not all moral judgments are subjective?

If the answer is no, the question is closed.

If the answer is yes, then ought we to make this inquiry honestly, or dishonestly?

If the answer is that we ought to make this inquiry dishonestly, then (a fortiori) we are not bound the results. For a dishonest thinker is under no moral obligation to accept a conclusion to which his logic drives him; even if he loses the argument, a dishonest thinker is not under a duty to change his mind or mend his ways. For what will impose the moral duty upon the dishonest thinker to conform his thoughts to the conclusions dictated by reason? Why must he be truthful even to himself? Why listen to his conscience?

If the answer is that we ought to make this inquiry honestly, we necessarily thereby acknowledge at least one universal moral duty: the duty to think honestly. This duty is universal because the only other possibility, that we have no duty to think honestly, is not something we honestly can think.

So we can at the minimum conclude that there is at least one moral duty to which the conscience prompts us, and this duty is a universal, which means it is an absolute, which means that the statement that all moral duties are relative is false.

1.3.   ON VIRTUE

We said above that virtue consists of domesticating the passions and appetites to the reason; but this phrase is empty unless we establish where and what the reason dictates.

Prudence is the prime virtue for it is the ability to use the reason to assess the proper and proportionate action when a moral quandary arises. It is the general term for the ability to avoid emotional or rash decisions, and to avoid the opposite error of being too dispassionate, inert, and slothful to real provocation. Prudence is commonly called common sense, and it is the most uncommon of all the virtues.

Courage and fortitude are passions employed to confront dangers. This passion is used to overcome the opposite appetite of physical fear, which is the craving for personal physical safety. (We use the same word, courage, to refer to the passion used to overcome the opposite passion to avoid real but imponderable threats to emotional wellbeing, such as shame or humiliation.) The reason can judge whether a risk is worth facing, but unless the passions are habituated to follow the reason, a mere sense of rage and honor, or a mere sense of self-preservation, will make a man flee when he should stand, or stand when he should flee. An imbalance of courage and fortitude is either cowardice or recklessness, depending on whether the passion

Temperance and moderation are the virtues referring to restriction the passions and appetites to proportionate indulgence or proper, just or fitting times and places and means of pursuing them. An absence of temperance is intemperance.

Prudence is the general term for the common sense, sound judgment and sense of proportion needed before any man can arrange the passions to be fit, proper, and proportionate to the situation, as in, not to react with excessive fear to minor threats nor to react with understated fear to dire threats, nor to react with excessive and undue longing for minor pleasures, nor to treat with neglect major and lifelong joys, and so on. An absence of prudence is folly.

Justice is the virtue restricting the appetite of self-interest of the passion of factional loyalty to its proper sphere, so that neither self-love nor love of one’s own will interfere with the rational judgment concerning strangers and rivals and enemies. Justice is rendering reward, penalty, courtesy, and dignity each according to his merit, rather than to the interests or personal loyalties of the judge. An absence of justice is injustice, or partiality

Chastity is nothing more nor less than justice, moderation, prudence, or fortitude in reference to the sexual passions and appetites.

1.4.   LAW AND CUSTOM

Even a cursory inspection of the human condition reveals two opposing tensions. On the one hand, it is not possible for tribes of our race to live together in peace without laws to punish and customs to instruct. Laws by formal sanction alone are insufficient: a consensus is necessary, and is enforced by a thousand informal, often tiny, sanctions and influences. You cannot pass a law even on so trivial a matter as the speed limit, and expect the mass of subjects to obey it, if that limit is not also something they customarily would obey even in the absence of a sanction. Laws, in other words, cannot lead the herd: at best the laws can drive stragglers back into the main mass. The mass determines the direction of the herd.

The Libertine position states baldly that none except the two (or more) persons engaged in the sexual acts have any interest or right to dictate terms; no one can forbid or qualify what the lovers seek. Nonetheless, the Libertine position still allows for a legal sanction against sex outside the established bounds of its position (no child pornography, for example), and this would imply, since otherwise the law is a dead letter, that the consensus of society must by informal custom enforce certain norms.

This implies not only that the individual conscience must be sensitive to violations of the boundaries of the sexual code, but that there must be a social conscience as well, an unspoken and semi-voluntary mass agreement.

  1. DO AS THOU WILT

In my youth, my state of mind back when I was a card-carrying member of the Sexual Revolution was as follows: Robert Heinlein and Ayn Rand, not to mention Hugh Hefner, had persuaded me to adopt the moral standard that all sexual acts were licit if between consenting adults and creating no harm to others.

The libertarian writers in particular urged me (with success) to adopt that standard that the laws must place all matters of sexual morality outside their orbit, except that marriage should be treated like a contract, revocable at will, and containing only those provisions the private parties shall mutually agree, the clauses being severable at will.

A logical outgrowth of these two conclusions was that homosexuality, both the desire and the sexual acts, were licit, as was also incest between two adults, or polygamy between more than two.

Let us call this the Libertine position. Although other more accurate and less flattering terms suggest themselves, I don’t want to cloud the waters with a merely terminological dispute.

How could I be both a Stoic and a Libertine? Absent some additional proposition, there is no necessary conflict. The Libertine position specifically outlaws three types of sexual passion: (1) sex with non-adults (2) sex without the consent of the partner and (3) sex leading to some other harm to a third party (self-imposed harm, by these terms, is allowed: you may licitly have the Marquis come by and beat you with a whip, if that is what floats your boat). Lawyers will note that case (2) encompasses case (1) since minors cannot give legally valid consent.

Hence, even for a libertine, there is a need to have the passions and appetites restricted to a defined sphere of licit sex. Examples include: that the moment you discover that you have venereal disease, you expose your partner to an unacceptable risk, ergo you must check your impulses. Likewise, the moment you discover your paramour is one month shy of the age of majority; or too drunk to give legally binding and informed consent; or is married to another and hence not at liberty to give consent; under all these cases, even the Libertine position demands that virtue moderate or quell the sexual passions, base or sublime, even if it is true love you are forsaking.

The erosion of my loyalty to this position was in a series of questions.  I began to wonder why some things were in the bounds and others out of bounds.

  1. THE BOUNDS OF THE QUESTION

Since the logic of even the Libertine position demands the subordination of the sexual passions to the reason, we need not long dwell on what might be called the Romanticist position.

Romanticists say that Love Conquers All: the sexual impulse is too strong to be checked, or is determined by genetics, or that it is unjust for some other reason to demand virtue or self-control in sexual matters.

Usually, the Romanticist argument is used to excuse only the form of sexual deviance being defended in the particular argument, since there can be found to be some sexual desires beyond the pale even of those most tolerant of sexual deviation. This is a rhetorical tactic, not a reasoned position, and we need not pause except to dismiss it. A partisan of the Sexual Revolution who, if any exist, sincerely maintaining that sex acts with children, dogs, corpses, other men’s wives and the children, or, for that matter, the corpses of dogs of other men’s wive’s children, in violation both of common prudence and simple justice, must have their argument fail merely on the terms of the absence of consent and the presence of harm.

A prudent magistrate, without even making a moral judgment concerning the sex act itself, must outlaw adultery and bigamy on the grounds that these violate the common peace by breaching solemn contracts.

Since the Romanticist position need not detain us, the question whether the reason ought to check the sexual passions through virtue no longer arises: the only question is where the boundaries fall.

Only two basic positions need concern us, since the other positions are variations on the main two: The Libertine position and the Matrimonial position. The Libertines draw the dividing line at the act of consent and the consequence of harm. Any sexual act inside the boundary of harmless mutual consent is licit. Any outside is illicit. The Matrimonial position draws the divided line at matrimony. Any sexual act inside the boundary of marriage is licit.  Any outside is illicit.

Let us assume for this argument that we are only discussing consensual matrimony. If someone wishes to argue that sex within a marriage where the woman does not consent is licit, we can address that at another time. For the moment, that falls outside the boundary of the Libertine position, and lawyers would rightly call that rape or concubinage.

Note that this assumption places the Matrimonial position entirely inside the Libertine position, like a citadel inside a walled city. The disputed ground is everything within the walls yet outside the citadel: non-Matrimonial sex. The technical term for such sex acts, in law, is fornication. Fornication includes what common law defined as seduction, adultery, bigamy, and unnatural acts. Incest between adults falls here also.

4.      THE QUESTIONS

4.1.   IS MARRIAGE A CONTRACT?

The Libertine position posits that marriage is a contract only, revocable at the will of either party, even if the other party is not at fault. The reason for this is that the licit nature of the sex act rests on the consent of the parties: when the consent is withdrawn, the sex is no longer licit.

As a contract, the terms exist only as what the parties signatory so agree. So, for example, if Ayn Rand wishes to have sexual liaison with Nathaniel Branden, the affair is licit (according to the Libertine position) provided only that her husband and his wife provide an informed consent. If marriage is a contract only, the provision that one’s spouse “forsake all others” is open to renegotiation. For a foursome in an open marriage, the adultery is licit.

As a contract, the terms bind only the signatories. So, to use a completely hypothetical example, if a hypothetical and imaginary character named Mark Sanford is married and his paramour Maria from Argentina is not, and she further has never signed a legally binding document promising otherwise, she is free to form a sexual liaison with him. He is in violation of his contract, but his guilt is not shared with her. For her, adultery is licit. If licit, then no one, not even Mrs. Sanford, has the right to criticize or condemn her acts, and for Mrs. Sanford to display offense at Maria from Argentina would be unjust, even petulant.

The first doubt concerning the Libertine position surfaced when these conclusions intruded itself onto my reluctant awareness.  In theory, the adultery of Ayn Rand and Nathaniel Branden should have worked out to the satisfaction of all parties involved. Instead the opposite happened: Rand and Branden became bitter enemies to the end of her life.

It did not work out in that particular case, nor in any similar case that can be brought to mind. Why not?

Part of the answer is that marriage is not a contract. A contract is a meeting of the minds on such terms as the parties shall mutually agree for the exchange of goods and services or other consideration of value. Contracts have no moral or legal force outside their terms.

One example should suffice to show the difference. Suppose Mr. A makes a deal with Mr. B that, starting noon on Monday, Mr. A will buy lumber from and only from the lumberyard of Mr. B, forsaking all others. Mr. A buys a load of lumber from yard C that same Monday, but at eleven o’clock. Is he in violation of any provision of the contract, or by the word or the spirit? Has he betrayed or wounded Mr. B in any way? Can Mr. B make any claim for which relief at law can be granted? The answer is no.

By coincidence, this same Mr. A was planning to marry Miss D that same day, also at noon. Five minutes before the wedding is scheduled to take place, Miss D walks in on her promised bridegroom. He is standing with his trousers around his ankles vigorously coupling with one of the bridesmaids, Miss E, whose skirts are about her ears and her ankles about his ears. If the marriage were a contract, Miss D would have no more right to criticize or condemn his behavior than does Mr. B the lumberman. And yet no one of ordinary prudence would suggest she continue with the wedding at this point: we might even think her emotions insincere or unrelated to reality if her reaction were calm and understated.

No sober argument can be raised that Mr. A is not betraying Miss D in this case, assuming the marriage was sincere to begin with. I will return to this point later, but for the moment, let us merely observe that an injustice has been done Miss D, even if she herself is completely nonchalant.  As his fiancée, it would not be in her best interest to consent to the copulation between Mr. A and the bridesmaid, even if she had been consulted: nor is the matter neutral and unrelated to her interests. Mr. A cannot in good faith say (while he gasps in his pleasures) “We are not married yet; this is none of your business.”

Something other than merely consensual provision is involved here.

4.2.    HOW PLIANT IS HUMAN NATURE?

The Libertine position assumes that we humans can, merely because we sign a contract to that effect, change human nature, or change the nature of romantic love, or change the nature of the sex act, and what the sex act implies and entails.

While youth eager to slip the reigns cold reason places on hot passion may wish to believe otherwise, sad experience shows that human nature is not pliant to these conclusions. We cannot make adultery either licit or harmless merely by agreeing between all the affected parties that we would prefer to have it so.

In the same way that the single example of an absolute duty to think honestly proves that a blanket statement that all duties are subjective is false, so here, the single example of the stubbornness of human nature proves that human laws and customs have but a limited range. There are certain injustices to which we cannot consent, if the act of giving consent cannot eliminate the injustice.

In my life, I began to entertain the doubt that it was perhaps imprudent, or even an actual act of injustice against one’s eventual spouse, to have sex outside marriage, whether with him or with another, whether minutes before the marriage or years before. The question confronting me was whether one’s eventual spouse, even before you ever meet him, even before you know if he exists, has an interest in your sexual behavior and misbehavior, and in the condition of your habits of virtue, which law and custom ought to protect? (I say “he” and “him” in the sentence above, but you boys know I am talking about either sex.)

The more important question that pestered me was whether, supposing such an interest did exist, could it be waived by the word or deed of the parties? Was this interest part of human nature, and not open to negotiation, or was it something the parties could dismiss at will? Does your spouse have an interest in your chastity? Is that interest protected by a right? Could that right be waived?

In legal terms, the question was whether the right to chastity in a spouse was alienable?

This, my second doubt, came only after I had been married some years, and I met a Christian (I was still a stern and rigorous atheist at this point) who told me that it was prudent and morally acceptable to move in with one’s lover, and enjoy nuptial pleasures, provided (1) the love was committed, was ripening into True Love and (2) the possibility existed that one’s prospective spouse might be sexually incompatible. Point (2) was expressed by the less-than-romantic metaphor that one would not buy a car without taking it around the block for a test drive.

This Christian argued only that pre-marital sex was licit, (in other words, the sex act when performed as part of a preparation for marriage) not that any sex outside marriage was licit.

This argument reflects what I take to be the mainstream position of the society around me: casual sleeping around is frowned upon (girls are more condemned than boys for forming casual liaisons) but sex with a fiancée or long-term live-in lover is both licit and normal. Marriage is basically meant to confirm, rather than to form, an established romantic life-sharing relationship. I had my doubts about this conclusion because of the question above, for I wondered whether one’s prospective spouse had a protectable interest in one’s chastity.

My question was: Did you owe it to her, O bridegroom, to come a virgin to your wedding bed? Did you owe it to him, O bride? If so, when does this obligation begin? At marriage? At the moment of proposal? When your love is serious? When it is merely infatuation? When you meet? Before you meet? How can one have an obligation to someone before meeting him?

The irony was not lost on me that I, the skeptic, was arguing for traditional chastity, and the Christian was filling my ear with modern emotionalistic claptrap that true love permitted the violation of law, faith, custom, and decency.

4.3.   IS SEX ENTERTAINMENT?

Another Christian, and this a dear friend of many years, argued with me not only that pre-marital sex was licit, but that any and all extra-marital sex was licit. He said copulation was merely a form of mutual athletic entertainment, a past-time, albeit one that required a partner of the opposite sex. Sort of like mixed doubles tennis.

At that point in my life, I was married and had two children, and my Christian friend was still a bachelor. My romantic love for my wife had grown and grown over the years, until it consumed me, waking and sleeping, refined from its merely lustful beginnings, through phases of infatuation and devotion to a self-sacrificing and self-abnegating adoration. Love in its mature phase is a matter of the will, not of the emotions. I assume most successful marriages pass through similar stages, for the good natured jokes surrounding newlyweds and older couples show an expectation, at least, that mere infatuation is not the basis for lasting love, but is instead the kindling meant to start a longer-lasting and slower-burning but steadier blaze.

My Christian friend’s comment about the nature of the sex act, that it was merely passing entertainment, was not merely false, it was the closest thing my atheist heart could call a blasphemy. He was saying, in effect, that him jacking his juice into some half-drunk frail whose name he might not remember the next day was the same as my selfless adoration to my better half, my mistress of mistresses and mother of my children.

His argument was that the value placed on sex was a matter to be decided by the will of the parties involved. I was free to treat sex as a paramount and significant part of a long-term relationship if I so willed, but he was also free to treat sex as an entertainment only loosely related, or even unrelated altogether, to any tender emotion, friendship, romance, or devotion.

It was not clear whether he meant (1) this was a mutual decision between him and his lovers, or whether (2) he could decide without consulting her that sex had no meaning, whereupon if she ascribed a deeper meaning to it when he did not, this was merely her tough luck.

He did not say, but I have my suspicions. My suspicion is that the lovers sought by such men are being deceived fundamentally, even if no word is ever spoken. She assumes the sex is meaningful: that she is sharing her inmost soul, and expressing her absolute devotion, and he takes advantage of her tender emotions, which he may or may not share, merely to release some organic pressures.

I have listened to locker-room talk from those of my friends who were lady’s men in their youth. One of my best friends—a fellow atheist—joked that not only did he not want to see a girl with whom he had copulated in the morning, he did not want to see her the moment after ejaculation, but would have, if he could have gotten away with it, merely pushed her out of bed and onto the floor the moment his lusts were sated.

Perhaps this was merely meant as a joke. Perhaps. Perhaps this attitude exists only among the more shallow of lustful young men. Perhaps. But you do not know my friend and I do, and I was all too painfully aware of the turmoil and hatred his ex-girlfriends, circling like maddened harpies, created in his life. My sympathies, if you do not mind my saying so, were entirely with the harpies. I regret that they did not do more to my friend to return to him the pain his betrayals cost them. This, even though I love my friend, and would make any sacrifice for him, even unto death. So I did not take his joke as a joke, and I heard similar things from other randy young men when they brag.

But I noticed that my Christian friend was treating his sex partners casually, and my Atheist friend was treating his sex partners contemptuously. They were both of the Libertine position.

(Since I, by contrast, treated the sex act as holding paramount significance, meaningful only in the context of marriage and there having a central meaning, there was no correlation between religious belief and this issue, not in these cases.)

If the Libertine position is correct, however, both my casual friend and my contemptuous friend were entirely right, and entirely within their rights, to treat their paramours casually or contemptuously, and the young ladies had neither recourse nor right to complain.

I asked myself how in the world the world could reach a position where the sex act was diminished from the way I, as a married man, regarded it, namely, as the culmination and adjunct of disinterested and devout love, and the way my bachelor friend regarded it, as a form of athletic entertainment to be pursued either by exploiting and deceiving young ladies, or by convincing young ladies to regard themselves and the intimacy of their bodies, as being as meaningless as my contemptuous friend considered them: mere instruments to service his pleasure.

Clearly, contraception is the cause, perhaps even the sole cause. In any society where contraception is practiced and encouraged, carrying no legal penalty and no social stigma, the attitude of casualness and contempt represented by my two friends was not only possible, but inevitable.

Let us accept that this connection between contraception and contempt for women is a fact, and decide later whether, on balance, this is a good thing or a bad. Absent legalized and socially legitimate contraception, however, there is no Sexual Revolution, because prudence would restrict copulation within the bounds of marriage, even if morality did not.

It was at this point in my life that the suspicion began to grown on me that the Sexual Revolution was little more than a trick meant to disarm womanhood from the attentions of male sexual predators.

Women who are voluntarily sterile do not enjoy the honors surrounding motherhood; their bodies no longer carry the mysterious and godlike powers of creation, but are instead more like the bodies of Playboy bunnies, something meant for casual male entertainment.

Between the social honors paid to mothers and brides and virgins, and the social honors paid to bunnies, I doubt any serious comparison can be made, or that any young woman would be well advised to prefer the latter to the former. If nothing else, the honors paid to bunnies are tied to the short season of their physical attractiveness, whereas mothers found families, and families found civilizations, and so have a longer-lasting influence.

If any man of the generation following mine wonder why the feminists of the modern day are angrier and quicker to anger than those of my day, even though no legal barriers any more exist to their entry into the workforce, the political world, or elsewhere, I humbly suggest that their anger is quite reasonable: men treat women like dickless men these days, equal but inferior, and feel no scruples and no hesitation about exploiting any emotional or physical weakness the fairer sex might be so unwise as to display.

4.4.   MEN ARE JERKS

Speaking as a man, and on behalf of the spear side of the race, let me tell any ladies reading these words that men are jerks. Perhaps the males you know are finer beings than what I describe here: if so, you need read no further. Nothing in my cynical world view will persuade you. None of the dangers I deem it prudent to protect against seem like threats to you. So be it.

I can only base my judgments on the evidence presented to me by my experience. If you have never been abandoned by a father seeking a lover younger than your mother, never been subject to a date-rape, never been dumped without a word by a man to whom you gave as much of yourself as you can give, never been abandoned by a lover and left to fend for yourself, never been driven to the abortion clinic at midnight by your best friend because the father of the baby was nowhere to be found, or never been divorced because your husband sought after a younger and prettier trophy-wife, then let me not disturb the curtain of candy-colored clouds in which your romantic hopes for life are wrapped. My view of the world is darker. I have friends and family members, people I know well, to whom all these things have happened. Time will tell which of us is closer to the truth.

I hope any feminists reading these words – if so impossible a chimera can be imagined as a feminist reading anything written by John C. Wright – will agree with me that females have been disadvantaged, exploited, and betrayed by the lusts of men since the dawn of time, and men seek to keep women in a position of weakness, to rob them of their natural rights, because both masculine indifference and masculine ego urges them to do so. You and I, O mythical feminist, disagree only on one point: did the Sexual Revolution help or harm the social mechanisms used to protect women from male sexual predators?

Let me ask the mythical feminist reading these words think about a particular example: when a powerful and well-connected World leader, let us call him Bill, has a young intern working for his staff, let us call her Monica, a lady perhaps half his age, not only convinced that he means to divorce his wife to cleave to her, but also convinced to kneel in his office and suck on his crooked penis, do you think the social rules and institutions surrounding sexual acts were successful in this case in protecting her from exploitation and betrayal? Were they successful in protecting his wife, let us call her Hillary, from exploitation and betrayal? Were the successful in protecting his daughter, let us call her Chelsea, from exploitation and betrayal? If any feminist were ever to read these words (an unlikelihood, I admit) I would wish to ask her whether the interests of the women involved, Monica, Hillary, and Chelsea were being served or betrayed by the Sexual Revolution and the mores and customs it ushered in to predominance.

Or was the unnatural sexual act of our purely hypothetical Bill and Monica in keeping with what your movement allows? Do women like her need no protection from men like him? Does the violation of his marriage vows carry no penalty, neither in the court of law nor in the court of public opinion?

Are men jerks? And if so, what should be done to drive their sexual fury into socially useful channels?

Are men jerks? And if so, what should be done about it? Letting every sister to fend for herself does not seem in keeping with the dignity of women, nor their equality, nor their freedom.

5.      THE ARGUMENT

So much for preliminaries. We have not yet reached the meat of the issue. So far, we have only seen a serious of doubts and questions. Is marriage a contract? Is human nature pliant? Is sex entertainment? Are men jerks?

The axioms of the argument I gave above: the necessity of self-command, the objectivity of morality, the nature of virtue, the role of law and custom. We are now discussing where the boundaries fall.

To answer that, we must ask why have boundaries at all? The Libertine answer that the bounds exist to prevent harm can be accepted by both the Libertine and the Matrimonial position, even if the Matrimonial will also ascribe additional reasons for the bounds.

Does the Libertine position concerning the sex act, either in fact, or when contemplated as a thought-experiment, prevent harm?

Judgment on this matter differs. Many might argue that the ability of women to walk away from loveless or abusive marriages in our modern no-fault-divorce culture is so valuable that the negative side effects of the divorce culture are inconsequential.

However, this issue need not be reached. We can narrow our inquiry to merely the question of whether the Libertine Position serves the purposes it pretends to serve, or is destructive of those ends.

5.1.   THE SEX ACT

First, a word of clarification. The sexual passions, base or enlightened, are the passions directed toward the final cause of sex. This is as self-evident a proposition that the subject matter admits of: if the unadorned statement that passion A is the drive toward goal A is unclear, I do not see that using a more obscure or indirect set of words would be clearer.

The sex act is copulation. Since the counterargument when the topic of sexual deviance arises is inevitably to equate sodomy, fellatio, cunnilingus, mutual masturbation, with copulation with a sterile partner or during a sterile time of the month, we must distinguish the cases. Indeed it is true that all members of this set have in common the fact that they do not, of themselves, produce children, and so are not “sexual reproduction” properly so called. But the difference between acts that stimulate the sex organs and the act of copulation is precisely that the sexual passion aims at the sexual act per se, at copulation, and not at the accidental or non-essential side-effects of sex.

When you are sexually attracted to someone, you want to have sex with him. The non-essentials are non-essential. The distinction is a legal one: in law, if married couple does not consummate their marriage, that is, does not actually copulate, then the marriage can be annulled without any further allegation of cause.

Imagine begin a young bride, wafted off to the Honeymoon, only to hear your loving and devoted young bridegroom, his eyes shining with romance, announce that he will not now and never will consummate the marriage. Instead, you and he will engage in sodomy, fellatio, cunnilingus, and mutual masturbation. Assume moreover that there is nothing physically or mentally wrong with him: he is not suffering from an old war wound to the thigh. You will never mate with your mate. Does that seem like a proper culmination of romantic love to you, or does there perhaps seem to be something missing, even if you cannot at first put your finger on it?

The Common Law on this point is clear enough: such marriages are not binding, and can be annulled at the request of either partner. Perhaps we can debate later the point whether the law is correct to conclude this, but for the nonce, it is enough to observe a distinction between what is the sex act essentially, and what are the non-essentials that surround it. On the other hand, the sterility of the mating is not a sufficient reason, in and of itself, for annulling a marriage, not under the Common Law or Canon Law—just ask King Henry VIII about that. Copulating between sterile partners is still copulation.

Whether or not this distinction is clear to you, dear modern reader, I will point out that laws written during the ages before political correctness corrupted the language, the difference was clear enough to have it own terminology. Copulation was called the natural sex act, and sodomy, fellatio, cunnilingus were called unnatural (and masturbation was referred to as the sin of Onan). It is unfortunate that this terminology both leads to confusion (since some idiots cannot tell the difference between “nature” meaning the essential property of a set of objects, and “nature” meaning the wild and wooly outdoors) and to hostility (since calling a homosexual “unnatural” is sure to offend.)

Some partisans of sexual antinomianism set great store by the fact that some animals in nature engage in sex acts that would be deviant if found in humans, such as one buck in spring mounting another, and they conclude such acts as “natural” that is, found in the outdoors. This is not an argument as much as a play on words. The old-fashioned use of the word “unnatural” referred to human nature, that is, an emotion or a passion alien to the natural affections. When King Lear calls his loveless daughters “unnatural” he means it in just this fashion—against human nature. He does not mean that turtles and snakes in the wild  enjoy filial affection, but that humans whose passions are properly ordered should.

(Even if this play on words were taken as an argument, it would be dubious: by this definition, a transvestite would be classed as “unnatural” since wild beasts don’t dress in drag.)

Let us leave this old-fashioned language to one side, and merely point out that copulation with a sterile partner, or during a sterile time of the month, is necessarily and legally in the same category as copulation with a fertile partner, whereas sodomy, fellatio, cunnilingus, mutual masturbation, even if done as preliminaries, or “safer” substitutes, are not only not copulation, in any sense of the word, and they are sexual only in their inessentials, a mockery or substitute for sex, a way to enjoy the sensations without the thing itself, the way vomiting up a meal is an inessential substitute for eating, a way to enjoy the taste of food without the act of really eating and digesting it.

On an emotional level, while the same feelings, base or sublime, lustful or devout, and the same physical sensations which attend the sex act may indeed accompany these surrounding sexual-ish acts, as a matter of biological fact, they are not the same. To confuse the feelings or sensations with the reality is the core the issue: an emotion can be false-to-facts in the same way a statement can be. The thing the emotion represents does not exist; the emotion is false.

In any case, I am not here making the argument that only sex performed in pursuit of  reproduction is licit: I am making the more general case that sex within the bounds described by the Libertine position, that is, harmless and consensual sex outside marriage, upon consideration, is an empty set.

The argument consists of an examination of the real negative consequences that follow extramarital sex, either inevitably, or as a matter of imprudent likelihood.

5.2.   PASSIONS RELATED TO THE SEX ACT

If human nature is not pliant beyond a certain range, it behooves us to establish what the general, basic, or ordinary course of human nature implies, and then only to see where and if exceptions apply. In human nature, what are the passions related to the sex act?

The appetites and passions related to the sex act include lust, infatuation, devotion, and love.

Lust is the physical attraction. This lust can either be friendly (as when it is accompanied by infatuation, devotion, or love) or unfriendly (as when it is without anything more.)

Lust without anything more is how we describe the attraction felt toward whores, or, for that matter, airbrushed pictures of Playboy bunnies. Neither respect, nor any tender emotion is necessarily provoked by lust without anything more. Indeed, to judge from locker room conversations, hostility and contempt seem to be the frequent, if not inevitable, by-products of lust without more.

This must be sharply divided from that much more satisfying and friendly, even playful form of lust which accompanies infatuation. Half the poetry of mankind is devoted to describing every aspect of these violent and tender emotions: if you are unfamiliar with them, I have neither time nor patience to describe them. Ladies, if you have ever read a Harlequin Romance, boys, if you have ever written a sonnet to the curve of your beloved’s thigh, then you know whereof I speak. Such emotion is often called love, and as saluted as the noblest and strongest passion in the heart, but of course it is merely a preliminary, an introductory emotion, and not the culmination of love at all. I say again that the hostility that accompanies lust without more is not only absent from infatuation, an opposite passion rages, one which bends every waking thought toward the beloved.

But the sad experience of lovers everywhere is that one partner may suffer mere lust where the other partner suffers infatuation. Mere lust provokes contempt for the partner once one’s organs are sated; infatuation, on the other hand, grows as it is indulged. It is naïve to think that a man in lust will not exploit a woman infatuated with him, and scoff later at her weakness. He will put on the acts and the airs of love, in order to win the use of her body for an evening, and the madness of infatuation will cause her to disregard both the clues from his behavior that he is a false lover, and the warnings of her more open-eyed friends and elders. I use the example of the male being the cheat here, merely because my experience is that this is the more typical case: the roles can be reversed. See any Film Noir movie for details. Prudence, if nothing else, would suggest a social mechanism be developed to weed out false lovers from true ones.

Infatuation again must be sharply distinguished from devotion. Even though is the commonplace, almost universal, for young lovers to vow eternal love to each other when drunk on the wine of infatuation, sad experience says that these vows are shallow and soon to pass until and unless the infatuation turns into devotion. Devotion is not an emotion merely, not an attraction or a lust. Another layer has been added. Devotion begins when your lover also becomes your friend, helpmeet, companion and soul mate, and you hold her in higher esteem than you hold yourself. Devotion is the quieter and longer-lasting passion that follows a successful infatuation. We might even say infatuation has no purpose other than as an introduction to devotion. When devotion occurs, all the previous madness and extravagance, longings and uncertainties and sighs of the infatuation phase have found their object and can be excused. Without devotion, infatuation would merely be a turbulence of the mind, something dismissed with the contempt of a Benedict or a Lucretius.

But the sad experience of lovers everywhere is that one partner may suffer merely infatuation where the other has a heart full of true devotion. Infatuation, common experience knows, comes and goes. Romeo sighs over Roselyn one day and Juliette the next. No matter how firmly the lover vows eternal faithfulness under the madness of infatuation, when the madness passes, the vows are proved empty, and the world laughs at any young lovers still deceived by them. The most obvious and rapid way to extinguish the flame of infatuation is to sate the lusts that underpin it. Coupling with an infatuated lover will soon bring him to his senses: once he had seen you naked, there is neither mystery nor novelty to prey on his imagination. If his infatuation fails, and there is no devotion in his heart, you mean nothing more to him, except perhaps as an object of nostalgia, and he will have proved false. On the other hand, if devotion is present, a whole raft of masculine emotions, protectiveness and sexual pride and tenderness will come to the fore, and he will be a true lover. The same thing is commonplace in women, albeit the emotions are the feminine ones. Prudence, if nothing else, would suggest a social mechanism be developed to weed out false lovers from true ones.

Love is the culmination of devotion. At this point, the lover achieves unselfish love. Even John Galt was willing to sacrifice himself and his monstrous ego for the sake of his beloved Dangy Taggart, as I recall, and this was in the end of a fictional and longwinded paean to pure selfishness. In any case, love is a disposition of the will, not a passion of the heart.

True Love, when it occurs, is the condition that both infatuation and devotion seek to achieve, and which the infatuated and the devout (falsely) think they are in.

Here we see the first limitation of the Libertine Position. This position requires each young lover, alone, and unaided by any laws or customs, to avoid the dangers of deceptive lusts and false lovers: and experience shows that young lovers are (of all people on earth) the ones least likely to heed the voice of prudence voluntarily.

5.3.   PRUDENCE RELATED TO THE SEX ACT

The sex act is the act of sexual reproduction. The common and expected consequence of the act of sexual reproduction is the reproduction of the species. This fact is the elephant in the bathtub the Libertine Position merely overlooks, and the mere fact that the Libertine Position argues as if the pursuit of the sexual appetite had no consequences and no context other than the pursuit of any other athletic bodily pleasure (see above), shows the innate falsehood of the pose.

The question to be raised here is, suppose you get pregnant, ladies, or suppose you get your lover pregnant, gentlemen, what does morality command we do about the baby? What does prudence suggest we do beforehand, so we are not caught unawares or unprepared?

Prudence, of course, is not prognostication. Even if the sex act does not lead in most cases to pregnancy, and even if contraception is licit and is effective nine times out of ten, prudence requires that all cases be treated as if they were the tenth case, for the same reason that prudence requires we buckle our safety belts when entering a car, or don a helmet when mounting a motorcycle, each and every time, not merely the one time in a thousand when we have an accident. Nature does not tell us beforehand when the accident will occur. The reason why accidents are called “accidents” is because they do not necessarily happen.

The choices are to kill the baby in the womb or raise the baby. While prenatal infanticide is a commonplace in our current society, logic suggests that it is not in the best interest either of the child, nor of any parent or grandparent with a vested interest in seeing his bloodline preserved.

But even an unnatural monster willing to kill her own child in the womb should be prompted by prudence to consider and make provision for that bloody necessity should it arise. If nothing else, she should discuss the matter with the father of the baby—who, in the eyes of any rational law, has a vested interest in the wellbeing of the child—or with the grandparents of the child—who, in the Darwinian scheme of things, even ignoring any moral considerations, would find it in their genetic advantage to make provisions to preserve the child once he exists even in his fetus-stage. The Selfish Gene, after all, does not care what stage the child is in when the child is killed, since any stage before the child reproduces is a failure from the Darwinian viewpoint.

Now, without making a comment on the morality of prenatal infanticide, let us restrict ourselves to the observation that it places the interests of the mother at odds with the natural course of love, romance, and marriage. Instead of a joyous event, the pregnancy is a horror, something a medical technician must be summoned to halt, and the mother has to have her child scraped free from the walls of her womb like as if he were a tumor, rather than a miracle and a blessing.

In contemplating the wisdom of prenatal infanticide, any young lady about to copulate with a handsome young lover should therefore contemplate the grim necessity which may arise. In my own experience, one young lady I know told me of the time she drove her best friend at midnight to the abortion clinic, and had to comfort and support her, because the father of the baby was nowhere to be found.

Ladies, whether you think abortion is a sacred and private woman’s right, or you think it is the crime of Medea, prudence suggest you make provision for this eventuality before it arises. Will you need comfort and support at that difficult time? Has he agreed to provide such comfort? Or does he assume that all the risks and expense and heartache are on your side, and on his side he gets the benefit of the pleasures of your body, and then he wants you to get up in the morning and make him an egg while he lies in the rumpled bed smoking a cigarette?

Does this scenario seem unrealistic or absurd? It happened in real life. I am not talking about a hypothetical.

Here is the question: what is there in the Libertine Position that makes the behavior of this indifferent father worthy of condemnation, criticism, or comment? The Libertine position is that the sex act is licit, provided both parties are adult and consent, and no harm follows. Did the father of the child agree to raise the child or pay the abortionist to kill the child? Did the father agree to support you emotionally and financially through your difficult time? According to the Libertine position, if he did not agree, then he is not bound either in law or morality.

My observation is that of the couples I know who engaged in casual liaisons, the woman assumed that the man had made an unspoken commitment, and had an obligation to support her and, yes, even to love her, and the man had no such idea in mind, and did not feel himself so bound. Your observations in your life may differ—I can only go by what I see.

Again, I am using man and woman here because that men are more often the betrayers, but the shoe can fit on the other foot as easily. The man was delighted, honored, and overjoyed to be a father, and he did what he thought was the honorable thing and asked to marry the woman: and she went out instead and had the baby killed in the womb. This was after he had bought some baby toys and clothes and so on in preparation for the blessed event.

This is what a lawyer would call an ambiguity. Two people have differing notions of their mutual obligations. They both think there is an unspoken contract or an unspoken natural set of mutual obligations, but they each separately come to separate conclusions as to what those obligations are.

The only way to solve an ambiguity is to make the matter unambiguous: a ceremony, a contract, a formality. The ceremony has to be strictly binary, so the gray areas and uncertainties are minimized: either you are bound by the obligations or you are not, and the obligations need to be spelled out. The ceremony has to be public even if the mating act is private, so that multiple witnesses can confirm or deny whether the formalities are carried out.

The more difficult question is to define what those natural obligations are. The Libertine position is that there are none whatsoever: only what the parties have mutually agreed bind them. There are certain difficulties with this position.

5.3.1.      Humans are Altricial

The first difficulty is that humans have altricial offspring, that is, our children cannot be left to fend for themselves like the eggs of turtles abandoned in the sand. It is in the economic best interest of the mother, not to mention in the best interest of the emotional wellbeing of the child, to have the father of the child obligated to raise the child.

I have heard of no feminists or sexual revolutionaries so extreme that they wish to do away with child support; but neither have I heard of any family law court so persistent and efficient (and foolish) as to make the claim that garnishing the absent father’s paycheck is a substitute for a loving and supportive and present father.

More than a mere legal obligation of child support payments would be prudent in order to protect the wellbeing of the child. The goal must be to have the father devoted, sworn, committed and obligated by the strongest bonds of public and private fealty to the raising of the child. Child abandonment should be punished both by social opprobrium and legal sanction, since it is an act that mars a human life, or ruins it entirely.

The father will not raise the child unless he is bound to it by love. Sad experience shows that merely relying on natural affection is insufficient. The family bond must be memorialized by a formality, and all the pressure religion, law, and peer pressure can bring to bear is needed to enforce that bond.

The easiest way (although it is not successful in all cases) to have a father love the child is to have him love the woman who is her mother beforehand.

Because humans are altricial and because men are jerks, natural prudence suggest no woman copulate with a man until and unless his devotion to raise any possible offspring that might arise is already committed. Such commitment is difficult or impossible to enforce merely by child support payment and wage garnishments: it is more prudent to restrict the possible fathers of one’s children to men in love.

This means, for reasons of mere prudence, aside from any considerations of honor or morality, that no woman should copulate with a man unless he is both devout and in love with her, and committed to a long term (or, better yet, a permanent) relationship.

In other words a mating ceremony, backed by social and legal sanctions, must be unambiguously and publically imposed before the mating act.

The rule must apply even if the mating act is not meant to result in mating (as, for example, with a sterile partner or through the use of contraception) merely because otherwise the mating ceremony is without legal or social effect.

Since every society in history and prehistory has had such a mating ceremony, called marriage, experience suggests that everyone, everywhere, facing a similar problem, found a similar solution: the institution called marriage. Within the variations of monogamy and polygamy and concubinage and so on, the general social purpose of father identification was carried out, and child abandonment was minimized. This does not prove everyone is right, but it does shift the burden of proof onto the sexual revolutionaries and reformers to prove their case that the weakening or abolition of that institution will not result in the problems the institution cures.

5.3.2.      Bastards and Cuckoos

Now, game theory would suggest that it is in the Darwinian best interest of any man to father as many children as possible, and leave other men to raise the children, preferably one who does not know that child is not his.

Prudence, without any consideration of morality, might indeed suggest that adultery is better than fornication, since the child not only has a couple in a position to raise it, but at Common Law the cuckolded father does not have the legal right to question the paternity of his wife’s children (I should mention that in many jurisdictions this Common Law principle is being overturned (unwisely, in my opinion) by statute.) Getting some other dupe to shoulder the burden and expense of raising your children was can call the Cuckoo’s Egg strategy.

In order to circumvent what this Cuckoo’s Egg strategy, and to minimize the risks of venereal disease, prudence suggest bridegrooms take only virgins as brides. In such cases (unless you are St. Joseph, I suppose) the chance of being victimized by the Cuckoo’s Egg strategy is minimized.

For a similar reason, chastity within marriage, that is, preventing the woman from seeking other mates once the marriage is solemnized, must be strictly enforced.

Note please that so far we have established nothing about the virginity and chastity of the male. By the grim logic of the Cuckoo’s Egg strategy, he should insist on chastity in his wife and yet he should desire and pursue unchastity in the wives and daughters of other men, so as to impregnate as many as possible, and sow his wild oats.

However, we already addressed this issue. Not only is it imprudent for any woman to mate with a married man, the aversion other men, brothers and fathers of the seduced virgins might feel, to deter the Cuckoo’s Egg strategy makes it in their best interest to retaliate disproportionately against anyone attempting this strategy. Both social opprobrium and legal sanction must deter it, merely for reasons of prudence, and independently of whether or not the young virgin being seduced welcomed the mating.

So far we have only discussed game theory, and we have analyzed bastardy in terms of Darwinian advantages. However, if game theory is not the correct model of the behavior, and if Darwinian advantage is indifferent to the moral calculus involved, then this conclusion, while true, is irrelevant. Let us turn next to those more difficult questions.

Are parent obligated to care for their offspring? Since we live in a society where a father can be punished at law merely for failing to provide his child with an education, let us take this (unless someone wishes to argue otherwise) that both the Libertine and the Matrimonial position answer in the affirmative. Are parents obligated to love their children? While the human heart cannot be governed by moral duties, if we answer this question in the affirmative, prudence would at least suggest removing as many of those barriers as possible to such love: such as, for example, the suspicions that one’s wife loves another, or has in the past, or shall in the future, or that one’s child is another’s.

That the Matrimonial position supports these policies and the Libertine does not is clear enough. The Matrimonial position has these duties vest from before the two partners even meet: the Libertine position has these duties vest, if at all, when and only when both parties mutually agree. Under the Libertine calculus, the father of the child is under no duty to raise it at all, unless he agreed, and the mother can kill the baby in the womb without even telling the father his child exists. The Matrimonial position assumes these duties as an absolute, and so the mere lack of forethought or lack of consent is not a barrier to their enforcement.

5.3.3.      Permanence

Human offspring are not merely altricial, human childhood has one of the longest periods in nature compared to other animals. The commitment of raising a child from birth to majority is at least 18 years, which is a fifth of the average human lifespan. Obviously, if a couple has more than one child, the span in increased.

While marriage serves the purpose of a public mating ceremony in order to identify paternity, once marriage exists, it becomes the cornerstone of civilization. Without marital and familial bonds, the individual is naked and alone against the power of the state and the mob. With those bonds, the bonds of civilization arise naturally: what, for example, is kingship except for fatherhood writ large? What is democracy except for brotherhood writ large? As a practical matter, you cannot have such noble sentiments as the brotherhood of man if you are creatures who live without family bonds, without brothers and sisters or a sense of mutual love and obligation between them.

Hence, no matter what is primary purpose, marriage also serves vital and prudential purposes that are essential. To dissolve marriage merely for personal convenience, or to escape a boring relationship, has negative consequences which extend far past the original couple.

I spoke above about the phenomenon of “trophy wives” where some successful male, once his mate is past her prime breeding years and no longer useful to him, dumps her on the ashheap and seduces some younger and prettier bit of eye-candy to ride his arm, thus exciting the admiration of other bulls in his tribe. Here let us leave logic aside for a moment and indulge in emotion: I cannot but express hatred for such men, and wish the fire would fall from the sky and consume them.

But even without this emotion, cold logic would suggest that it is not in the prudent self-interest of a woman to agree to be the wife on a temporary or conditional basis.

Let me dwell on this point for a moment. Ladies, if you are young now, you will be old and gray in time. Despite the best efforts of the feminists, your incomes simply do not match those of your husbands, not in the majority of cases (there are exceptions). If you take time out from a career to bear and raise children, your income slips below that of a man equally qualified who does not. Life is not fair.

Now, keep that in mind. Suppose a man, your prospective mate,  let us call him Rhett, put a piece of paper in your hand on your wedding day, to give you a clear and written contract that you could sign defining the precise nature of his and your mutual obligations. Suppose this contract said your man would kick you out once you were old and gray, but until that time, he would love, honor, and cherish you. It’s a twenty year contract. After you bear his kids, he kicks you in your now-overlarge and liver-spotted buttocks down the stairs, and he will forsake you and cleave to Anna Nicole Smith. When you ask him in tears what you shall do and what shall become of you, he tells you he frankly does not give  a damn.

What bride in her right mind would sign such a stupid contract? But according to the Libertine position, when the man acts this way with or without a signed contract, he has done nothing that can be condemned, nor even criticized.

Let us suppose further that a second man, another prospective mate, let us call him Ashley, were willing to put a contract in your hand without that provision in it. His contract vows to love and honor and cherish until death. It is permanent. It lasts until eternity calls.

Independent of any consideration of morality or honor, is not the second marriage contract clearly in your best long-term interests?

I submit to you that the unwritten marriage contract which our society now enforces is one of the first type, a Rhett contract, rather than one of the second type, an Ashley contract.

The legal mechanism to make marriage permanent no longer exists in our society.  No man, under our laws, can offer you that second contract, because the laws of no-fault divorce have held that no bridegroom will be held to his word.

Young lovers are naturally extravagant and willing to vow eternal and permanent fidelity. A girl would be stupid and myopic to settle for anything less. Our society, by allowing for no fault divorce, makes it so that no such vow can be enforced, and therefore no such vow can be believed.

Independently of what the laws allow, and even leaving aside considerations of morality and justice, simple prudence would suggest that no woman copulate with a man until and unless he is willing to vow lifelong rather than simply temporary fidelity.

The fact that the wording of the traditional marriage ceremony explicitly promises and vows the opposite, promising lifelong fidelity for better or worse in sickness and health hence under all conditions whatsoever counts for exactly nothing. In other words, the hypothetical given above is not only false, for not only are you not given a contract stating that your man will dump you when it suits him, the hypothetical is the opposite of true, because in real life you are given an explicit contract stating the exact opposite.Indeed, in real life, you have an explicit sacrament and divinely-ordained covenant stronger than any legal contract.

But not only do our laws and customs make these promises of no effect, there is under law no way for a man to bind himself to his bride, or a wife to her bridegroom, according to the terms of the explicit vow they wish to make, since there is no way to make an enforceable prenuptial agreement foreswearing no-fault divorce. Signing a piece of paper to that effect is a meaningless gesture, since (at least at the time of this writing) the courts will not enforce it.

Ladies, our modern society treats you with less respect than the bride in our Rhett-contract hypothetical given above. At least she was shown a piece of paper where it was written out that she was going to be dumped when it suited the man’s convenience. In real life, he retains that right and cannot foreswear it, despite giving every vow and oath as solemnly as any ceremony can exact.

And, gentlemen, not only is the reverse also true for you, but, if statistics do not lie, is true for you tenfold. The current law makes any marriage contract one where the wife can take your children and your house and kick you into the street and take half your pay, and have you jailed if you do not pony up, at any time, for any reason, at her sole and arbitrary discretion.

Such a compact, to say the least, is not in the long term best interest of those contemplating entering into it.

5.3.4.      Exclusivity

A similar consideration governs the exclusivity of the contract. The Libertine position would allow for open marriages, orgies, three-way, four-ways, n-ways, temporary or permanent alliances and liaisons, but such things are evidently not in the best interest of the parties involved, for reasons covered above: neither the paternity of the children is clear, nor the obligation as to who is to raise the children, nor is the affection of the father engaged, nor is the marriage as a cornerstone of civilization safe, nor is the woman wise to let herself be exploited by the fly-by-night lovers, nor is the man’s position as the head of his own house and father of his own children secure.

5.3.4.1.            Polygamy

The institution of polygamy can be touched on briefly here: Christianity forbids it, but Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism allow for it, and to my knowledge, the writings of Confucius or other sages of the East do not condemn the practice.

There are reasons to condemn the practice of polygamy independent of Christian considerations. The argument can be made that the competition for the scarce resources (not to mention the limited love and attention) of the father is and must be naturally divided among the several wives in a harem. Even if the women are (as only happens in male fantasies) perfectly content and harmonious with each other, a natural competition of interests exists or may grow up between them, for Darwinian reasons if nothing else, forcing any wife to take any steps they may to remove the father’s love and attention away from the children of rivals and toward her own. The only way to establish peace is to have the husband also be the master rather than a partner of the wives, or establish an internal regimentation, as having the eldest wife command the lesser wives, or something of the sort.

To give credit to the Mormons, it is on record that when the United States forced the Utah territory to forbid polygamy before Utah could enter the Union, some of the Mormon wives supported the institution, protested, wrote letters to the editor, and so on. They say polygamy did not disadvantage them. I find that slightly creepy myself, so I will merely leave that point as to the discretion and judgment of the reader. While I can imagine a masochistic woman agreeing to such an arrangement, I cannot imagine a feminist agreeing to such a relationship.

In any case, I need only make a smaller point. If you, dear reader, for any reason disapprove of polygamy, or think it is exploitative of women, or think it imprudent or unjust, I submit to you that many of the same objections I raise here above to polygamy can be raised with equal force against that form of serial polygamy we call no-fault divorce.

I know a woman, personally who has had as many husbands as Draupadi in the Mahabharata: five. She merely had them one at a time, like Elizabeth Taylor, rather than all at once. The competition for the love and resources to the shared by overlapping mates was more or less the same.

5.3.4.2.            Violence between Sexual Rivals

We cannot leave this topic without emphasizing the main point for the exclusivity of marriage. The Matrimonial position differs from the Libertine position primarily in that it not only defines who may mate, but also who may not mate.

The moment a bride is wed, she is offlimits to further propositions, and may not entertain seducers; she may not be courted nor even receive romantic gifts. The same applies to the Bridegroom. In Common Law, even if true love binds Guinevere and Lancelot, it is illegal for him to court her or to urge her to leave her husband for him: the crime is called alienation of affection.  This law has been undermined in recent years, but the principle still remains in effect as a moral principle: under the Matrimonial position, is it morally wrong to ask a woman to divorce her husband and marry you, even if you are in love with her and her husband is not, because the bond of matrimony is (in the matrimonial position) exclusive and lifelong.

In the Libertine position, those who may not mate is defined only by those who cannot legally grant consent: children, drunks, and rape victims. Hence even if Guinevere is married, she is not offlimits for Lancelot to court her, since the Libertine position both allows for the possibility of a three-way orgy, pending Arthur’s consent, and allows for the possibility of an open marriage, if Arthur is as stupid as Ayn Rand’s husband, and can be browbeaten into believing that adultery is meaningless.

Since both these possibilities are not open to criticism or condemnation, efforts to persuade the interested parties are likewise not open to criticism.

This means that all the extravagant and even violent things men do to win the attention of potential mates are not closed when a Libertine marriage contract is signed. I know of cases where a young man climbed a roof at night and jimmied a window to break into a girl’s bedroom just to get a chance to speak with her, and this was when the girl was dating someone else; I know guys who broke into girl’s dorm rooms at college. We are not talking about rape attempts here, just desperation brought on by sexual attraction.

Now, here is where my experience may differ from yours, dear reader. There is a man I know—I have stayed at his house—whose brother is serving a life sentence in jail for murder. The murder was prompted by a woman, and she seduced this brother into murdering her husband. I have never met the brother myself, but I have heard tell of him.

I do not think this type of behavior is all that odd or unusual among human beings: just read a newspaper, or go down to your local court house and read the docket, and see what types of crimes are being committed and why.

Are such crimes commonplace? Maybe they are not as common as car accidents. Let me say rather, sexual completion among males leads to violence often enough that prudent provision must be made to minimize it.

I hope you know a better class of guys than I do, but if you do not, the people who act this way exist. We are not even talking about stalkers and obsessives and nutjobs. Just among ordinary young men of ordinary upbringing, getting into a fistfight over a girl, to drive away rivals, is natural.

The violence surrounding mating rivalry is widespread enough and commonplace enough, that a distinction is made at Common Law between murder in the first degree and murder in the second degree. In theory, murder in the second degree is murder without malice aforethought, in the heat of passion, and the penalty is meant to be less severe than premeditated murder. In practice, murder in the second degree was meant to cover cases where a husband found his wife in the arms of her lover and killed him on the spot: juries would not convict such men of murder in the first degree, because the crime was so natural (if I may use that word) to their own passions and sympathies, the jurors could not bring themselves to condemn it. The law was therefore sculpted to fit the shape of the real human passions that really exist in human beings, rather than an intellectual constructed unrelated to reality. I offer no comment as to whether the law is or is not wise or just in creating this exception: I offer this only as evidence that violence between sexual rivals is a common enough problem that prudent steps must be taken to forestall it.

One way of minimizing violence between rivals is to establish clearly defined markers and boundaries. A wedding band on the finger of a matron is one such means. In older and saner times, married women wore different forms of hair and dress to distinguish them at a glance from maidens and girls. She changed her name partly to show the depth and permanent nature of the commitment: so that even if you wrote her a letter, you knew better than to add any courtship-type words.

Prudence suggests that even these days married men should wear wedding bands for the same reason, and if it were up to me, some honorific would be attached to their names to make it clear that they were no longer allowed to participate in the gallantries of courtship. If nothing else, if all married men had to be shaved bald or tattooed purple something, lonely women in bars could tell at the glance if the guy buying her a drink was a would-be adulterer (i.e. a creep) even before he opened his mouth.

At the risk of offending my Christian readers, I must point out that logic says this same argument applies to homosexual civil unions as well as to marriage. A homosexual betrayed by a faithless catamite does not necessarily feel an emotion gentler than what Arthur felt when Guinevere betrayed him. If the sexual competition for partners among gays is a violent and unruly as among libertine heterosexuals, the need exists for some sign of exclusivity: two men making a permanent vow of loyalty either have to wear rings, or make some other obvious and legally binding sign that they will forsake all others. Independent of any consideration of morality or law, simple prudence dictates that competition between sexual rivals must be minimized by a public ceremony and by legal sanctions. If a Socrates is already claimed and in a committed homosexual relationship, it is morally wrong for Alcibiades to try to seduce him away from his partner: simple prudence would suggest that this moral rule be buttressed by a legal sanction. We are talking here just about a practical measure to keep the public peace.

Now, the question becomes more complicated if Xantippe is trying to seduce Socrates away from Alcibiades, because then we have a competition between a rightly-ordered sexual drive and a wrongly-ordered one: but that question is beyond the scope of this present inquiry.

5.4.    THIRD PARTIES TO MARRIAGE

The Libertine position utterly ignores third parties to the mating. According to the libertine position, if Arthur, with her consent, copulates with Morgan le Fay, it is no one’s business but their own. However since Mordred, the bastard son of Arthur, has a claim on the throne, the fact that he was born has an influence or an effect on Guinevere, and any children she might produce. To minimize the competition between rival sons of different mothers, the Common Law solution, for better or worse, was to disinherit any bastards. The children of one mother, the lawful wife, received the plume of legitimacy, and all others were held to be strangers to the patrimony. In order to further discourage the practice of fathering bastard children, the act was surrounding by social opprobrium.

(I must say, in one of those acts which condemn mankind, the opprobrium was more often attached to the innocent children rather than to the philandering father. The word ‘bastard’ came to be a swear word, a synonym for a ruthless and heartless grasper, whereas the real swear word should have been attached to the father of the bastard.)

The Libertine position simply ignores the fact that Guinevere’s  interests are being imposed upon by the act of fathering a child on Morgan le Fay. At best, the Libertine position allows that if and only if Arthur and Guinevere so mutually agree, he will keep his royal member in his trousers for such times and places as they mutually see fit. If she does not read the fine print, or overlooks to get him to make such a vow, he is not bound.

5.4.1.    The Father of the Bride

The Libertine position recognizes no interest the father (or mother) of the bride might have in seeing to it that his daughter not be unhappy in marriage. However, since she produces (or abandons) his grandchildren, the question arises whether he has a vested interest in permitting or driving off suitors courting the daughter. The Libertine answer is in the negative: grandparents have no duties to protect and love their grandchildren, and hence no right to meddle with any arrangement the daughter might make or fail to make to provide for any child she might bear.

I speak here of fathers and daughters only because historically this was the most common case: indeed, it is not until relatively recently in history, and only in Christian lands, that a daughter selecting her own mate was the commonplace. While we might look on this type of arranged marriage with distaste, it nonetheless behooves us to note the logic behind the social arrangement: in the modern day, if the father had no role in driving off unworthy suitors, that father is the one most likely to have to bear the expense of raising the grandchild if the daughter returns pregnant and in tears if (as often happens) the unworthy suitor proves to be truly unworthy.

Since matrimony proposes that the daughter not copulate with the unworthy suitor until and unless the suitor publicly vow his eternal support, even in a culture where the father has no veto over his daughter’s choice of mate, the marriage vow, if it is strict, inescapable, and permanent, tends to protect the father’s interest. Many an unworthy suitor, many a bridegroom who mistakes his infatuation for true love, will suddenly get cold feet and be confronted by a sober reality when facing the terrors of the rose-covered chapel.

This will act as a filter: in economic terms, the entry cost of copulating with the woman is higher than merely winning her momentary and private consent when she is flown with wine and dazzled with roses. You cannot have her, O unworthy suitor, until and unless you make the public protestation and legally binding vow that your love is eternal and exclusive. If you suddenly sober up at the church steps, and realize you are being stuck for life, your reason, and not merely your sexual appetites, must be consulted before you take the final and irrevocable step, bind yourself as if with chains, and throw away the key.

It is with sorrow and disgust that I note that the modern no-fault divorce culture has undermined whatever utility the strictness of the marriage vow once held. My wife’s best friend and roommate from way back was married to an unworthy suitor, an empty-headed boy who did not take the vows of matrimony seriously, and, as it turns out, did not have to. She was completely loyal to him, and he decided he wanted out, and he dumped her in one of the ugliest divorces I ever sat through. There is no certainty that a stricter law of marriage would have sobered up and deterred this boy; but there is certainty that he would not have been able to victimize my friend with impunity, if he could have found divorce only for cause.

5.4.2.    The Grandparents of the Child

Above I cover the case of the grandparents of the child having an interest in whether and how the mother makes provision for the child’s wellbeing and upbringing.

In the Libertine Position, the grandparents are not parties to whatever contract covers the daughter and her various lovers of either sex and any number. This means that if the daughter’s plan is to rid herself of any pregnancy by prenatal infanticide, what is politely called abortion, the grandparents have no right to interfere, and no right even to be consulted.

And since copulation for entertainment value is the point and purpose of the Libertine position, the specter of an unwanted pregnancy (which is impossible, aside from medical considerations, under the Matrimonial position) is not a rare accident but a commonplace one. In modern society, it is assumed and expected that an unwed mother will kill her child in the womb as an unwelcome byproduct of copulation for pleasure.

I call it impossible because the Marriage ceremony is obviously a fertility ceremony: the meaning of the rite cannot possibly (except by committed Leftists) be misconstrued or misunderstood. You might not want to have children when you first get married, but you cannot think the marriage ceremony is a celebration of the fact that you will not be having children: no one can confuse wedding vows with the vows of a nun to maintain perpetual virginity. In any case, even if the point of the mating ritual is lost on you, in the eyes of the law, no additional ceremony or contract or vow is needed to make all the obligations legally enforceable to raise and care for the child once born.

A bachelor who seduces a foolish girl and leaves her pregnant can argue, and with a surface appearance of justice, that he neither expected nor intended to father a child. He can claim he was relying on the girl to use birth control, or, if he is either a modern man or an ancient Spartan, he can say he was expecting the girl to dispose of the baby either by a visit to the abortion provider or to the pit called Apothetae, where newborns were thrown.  For all we know, she may have told him that was the plan.

But no married man can make this claim, not without sounding an utter fool. No man of ordinary prudence gets married without knowing he is henceforth bound to the obligations of fatherhood when and if his bride bears children.

What else can he say? “I was not expecting to be a father! I thought marriage was so that I could treat my sex partner as an unpaid maid and housekeeper!”

Good grief. Any man who makes or even thinks that this is what marriage is about should be taken outside the city walls and stoned by angry women for the crime of being a pinhead.

In reality, no additional legal or customary contract or obligation is necessary: once married to a woman, her children, in the eyes of the law, are yours, and the obligation to love and raise them is not one you can shirk without legal and social penalties.

Nonetheless, if the daughter finds she cannot raise the child on her own, it would be unnatural, a violation of the unspoken obligations of parent and child, to turn the pregnant daughter away from her home. Note the lack of symmetry. In order to be logically consistent, the Libertine position would have to hold that the grandparents of a bastard child or abandoned child, once the deadbeat Dad has flown, or gone back to his wife, have no duty whatsoever to support and cherish their daughter and her child, or to raise or to support them, aside, of course from whatever contract they signed.

It is, of course, impossible, even for the most intrusive and meddling parents, to appear in the bedroom of their adult daughter while she is readying herself for the pleasures of a one-night stand with some empty-headed beefcake she picked up at the local biker bar, question the fellow, and discover his prospects. If the Libertine position allows for any copulation within the bounds of adult consent, then the interest of the grandparents are sacrificed.

On the other hand, in the matrimonial position, since a public and legally-binding ceremony must take place before the mating takes place, the grandparents not only can investigate the prospective father of their grandchildren, the ceremony itself makes the provision that the father of the child, if any child is born, is already obligated to raise and love the child, even before the child is conceived. The main interest of the grandparents finds some protection in this provision.

5.5.     THE INVESTMENT OF THE INTEREST IN VIRGINITY

We have seen above that the Matrimonial position grants to the parties involved in marriage an expectation that the other partner come a virgin to the marriage bed. This, for several reasons: first, it hinders the spread of venereal disease; second, it deters the birth of bastards; third (and related) it deters the pursuit of the Cuckoo’s Egg strategy by the unscrupulous; fourth, it hinders the competition for resources and affection incumbent upon either polygamy (many mates at once) or serial polygamy (many mates over time): fifth, and for similar reasons, it diminishes violent sexual competition among rivals.

Is this expectation a right? Does the one marriage partner have a right to be offended with the other if the other turns out to be not a virgin? Is there any interest being violated? If there is a right, when does it attach?

Please note that while it is my habit to speak of men as the jerks and women as the victims in most matrimonial conflict, because I think the women suffer more and are exploited more, in this case I keep my language carefully unisex: because historically virginity in women has been praised higher than in men (and this, perhaps, for Darwinian reasons, or due to the ruthlessness and power of men over women throughout history), in this case the women has as much right or more to be offended by the lack of virginity in her mate as the man. I want to emphasize this because it is often overlooked.

5.5.1.    Economic and Prudential Considerations

The main point here is that marriage is both an emotional and a legal relationship. Marriage is not merely a contract for the providence of sexual services: this would equate wives and whores. Marriage is not merely a prudential arrangement for the protection and rearing of the young, even thought I have spoken mainly of that aspect of it. Marriage is for love.

If you fornicate with another before marriage then you bring to your marriage partner a diminished capacity for love. Merely on economic terms, your marriage partner now knows you have shared the most intimate moments known to you with another, and so the intimacy you have remaining has less value.

This means that your ability to restrain your sexual impulses has been tested and found wanting: she knows, gentlemen, that you were willing to break the laws common sense and common prudence provide for the restriction of sexual appetites in the past: while past behavior does not predict the future, she had a reason to suspect you have less ability to withstand the temptations of adultery, should those arise in the future, than perhaps other potential suitors for her hand.

This means also that you lack virtue. I hate to say so baldly, but it means that your sexual appetites and your reason have been habituated to the reflex of regarding sex as inconsequential – or (let us be precise) less consequential than someone who kept himself pure until the wedding night. He, your theoretical rival, can claim his physical affections are and always will be an outpouring of his noblest affections. He has never made love except when he has been in love, and he has been in love only with one bride. No matter what else the bride thinks of him, in purely economic terms, this make the faithful lover a more valuable commodity than he would be in the absence of this trait.

There is also the possibility that an old rival, either pregnant with your child or merely inflamed with a renewed ardor, will return to compete with her for your time and affection, or lower the cost to you should you contemplate divorce, in that you may have a fall-back.

You, on the other hand, have two choices.

One: you can say that those other girls really meant nothing to me, baby. I was thinking of you when I was ejaculating into her! Or I would have been had I known you! That was before I met you baby, and my standards were lower back then!

Again, on purely economic terms, all this makes your protestation of true love less valuable (and less persuasive) then someone with no history of taking love to be a casual matter.

Two: you can say that you loved Rosalind (or whoever) with your whole heart and soul, and deep as the sea and as high as your heart could reach, BUT, that you did not love that other girl enough to marry her. This signals to your prospective bride that your capacity for love is limited, and, yes, self-centered, and that your prudence is wanting.

In the modern day, now that there is little or no legal or social sanction against men treating their lovers with self-centered indifference, this lowering of standards may have little or no effect.  In economic terms, it is a buyer’s market.

Women are cheap these days, thanks to the sexual revolution, and I doubt that this props up their self esteem. By cheap, I mean that they do not ask for much before they yield to their suitors: instead of a lifelong vow of faithfulness accompanied by a gold ring, a modern woman can be won over with an evening or two of dinner, dancing, and show. Some hold out until they have known the fellow for a month or two.

Under the Matrimonial position, he offers everything he has, all he owns, all his loyalty, all his love, for all his life. Under the Libertine Position, he need only offer her a minimum of friendship and affection, should he find her in a moment of weakness, boredom, or mutual lust, he need not even offer that. There is no social consensus to prompt him to place any higher a value on her, or on sex with her, than whatever value she can be persuaded (or fooled, or pressured) to lower herself to.

A modern woman is in a position of weakness: if she demanded more, her suitors would scorn her and drop away.

(Here again, I speak from experience. I know what a friend of mine said about the Christian women they wanted to seduce in College; the one woman who resisted, I mean, and employed what I here call the Matrimonial standard. Just from a pragmatic standpoint, even though I hated the religion at that time and everything associated with it, I saw this Christian woman was not being treated with the unceremonious contempt my Lothario friends displayed toward their bedmates in the morning.)

I hear sad stories about a girl sleeping with her boyfriend not because he loves her but merely because she hopes that the sexual congress will win his affection and constancy. Here sex is being used not as the reward of faithfulness, but as the lure. (Ironically, a truly faithful lover would not yield to the lure. This method is self-defeating because it habituates boys to expect the rewards of matrimonial faithfulness without suffering the difficulty or commitment of matrimony.)

Being cheap, the modern women are not in a position to demand their menfolk take love and romance and devotion very seriously at all, much less fatherhood. The decision to be cheap or dear is not one an individual can make, any more than one individual can set the height of wages and prices. If all the women around you are willing to sleep with men without demanding of them the honors and obligations of matrimony, then if you hold out, rival women will undercut your price. Previously, the social consensus enforced something like a monopoly: men who wanted sexual congress either had to pay the price all the women demanded, which was marriage, or the man had to seek his pleasures outside polite society, in the cathouses.

(Note that the Matrimonial position condemns the exploitation of whores, whereas in the Libertine position, whoring is an honest profession. The Libertine position is not girl-friendly, my dears.)

So then: even if we cannot say that your prospective bride has a right to your virginity, we certainly can conclude that she is prudent to insist on this when selecting between suitors. While the modern sexual competition has cheapened women, there is still an advantage to holding out for the higher price and greater value of mutual virginity.

5.5.2.    Considerations of Duty

So from a pragmatic standpoint. From a moral standpoint, does she have a right to expect virtuous behavior from you? If you are caught in a lie, or being a coward, or a drunkard or a gambler or in any other habituation to self-indulgence, her conscience is right to condemn the behavior. But when you enter an intimate relationship, more is involved. Her self-interest, not to mention her emotional wellbeing, is now tied to yours: such is the nature of devotion and love.

The Libertine makes no account for this commingling of self-interest, except, unless, to regard it as something like an alliance between suspicious nations, who treat with each other at arm’s length. This posture is called individualism or atomism. This posture need not detain us; those who adopt it foreswear the sorrows, but also the pleasure and glory, of intimacy. Even a cursory inspection of the human condition reveals that that falling in love with a girl imposes upon a boy the duty to better himself, and to guard her best interests: and, logically, if the love is returned, the duty is mutual. If each is obligated to better and serve the other, any vices or shortcomings of the one is an offense against the other.

We would not doubt this in regard to other close relationships. When a son lies, is his mother not shamed? When a soldier flees, are his brothers-in-arms not disgraced? Has not your vice hurt them? If you answer in the negative, the conclusion would be, not that your vice does not offend your loved ones and hurt their interests, but rather that the natural affections and bonds which ought to be present in that relation were absent. If you commit some shameful act, and you express surprise that your mother would know or care, or if you tell her it is none of her business, then your mother is right to condemn you as unnatural. Likewise, if your mother learns of some shameful act in you, but shrugs nonchalantly, her affections are unnatural: you are a stranger to her, not a son.

There is no particular reason to carve out an exception for romantic love over other types of love. The mere fact that the beloved is loved creates a duty in you not to disappoint her by the discovery of vice in you. If the love is merely infatuation, and not true love, a different consideration applies, an economic rather than a consideration of duty. Prudence will foresee the heartache to which she is prone should she consummate her infatuation by falling in love with a vicious man: rivals for her affection displaying no such vices are the wiser alternative.  Hence, both the love of the lover who lives for another, and the selfishness of a suitor who has not yet found love, conspire, for opposite reasons, to place a value on virtue.

If there is no special exception separating romantic love from the duties love generally imposes, then likewise there is no special exception separating vices of lust from vices springing from other causes. If your beloved has a right not to be lied to, she also has a right that you remain chaste for her.

5.5.3.    When Does the Duty Attach?

This being the case, when does attachment take place? When can she expect or demand that you come to her marriage bed a virgin?

Unfortunately, this is a binary quality. Either you have it or you don’t. If you don’t have it, you do not have it to offer to your true love once she arises.

By this logic, even from before you meet her, even from before you know her or can imagine her, you are under a prudential if not a moral obligation to preserve your virginity intact for her—because once it is gone, you have nothing to offer her, aside from your lame explanation that those other women really meant nothing to me, baby! This is a protestation that is hardly the exemplar of romance.

Women have never been so plentiful, so easy to seduce, so unprotected, and so vulnerable to exploitation as these modern days. Even a science fiction fan, with his ungainly looks and pungent odor and awkward social mannerisms, yes, even such gargoyles as you or me can find ourselves alone with a female of the opposite sex in a state or partial or total dishabille. It is comical to assume that any young man in such a situation with a willing partner will forgo the immediate pleasures of the flesh for some highly theoretical as-yet unmet future bride, not if the girl in your room is already taking off her bra. And, hey, for all you know, this girl in your room might be your future bride, in which case this will be (retroactively speaking, of course) not extramarital sex but merely premarital sex.

The weakness of the male of the species requires that there be a social and legal sanction keeping his virginity intact for his bride, because the value of it is otherwise lost.

The same logic applies to women, I suppose, except with the added layer of risk arising from the possibility of pregnancy.

5.5.3.1.    A Digression on Duties Running to Persons Unknown

A possible objection to be raised here is that no duty can attach that runs to a non-existent or unknown person. While a strict libertarian might agree, for the purposes of this argument, I need only point out that the principle of duties running to parties unknown is an established legal principle.

Suppose, for example, that I am a life tenant on an estate, and I wish to cut all the lumber within the metes and bounds, nor ever to replant? The heirs one day to inherit may not have been born as yet, but under Common Law, I am legally bound not to act in disregard of their interests, and can be sued for wastage.

Again, while a strict Libertarian would scoff at honesty in labeling laws, at present, the law holds a manufacturer who puts an article into the stream of commerce to be under a duty honestly and correctly to label his product. If I sold baby shampoo in A.D. 2000, and failed to mention that it contained peanut oil, and a mother used it on a one-year old child in A.D. 2002, and the child had an allergic reaction to peanuts, it would be no bar to her lawsuit to claim the baby harmed had not existed in A.D. 2000 when I manufactured the article: I nonetheless have a duty, legal if not moral, to tell my customers the truth about my products, and not to defraud nor deceive. This duty runs to persons unknown.

In any case, anyone who believes in duties running to generations unborn, such as environmentalists fretting over the ultimate destiny of the planet, or believes in duties running to unidentified heirs, or running to unidentified customers, cannot without somehow distinguishing the cases hold that a duty to chastity does not exist on the grounds that the ultimate bride or bridegroom to whom that value is owed (if it is owed) at any given point in time is indeterminate or unidentified.

Of course, prudence suggests that someone legally bound never to be wed, such as a priest under a vow, is not under a duty to remain chaste: but the paradox involved in that will excuse us from examining that chain of reasoning further.

6.      MATRIMONY or FORNICATION

Now we come to a crucial point. What is the magistrate to do in all this? Keep in mind that no magistrate, howsoever wise, can learn and know the private dealings of everyone who comes before the court. The laws must be simple and clear enough for all rational men to be able to conform to them.

Fornication (including adultery) either is or is not against the law, and either it is punished or not. If it is either not against the law, or is against the law but not punished, then no deterrent exists, and the law is a dead letter.

Likewise, if fornication (including adultery) either is or is not rigorously and vigorously penalized by social opprobrium. In this, there is not much latitude for diversity of opinions: the society as a whole is either committed to the proposition, or is not committed. The minority has a veto over the majority. If the majority condemns adultery, but a sizable minority does not join in that condemnation, the condemnation has no real force or effect. Anyone suffering ostracism or mockery for his adultery can move to the neighborhood where it is not condemned. The society merely polarizes in this case, it does not form an enforceable consensus.

That decision to condemn fornication at law rests with the magistrate, and to condemn with social opprobrium with the common opinion of the consensus of the people.

Such is the human condition.

Under these facts, the proposition that adultery is licit when all three parties agree and give their consent, and is otherwise illicit, cannot be carried into effect. In a society where the Libertine position is the consensus, If Arthur goes to the magistrate carrying a paper in hand, which purports to be the document where Guinevere vowed eternal fidelity, a contract she broke, the magistrate cannot condemn or punish her beyond what terms the contract stipulates. The magistrate cannot, in the long run, enforce the contract, because the contract does not follow the values and opinions of the consensus. A society that approved of adultery would be outraged that a mere legality, a flimsy piece of paper, would block her sacred right to commit adultery: the outcry would ring to the sky. But even if the outcry were ignored, and the penalty stipulated in the contract enforced (if there could be such a thing) such contract laws would only penalize the short-sighted, and the social utility of punishing adultery would be lost.

Under any practical consideration, adultery cannot be against the law in a Libertine society, even if the two individuals would have it so. The law reflects the consensus, not the individual will.

Likewise the opposite: in a commonwealth where adultery is illegal, the magistrate has no choice but to punish it, even if the three people involved agreed in writing not to complain, lest the law be no deterrent to others and hence of none effect.

As the magistrate keeps the laws, so too does the consensus of public opinion keep the customs. The laws cannot bind if custom does not, and the keepers of the public opinion operate under the same restriction as restricts the magistrates: public opinion cannot track each individual contract, or carve out exceptions. The society that allows for adultery when a contract stipulating open marriage allows for it, will be at best lukewarm in its condemnation of extra-contractual adultery. It is simply risible to assume that a society could condemn the loss of honor involved in breaking a contract, but embrace the loss of honor involved in breaking a marriage vow.

(Even on a personal level, we see this: I know of no one who excuses, for example, the adultery of Ayn Rand who does not also excuse the adultery of Bill Clinton, despite that one was performed with the consent of the spouse and the other was not. The libertarians I know who approve of consensual adultery, oddly enough, seem to lack the fire of conviction when it comes to condemning non-consensual adultery.)

Experience, if not logic, shows the choice is a binary one. The consensus of society must adopt one standard or the other: either the Matrimonial Position, or the Libertine Position. If merely half the consensus follows the Matrimonial Position, there is insufficient social opprobrium to maintain the standards: anyone annoyed with small town enforcement of matrimonial customs will move to the big city, and sleep around.

The examination of the Libertine Position shows that it claims of being harmless are false. All it does is remove the social institutions that otherwise would protect the interests of the women, the children, the fathers of the bride, and the grandparents, all of whom are either aborted or ignored or exploited or unable to help their loved ones while a pack of ravening sexual predators competes for increasingly undefended females.

The best a woman can hope for in a society like ours is to dump the guy before she gets dumped herself.  If she goes from man to man, breaking hearts and hoping her contraception holds out, she can maintain her self-esteem. Or she can be lucky enough to snare the ever-shrinking pool of nice and decent guys who want to settle down and get married early on, before the lifestyle begins to tell on her. You’ve come a long way, baby. You are woman, hear you roar!

Or not. Modern liberated womanhood, hear me. Your boyfriends are playing you for fools and taking advantage of your good nature and feminine instincts.

You are no longer free to be feminine.

Femininity  is weakness.

You are now free to be like men.

Men are jerks.

You are free to be jerks.

Our society is your enemy, ladies, and remember you hear it here from me first. They made the baby in your womb your enemy, and handed you a bloody abortionists scalpel and told you it was the very banner of freedom.

This is the outcome of the Libertine Position: broken hearts, wasted lives, dead babies (about 46 million, disproportionately among Blacks), the silence of the fathers and the helplessness of the grandparents, the breakdown of the family, and the erosion of civilization itself. The Libertine position makes insufficient provision for the negative externalities of the sex act.

7.      PRUDENCE REGARDING MATRIMONY

Having established that the Libertine position is false, on the grounds that excluding sex acts that do no harm leads to grave and lasting harms to parties outside the agreement, to general society, and to the character of those so engaged, we are left with the Matrimonial position.

The logic of the Matrimonial position applies both to monogamous and polygamous societies, albeit in my personal judgment the monogamous societies are more beneficial to women on other grounds.

The Matrimonial position states that no copulation ought to take place outside of marriage, for the prudential reasons given above. Matrimony, in other words, necessarily involves the condemnation of premarital and extramarital sex, fornication and adultery.

The word for this is chastity.  Chastity is self-command or virtue exercised in the realm of moral quandaries concerning sex just as courage is self-command or virtue exercised in the realm of moral quandaries concerning personal danger.

Self-command is mutually exclusive with self-indulgence. Self-indulgence of the sexual appetite habituates the mind to be unable to exercise self-command when called upon to do so. Self-indulgence of the sexual appetites is called unchastity or vice.  It is the lack of virtue or power. (see 1.3, above).

Matrimony erodes when laws and customs do not support it, because no law can stand except that custom supports it (see 1.4, above).

Chastity and unchastity are mutually exclusive. Chastity is a necessary precondition for Matrimony.

Hence, A society whose laws support matrimony cannot at the same time approve or tolerate fornication and adultery or any form of unchastity. Also, a society whose customs and norms support fornication and adultery or any form of unchastity cannot at the same time support chastity.

Now this statement admits of some qualification: clearly a society can limp along for a number of years if the unchastity is kept out of sight, or confined to certain holidays, red-light districts, or sailor’s taverns, or if the elite feel free to violate the customs binding the common man. But we are talking here about the consensus: the majority and public opinion.

The hypocrisy of disobeying a public moral code you uphold certainly CAN exist; but if we also apply a standard of logic or justice to our public morals as well as to our private behavior, we come to an opposite conclusion as to whether social hypocrisy SHOULD exist.

Obviously it should not: it offends simple justice and honesty, which we know (see 1.2, above) to be a universal moral imperative.

Indeed, the standard of honesty means that, no matter what society as a whole might say, a single man in his own mind cannot support or maintain the virtues needed to maintain matrimony, while indulging the vices incumbent on unchastity.

All non-essentials forms of sexual gratification are unchaste in essence.  The mock or impersonate the sex act with the same physical sensations as the sex act, but they are sexually by accident, not sexual essentially. This means that a proper concern for virtue (and virtue is based on habit) should permit, if at all, these non-essential sexual acts when and only when they are part of, or leading up to, or added to, the sex act. With apologies to my Christian friends, I see nothing wrong with unnatural sexual acts with your own wife, provided these acts increase the union and love of matrimony.

But care must be taken not to allow non-essentials to drive out essentials. There are people who suffer a neurosis (there are harder words for this, but I will not use them here) where ordinary sexual acts or sexual stimulations will not stimulate them. Their sexual attraction does not attract them to sex, but, rather, away from it. We call this neurosis sexual deviancy.

Here we must make a distinction between sexual deviancy and merely sexual difference. The extreme cases are easy enough to distinguish: a man who prefers redheads to brunettes merely has a difference of taste. He will say Ginger is more attractive then Mary Anne (and, of course, he will be wrong on that point!) but there is no accounting for taste. A man who cannot get an erection unless his love is dressed in a Nazi uniform with stiletto-heeled boots, on the other hand, is neurotic. Likewise for a man attracted sexually to creatures with whom he cannot, biologically speaking, have sex: prepubescent children, dogs or sheep, dead bodies, and so on. There are specific names for each neurosis: pederasty, bestiality, necrophilia.

Sexual attraction to members of one’s own family is also a neurosis. This is because erotic love is exclusive and familial love is inclusive: human nature is not pliant and cannot change the nature of love. You cannot fulfill the proper obligations or have the proper emotional relations running to daughter, sister, or mother, if she is also your lover. While the Libertine position would allow for incest between adult siblings, the Matrimonial position must forbid it, if for no other reason than that the prudent magistrate cannot carve out an exception which leaves the negative externalities in place: if your elder and adult brother and sister are married while you are still below the age of majority, this distorts your emotional and ethical relations with your sisters, for example.

There is a gray area where certain things that seem like mere differences of taste might be neuroses, or things that seem like neuroses are mere differences of taste. The touchstone for making the distinction is whether or not it adds to or subtracts from normal and healthy lusts for normal and healthy copulation.

If it is neurotic, the lust for the non-essential will grow over time, and drive out the appetite for the normal. It will be a substitute rather than an adjunct. Ladies, if your man looks at a racy magazine rather than at you before the loveplay so to encourage an erection, that is odd, but not unhealthy. If he cannot get an erection at all without the magazine, he is addicted to porn, and that is unhealthy. Such a man is powerless, addicted to vice.

His erotic emotions and appetites and passions not longer serve the purpose of erotic love. This is not a matter of taste. If I prefer beer to wine, that is a matter of taste. If I drink urine and it tastes like wine to me on my tastebuds, there is something objectively wrong with my tastebuds. My appetite for wine is objectively disordered: it no longer reflects reality; it is as illogical as a statement that is false.

From this we can conclude that while customs and manners therefore can tolerate non-sexual or non-essential forms of sexual gratification only to the degree and in the ways that these do not erode matrimony: they are allowable between man and wife in the privacy of the bedroom (or the kitchen floor, depending on how impatient you are).

A virtuous society cannot hold up sexual non-essentials as a norm, or as a substitute or equal version of copulation, nor can a virtuous man allow his tastes, if his tastes run to that, to devolve into a neurosis or an obsession.

I do not see that this standard is difference from a common sense standard which might apply to drinking alcohol or gambling for money. If done in moderation, in certain times and settings, no opprobrium attached. When they become addictive, obsession, or neurotic, they become vices, and must be deterred.

Customs and manners therefore cannot support non-copulation forms of neurotic sexual deviance without eroding matrimony. The two are mutually exclusive.

Unfortunately, while practitioners of incest and bestiality can copulate, at least somewhat, practitioners of homosexuality are limited to sodomy, fellatio, cunnilingus, mutual masturbation. Whether we think homosexuality is nobler than incest of not, or no matter what status we give it, it still cannot escape the general prohibition against non-essential forms of sexual gratification neither leading to nor supporting copulation. The erotic love between Alcibiades and Socrates, no matter how otherwise noble and admirable, cannot be consummated.

I do not say it ought not, which means that it can be consummated and should not be: I say the fact is physically impossible. Homosexuals can find neurotic sexual gratification with each other, no doubt, but they cannot couple, that is, cannot perform the sex act. (It is shameful and absurd that in the modern day we are so lost and confused that any argument on this point need be made, or the matter stated as if to an audience unaware of it.)

While homosexuality in and of itself may or may not erode matrimony (the debate on that point is ongoing) the prudent magistrate when protecting matrimony must forbid not merely some, but all forms of extramarital, premarital and unchaste sex. If so, the Lawrence decision was incorrectly decided, on the grounds that even private sexual relations between consenting adults may have wider social consequences which it falls within the ambit of the state to regulation.

By this line of reasoning, non-essential forms of sexual gratification, when pursued outside marriage, constitute vice, and a chaste man would eschew it even if he lived in a society that approved and allowed for them.

Of course, homosexuality is not the main issue; it is barely even a side issue. The main issue is between the Libertine Position, which is the mainstream consensus of the modern West, and the Matrimonial Position, which within living memory had been.

The Libertine position you should all recognize as the rallying cry of the Sexual Revolution. The Sexual Revolutionaries (as we might call the partisans thereof) currently support homosexuals because they have a harmony of interests, in the same way they supported women, or pretended to, as if it were in the best interests of women to be unprotected by marital laws and norms. The general disregard of the Sexual Revolutionaries for women I have outlined above, and at some length. My fear is that those prone to the vice of homosexuality will fall under the same dismissive disregard by the Revolutionaries once their object is achieved, and the Revolution will move on to some other target, perhaps supporting polygamy, or lowering the age of consent: rumbling and foreshadowing of that are already present.

So you will forgive me if I do not acknowledge the idea that by taking the Sexual Revolutionaries as my enemies, I necessarily must offend either women or homosexual men or even practitioners of other sexual abnormalities and peccadilloes.

8.      CLOSING REMARKS

It is very important to the partisans of the Sexual Revolution to support the idea that religious sentiment AND NO OTHER CAUSE can impel and opposition to their program.

I would go so far as to say this is a myth, or dogma of theirs. This myth allows them to rally support from atheists and agnostics and intellectuals in general who otherwise would have no harmony of interests with them. Most Leftists are happily married and do not cheat on their wives: why would they throw in with the Sexual Revolutionaries, pornographers, and so on?

This myth allows them the excuse: anything that offends religion and undermines moral authority makes a common cause with the Progressive movement, who must uproot all traditional authorities before their new Progressive scheme (whatever it happens to be this season) is put in place.

It is simply a lie, one the Sexual Revolutionaries neither defend nor attempt to defend.

9.   AFTERWARD: CHRISTIAN MODIFICATIONS TO THIS POSITION

The above argument exists for a single purpose: namely, to show that an argument which makes no reference whatsoever, explicit or implicit, to any theological or religious dogma supports the ideals of matrimony, chastity, and fidelity, and undermines and destroys the position of the Sexual Revolution as absurd and self-destructive.

The only assumptions requires here are those explicitly and clearly stated above: that men have an objective moral duty to be virtuous, despite their natural inclinations otherwise, both in sexual as in all matters; which means to be ruled by reason and rightly ordered passions rather than by appetites and disordered passions; that the right ordering of the sexual passions is toward the end of sexual reproduction, or at least not exclusive of it; and that humans are altricial, ergo prudence demands provision be made for the natural and foreseeable outcome of sexual reproduction, including the rearing of children, which is the rightly ordered outcome of sexual reproduction — what happens, in other words, when sexual reproduction is consummated successfully.

The roots of rational support of matrimony in my case were not Christ, but common sense; not religion, but romance.

As a public service, and in the interests of total honesty, I have to say where and how my position was modified when I was converted.

First, Christ commands that I not judge other men, lest I be judged. This means I cannot criticize or condemn the persons who fall into temptations, sexual or otherwise. I can criticize the sin, of course, or warn the unwary against it.

Second, Christ commands love, not merely toleration. While my chain of reasoning above led to the conclusion that sodomy laws should be enforced, my Christian sentiment tells me that this position lacks love and charity, and so I cannot in good conscience support anti-sodomy laws, except, perhaps as a last resort to prevent worse abuses of the law. Homosexuals suffer hard lives, and cannot walk down the street without being surrounded by hostility. Every man of good will must be tenderhearted toward them, no matter what the laws say.

Third, Christ bled and died for my enemies, the Leftists and the Sexual Revolutionaries, as well as for those tempted by sexual sins and lures. Not only must I pray for my enemies, I must do so even though that praying holds me up to their derision. Since Christ died for them, I cannot hold these people up to the scorn they deserve, or mock their weaknesses, since those things are of secondary or even of no importance in the grand scheme of things.

Let us see what the Catechism says on this matter, shall we? One advantage of being a Roman Catholic is that everything my conscience is bound to believe is written down in a fair and lawyerly fashion:

2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

This language is certainly more temperate than when I called them perverts. I was wrong to use such hurtful words: I freely admit this in public and humbly beg for your pardon and forgiveness, but if I were not a Christian, nothing could have planted the seed of doubt or self-doubt in my iron heart, and not even a team of wild horses could have dragged that admission from my stubborn teeth. Someday Christianity may make me fit company for human beings, my brothers, and you are vastly deceived if you think this religion is making me more irrational, rather than less.

Shall we look at another quote?

“It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.”

– “On The Pastoral Care Of Homosexual Persons”, by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

Sins of love, or so the poet Dante says, is the least of offenses against heaven, and pride is the worst. Who am I, who indulge in the worst of sins, to use harsh and mocking language against those who indulge in the least? The love a homosexual feels toward his lover may be disordered—but it is still love, and love is still divine, and that love can draw that man to heaven certainly quicker than my pride may drag me to hell.

We are made for mercy. We must be merciful to each other. We must ask mercy and show mercy, lest we die the death.

 

 

by John C Wright at January 02, 2015 01:14 AM

January 01, 2015

Inconsolation

Bonus: K.Mandla’s order of battle

I traded e-mails with Miroslav over the past week, answering some questions about the software I actually use on a daily basis, rather than the software I see for an hour, write about, and then uninstall. Miroslav was interested in what programs actually earn the honor to reside on my personal systems.

And since it’s the first day of a new year, and since there’s very little on my list right now that warrants the top spot of the year, and since it’s been a long time since I updated the software page on the old blog … let’s do it.

Short of feeding you the results of yaourt -Qe, here’s the list of what appears on K.Mandla’s systems. You can interpret these as endorsements if you like, but you might just take them as a general nod of approval.


alpine: The vanilla ice cream of the e-mail client world.

alpine: The vanilla ice cream of the e-mail client world.

alpine: My very first experiences with e-mail — the earliest actual interactions with e-mail that I can remember — were with pine, as part of a university e-mail system. My “mentor” sat me down in front of pine, showed me how to log in, and said, “Now you can e-mail all your friends.” The problem at that time (early 1990s, I should mention) was that none of my friends had e-mail. So I shrugged, thanked her, and went on with my day.

I don’t hold out any particular love for alpine, which is ostensibly pine’s progeny, but it simplified my task of accessing five or six GMail accounts fairly easily a long time ago. I keep it around mostly because I have it set the way I like it, but I’ve been teased by other e-mail clients in the past … perhaps most notably mutt and sup. Like I’ve said before, alpine isn’t the best, but neither is it the worst. I fear saying it, but I imagine I will continue using it not because it’s such a wonderful application, but because I imagine changing to be tedious. :roll:


alsamixer:  'Cause nobody can do it like mix master can!

alsamixer: ‘Cause nobody can do it like mix master can!

alsamixer: alsamixer is probably the most fundamental and easy-to-manage sound access tool in the alsa-utils suite, and my go-to tool when sound issues creep to the surface. Not only does it give you instant control over (almost?) every aspect of your sound hardware, but it might even point out a few features you didn’t know it had — like the 3D sound features of this ancient beast.

All the same, there’s probably little point in me fawning over alsamixer, since what it can do will vary in accordance with your sound card — even if how it does it is more or less always the same. Look for independent left- and right-control features, one-button mute actions for just about every channel, a full synopsis of your hardware and its representation in your system, and a whole different display specific to sound capture. Best of all, it’s got rockin’-good color. ;)


alsaequal: All things being equal. ...

alsaequal: All things being equal. …

alsaequal: Having alsamixer on board is more or less a requisite for alsaequal, and when you’ve seen alsaequal in action, you’ll understand why. alsaequal reroutes the alsamixer interface into a multiband equalizer for your system, and depending on your hardware, your listening environment and your playback capabilities, alsaequal has the potential to turn your listening experience from crud to crystal. Just … please … don’t use it like a volume control. :P

alsaequal is a must on my system, since I primarily work with laptops, and the words “laptop sound system” are generally understood to be an oxymoron. alsaequal can’t turn the cheap plastic speakers on an EzBook 800 into a pair of Klipschorns, but they can at least let you understand the words to your favorite pop song. Everything is awesome. …


dict: It pays to enrich your word power.

dict: It pays to enrich your word power.

dict: dict is simple, straightforward and powerful. It’s also simple, uninteresting and terrifically plain. Give dict a word, and it will recurse all its dictionaries and reply with the results it finds. Thesaurii, computer dictionaries, Ambrose Bierce, name dictionaries, law dictionaries, translations — all of these are possibilities with dict, and there’s little more it wants from you than a word in question and a working connection to the Internet.

As a zero-value tip, I can tell you that I use aliases to separate out one or two of the specific dictionaries that dict can access — so alias thes='dict -d moby-thesaurus' is a one-shot thesaurus, and so forth. Granted, dict doesn’t do you much good if you’re locked into an offline situation, but if you do any writing at all, it’s infinitely faster than trudging through the congealed crap that encrusts most browser-driven online dictionaries. I need a smilie that better expresses raw, unadulterated fury than this: :evil:


exiftool: I don’t have a screenshot for this because it’s just a one-shot executable that wrangles the exif data in an image, and allows you to rename, re-sort or review a given image or images, with reasonable ease. It’s not really an application per se, and listing it here might make you think it’s somehow accessible to less proficient computer users, but if you work with large photo collections and need a way to tango with the embedded data, this can literally be a lifesaver. A solid thumbs-up for this, even if there’s not much to show for it. :|


gnupg: I wish we didn't need this, but I'm glad we have it.

gnupg: I wish we didn’t need this, but I’m glad we have it.

gnupg: In this day and age, there’s almost no reason for me to include gnupg in this list. For one, gnupg is probably installed in every distro available, and so much of the web of software dependencies relies on it, that you probably wouldn’t get far without it.

On the other hand, given the social and political climate of the world today, we’d all be fools not to look a little deeper into the basics of encryption and security. I gave a few ideas on how to use gnupg a long time ago, and I can tell you that I have used it for that exact same purpose, in that exact same way, within days of writing this because I planned some holiday travel and don’t trust the intermediary agencies that monitor it. gnupg is not the only method to protect your personal information from corrupt governments or unscrupulous criminals, but I’m confident that — when used properly — it’s one of the best.


htop: Top of the *tops.

htop: Top of the *tops.

htop: I know, there are close to a million different system analysis tools for Unix, another million that serve as proper full-screen console monitors, and another million that piggyback the popularity of the traditional top tool by suffixing their names with *top. To that end, you have the choice of just about any *top, and it will deliver — with varying efficiency and helpfulness — a rundown on the subsystem of choice.

htop is the clear winner among system-wide status monitor tools, and the reasons for that are very simple and very easy to see, even by default: It uses the full space available to it. It doesn’t balk at small terminal sizes. It has a default color scheme that is attractive and logical. It keeps its controls in plain view. It can handle just about any hardware arrangement or software arsenal. And it’s customizable to a high degree, so if you’re not happy with its defaults, you don’t have space to complain. I say this rarely, but this time I think it really fits: If you need an example of how to make an effective, clean, useful and attractive console program, follow htop’s example.


Midnight Commander: No need for introductions.

Midnight Commander: No need for introductions.

Midnight Commander: There’s an expression that I’ve heard in English that says, “Never apologize. Your friends won’t expect it, and your enemies won’t believe it.” In the same way, there’s no need for me to try and sell you on Midnight Commander as a text-based file manager: If you already embrace it, you don’t need the explanation. And if you have another program you prefer, you won’t buy into my endorsement.

I should mention though, that there is a self-professed contingent of text-based software users that claims to use no file manager at all, and that any interface whatsoever is an impediment to the core Unix tools for moving or copying files. That may be the case, or it may just be Internet bravado. I can only reply that there are situations where moving or copying is easier with something like mc, and I add to that the many unusual and interesting features and abilities that mc offers over a dull blinking cursor. Like color. ;) Do as you will though. It’s your computer. Don’t do anything I suggest if it doesn’t appeal to you.


mocp: Play that funky music, mocp.

mocp: Play that funky music, mocp.

moc: This is where the list gets serious, mostly because the genre of text-based music player for Linux is so overdone, and so overfilled with random snippets of half-working audio playback code, that listing the command-line audio player du jour becomes a yawnable offense. There are quite possibly more random attempts at a text-based audio playback tool in Linux than any other software classification, and after spending years — years, I tell you, years — sifting through them all, there are more broken, incomplete and half-working thumbsuckers out there than there are worthy, competent and usable attempts at listening enjoyment.

My personal rant against half-baked music players aside, there are some excellent systems and interfaces available. My personal allegiances lie with moc, mostly because mocp resembles the ancient cplay tool, which is where my initial adventures at CLI-based audio playback began. You may find some variation on mpd and mpc more to your liking, or you may venture in a completely different direction altogether. That is the inherent beauty of working with Linux: that your music can follow your muse. ;) (Sometimes I am so witty!)


most: More than less and more than more.

most: More than less and more than more.

most: I suppose you could meander through your Unix lifespan with no $PAGER at all, or rely on just whichever one popped up in a moment of crisis. But all pagers are not created equal, and just because one distro relies on less at its core, that doesn’t mean there isn’t more available. And just because every pager tries to be more, doesn’t mean less is better or most is best.

I keep most installed because it has the most features I like, and most options work best for me. I do think most could be improved on some small points (like the way it handles line wrapping, or how it moves between paged files in sequence). But most is better than more and more than less in most cases, and more and less are not anything like most that I can see. You might like less and you might like more, but most is what I prefer, and what I have installed. Did any of that make sense? :P


ncdu: Let's see who should diet in the new year. ...

ncdu: Let’s see who should diet in the new year. …

ncdu: I suppose I described my rationale for keeping ncdu installed yesterday, but reading that again makes me realize that my brief synopsis doesn’t really do justice to the tool. ncdu is perma-installed for me because it’s easier, quicker and more helpful than the original traditional tool , and does its job with so much more flair than the klutzy old du command.

It’s true, I’m a sellout to anything that can throw a full-screen interface into a terminal window, splash a few colors here and there, and make me feel like I’m actually getting more out of my machine as a result. I suppose it should be enough to say then, that ncdu doesn’t use color and could be supplanted by a few core Unix tools, and I still use it. It is possible, after all, to invent a new way to approach a problem, and improve upon the old way of doing things.


pass: You shall not pass pass.

pass: You shall not pass pass.

pass: Password “wallets” are a new arena for me technically, given that I only adopted pass as my password manager of choice a year or two ago. (Yes, that does make it a recent adoption.) pass has quite a few things going for it — mostly its straightforward style and Unixy approach, which I prefer for something as mission-critical as managing my avalanche of passwords. :\

I will be honest and say that I am dearly torn between pass and yapet, which takes an altogether different approach and offers just about everything I really like in a console application. I have contemplated switching even just in the past year, because yapet has made tremendous advances since I first tested it. And I do feel a smidgen of hypocrisy in advocating for full-screen, full-color, interface-driven text-based software, but relying on something plain and CLI-based in pass. If I finally muster the gumption and make the switch, I’ll make a note of it here.


renameutils: There are a lot of shortcuts to mass file renaming, and a few of those even have their roots in the core utilities that are available in almost every distro. renameutils wins my attention mostly for the qmv tool, which I have hard-wired into my system with an alias that calls specific options. Since qmv is bright enough to drop you straight into your $EDITOR to make changes, I can quickly rename huge gobs of files through my standard text editor, write out the changes, and qmv takes over the unenviable task of checking and renaming.

Of course, that does mean that I don’t have a screenshot to show, since qmv is mostly transparent so long as you don’t make a mistake. It only pops up to warn you if you’re doing something stupid or impossible, and get your advice on what step to take next. And if qmv doesn’t fit your bill, there are a range of other tools in renameutils, and any or all of them could be winners. Install, explore, decide.


sc: A legend in its own time.

sc: A legend in its own time.

sc: In a few months I will be at a point where I must make a decision, to either stick with sc as my spreadsheet of choice, or use that moment as a jumping off point and switch to slsc. The context is completely outside the realm of this blog, with the exception that I’ve used sc for at least the past two years as a way of managing and calculating my data. Around May I won’t need it any longer, and can shift to slsc for future projects.

All that aside, sc is pretty much my gold standard for text-based spreadsheets, and in spite of the fact that some sources date it back to the 1980s, I’ve never had a problem building, installing or running it. It’s light as a feather, has reasonable controls, saves its data as hand-editable files and to date hasn’t destroyed anything I have fed it. slsc would be an improvement and I think when the time comes I will shift to the newcomer (which is decades old in its own right), but for now, when it comes to a spreadsheet, sc is what I rely on.


snownews: Snow news is good news.

snownews: Snow news is good news.

snownews: It’s odd that I have to mention snownews at all, but because of a real-life project that is vaguely related to sc, I also have to monitor some news sources, and snownews is a decent way I can do that. I don’t know if I can endorse snownews as The Best Possible Newsreader for the Text-based Environment, but that’s mostly because I haven’t used very many newsreaders, and don’t generally rely on them at all.

So it’s possible that you see or use one that’s better — I know there are quite a few others out there — but for fundamental news access and reading, it’s a decent contender. Most functions are one-keypress commands, it can sort and label and categorize and otherwise manage feeds, and while I use it for maybe five or 10 addresses at most, I get the feeling it can do much more. I don’t hold much allegiance to it though and I’m not fond of all the perl dependencies, so if you know of one better, speak up. I might be converted.


tty-clock: Rock out with your clock out.

tty-clock: Rock out with your clock out.

tty-clock: It’s been a long and interesting drama, watching tty-clock mature from a basic clock display to the text-based ubertool it is now. With plenty of options for color and behavior, and even more for formatting and display effects, tty-clock is a program I’m darned proud to have around, regardless of my window manager or desktop setup.

I could endorse quite a few other clocks — clockywock is a great tool, and so is tbclock — but for readability, customizability and any other -ability, tty-clock is way ahead of the pack. Give this a one-key startup command, and you can pop it into place and back out again in a fraction of a second. Set it as a terminal screensaver and it can serve two functions. Run it in a corner of your framebuffer terminal emulator with the multiplexer of your choice, and other geeks will bow to you. It’s a win-win, plain and simple.


tudu: I, for one, welcome our new text-based overlords.

tudu: I, for one, welcome our new text-based overlords.

tudu: I wasn’t joking when I said yesterday that tudu ejected hnb from my system in a matter of minutes. I’ve seen and used more task organizers and to-do list managers than most people know about, and most of them fell by the wayside because hnb was so good and worked so well and ran so fast. But tudu covered every point hnb could offer (with the exception of one small feature, and I won’t tell you what it is), and doubled down by offering its own features and bonuses. Embrace, extend and exterminate.

And in retrospect, that’s how I am when I see a program I like, can understand and find appealing. It only takes a few seconds to see the merits in switching, and given that tudu works, looks and runs a lot like hnb, I didn’t need coaxing. Perhaps that’s how software adoption should go. :\


vimwiki: There but for the grace of vimwiki goeth vim.

vimwiki: There but for the grace of vimwiki goeth vim.

vim and vimwiki: It would be an understatement to say I have a love-hate relationship with vim. I have rarely met a program so counterintuitive, unfriendly or obtuse, and still taken the time to learn it. By all rights my interactions with vim, or its predecessor, should have lasted little more than a few minutes, before complete abandonment and dismissal to the software dustbin. It’s complex, arcane, and a complete antithesis to user-friendly software.

The fact that I use it anyway is not a testament to vim in the least. In fact, vim is lucky vimwiki is around — because as soon as I have no need for vimwiki, vim will be removed from my system with frightening speed. Terminated, with extreme prejudice. vim may be the worst possible solution for editing at the console (and I say that having tried scores of alternatives) but vimwiki is everything that vim isn’t: It’s clean, fast, obvious and interactive. It has a wide range of features that I just never have the chance to use, and wish I did. It’s easy to learn, easy to manage, and doesn’t make you feel a fool if you make a mistake. How can something so good be part of something so awful? :|


wyrd: The sun is up, the sky is blue, it's beautiful and so are you.

wyrd: The sun is up, the sky is blue, it’s beautiful and so are you.

wyrd: I used to rely on wyrd on a daily basis, for scheduling appointments down to the 15-minute interval, and it was a godsend. wyrd can track, manage and display a battery of regular or unique events, show them in a fully graphical arrangement and give you the ability to move and edit them as you need to. If it weren’t such a great text-based program, I’d assume it was intended for the graphical arena.

Of course, the real wizard behind wyrd is remind, which handles all the real work involved in scheduling and managing your appointments. wyrd is the pretty face, and remind is the ugly machinery. You can’t take advantage of wyrd without remind, but remind without wyrd is unappealing to the same degree. For sheer muscle and ease of use, wyrd beats out just about every other calendar and timetabling tool, even for small tasks. Don’t be afraid to use it.


The last tools I could mention are unique to specific hardware or distros — things like yaourt for Arch systems, or ssh for secure access, or ntp and cron for machines so old that they can’t keep time properly. I could mention them as well, but some systems use them at regular intervals, and some use them once a month. It’s hard to say, and so they’re probably not worth mentioning.

But what you see there is generally what I install within minutes of building a system. It might vary a little depending on what the system is intended for, and of course everything here is flexible and subject to change. That’s the way life is though. ;)

by K.Mandla at January 01, 2015 10:15 PM

Doc Searls WeblogDoc Searls Weblog »

Tabbing into the New Year

Some tabs I just closed, with reasons why I had them open…

by Doc Searls at January 01, 2015 09:45 PM

Software Carpentry

Things I Won't Do This Year

I've made and broken my share of New Year's resolutions, so this year I thought I'd do something different and make a list of things I'd like to do in 2015 but (almost certainly) won't.

Turn Software Carpentry into a book.

I promised Frank Willison I would do this more than a decade ago, and got as far as turning the existing lessons into a badly-formatted e-book last summer. I've never been satisfied with the results, but have never made time to revise it all. The good news is that Katy Huff and Anthony Scopatz have a book of their own coming out later this year, which is at least as good as anything I could do.

Turn the Software Carpentry instructor training course into something other people can read and understand.

I've learned a lot about teaching and learning in the last four years, and I'd like to pass that on to other people. While I'm probably going to spend a lot of time this year passing that on through online and in-person classes, I'm probably not going to have time to write it all down.

Finish Beneath Coriandel or The Voyage of the Unshadowed Land or The Prince and the Cloudherd.

I managed to deliver a 30,000-word story to my daughter this Christmas, but it took 15 months. Realistically, I'll do well in 2015 to revise that and get it published. The other fiction I've had on the back burner for the last few years will just have to wait...

Write a textbook based on the same idea as 500 Lines or Less or one on empirical software engineering.

As I said a few months ago, most intro courses on software engineering are a waste of everyone's time. I'd like to create two replacements: one in which students analyze data from software projects (and thereby learn how to think about their work like scientists), and another in which they build small versions of real applications (like web servers and text editors) and compare their implementations to the real thing, which would force them to learn something about actual software architectures. Either would be a full-time project for a couple of years; I'm unlikely to ever get to either, but I can dream.

Start playing the sax again.

Or the drums, or maybe piano—I haven't played piano in over thirty years, but listening to my daughter learn it has made me wish I still could.

So what does that leave on the table?

Get paid.

I care a lot about Software Carpentry, but I've been running without a salary since the end of October, and that has to end—soon.

Get the Software Carpentry Foundation on a firm footing.

The first election for our Steering Committee is happening at the end of this month. Once that's taken place we'll be able to start moving forward on partnerships, our new lessons, and a bunch of other projects.

Get fit.

2014 was a difficult year—my exit from Mozilla was a lot bumpier than I'd hoped, and I simply didn't make time or have energy to exercise. That's not a good thing given the history of heart disease in my family, so swimming or biking two or three times a week isn't really optional any more.

Help put together a meeting of grassroots "learn to code" organizations targeting under-represented groups.

We are organizing a meeting in June 2015 of grassroots groups that are trying to fix the tech sector’s diversity problem. Whether they focus on women, racial minorities, the elderly, LGBT individuals, or people with disabilities, these groups' goal is to give people the skills, connections, and mentoring they need to get in and stay in. This meeting will give people from these groups a chance to share ideas, make connections, and learn more about non-profit governance, fundraising, and how to help people move from workshops to contributing to open source projects and getting hired.

Revise Madica.

That's the (inadequate) working title of the book I wrote for my daughter's Christmas present. It's full of plot holes and half-used ideas; I really want to tidy it up and get it out the door. It probably won't sell any better than Still has, but that's no longer the point for me: borrowing from Matthew Crawford, there are things you can only learn about yourself from writing.

Move to England.

If all goes well, we will be in Canterbury by August. We only plan to go for a year, but we hope to do a lot of exploring while we're there. Sadie is excited about the Christmas markets in Germany, Maddie's excited about visiting Hogwarts, and I'm excited about slowing down a little.

by Greg Wilson (gvwilson@third-bit.com) at January 01, 2015 09:00 PM

Greg Mankiw's Blog

Me at the ASSA Meeting

I have a busy few days at the upcoming ASSA meeting in Boston.  For those interested, I will be involved in the following public events:

Jan 03, 2015 8:00 am, Sheraton Boston, Independence Ballroom
American Economic Association
A Discussion of Thomas Piketty's "Capital in the 21st Century" (D3)
 
Presiding: N. Gregory Mankiw (Harvard University)
 
Capital and Wealth in the 21st Century
David N. Weil (Brown University)
 
Capital Taxation in the 21st Century
Alan J. Auerbach (University of California-Berkeley)
Kevin Hassett (American Enterprise Institute)
 
Yes, r>g. So what?
N. Gregory Mankiw (Harvard University)
 
About Capital in the 21st century
Thomas Piketty (Paris School of Economics)


Jan 03, 2015 2:30 pm, Sheraton Boston, Independence Ballroom
American Economic Association
The Economics of Secular Stagnation (A1)
 
Presiding: Robert E. Hall (Stanford University)
 
Secular Stagnation: A Supply Side View
Robert Gordon (Northwestern University)
 
Secular Stagnation: A Demand Side View
Lawrence H. Summers (Harvard University)
 
Does History Lend Any Support to the Secular Stagnation Hypothesis?
Barry Eichengreen (University of California-Berkeley)
 
Discussants:
Robert E. Hall (Stanford University)
William Nordhaus (Yale University)
N. Gregory Mankiw (Harvard University)

by Greg Mankiw (noreply@blogger.com) at January 01, 2015 08:48 PM

Bible Reading Project

My 2015 Bible Reading Plan

Happy New Year!

Last year I went through the most intense Bible reading plan I've ever attempted (short of the 26 day whole Bible rush I did in college). You can check out the plan here. Basically I read through the whole Bible once and the Gospels and Acts 30 times. How did it go? Fairly well. I did read the Gospels and Acts over thirty times with the help of audio Bibles, and I did read the whole Bible with the exception of being fairly spotty in Psalms and Proverbs (odd I know, but I kept bouncing back and forth to those two while reading other books, which meant I didn't keep enough discipline to get all the way through them).

It was a profoundly challenging experience. The Gospels and Acts are demanding, and I honestly miss the encouragement of the epistles, which I usually read more than any other portion of the Bible.

So what's up this year?

I'm going to scale things back a bit, by keeping track of my reading on a simple checklist and doing ten chapters per day. I will read the whole Bible at least once, but other than that broad goal I will be free to read what I want, when I want with one exception. I will be reading the Gospel of John at least once a month. How does that break down?


  • Read ten chapters per day
  • Read the whole Bible at least once
  • Read the Gospel of John at least once per month
  • Keep track here:

Need some encouragement for the new year? Check out this New Year's sermon:

by Jonathan Ammon (noreply@blogger.com) at January 01, 2015 07:48 PM

Jon Udell

FedWiki for collaborative analysis of data

A FedWiki page presents one or more wiki pages side by side. This arrangement is called the lineup. During interactive use of FedWiki the lineup grows rightward as you navigate the federation. But you can also compose a lineup by forming an URL that describes a purposeful arrangement of wiki pages. In Federated Wiki for teaching and learning basic composition I composed two lineups. The first compares two versions of a page on Kate Bowles’ FedWiki site. The second compares two versions of that page from two different sites: mine and Kate’s. With these two lineups I’m exploring the notion that FedWiki could be a writers’ studio in which students watch their own paragraphs evolve, and also overlay suggestions from teachers (or other students).

In that example the order of wiki pages in the lineup isn’t important. You can compare versions left-to-right or right-to-left. But here’s another example where left-to-right sequence matters:

Link: Favorite Broccoli Recipes

URL: http://jon.sf.fedwikihappening.net/view/italian-broccoli/view/broccoli-fried-with-sesame-and-raspberry/view/favorite-broccoli-recipes

Rendering:

The tables shown in these wiki pages are made by a data plugin that accumulates facts and performs calculations. FedWiki has explored a number of these data plugins. This one implements the little language that you can see in these views of the text that lives in those embedded plugins:

On the Italian Broccoli page:

5 (calories) per (garlic clove)
200 (calories) per (bunch of broccoli)
SUM Italian Broccoli (calories)

On the Broccoli Fried With Sesame and Raspberry page:

100 (calories) per (tbsp sesame seed oil)
34 (calories) per (100 grams broccoli)

And:

3 (tbsp sesame seed oil)
SUM (calories)
1 (100 grams broccoli)
SUM Broccoli Fried With Sesame Oil (calories)

On the Favorite Broccoli Recipes page:

Italian Broccoli (calories)

And:

Broccoli Fried With Sesame Oil (calories)

Other plugins implement variations on this little language, and it’s surprisingly easy to create new ones. What I’m especially drawing attention to here, though, is that the lineup of wiki pages forms a left-to-right pipeline. Facts and calculations flow not only downward within a wiki page, but also rightward through a pipeline of wiki pages.

And that pipeline, as we’ve seen, can be composed of pages from one site, or of pages drawn from several sites. I could provide one set of facts, you could provide an alternative set of facts, anyone could build a pipeline that evaluates both. It’s a beautiful way to enable the collaborative production and analysis of data.


by Jon Udell at January 01, 2015 07:07 PM

Justin Taylor

Free on ChristianAudio: Spurgeon’s Morning & Evening

If you don’t download this free resource, you will be starting your New Year as a backslider!

unnamed

by Justin Taylor at January 01, 2015 06:11 PM

512 Pixels

Project 365: 2015

"Project 365" is the name often given to photo-a-day projects. Starting today, I'm embarking on my fourth:

You can follow along on Flickr, and I'll be tweeting links each day.

Having completed three of these projects in the past, I can speak first-hand to the difficulty of them. Even in a world full of iPhones, it's hard at first to remember to take and post a photo every 24 hours. Subject matter has a tendency to grow stale, but I view it as a challenge to pay attention to every day's uniqueness.

I'll be shooting most photos on my Olympus E-PL5 with one of my several lenses, but I'm sure some iPhone 6 photos will creep in as well. I don't view camera selection — or any rules around editing the photos — as sacred.

The only rule really is this: post a photo, each day, to Flickr. I'm looking forward to sharing more images this year than in the past couple of years.

Speaking of that, my past projects can be viewed on Flickr:

by Stephen Hackett at January 01, 2015 04:23 PM

BetterMess.com

Three Words for 2015

Since 2010, I have selected three words to guide my actions in the year to come. This practice continues to pay far better dividends than any specific goal I’ve ever set this early in the year. Eventually the words mature into clear goals, plans and actions, but starting with this process forces me to slow down and to set my intentions rather than just forging ahead. It helps me to consider the entire year rather than trying to shove everything I can into January (which usually just leads to burning myself out by February).

Before looking forward, I need to look back. To be honest, I’m torn. I think I did well, I’m just not sure I did well by the words I chose. Reading last year’s post, I see my initial intent when I selected Choices, Options and Harmony. I feel like I owned my choices. I feel like I created options at my existing job, taking advantage and dedicating myself to some opportunities that opened up in January. However, I had to let go of a lot of the personal projects I enjoy, like writing and podcasting. As for harmony . . . I was pleasantly surprised to discover how complete my family felt with the addition of our third child, but a newborn and a desire for harmony isn’t always a realistic desire.

Having these intentions helped, but much like the year before (and most before it), I had my set of intentions and my realities had their own. We went to battle and we ended up meeting somewhere in the middle.

So what about this year? I want to focus on closing the gaps between desire and reality. Yet more than any other year in my life, I’m struggling to clearly figure out what it is I want. Rather than trying to force myself to answer before I can even define the question, I’d rather focus on a few key areas that will help—regardless of what I want.

Healthier – I have a terrible relationship with my personal health. I have a terrible relationship with food. I have a terrible (yet delightful) relationship with beer. I have a terrible relationship with exercise. I’m getting fatter every year, and even though I will jump on one bandwagon or another to address this reality, I’ve never found a lasting way to get and stay healthy. Most of my attempts involve some rigid process that works well in the short run but never lasts. A big part of this, I believe, is the fact that while I want to be healthier, it’s not a core value for me. It’s just a reality that needs to be addressed. That or I’m going to die a lot younger than I, my wife or my children would prefer.

I also know myself and need to find a way to weave this into a life that doesn’t sacrifice every beer and burger . . . hence the word healthier, but not necessarily healthy. Basically, over the next year I need to figure out what good enough looks like for me when it comes to my health, and then I need to get there.

Re-situated – I’m currently happy in my position at work, but I’m miserable with our living situation. There’s now five of us living in a two bedroom, one bathroom. We love our neighborhood, but the kind of space we want is just not a financial reality here. However the more we talk about it, the less my wife and I are able to find a suitable next step. We need decent schools, we need it to be reasonably commutable for both of us (as well as our caretaker), we need it to be somewhere we actually enjoy living, and we need it to be financially viable. Something is going to have to give, but neither of us is any closer to having any concept of what that should be or where we’d like to end up. As much as “moving” shouldn’t be a year long goal, it’s not proving to be easy. But I’m tired of feeling like our space is temporary and would like to move towards a more permanent place to continue to raise my family.

Expression – When I look back year after year, this intent is where I struggle the most. I have a demanding work and family life. This makes it challenging to have anything left when it comes to side projects, like this site. I don’t always have the energy for it, but the desire to put a piece of me out there beyond my work or family life continues to persist. I have no earthly idea how I’m going to do it, but I need to make time to regularly create and share.

This is going to be especially challenging considering the aforementioned need to spend a fair amount of what little free time I have getting healthier, but the mental health and happiness that comes along with writing or podcasting is something that I can’t let go of either. As per usual, this will probably lead me to desire more than reality will allow, but as much as this can occasionally lead me to fall short, it just as often helps me push past what I initially would have thought was possible.

Words aside, I see my life going one of two ways this year. Either I will redouble my dedication to my life and career here in New York, or I will blow it all up and start anew. At the moment I have no idea which way it is going to go, or even which way I want it to go. But either way, I’m ready to get there already, as there’s just been far too much uncertainty over the past few years. More than anything, I’d like to see that come to an end or to a head this year.

Thanks to Chris Brogan for the inspiration. And in case you’re curious here are links to my three words from 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

by Michael Schechter at January 01, 2015 02:35 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

The New and Glorious Day (I) [Awakening Faith]

Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. (Matthew 28:9)

The reign of life has begun, the tyranny of death is ended. A new birth has taken place, a new life has come, a new order of existence has appeared, and our very nature has been transformed! This birth is not brought about “by human generation, by the will of man, or by the desire of the flesh, but by God” (John 1:13).

If you wonder how, I will explain in clear language. Faith is the womb that conceives this new life, and baptism the rebirth by which brings it into the light of day. The church is its nurse, her teachings are its milk, and the bread from heaven is its food. It is brought to maturity by the practice of virtue; it is wedded to wisdom; it givesbirth to hope. Its home is the kingdom; its rich inheritance the joys of paradise; its end is not death, but the blessed and everlasting life prepared for those who are worthy.

“This is the day the Lord has made” (Ps. 118:24), a day far different from those made when the world was first created and which are measured by the passage of time. This is the beginning of a new creation. On this day, as the prophet says, God makes “a new heaven and a new earth” (Isa. 65:17). [Continued in next entry . . . ]

–Gregory of Nyssa

 

Awakening Faith DevotionalAwakening Faith: Daily Devotionals from the Early Church

by James Stuart Bell and Patrick J. Kelly

Buy it Today:

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by ZA Blog at January 01, 2015 02:00 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

A World Record to Ski 4,161,823 Vertical Feet : Steph Jagger’s Quest

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

One time I went skiing for an hour, and then I went for hot chocolate in the lodge. Steph Jagger, whom I met at a book event in San Diego, went skiing and didn’t stop until she’d gone more than four million vertical feet.

Tell us about yourself.

I’m Steph Jagger and I currently live in California where I run an executive & life coaching practice. From July 2010 to May 2011, I circumnavigated the globe in search of snow.

While traveling I skied 4,161,823 vertical feet, breaking the world record for most vertical feet skied in a single year. My original goal was 4,000,000 feet—but when I found out about the record (approximately 8 months into my trip) I tacked on a few extra feet!

steph6

Why did you decide to undertake your quest?

In 2008, I was discontented with a life everyone said I should be happy about. And then, I noticed a blue tin sign. During a day trip with co-workers at Whistler, we rested on the chairlift and my excitement of the moment overtook me. I blurted out the most cliché thing that any weekend-warrior could: “This makes me want to quit my job and ski all around the world.”

Silence followed. Then chuckles, and full blown howling. “What’s stopping you!?” my co-workers snickered between gasps of air.

At the top of the lift, I turned my head and saw a small blue sign, one I had seen a million times before. It shows a stick figure raising a bar and reads, “Raise Restraining Device.”

I knew it then. I needed to set my guns a blazin’, raise the metaphorical restraining device, and take the leap.

Why skiing?

Skiing is freedom. I ski so I can tune out and tap in. I can clear out the voices in my head and find the one that’s ringing truest.

steph3

How much did your quest cost and how did you pay for it?

It cost exactly $71,238.07. I had a detailed budget that accounted for ski passes, flights, accommodations, and equipment. I saved about $30K, and for the rest I took out on a line of credit against my mortgage.

My parents thought I was crazy, but that’s what good parents do. I’ve never regretted the choice for a minute.

Tell us how you dealt with a low point in your journey. 

I’ll give you five:

1. When my parents didn’t initially buy-in. To get over it, I skied.

2. At the end of the first season (there were two ski seasons), I was way behind my goal and began to question if I was going to make it. To get over it, I skied.

3. I lost one ski in the backcountry in Japan. It was a very dangerous day and it shook me up a lot. To get over it, I skied … with one leg, on one ski.

4. I got sick in Europe and felt very lonely. To get over it, I skied.

5. Re-entry back to normal life was also tough. To get over it, I cried.

My parents not backing me at first was hard, but I learned something important: I couldn’t rely on other people for permission to do what I wanted. I learned that if I really believed in something, then it was up to me to make it come to life.

As for why I turned to skiing to solve almost any hard moment, Joseph Campbell says, “Find a place inside where there’s joy, and joy will burn out the pain.” Skiing is what I love, and I stuck to it in hopes that it would move me forward. 

Other than crying at the end of my quest, it worked every time. I just put one foot (vertical) in front of the other and kept going.

Did you meet anyone interesting?

I came across a fair number of “Jedi masters.” These people were strangers who showed up at exactly the right moment to give me what I needed.

For example, when I was in Japanese backcountry, I met another Canadian girl named Tree, who helped me get my gear safely to the top of the mountain, then helped me ski out after I lost a single ski on the way down. I’m not sure what would have happened if she hadn’t been there.

Others gave me camaraderie, others massages, a few offered beds or hotel rooms, still others gave their time. I always felt supported in some way, and I was given what I needed at just the right time.

Steph4

Has anything about you changed since your quest?

I learned not to underestimate myself. I went from being a participant, a do-what’s-expected kind of gal, to a woman who really understands what it means to live an unrestrained life. I no longer fear changing everything and expecting more out of life, even if the life I have is “pretty good.”

The biggest takeaway wasn’t that I became a new person. It’s that I became a juicier, more concentrated version of myself. The quest gave me the validation I needed to leave behind the parts of me that were no longer useful and to really grab hold of what my true strengths, talents and gifts are.

What advice would you give someone starting a quest?

1. Break it down.

You don’t put “ski 4 million feet” on a to-do list. Instead, you plan to: train, save, do lunges, book hotel rooms, research flight options, call a friend who knows a friend in Switzerland, look into visas, make a budget, source equipment, take avalanche course, etc.

2. You’ll get what you need along the way.

Anything you don’t already have shouldn’t stop you. Hearing I was worried about not being in good enough shape, a friend told me,”You’re getting held back by thinking you’ve got to be super fit to do this. You’ll get plenty fit while you’re on your trip.”

What did we miss?

In the ten months I was gone I:

  • Slept in 65 beds
  • Boarded 31 flights including one helicopter
  • Skied in 45 different resorts
  • Visited 9 varieties of healers
  • Used one pair of very trusty ski boots
  • Washed my long johns approximately 8 times

What is next?

That is always unfolding. At first, it was dodging this question. Now, it’s writing a book, building a business, and sharing what I’ve learned with others. After that, I could easily see a quest in my future that involves pinot noir or raspberries or dog snuggling.

Keep up to date on Steph at her site, Bird String Coaching, or follow along with her on Twitter @Steph_Jagger.

###

by Chris Guillebeau at January 01, 2015 02:00 PM

Inconsolation

Bonus: Changes afoot

I got an e-mail a few weeks ago from Markus, giving a tip about a program and mentioning that the pace of two applications a day was too fast for him.

I’m sure he was joking, but I had to admit in truth that two-a-day for the past year (and a half, roughly) is more time than I can really afford chasing console software.

I started that pace way back in 2013, mostly because the titles I had in reserve were of dubious quality, and had no frame as an entire collection. And to be honest, I had no desire to spend two years picking through the same tired old list. Bumping up the pace let me clip the time needed in half, and move on to newer, fresher things.

But it’s been more than six months since the demise of the original List, and most of the titles I see these days are from Github or other newer channels. Occasionally I fall back on personal software collections as sources, but it’s more interesting — and more rewarding — to see what the youngsters are inventing. As opposed to a decade-old revision of Tetris. :roll:

In any case, I plan to crank down the pace for the coming year, and space things out a little more. An application a day is probably enough for most people to absorb, and makes a little more sense in the grand scheme of things.

I also plan to be a little more discriminating in the programs I list. Early on I had a sense of obligation to try everything, no matter how obscure or esoteric a tool was. Now though, I feel like there will always be a script or a program that targets a very slim audience, and me making an allowance for it isn’t in my best interest.

So don’t feel bad if the network monitoring tool aimed at a specific server engine available only on one brand of hardware and with a specific array of subsidiary applications … just doesn’t show up here, no matter how awesome it is.

It’s not personal, it’s just way too narrow a focus. And as the past week or so has shown, there are literally scores of programs that must also fall along the wayside, even if they are included in impressive, replete distros.

In any case, let’s slow things down a bit. No need to rush. It’s 2015, and there will never be a shortage of text-based software. ;)

by K.Mandla at January 01, 2015 01:00 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Learning a little more quickly

Sometimes I feel like I learn more slowly than I used to. Maybe my brain is a little fuzzier than before. That’s what it tries to tell me as an excuse, but I soundly reject that, because too much belief in that can lead to accepting more excuses. It’s more likely I’m spending time slogging through the plateau of mediocrity instead of playing on the slopes of awesomeness, and my brain is unfairly comparing the experiences of the two. Being aware of it means I can accept it as normal and deal with it.

I suspect this is happening because a quick antidote for the “Grr, my brain is so fuzzy” feeling is to hang out in help channels and answer people’s questions, or work on client projects and help them with their requests. Then I usually feel like I learn pretty quickly, especially when speed-reading and knowing what to search for and being able to combine different things means delighting people with how rapidly we can get stuff done. It’s ego-gratifying, but I shouldn’t do it all the time. It’s better for me to sit with my occasional frustration and get better at learning things on my own.

So it’s not that my brain is being particularly bleah, but that it wants to snack on small questions and quick wins instead of eating its vegetables.

This is where I stretch the metaphor and start thinking of ways to swap out some of the less-favoured vegetables for ones that are more palatable but just as nutritious, maaaybe letting it pick out a few things it doesn’t like and offering it options so that it thinks it’s choosing. Or something like that.

wpid-2014-11-12-What-are-the-things-I-want-to-learn-more-quickly-and-what-would-that-look-like.png

Hmm. That is an interesting metaphor, actually. It’s like I know there’s value in chewing your vegetables and all sorts of other good stuff, but I just want to start with dessert, or if I have to eat the rest of the stuff, maybe I can just pick the good parts and be off to the next thing. And I’m all, like, “I’ve already tried the green beans! Why do I have to eat them again?” (Actually, in real life, I get along fine with green beans. But you probably get the idea.)

So maybe the trick is to eat those vegetables and make “Mmmmmm!” noises until my brain gets the hang of it. Maybe even pretending that vegetables are coveted prizes. (“Good girl! Have a carrot / read an e-book.”)

Huh. Metaphors. Fun to play with. Surprisingly useful.

If you’ll excuse me, I’m off to read through a yummy Rails tutorial. Mmm. Fun. =)

The post Learning a little more quickly appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at January 01, 2015 01:00 PM

Table Titans

Tales: Baern Ogrebane

News

One night our group quietly slipped into a hostile bandit town filled with Gnolls, Humans, Bugbears, and one big Ogre. We entered the Battle Market - a marketplace and tavern built around a small arena in the center - with each of us dispersing to engage with various merchants, or the bartender,…

Read more

January 01, 2015 07:00 AM

Justin Taylor

Sing “All Glory Be to Christ” to the Tune of “Auld Lang Syne”

Lyrics to the tune of Auld Lang Syne, from the album Joy Has Dawned by Kings Kaleidoscope:

Should nothing of our efforts stand
No legacy survive
Unless the Lord does raise the house
In vain its builders strive

To you who boast tomorrow’s gain
Tell me what is your life
A mist that vanishes at dawn
All glory be to Christ!

All glory be to Christ our king!
All glory be to Christ!
His rule and reign will ever sing,
All glory be to Christ!

His will be done
His kingdom come
On earth as is above
Who is Himself our daily bread
Praise Him the Lord of love

Let living water satisfy
The thirsty without price
We’ll take a cup of kindness yet
All glory be to Christ!

All glory be to Christ our king!
All glory be to Christ!
His rule and reign will ever sing,
All glory be to Christ!

When on the day the great I Am
The faithful and the true
The Lamb who was for sinners slain
Is making all things new.

Behold our God shall live with us
And be our steadfast light
And we shall ere his people be
All glory be to Christ!

All glory be to Christ our king!
All glory be to Christ!
His rule and reign will ever sing,
All glory be to Christ!

credits

from Joy Has Dawned, released 27 November 2012
Words by Dustin Kensrue, arrangement by Kings Kaleidoscope / © Dead Bird Theology (ASCAP), It’s All About Jesus Music (ASCAP)
HT: Dan Huff

by Justin Taylor at January 01, 2015 04:00 AM

CrossFit Naptown

Happy New Year…OPEN GYM

Thursday’s Workout:

“Hidalgo”
For time:
Run 2 miles
Rest 2 minutes
20 Cleans (135/95)
20 Box Jumps (24/20)
20 Walking Lunges with Plate (45/25)
20 Box Jumps (24/20)
20 Cleans (135/95)
Rest 2 minutes
Run 2 miles
*make up from yesterday’s New Year’s Eve WOD

 

“Loredo”
6 rounds for time of:
24 Air Squats
24 Push-ups
24 Walking-lunge steps
Run 400 meters

 

“Luke”
For time:
Run 400 meters
15 Clean and Jerks (155/105)
Run 400 meters
30 Toes-2-Bar
Run 400 meters
45 Wall Balls (20/14)
Run 400 meters
45 Kettlebell Swings (24/16kg)
Run 400 meters
30 Ring Dips
Run 400 meters
15 Walking Lunges (155/105)
Run 400 meters

 

5000 Meter Row for Time

 

Open Gym 11:00am-2:00pm

 

Happy New Year CrossFit NapTown! 2014 has been an incredible year for CFNT complete with a trip to the CrossFit Games, being a stop on the Pink Barbells for Boobs Tour, and the grand opening of NapTown Fitness Capitol for SWIFT and yoga classes! These are only a few of the many highlights from a fabulous year and we are excited to see what 2015 has in store.

Join us today to get the New Year started off right with one of the above Hero Workouts or a 5k row challenge! There will be a suggested warm-up on the board, but there will not be much more instruction than that. Coaches will be around to keep an eye on everything and to answer any questions if they come up. You will be responsible for choosing a workout, warming up, getting the workout set up, completing the workout (sorry we cannot do that for you), and breaking down your equipment. Please let the coach in charge know what workout you will be doing and report your score afterwards, this is how we will keep track of attendance today. Keep in mind that some of these workouts can be quite long, give yourself plenty of time to get warmed up and to get your workout in as we will be closing up at 2:00pm. That means it is probably unwise to arrive at 1:35pm.

Thanks for all that you do as a community, 2014 would not have been nearly as interesting without you guys. We are incredibly lucky and hope for even more memories and exciting things to come in 2015!

 

Best Gyms in Indianapolis

 

Once again, CrossFit NapTown was named to the list of top gyms in Indianapolis. Thank you for helping us to make that happen!

If you are looking for a fantastic way to get/stay in shape with a challenging workout that varies daily, then look no further. You owe it to yourself to take care of your body and Crossfit Naptown is the place to do it.-Evan P., Indianapolis, IN. Post from Yelp.

 

CFNTtop

 

by Anna at January 01, 2015 03:20 AM

Greg Mankiw's Blog

NY Theater

My family and I have spent the past several days in New York City enjoying some theater (and fine dining). We much enjoyed A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder. But the revival of Cabaret with Emma Stone as Sally Bowles and Alan Cumming as the Emcee was amazing. It is open only for a few more months. I strongly recommend you see it if you can.

by Greg Mankiw (noreply@blogger.com) at January 01, 2015 01:29 AM

CrossFit 204: Fitness in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Holiday Workout: 11 a.m., Jan. 1, 2015

The New Year's crew!

The 2014 New Year’s crew!

Please note the Jan. 1 workout is at 11 a.m. All other classes are cancelled for New Year’s Day.

There will be no yoga tonight. The class will happen at 10:45 a.m. on Jan. 2.

Please sign in here as you normally do, and we will upgrade anyone on the waiting list if the class slots fill up.

Here’s to another year of great fitness and great friends!

by Mike at January 01, 2015 12:34 AM

December 31, 2014

Practically Efficient

The only free economy

Money seems to enable free societies. The free economies of the world seem to be proof that exchanging some socially agreed-on proxy of value for real things is better than trading real things directly.

But does money really free the individuals of those societies? What's the value of money to one's self?

Modern money (fiat money) itself has no intrinsic value. It only has value to the extent that people imagine it has value.

Money can only be valued on a relative basis. A U.S. dollar will always be worth less (or more) than a euro. Someone with "a lot of money" can only exist if there are those who have a lot less. Manmade currencies are simply social contracts valued on the relative emotions of those who exchange them.

In fact, being a system created by people—for people—money is all emotion. For all the real problems solved by money, it creates at least as many imaginary ones.

At an individual level, once money solves the problems of basic survival, the human mind becomes temporarily starved of problems, so it naturally begins creating new ones with the money left over. I think this is largely because the socially accepted definition of "enough money" is forever pegged at "more than I have now."

Behaviorally, I think a capitalist mindset can lead to a looking-glass reality of true emotional prosperity. Everything is inverted. Going up is really going down. Those chasing heaven are actually barrelling toward hell.

"Ascension" in a capitalist economy is like riding an elevator in an infinitely high Wall Street sky scraper. The catch: demons lurk on all the floors below. The higher you go, the higher you must go. This is the paradox of loss aversion—the beast yet to be slain by the First World. To escape the fear of falling, we perpetually climb higher. Not because we truly want more, but because we're terrified of less.

"If Bill Gates woke up tomorrow with Oprah's money, he'd jump out a fuckin' window. . ." —Chris Rock

To an observer from another world, modern financial systems would probably seem like a twisted game of "heads I win, tails you lose." Winners' highs rapidly melt into progressively worse hangovers, forcing them to play for even higher highs. Losers are cursed with envy of the ostensible winners.

Ultimately, money fails at providing anyone lasting satisfaction because its quantity and value aren't constrained by anything real. It's all in our heads, and the evils of our imaginations know no bounds.

If there's any real currency in the universe it's time.

Time is completely immune from the whims of human emotion, and ignoring the effects of extreme gravity or speed, time's value is constant for all of us. Being independent of our existence and our perceptions, time follows simpler, less emotional rules than manmade money.

First, time can only be spent; it can not be amassed. Second, time must be spent at a fixed rate. Third, time is infinite in total—there's enough for everyone who has been and who will be—but our individual endowment of time is both finite and essentially beyond our control.

Unlike money, we can't choose whether or not we spend time. We can't save it for later. We can only choose what we spend time thinking about right now. There is no currency more equitable and free-flowing in its current state than time.

In any given day, a very rich person has the ability to buy vastly more than a very poor person. But in that same day, they will spend exactly the same amount of time.

In Walden Thoreau said ". . . a man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone."

I've come to the conclusion that freedom is the greatest form of riches anyone can achieve. But being free—truly free—is something that can only be bought from myself. Since manmade money can only be a liability in an economy of one, it's worthless as a medium of exchange for freedom. The only currency that can buy my freedom is the time I spend choosing to be free.

Surprisingly, I've found that freedom can only come from self-discipline and ruthlessly dictating priorities—choosing what to do in advance as much as possible. More importantly, freedom is about choosing what not to do in advance.

And for all the plans that fall apart, freedom is in the Cool Hand Lucan process of accepting, getting up, and planning again.

Only through the consistent practice of planning, self-discipline, and acceptance can I be set free to care as deeply as possible about what I'm doing in any given moment.

This takes a lot of effort, and with practice, it gets easier. But never perfect.

All I know is that when I'm operating at the very highest level across my three most fundamental identities—professional, parent/spouse, and self—I have full awareness not only of how I plan to spend my time, but why I'm spending it that way.

In those moments I am fully aware. I am rich. I am free.

by Eddie Smith at December 31, 2014 11:02 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

A Man Saw a Ball of Gold In the Sky

11011544675_6e6333b3f3_z

A man saw a ball of gold in the sky;
He climbed for it,
And eventually he achieved it —
It was clay.

Now this is the strange part:
When the man went to the earth
And looked again,
Lo, there was the ball of gold.
Now this is the strange part:
It was a ball of gold.
Aye, by the heavens, it was a ball of gold.

-Stephen Crane

###

Image: n.a.t.u.r.e.

by Chris Guillebeau at December 31, 2014 08:00 PM

512 Pixels

On paper notebooks in a digital world

Since the summer of 2011, I've carried a notebook with me.

It started as a way to journal on the go, but that was replaced by Day One pretty quickly. My use of paper notebooks evolved into a low-friction capture system for notes during phone calls, meetings and brainstorming sessions.

For a while, I stored them in a big Ziploc bag, but that didn't scale for long. It was hard to go back and find notes later, and as work got busy, I was burning through notebooks pretty quickly. Before long, I had a stack of filled notebooks hanging around.

I started scanning my notebooks after about a year of using them heavily. By making high-res PDFs named by the dates the notebook was in use, it became easier to go back and find anything that hadn't made it into OmniFocus or Evernote.

For physical storage, I sprung for the Field Notes Archival Wooden Box. It's a luxury in a world where a shoebox would have worked just fine, but I like the way it looks on my bookcase.

In a digital world, there's still a place for things like paper notebooks. They can't cause distractions in meetings and don't require Wi-Fi. While I try to be good and not have much just in a Field Notes notebook, if something is, I can get my hands on it later quickly.

by Stephen Hackett at December 31, 2014 07:35 PM

Connected 20: The Illusion of Choice →

This week, on Connected:

At the end of 2014, Stephen and Myke reflect on what proved to be a wild year in technology.

Come for jokes about Instagram, stay for a review of the most important new app of the year.

This episode was made possible by:

  • lynda.com: An easy and affordable way to help individuals and organizations learn. Free 10-day trial.
  • Sketchparty TV: the fun, fast drawing and guessing game for Apple TV.
  • Squarespace: Start Here. Go Anywhere. Use code WORLD for 10% off

Permalink

by Stephen Hackett at December 31, 2014 07:30 PM

The Frailest Thing

What Do We Want, Really?

I was in Amish country last week. Several times a day I heard the clip-clop of horse hooves and the whirring of buggy wheels coming down the street and then receding into the distance–a rather soothing Doppler effect. While there, I was reminded of an anecdote about the Amish relayed by a reader in the comments to a recent post:

I once heard David Kline tell of Protestant tourists sight-seeing in an Amish area. An Amishman is brought on the bus and asked how Amish differ from other Christians. First, he explained similarities: all had DNA, wear clothes (even if in different styles), and like to eat good food.

Then the Amishman asked: “How many of you have a TV?”

Most, if not all, the passengers raised their hands.

“How many of you believe your children would be better off without TV?”

Most, if not all, the passengers raised their hands.

“How many of you, knowing this, will get rid of your TV when you go home?”

No hands were raised.

“That’s the difference between the Amish and others,” the man concluded.

I like the Amish. As I’ve said before, the Amish are remarkably tech-savvy. They understand that technologies have consequences, and they are determined to think very hard about how different technologies will affect the life of their communities. Moreover, they are committed to sacrificing the benefits a new technology might bring if they deem the costs too great to bear. This takes courage and resolve. We may not agree with all of the choices made by Amish communities, but it seems to me that we must admire both their resolution to think about what they are doing and their willingness to make the sacrifices necessary to live according to their principles.

Image via Wikicommons

Image via Wikicommons

The Amish are a kind of sign to us, especially as we come upon the start of a new year and consider, again, how we might better live our lives. Let me clarify what I mean by calling the Amish a sign. It is not that their distinctive way of life points the way to the precise path we must all follow. Rather, it is that they remind us of the costs we must be prepared to incur and the resoluteness we must be prepared to demonstrate if we are to live a principled life.

It is perhaps a symptom of our disorder that we seem to believe that all can be made well merely by our making a few better choices along the way. Rarely do we imagine that what might be involved in the realization of our ideals is something more radical and more costly. It is easier for us to pretend that all that is necessary are a few simple tweaks and minor adjustments to how we already conduct our lives, nothing that will makes us too uncomfortable. If and when it becomes impossible to sustain that fiction, we take comfort in fatalism: nothing can ever change, really, and so it is not worth trying to change anything at all.

What is often the case, however, is that we have not been honest with ourselves about what it is that we truly value. Perhaps an example will help. My wife and I frequently discuss what, for lack of a better way of putting it, I’ll call the ethics of eating. I will not claim to have thought very deeply, yet, about all of the related issues, but I can say that we care about what has been involved in getting food to our table. We care about the labor involved, the treatment of animals, and the use of natural resources. We care, as well, about the quality of the food and about the cultural practices of cooking and eating. I realize, of course, that it is rather fashionable to care about such things, and I can only hope that our caring is not merely a matter of fashion. I do not think it is.

But it is another thing altogether for us to consider how much we really care about these things. Acting on principle in this arena is not without its costs. Do we care enough to bear those costs? Do we care enough to invest the time necessary to understand all the relevant complex considerations? Are we prepared to spend more money? Are we willing to sacrifice convenience? And then it hits me that what we are talking about is not simply making a different consumer choice here and there. If we really care about the things we say we care about, then we are talking about changing the way we live our lives.

In cases like this, and they are many, I’m reminded of a paragraph in sociologist James Hunter’s book about varying approaches to moral education in American schools. “We say we want the renewal of character in our day,” Hunter writes,

“but we do not really know what to ask for. To have a renewal of character is to have a renewal of a creedal order that constrains, limits, binds, obligates, and compels. This price is too high for us to pay. We want character without conviction; we want strong morality but without the emotional burden of guilt or shame; we want virtue but without particular moral justifications that invariably offend; we want good without having to name evil; we want decency without the authority to insist upon it; we want moral community without any limitations to personal freedom. In short, we want what we cannot possibly have on the terms that we want it.”

You may not agree with Hunter about the matter of moral education, but it is his conclusion that I want you to note: we want what we cannot possibly have on the terms that we want it.

This strikes me as being a widely applicable diagnosis of our situation. Across so many different domains of our lives, private and public, this dynamic seems to hold. We say we want something, often something very noble and admirable, but in reality we are not prepared to pay the costs required to obtain the thing we say we want. We are not prepared to be inconvenienced. We are not prepared to reorder our lives. We may genuinely desire that noble, admirable thing, whatever it may be; but we want some other, less noble thing more.

At this point, I should probably acknowledge that many of the problems we face as individuals and as a society are not the sort that would be solved by our own individual thoughtfulness and resolve, no matter how heroic. But very few problems, private or public, will be solved without an honest reckoning of the price to be paid and the work to be done.

So what then? I’m presently resisting the temptation to now turn this short post toward some happy resolution, or at least toward some more positive considerations. Doing so would be disingenuous. Mostly, I simply wanted to draw our attention, mine no less than yours, toward the possibly unpleasant work of counting the costs. As we thought about the new year looming before us and contemplated how we might live it better than the last, I wanted us to entertain the possibility that what will be required of us to do so might be nothing less than a fundamental reordering of our lives. At the very least, I wanted to impress upon myself the importance of finding the space to think at length and the courage to act.


by Michael Sacasas at December 31, 2014 06:16 PM

512 Pixels

NASA to hack Opportunity to fix memory issue →

The BBC:

Mars rover Opportunity, which has been exploring the Red Planet for more than 10 years, is suffering from memory problems, Nasa has said.

The six-wheeled vehicle - not to be confused with Curiosity, which launched in 2011 - keeps resetting unexpectedly.

The Opportunity team thinks an age-related fault affecting the flash memory used by the robot is to blame.

It believes it has found a way to hack the rover's software to disregard the faulty part.

It's amazing that Opportunity is still working at all. Its sibling, Spirit sent its last communication to Earth in 2010, which was far longer than NASA's original plans. Hopefully this fix can keep Opportunity rolling a bit longer.

null

Permalink

by Stephen Hackett at December 31, 2014 05:30 PM

Justin Taylor

How to Read the Whole Bible in 2015

esvdrbDo you want to read the whole Bible this year?

The average person reads 200 to 250 words per minute; there are about 775,000 words in the Bible; therefore it takes less than 10 minutes a day to read the whole Bible in a year.

(For those who like details, there’s a webpage devoted to how long it takes to read each book of the Bible. And if you want a simple handout that has every Bible book with a place to put a check next to every chapter, go here.)

Audio Bibles are usually about 75 hours long, so you can listen to it in just over 12 minutes a day.

But the point is not merely to read the whole thing to say you’ve done it or to check it off a list. The Bible itself never commands that we read the Bible through in a year. What it commends is knowing the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) and meditating or storing or ruminating upon God’s self-disclosure to us in written form (Deut. 6:7; 32:46; Ps. 119:11, 15, 23, 93, 99; 143:5).

As Joel Beeke writes:

As oil lubricates an engine, so meditation facilitates the diligent use of means of grace (reading of Scripture, hearing sermons, prayer, and all other ordinances of Christ), deepens the marks of grace (repentance, faith, humility), and strengthens one’s relationships to others (love to God, to fellow Christians, to one’s neighbors at large).

Thomas Watson put it like this:

“A Christian without meditation is like a solider without arms, or a workman without tools. Without meditation the truths of God will not stay with us; the heart is hard, and the memory is slippery, and without meditation all is lost.”

So reading the Bible cover to cover is a great way to facilitate meditation upon the whole counsel of God.

But a simple resolution to do this is often an insufficient. Most of us need a more proactive plan.

One option is to get a Bible that has a plan as part of its design. For example, Crossway offers the ESV Daily Reading Bible (based on the popular M’Cheyne reading plan—read through the OT once and the NT and Psalms twice) or the One-Year Bible in the ESV (whole Bible once in 364 readings). [For multiple bindings of the ESV Daily Reading Bible, go here.]

Stephen Witmer explains the weaknesses of typical plans and offers some advice on reading the Bible together with others—as well as offering his own new two-year plan. (“In my opinion, it is better to read the whole Bible through carefully one time in two years than hastily in one year.”) His plan has you read through one book of the Bible at a time (along with a daily reading from the Psalms or Proverbs). At the end of two years you will have read through the Psalms and Proverbs four times and the rest of the Bible once.

The Gospel Coalition’s For the Love of God Blog (which you can subscribe to via email, but is now also available as a free app) takes you through the M’Cheyne reading plan, with a meditation each day by D. A. Carson related to one of the readings. M’Cheyne’s plan has you read shorter selections from four different places in the Bible each day.

Jason DeRouchie, the editor of the user-friendly, Christ-centered book, What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About: A Survey of Jesus’ Bible, offers his KINGDOM Bible Reading Plan, which has the following distinctives:

  • Proportionate weight is given to the Old and New Testaments in view of their relative length, the Old receiving three readings per day and the New getting one reading per day.
  • The Old Testament readings follow the arrangement of Jesus’ Bible (Luke 24:44—Law, Prophets, Writings), with one reading coming from each portion per day.
  • In a single year, one reads through Psalms twice and all other biblical books once; the second reading of Psalms (highlighted in gray) supplements the readings through the Law (Genesis-Deuteronomy).
  • Only twenty-five readings are slated per month in order to provide more flexibility in daily devotions.
  • The plan can be started at any time of the year, and if four readings per day are too much, the plan can simply be stretched to two or more years (reading from one, two, or three columns per day).

Trent Hunter’s “The Bible-Eater Plan” is an innovative approach that has you reading whole chapters, along with quarterly attention to specific books. The plan especially highlights OT chapters that are crucial to the storyline of Scripture and redemptive fulfillment in Christ.

For those who would benefit from a realistic “discipline + grace” approach, consider “The Bible Reading Plan for Shirkers and Slackers.” It takes away the pressure (and guilt) of “keeping up” with the entire Bible in one year. You get variety within the week by alternating genres by day, but also continuity by sticking with one genre each day. Here’s the basic idea:

Sundays: Poetry
Mondays: Penteteuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy)
Tuesdays: Old Testament history
Wednesdays: Old Testament history
Thursdays: Old Testament prophets
Fridays: New Testament history
Saturdays: New Testament epistles (letters)

There are a number of Reading Plans for ESV Editions. Crossway has made them accessible in multiple formats:

  • web (a new reading each day appears online at the same link)
  • RSS (subscribe to receive by RSS)
  • podcast (subscribe to get your daily reading in audio)
  • iCal (download an iCalendar file)
  • mobile (view a new reading each day on your mobile device)
  • print (download a PDF of the whole plan)
Reading Plan Format
Chronological
Through the Bible chronologically (from Back to the Bible)
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Daily Light on the Daily Path
Daily Light on the Daily Path – the ESV version of Samuel Bagster’s classic
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Daily Office Lectionary
Daily Psalms, Old Testament, New Testament, and Gospels
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Daily Reading Bible
Daily Old Testament, New Testament, and Psalms
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ESV Study Bible
Daily Psalms or Wisdom Literature; Pentateuch or the History of Israel; Chronicles or Prophets; and Gospels or Epistles
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Every Day in the Word
Daily Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, Proverbs
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Literary Study Bible
Daily Psalms or Wisdom Literature; Pentateuch or the History of Israel; Chronicles or Prophets; and Gospels or Epistles
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M’Cheyne One-Year Reading Plan
Daily Old Testament, New Testament, and Psalms or Gospels
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Outreach
Daily Old Testament, Psalms, and New Testament
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Outreach New Testament
Daily New Testament. Read through the New Testament in 6 months
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Through the Bible in a Year
Daily Old Testament and New Testament
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You can also access each of these Reading Plans as podcasts:

  • Right-click (Ctrl-click on a Mac) the “RSS” link of the feed you want from the above list.
  • Choose “Copy Link Location” or “Copy Shortcut.”
  • Start iTunes.
  • Under File, choose “Subscribe to Podcast.”
  • Paste the URL into the box.
  • Click OK.

For those looking for some books to have on hand as “helps” as you read through the Bible, here are a few suggestions:

For special attention to seeing Christ in the Old Testament, note in particular:

Another helpful tool to have on hand is something like the ESV Concise Bible Atlas.

David Murray has provides Bible reading plans for children.

Also remember that if you go to the ESV Bible site, there’s an audio button that allows you to listen to the whole Bible free of charge.

For helping children trace the storyline of Scripture, two classics are:

Note that with the Helm book, Crossway has now released a whole set of corresponding materials in the series: including an innovative Scripture memory/catechism of redemptive history, a free audio book, and a family devotional.

But be on the lookout this summer for a new storybook Bible that contains the whole storyline in one continuous narrative with extremely compelling and creative art: Kevin DeYoung’s The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden (with illustrations by Don Clark of Invisible Creature).

Finally, for some practical help with prayer, consider Kathi Westlund’s Prayer PathWay resource and the app PrayerMate.

As you read through the Bible, here’s a chart you may want to to print out and have on hand. It’s from Goldsworthy’s book According to Plan. It simplified, of course, but it can be helpful in locating where you’re at in the biblical storyline and seeing the history of Israel “at a glance.”

Goldsworthy’s outline is below. You can also download this as a PDF (posted with permission).

Screen shot 2009-12-23 at 10.34.55 PM

Taken from According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible by Graeme Goldsworthy. Copyright(c) Graeme Goldsworthy 1991. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515 (www.ivpress.com) and Inter-Varsity Press, Norton Street, Nottingham NG7 3HR England (www.ivbooks.com)

Creation by Word Genesis 1 and 2
The Fall Genesis 3
First Revelation of Redemption Genesis 4-11
Abraham Our Father Genesis 12-50
Exodus: Our Pattern of Redemption Exodus 1-15
New Life: Gift and Task Exodus 16-40; Leviticus
The Temptation in the Wilderness Numbers; Deuteronomy
Into the Good Land Joshua; Judges; Ruth
God’s Rule in God’s Land 1 and 2 Samuel; 1 Kings 1-10; 1 Chronicles; 2 Chronicles 1-9
The Fading Shadow 1 Kings 11-22; 2 Kings
There Is a New Creation Jeremiah; Ezekiel; Daniel; Esther
The Second Exodus Ezra; Nehemiah; Haggai
The New Creation for Us Matthew; Mark; Luke; John
The New Creation in Us Initiated Acts
The New Creation in Us Now New Testament Epistles
The New Creation Consummated The New Testament

Below are Goldsworthy’s summaries of each section.

Creation by Word
Genesis 1 and 2
In the beginning God created everything that exists. He made Adam and Eve and placed them in the garden of Eden. God spoke to them and gave them certain tasks in the world. For food he allowed them the fruit of all the trees in the garden except one. He warned them that they would die if they ate of that one tree.

The Fall
Genesis 3
The snake persuaded Eve to disobey God and to eat the forbidden fruit. She gave some to Adam and he ate also. Then God spoke to them in judgment, and sent them out of the garden into a world that came under the same judgment.

First Revelation of Redemption
Genesis 4-11
Outside Eden, Cain and Abel were born to Adam and eve. Cain murdered Abel and Eve bore another son, Seth. Eventually the human race became so wicked that God determined to destroy every living thing with a flood. Noah and his family were saved by building a great boat at God’s command. The human race began again with Noah and his three sons with their families. Sometime after the flood a still unified human race attempted a godless act to assert its power in the building of a high tower. God thwarted these plans by scattering the people and confusing their language.

Abraham Our Father
Genesis 12-50
Sometime in the early second millennium BC God called Abraham out of Mesopotamia to Canaan. He promised to give this land to Abraham’s descendants and to bless them as his people. Abraham went, and many years later he had a son, Isaac. Isaac in rum had two sons, Esau and Jacob. The promises of God were established with Jacob and his descendants. He had twelve sons, and in time they all went to live in Egypt because of famine in Canaan.

Exodus: Our Pattern of Redemption
Exodus 1-15
In time the descendants of Jacob living in Egypt multiplied to become a very large number of people. The Egyptians no longer regarded them with friendliness and made them slaves. God appointed Moses to be the one who would lead Israel out of Egypt to the promised land of Canaan. When the moment came for Moses to demand the freedom of his people, the Pharaoh refused to let them go. Though Moses worked ten miracle-plagues which brought hardship, destruction, and death to the Egyptians. Finally, Pharaoh let Israel go, but then pursued them and trapped them at the Red Sea (or Sea of Reeds). The God opened a way in the sea for Israel to cross on dry land, but closed the water over the Egyptian army, destroying it.

New Life: Gift and Task
Exodus 16-40; Leviticus
After their release from Egypt, Moses led the Israelites to Mount Sinai. There God gave them his law which they were commanded to keep. At one point Moses held a covenant renewal ceremony in which the covenant arrangement was sealed in blood. However, while Moses was away on the mountain, the people persuaded Aaron to fashion a golden calf. Thus they showed their inclination to forsake the covenant and to engage in idolatry. God also commanded the building of the tabernacle and gave all the rules of sacrificial worship by which Israel might approach him.

The Temptation in the Wilderness
Numbers; Deuteronomy
After giving the law to the Israelites at Sinai, God directed them to go in and take possession of the promised land. Fearing the inhabitants of Canaan, they refused to do so, thus showing lack of confidence in the promises of God. The whole adult generation that had come out of Egypt, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, was condemned to wander and die in the desert. Israel was forbidden to dispossess its kinsfolk, the nation of Edom, Moab, and Ammon, but was given victory over other nations that opposed it. Finally, forty years after leaving Egypt, Israel arrived in the Moabite territory on the east side of the Jordan. Here Moses prepared the people for their possession of Canaan, and commissioned Joshua as their new leader.

Into the Good Land
Joshua; Judges; Ruth
Under Joshua’s leadership the Israelites crossed the Jordan and began the task of driving out the inhabitants of Canaan. After the conquest the land was divided between the tribes, each being allotted its own region. Only the tribe of Levi was without an inheritance of land because of its special priestly relationship to God. There remained pockets of Canaanites in the land and, from time to time, these threatened Israel’s hold on their new possession. From the one-man leaderships of Moses and Joshua, the nation moved into a period of relative instability during which judges exercised some measure of control over the affairs of the people.

God’s Rule in God’s Land
1 and 2 Samuel; 1 Kings 1-10; 1 Chronicles; 2 Chronicles 1-9
Samuel became judge and prophet in all Israel at a time when the Philistines threatened the freedom of the nation. An earlier movement for kingship was received and the demand put to a reluctant Samuel. The first king, Saul, had a promising start to his reign but eventually showed himself unsuitable as the ruler of the covenant people. While Saul still reigned, David was anointed to succeed him. Because of Saul’s jealousy David became an outcast, but when Saul died in battle David returned and became king (about 1000 BC). Due to his success Israel became a powerful and stable nation. He established a central sanctuary at Jerusalem, and created a professional bureaucracy and permanent army. David’s son Solomon succeeded him (about 961 BC) and the prosperity of Israel continued. The building of the temple at Jerusalem was one of Solomon’s most notable achievements.

The Fading Shadow
1 Kings 11-22; 2 Kings
Solomon allowed political considerations and personal ambitions to sour his relationship with God, and this in turn had a bad effect on the life of Israel. Solomon’s son began an oppressive rule which led to the rebellion of the northern tribes and the division of the kingdom. Although there were some political and religious high points, both kingdoms went into decline, A new breed of prophets warned against the direction of national life, but matters went from bad to worse. In 722 BC the northern kingdom of Israel fell to the power of the Assyrian empire. Then, in 586 BC the southern kingdom of Judah was devastated by the Babylonians. Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed, and a large part of the population was deported to Babylon.

There Is a New Creation
Jeremiah; Ezekiel; Daniel; Esther
The prophets of Israel warned of the doom that would befall the nation. When the first exiles were taken to Babylon in 597 BC, Ezekiel was among them. Both prophets ministered to the exiles. Life for the Jews (the people of Judah) in Babylon was not all bad, and in time many prospered. The books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel indicate a certain normality to the experience, while Daniel and Esther highlight some of the difficulties and suffering experienced in an alien and oppressive culture.

The Second Exodus
Ezra; Nehemiah; Haggai
In 539 BC Babylon fell to the Medo-Persian empire. The following year, Cyrus the king allowed the Jews to return home and to set up a Jewish state within the Persian empire. Great difficulty was experienced in re-establishing the nation. There was local opposition to the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple. Many of the Jews did not return but stayed on in the land of their exile. In the latter part of the fourth century BC, Alexander the Great conquered the Persian empire. The Jews entered a long and difficult period in which Greek culture and religion challenged their trust in God’s covenant promises. In 63 BC Pompey conquered Palestine and the Jews found themselves a province of the Roman empire.

The New Creation for Us
Matthew; Mark; Luke; John
The province of Judea, the homeland of the Jews, came under Roman rule in 63 BC. During the reign of Caesar Augustus, Jesus was born at Bethlehem, probably about the year 4 BC. John, known as the Baptist, prepared the way for the ministry of Jesus. This ministry of preaching, teaching, and healing began with Jesus’ baptism and lasted about three years. Growing conflict with the Jews and their religious leaders led eventually to Jesus being sentenced to death by the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. He was executed by the Romans just outside Jerusalem, but rose from death two days afterward and appealed to his followers on a number of occasions. After a period with them, Jesus was taken up to heaven.

The New Creation in Us Initiated
Acts
After Jesus had ascended, his disciples waited in Jerusalem. On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came upon them and they began the task of proclaiming Jesus. As the missionary implications of the gospel became clearer to the first Christians, the local proclamation was extended to world evangelization. The apostle Paul took the gospel to Asia Minor and Greece, establishing many churches as he went. Eventually a church flourished at the heart of the empire of Rome.

The New Creation in Us Now
New Testament Epistles
As the gospel made inroads into pagan societies it encountered many philosophies and non-Christian ideas which challenged the apostolic message. The New Testament epistles shows that the kind of pressures to adopt pagan ideas that had existed for the people of God in Old Testament times were also a constant threat to the churches. The real danger to Christian teaching was not so much in direct attacks upon it, but rather in the subtle distortion of Christian ideas. Among the troublemakers were the Judaizers who added Jewish law-keeping to the gospel. The Gnostics also undermined the gospel with elements of Greek philosophy and religion.

The New Creation Consummated
The New Testament
God is Lord over history and therefore, when he so desires, he can cause the events of the future to be recorded. All section of the New Testament contain references to things which have not yet happened, the most significant being the return of Christ and the consummation of the kingdom of God. No clues to the actual chronology are given, but it is certain that Christ will return to judge the living and the dead. The old creation will be undone and the new creation will take its place.

by Justin Taylor at December 31, 2014 05:02 PM

512 Pixels

Best News Bloopers of 2014 →

Once a year, I'm reminded how glad I am that I didn't study broadcast journalism in school.

Permalink

by Stephen Hackett at December 31, 2014 04:50 PM

Reformedish

A Matter of Life or Death: Prayer

prayerThis year, my wife and I have committed to sharpening up our prayer life. Our church just went through a series on power and necessity of prayer, and the current season in our lives has been impressing upon us our greater need to be personally and jointly devoted to prayer. We’ve been praying together in the mornings, but we both had been sensing a desire and weight to pray. Plus, Tim Keller just came out with a new book on prayer, aptly entitled Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God,, so I figured this could be a good reading project to help us out.

Well, right off the bat, Keller opens with a story that convicted us we needed to step out on this path with boldness and resolution. Here’s what I mean:

“In the second half of my adult life, I discovered prayer. I had to. In the fall of 1999, I taught a Bible study course on the Psalms. It became clear to me that I was barely scratching the surface of what the Bible commanded and promised regarding prayer. Then came the dark weeks after 9/11, when our whole city sank into a kind of corporate clinical depression, even as it rallied. For my family the shadow was intensified as my wife Kathy struggled with the effects of Crohn’s disease. Finally, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

At one point during all this, my wife urged me to do something with her we had never had been able to muster the self-discipline to do regularly. She asked me to pray with her every night. Every night. She used and illustration that crystallized her feelings very well. As we remember it, she said something like this:

Imagine you were diagnosed with such a lethal condition that the doctor told you that you would die within hours unless you took a particular medicine–a pill every night before going to sleep. Imagine that you were told that you could never miss it or you would die. Would you forget? Would you not get around to it some nights? No–it would be so crucial that you wouldn’t forget, you would never miss. Well, if we don’t pray together to God, we’re not going to make it because of all we are facing. I’m certainly not. We have to pray, we can’t just let it slip our minds.

Maybe it was the power of the illustration, maybe it was just the right moment, maybe it was the Spirit of God. Or, mostly likely of all, it was the Spirit of God using the moment and the clarity of the metaphor. For both of us, the penny dropped; we realized the seriousness of the issue, and we admitted that anything that was a truly no-nnegotiable necessity was something we could do.

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, pp. 9-10

Reading that passage, the penny has ‘dropped’ for my wife and I as well, and we know that 2015 is going to be a year where we take prayer more seriously than we ever have before. Prayer is a matter of life or death; it is communication and communion with the Triune God who is the source of every breath in our lungs. What could be more important than that?

I would invite you to consider placing it at the center of your priorities this year as well. There are any number of prayer programs or approaches that can help you. Here’s one simple way to pray you can take up easily.

Also, I would encourage you to maybe take up Tim Keller’s book on prayer as well. Many of us don’t pray for various reasons. Some of us have theological reasons. We don’t understand what’s going on, or we have questions about God’s willingness to answer or how it all works. I’ve talked with enough students and friends to know that theology can actually be a significant roadblock for many.

Others have practical questions. We simply don’t know how to begin, or what even the most basic prayer life would look like. We start to pray, but we just end up fumbling about, wondering if we’re doing it right, or if we’ve simply been talking to ourselves.

Finally, some of us have been praying for a while, but we have hit stagnant stages in our walks. In that case, many of us need to be led down more complex paths because we’ve fallen into spiritual ruts.  Or, we need to simply be reminded of the beauty and glory of what’s actually happening in prayer.

Keller’s book is helpful in that he aims to tackle the various dimensions of the issue to prayer, whether theological, practical, or what-have-you. There’s something for everyone there, whether young or old in their walk with Christ.

Either way, whether with Keller’s book or through some other prayer plan, I’d encourage you to take up prayer with a renewed vigor this year. It could be a matter of life and death.

Soli Deo Gloria

 


by Derek Rishmawy at December 31, 2014 04:36 PM

QuirksBlog

A new Microsoft browser?

Recently the news broke that Microsoft may be working on another browser instead of IE. After reviewing the available evidence I’ve come to the conclusion that, although Microsoft is making a few adjustments, and a name change for IE might be a good idea, the new browser will essentially be IE12. Still, I think we web developers should support the “new browser” narrative.

It seems the decision was taken to fork Trident, Microsoft’s rendering engine. One version will essentially be IE11 with all backward-compatible bells and whistles, while the other one will be IE12, although it may carry a different name and will sport a new interface and support extensions. (IE extensions, that is. Not Chrome or Firefox extensions.)

The idea seems to be that Windows 10 will ship both these browsers. The Internet icon on the desktop will start up IE12, while “if a page calls for IE to render in a compatibility mode” IE11 will be started up. I am assuming that what’s meant here is the meta versioning switch.

Remember that to this day IE11 also contains IE 10, 9, 8, 7, and 5.5, which are accessible through the once-maligned but now mostly-forgotten meta versioning switch, as well as, in the case of 5.5, the good old doctype switch.

The plan seems to be that the new IE12 will not carry all that cruft, but be a forward-looking modern browser. If you need legacy stuff you must start up another browser. Actually this is not such a bad idea. The versioning switch never really caught on on the public Internet (although corporate Intranets may be a different story), so why weigh IE down with a lot of other rendering engines that hardly anyone outside a corporate environment will ever need?

An implication of forking IE is that the new IE11 would be maintained separately from IE12. That might be interesting, although it’s also a lot of hassle for Microsoft. We’ll have to see if they’re really going to maintain two browsers.

Finally, IE may be changing names in the near future. Actually, that’s a pretty good idea. The brand “IE” has become synonymous with slow, old-fashioned, non-standard-compliant browsing — even though from IE10 on there was little reason for that judgement. But IE is being weighed down by the IE6 legacy, and a new name may be just what it needs. So let’s do it. (But not “Spartan,” please. It doesn’t make sense for a browser. Why not an explorer from the good old days? Maybe even a Dutch one?)

Internally, when talking to other web devs, you should treat the next Microsoft browser as IE12. Externally, however, when talking to clients and other non-techies, it could make sense to support the “Microsoft is creating a new browser” narrative. Who knows, your clients or other contacts may decide it’s time to say goodbye to their old IE versions and embrace the new browser. That would help them, us, and Microsoft at the same time.

by ppk (ppk@xs4all.nl) at December 31, 2014 03:33 PM

CrossFit 204: Fitness in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Dec. 31, 2014 – Dale’s Garage

The Jan. 1 workout in 2014. Sign in for the 2015 edition now!

The Jan. 1 workout in 2014. Sign in for the 2015 edition now!

Please note our holiday hours on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1. The holiday workout on Jan. 1 is at 11 a.m. — apologies for the confusion.

There is no scheduled workout for today. Come on in and work on anything you like from noon to 3 p.m.

Coaches will be around to give you suggestions, create workouts and warm-ups, and nag you ceaselessly about form.

Please read Bob’s Winnipeg Free Press article about CrossFit.

by Mike at December 31, 2014 03:18 PM

Inconsolation

Bonus: 2014 in review

Last year I went against my better judgment and pulled a dozen or more titles out of the 500 or so I had seen through 2013, and nailed them to the cathedral door as the “best” the year had to offer.

Against my better judgment again, I’m going to pluck out another dozen or so, and call them the “best” 2014 has offered up. It’s tired, hackneyed and boorish, but there were in fact some high points that deserve attention.

The problem is, the original list of software expired long ago, but new titles keep cropping up. And posting at the rather breakneck pace of two a day — sometimes a lot more — I’d have to sift through nearly a thousand programs to come up with best of the year.

And on top of that, some of what 2014 revealed didn’t really shine next to what I’d already seen in 2013. For example, I ran through a huge rasher of games this year — at least 20 a month in both October and November, just for starters — and yet the games I play the most aren’t out of the 2014 crop.

So here’s what I’ll do: Instead of just picking arbitrary “bests,” I’ll lump them into categories, and point to some highlights. This isn’t to say the titles here are the best available overall, and in some cases I’ll tell you the best, regardless of when it appeared. But here’s what sticks out in my mind, from twenty-fourteen. ;)


neercs: Trust the caca geniuses to solve this one.

neercs: Trust the caca geniuses to solve this one.

Screen glitz: neercs. The second-best reason to use a console program is to annoy the heck out of your fellow geek, and if you can do it while insulting their nerd credentials at the same time, then the universal pecking order shifts in your favor. This year saw the arrival of neercs on the scene, and nothing quite says “Kneel before Zod” like a 3D spinning ASCII desktop in a framebuffer virtual console. “Oh, you have a transparent 3D desktop? How quaint. Oh, you have windows that dissolve in fire and can spin your desktops like a cube? Uh, yeah, I was doing that back in ’06, with a 1Ghz machine and a video card with only 16Mb of memory. Your window panels cause ripples against your desktop wallpaper? Yawn. You better get with the times.” You can’t let the little pricks generation-gap you, Molly said. Fire up neercs, then practice rolling your eyes and sneering.

Runner-up: XaoS, which had enough frenetic fractality to cause the cruelest geek clique to implode in a paroxysm of inadequacy. Also-rans: consolecandy, as a clumsy but pretty music visualizer, and bb as … you know, I’m still not sure what bb is. But it looked good. ;)


wifite: Come back when you've learned your lessons.

wifite: When you can take the pebble from my hand. …

Quickest shortcut to a geek beatdown: wifite. Speaking of insulting the integrity of your fellow geeks, nothing will backfire on you like bragging about cracking the local coffee shop wireless network with wifite. Alexander Pope said, “A little learning is a dangerous thing.” Of course, he also wrote about people cutting off other people’s hair :???:, so maybe Pope wasn’t as clever as he thought he was. Point being, if your best attempts at cracking wireless signals are piloted by wifite, you’re not going to impress anyone. Truth be told, wifite does an impeccable job streamlining the rather tedious process of cracking wireless signals, and does it with considerable visual panache and an unmatched level of convenience. But even the author agrees: If you don’t know what the heck you’re doing without this, you don’t know what the heck you’re doing with it either. :evil:

Runner-up: Nobody. I couldn’t think of another program that was likely to embarrass you as much as saying you relied on wifite. :\


Fast directory switcher that isn’t a fast directory switcher: bashmarks. This year saw a lot of fast-directory switching solutions, which might lead you to believe that there was something inherently wrong with the cd command. Some of them were quite complex. Some of them were quite intricate. And some of them were quite eccentric. bashmarks, by virtue of simplicity and providing the obvious solution, gets the red (blue?) ribbon this year. No complex heuristic analyses. No tracking directory patterns and predicting your next move. Just give it a destination and a nickname, and call it back when you want to go there. The shortest distance between two lines is a bookmark that takes you there.

Runner-up: commacd, which gets the blue (red?) ribbon for a gentle and comfortable approach that still carries enough power and flexibility to leap across yawning chasms in your $PWD. Just remember, for the love of all that is holy: Don’t call it a fast directory switcher. :shock: Also-rans: cdargs. I’m adding an honorable mention for pushd and popd as the zero-dependency option.


aewan: Draw me like one of your French girls ... in ASCII.

aewan: Draw me like one of your French girls … in ASCII.

ASCII art editor: aewan. This was one of the more difficult selections, because out of the four or so ASCII art tools I’ve seen this year, each one had specific functions that either didn’t appear in another, or were handled less adroitly. Some could draw polygons and edit them. Some could draw pipe lines with ease. Some had paint roller effects, and some had transparency copy-and-pasting. But none of them had everything, which meant each one has its own selling point. In the end I had to pick aewan for its layer support, and for tying so many other functions to that feature. aewan falls down on things like easy line drawing or polygon cut-and-paste, but it was hard to deny its other shining points.

Runner-up: cavewall, which had so many other goodies, but no layers. Also-rans: textdraw, which had the uncanny ability to customize and edit polygons on screen, and duhdraw, which had the best line drawing tool. :\


tudu: You come at the king, you best not miss.

tudu: You come at the king, you best not miss.

Emulator epiphanies: tudu. You’d think that running through a thousand console programs in the course of the year would cause a certain level of indecision on what software to use at any given time. But it’s quite the opposite: Very few programs impress so much that they completely upset the apple cart. All the same tudu summarily ejected hnb from my system in a matter of minutes, mostly for picking up every feature hnb offered, and adding a dozen more I had always wanted. And among to-do task organizers, most everything else I tried — and believe me, I tried a lot of to-do task organizers :shock: — fell short in one way or another. tudu came, saw, and conquered.

Runners-up: tmsu, for making file tagging and organization suddenly cool, and stow, for twisting the reality of package management and remote dot-file synchronization all at once, if you can believe that. Also-rans: httrack, the whirling dervish of website copying.


tig: Tee-eye-double-guh-ur.

tig: Tee-eye-double-guh-ur.

Best tools I’ll just never use: tig. Last year I pointed out my own hypocrisy in advocating for so many non-emacs, non-vim text editor options, but never bothering to jump to jed. This year tig is definitely the one tool I just don’t have the opportunity to use, and wish I did. If you regularly rely on git and don’t want to wrangle with graphical interfaces to your repositories, tig is probably what you want. Yes, I do have a couple of tools uploaded to Github, but best I could do with tig is probably sit and stare at them. :|

Runner-up: slrn and tin, both of which worked fine but soon lost their lustre through no fault of their own. The “quality” of newsgroup postings is sometimes … questionable. … :???: Also-rans: cuse, because I just don’t know what I’m doing with a midi sequencer, and ht, a near-perfect editor intended for executables, which is totally lost on me. :(


soma: Sorry, I can't hear you over the sound of how awesome this is.

soma: Sorry, I can’t hear you over the sound of how awesome this is.

Best thing I’ve heard all year: soma. Discounting outright music players, none of which seemed to spark my enthusiasm, soma was unusual enough and well designed enough to fulfill what seemed like a Unix trifecta: Do one thing, use the tools at hand, give people the freedom to customize. And the simple combination of dialog and mplayer meant it was just as usable in a framebuffer console as the heaviest, most esoteric terminal emulator. If every tool was as straightforward and simple as soma, the world would be a better place. Now let’s all hold hands and sing Kumbaya. … :P

Runner-up: mps-youtube, for offering the best text-only YouTube interface, bar none. Also-rans: soundcloud2000, for a clean and attractive interface to a site I unfortunately have no interest in, and timidity++ for making me feel like less of a dunce about midi playback. :roll:


ncurses-examples: Fun for the whole fam damily.

ncurses-examples: Fun for the whole fam damily.

Sweetest suite: ncurses-examples. Probably never intended as a complete package of its own, ncurses-examples was a giggly little grab bag of this-and-that, some functional and some not. While a few of its members split from the band and had fruitful careers as solo artists (such as bs), there was still enough good fun in this package to make it worth downloading, compiling and running piece by piece, in hopes of finding something new. Given its age, it’s unlikely you’ll find anything that will completely rewrite your text-only lifestyle, but sometimes it’s just fun to try out random things, and see what becomes of them.

Runners-up: bsd-games and coreutils, both of which are more fun than a barrel of monkeys on a rainy day in May. Also-rans: datamash, which is fantastic for statistics, and the inotify triplets, which were mind-bending as a bonus.


ncdu: Find the fat, just like that.

ncdu: Find the fat, just like that.

Compare and contrast: ncdu. You can cry foul if you want, since ncdu is hardly new, and only cropped up in 2014 by virtue of the alphabet. And you could complain to the judges since it has no color, but the fickle hand of fate will work against you on both counts. ncdu is the console analogue for all the embossed display tools and cutesy circular dial meters for file size comparison. But ncdu is smart enough to know that what you’re really after is a list of hogs, and how to hunt them down. And it adds some fundamental file management commands, so once you find a pig, you can terminate it … with extreme prejudice.

Runner-up: dfc, which does a better job displaying and conveying disk usage than most any other tool, graphical or not. Also-rans: ngp, which stood out in my memory more than other grep-like search tools. And sl, which deserves better for being a huge improvement on ls, and being relatively unknown too.


stag: Now you can have a stag party every day.

stag: Now you can have a stag party every day.

Audio tag editor: stag. It bewilders me to think there were actually enough candidates to flesh out this category; looking back, you’d think 2014 was The Year of the Linux Text-Based Audio Tag Editor. There were plenty of one-shot mass tag writing tools, but only maybe three (or four, if you were liberal in your interpretation) that the judges admitted into the category as a full-featured editor. stag took the cake, winning on the grounds that it did the job intuitively, covered most of the desired functions, and completed the task without error. And in doing so, won the inaugural award. The judges are looking forward to next year. … :)

Runner-up: ncmpcpp, which incorporates a very impressive tag editor as part of the player, which is either good or bad depending on your perspective. Also-ran: cursetag, which did a great job but suffered some internal problems; and bashtagger, which accomplished most of the same tasks for flac and ogg files, but missed out on other points.


The grab-bag: nbwmon stood out as the quintessential network monitor this year, even if it didn’t really add much to the genre. … Once I knew what qodem was, it was a true piece of text-based genius. … imgcurses was definitely at the top of the heap when it came to the chore of image-to-text conversion. … yapet perfected the art of password storage, plus some. … sncli was the to-do list manager with the most unusual set of features. … starchart made me feel less lost in the universe, without ever leaving my virtual console. … speedpad was the clean winner among typing tutors, especially for the advanced pupil. … pscpug rewrote process monitoring in a simple and straightforward way. … tabview made me wish I had more csv files to work with. … fzf helped me make some decisions. … nmon told me everything about everything. … txt2regex is terrifically useful but not something I have occasion to use more than once a year, probably. …


Game of the year: And now, the category everyone has been waiting for — especially since heavy-hitters like Cataclysm: DDA, and Gearhead 2 and Dungeon Crawl: Stone Soup are out of contention. And with the proliferation of roguelike titles that appeared late this year, there’s going to be some serious jockeying for position.

Of course, if you had been watching the old blog a couple of months ago, you’d probably realize that I already pointed out some of the stronger candidates, and they’ll no doubt take slots here. All the same, I’ll let you decide if this is a fair list. Brace yourself. …

  1. empire: War and Peace was a pamphlet compared to this.

    empire: War and Peace was a pamphlet compared to this.

    empire: The sheer level of detail in the game, and the scope of time it will take to play, are the two biggest reasons to include this, as a great multiplayer online real-time empire-building strategy game. Unfortunately, those are also its greatest drawbacks, since learning the game is an enormous investment, and playing it is yet another. … :shock:
  2. dopewars: The *nix version of the 80’s classic is a broad sweeping mix of three or four different games and economic simulations, all sprinkled with a healthy dose of illicit drug trade and prostitution. dopewars is no angel, but it has a fantastic interface, lots of color and believe it or not … sound! :lol:
  3. scribble: I have been brushing aside Scrabble-esque titles since about 1998, when it became clear that there wasn’t much to be gained in going head to head against a program optimized for speed and points, and armed with a dictionary designed to include words like “zymurgy.” :| scribble, on the other hand, was very playable, very easy to learn and didn’t make me feel like I was pitted against the Imperious Leader.
  4. angband: Angband was one of the strongest roguelikes I saw this year, winning for depth, atmosphere and playability — points that were probably attributable at least in part to Tolkien and Gygax. The roguelike genre is in dire need of a makeover anyway, to bring it into line with the demands of the newest generations of text-based dungeon crawls. But Angband managed to contort itself to the largest of displays and never trip over its own feet.
  5. robohack: Save the last human family, or at least their ASCII representations.

    robohack: Save the last human family, or at least their ASCII representations.

    robohack: It’s hard imagine a text-based rewrite of the arcade classic Robotron 2084, yet for all the shortcomings of the medium, robohack manages to pull it off. It’s fast, colorful, and clever, but most of all fun.
  6. sail: Sail is memorable for its intense levels of detail and fidelity to an ancient tabletop strategy game, and deserves inclusion on those points alone. But more than that, sail is proof that you don’t need expansive, highly detailed, incredibly taxing graphics — what you need is just a good game.
  7. adom: adom is the best roguelike title I know of that doesn’t confine itself to just the downward expedition through a single dungeon. adom adds geography, quests, NPC interactions and a mess of other features that put it more into the category of a modern roleplaying action game … just in ncurses. ;)
  8. yetris: Yetris is an all-around winner among text-based games, adding lovely animation effects, an overabundance of color and an assertive use of the space available on the screen. Yetris may only be one of a thousand Tetris clones, but it commandeers your terminal so aggressively and with such authority, you probably won’t remember any of the others.
  9. curseofwar: This is what we've waited for, this is it boys, this is war.

    curseofwar: This is what we’ve waited for, this is it boys, this is war.

    curseofwar: If you think a real-time strategy game with population controls, fortifications, combat and growth models is impossible in a text-based format, well … you just haven’t tried Curse of War yet. And since it’s still under active development, there’s no reason not to expect Curse of War to expand beyond the design it holds now.
  10. cboard: At long last, a chess game that doesn’t play like a child’s flip book, or some sort of autistic attempt at a Turing test. Full color, full control over the screen, full game history and full board editing, plus pop-up help menus and sane controls. Now … if only I wasn’t such a dunce about chess in the first place. …
  11. ttysolitaire: A good computer card game by any meterstick, ttysolitaire brought together the classic rules, added fantastic color and graphics, gave it lightning-fast controls, and created the be-all, end-all text-based solitaire game. Do not miss this one.

And so, drum roll, please. …

  1. Starlanes: Punch it, Chewie.

    Starlanes: Punch it, Chewie.

    starlanes: There is a measure of irony in holding up the best game I saw in 2014, knowing full well that timestamps on some source files date back to 1997. But Starlanes is easy to learn and quickly addictive, with plenty of surprises and challenges. It’s a thinking game and not so much an action game, except perhaps when a black hole swallows your entire shipping corporation in one swirling gulp. But you can’t put it down once you start. Like I said months ago, Starlanes is original, obvious, easy to control, visually concise, colorful, intelligent, challenging, strategic and surprising. But more than that, it’s proof that a good game is really just a good game, no matter what environment you’re confined to.

That’s all, folks. See you tomorrow, for the cold realization that this decade is half over already. :shock:

by K.Mandla at December 31, 2014 02:30 PM

Crossway Blog

Midweek Roundup - 12/30/14

Each Wednesday we share recent links we found insightful and helpful. These are often related to Crossway books, Bibles, or authors—but not always. We hope this list is an interesting and encouraging break for the middle of your week.

1. Jen Wilkin on why the church needs men and women to be friends

Sexual attraction is a valid red flag to raise when we consider male-female friendships, and it should never be dismissed lightly. But it does not justify declaring all such friendships impossible. All relationships involve risk of hurt, loss, or sin, but we still enter into them because we believe what will be gained is greater than what we might risk

Yet we still enter into these relationships. We do not remove them wholesale from the list of possibilities because they involve risk. We enter in because we believe the rewards of the relationship outweigh the risk. We decide to go with trust instead of fear.

2. Derek Rishmawy reviews The Theology of the Westminster Standards

In this work, Fesko, academic dean and professor of systematic and historical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, Escondido California, attempts to give a historical grounding for understanding the theology of the Westminster Standards (Westminster Confession of Faith, Larger Catechism, Shorter Catechism). As the confessional standards for most Presbyterian churches for hundreds of years, and the foundation for particular Baptist confessions as well, they have formed something of a standard touchpoint for confessional Reformed theology since their adoption. The problem is that while they’ve been widely read and commented on, Fesko contends that there have been a number of confusions surrounding the theology espoused in the Standards due to the fact that they have typically been read with little attention paid to the historical and theological context. Fesko aims to fill that gap by drawing on recent historical studies and the wealth of new material made available to historical researchers through the digitizing of a plethora of historical sources, in order to shed new light on passages long buried under the weight of anachronism and assumption.

3. Dane Ortlund on what Jonathan Edwards can teach us about the Christian life

But there are riches to be mined in Jonathan Edwards far beyond what you may have been exposed to. Reading Jonathan Edwards is not for historians and professors mainly, but for the rest of us.

Here are five things Edwards teaches us about the Christian life—your Christian life...

4. Wendy Alsup on “the sanctification spiral”

Some reading this article may be familiar with a method of teaching math called spiraling. As a math teacher, I never used that method in the classroom, but I did once tutor a student using that approach. At first, he and I were both frustrated. His book presented one concept in the first few pages. Then it went immediately onto another concept. But he hadn't mastered the first, and we were frustrated that the text moved on so quickly. Then, after the first few pages, the book spiraled back to review the first concept. A few pages later, it both reviewed that first concept and expanded on it…

I have found that God uses a similar spiraling approach in my life. He teaches me something, but then quickly moves me on to the next thing. And the next thing. However, over time, the first struggle reappears in my life along with an expanded opportunity to trust God in the middle of it. After the third or fourth time working through the same struggle, I start to deeply internalize the things God is teaching me in a way I had not during the first or even second pass.

Identity. Temptation. Idolatry. Sin. Suffering. Sickness. Strife. Redemption.

Repeat.

5. Jonathan Dodson on culturally literate evangelism

Today, it is a mistake to assume theological literacy. If we are to move forward, the Church must develop its ability to listen to new questions people are asking and learn how to translate the gospel into words and concepts that speak to the heart.

by Nick Rynerson at December 31, 2014 02:17 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

Let Your Heart Be an Altar [Awakening Faith]

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me.” (Hebrews 10:5)

The Apostle says, “I appeal to you by the mercy of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1). Brothers and sisters, this sacrifice follows the pattern of Christ’s sacrifice, in which he gave his body as a living offering for the life of the world.

He really made his body a living sacrifice, because though he was killed, he continues to live. In this transaction death receives its ransom, but the victim remains alive. Death itself suffers the punishment. This is why death is actually a birth for the martyrs, and their end a beginning. Their execution is the door to life, and as their light is extinguished on earth, they are lit with brilliance in heaven.

Paul says, “I appeal to you by the mercy of God to present your bodies as a sacrifice, living and holy” (Rom. 12:1). We are each called to be both a sacrifice to God and his priest. Do not cast aside what divine authority gives to you. Put on the garment of holiness, equip yourself with the belt of chastity. Let Christ be your helmet, let the cross on your forehead be your unfailing protection. Your breastplate should be the knowledge of God that he himself has given you.

Continually burn the sweet-smelling incense of prayer. Take up the sword of the Spirit. Let your heart be an altar. Then, with full confidence in God, present your body for sacrifice. God desires not death, but faith; God thirsts not for blood, but for self-surrender; God is appeased not by slaughter, but by the offering of your free will.

–Peter Chrysologus

 

Awakening Faith DevotionalAwakening Faith: Daily Devotionals from the Early Church

by James Stuart Bell and Patrick J. Kelly

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by ZA Blog at December 31, 2014 02:00 PM

Front Porch Republic

Skillet Penne-Sausage And The New Year’s Dissolution

New Year

My own concentration has been tested by an even greater distraction.

Read Full Article...

The post Skillet Penne-Sausage And The New Year’s Dissolution appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Jason Peters at December 31, 2014 01:18 PM

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

The Four Last Things in Science Fiction

This is a reprint, in part, of an essay of mine from AD 2011. I wanted to introduce it to any new readers of mine since that year, and to use it as a way of saying Happy New Year:

* * *

Most futures in most SF stories are monocultures, much in the same way, and for the same reason, most worlds visited by the starship Enterprise have but one culture. There is not enough room in a single novel, or a single movie, to do more than hint at complexity.

Indeed, complexity would destroy the mood and theme of the story. Imagine someone writing a realistic version of Orwell’s NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR or Huxley’s BRAVE NEW WORLD. In both cases, the totalitarian dystopia cannot project an air of suffocating omnipotence if it is hinted anywhere that they will pass away in less than sixty years. The absurdly over-regulated world state in Huxley, realistically, would last even less time. Imagine if every baby born had to be decanted and birthed by the same bureaucracy that runs the Department of Motor Vehicles or the Post Office. The idea that they would produce the correct number of the different intellectual castes, Alpha to Epsilon, as conditions changed from year to year is absurd. Recall that one of the Epsilons is an elevator operator. When the book was written, every elevator had an operator the same way, now, every automobile has a driver. Science fiction writers have been predicting in vain for years now cars that would drive themselves, or fly, but Huxley did not anticipate elevators operated by a pushbutton. Realistically, the world-bureaucracy of the Ford world-state would have no more ability to predict the actions of the market place, or the needs of its wards, than Huxley himself. In the real world, the utter incompetence even of public servants who are not venal is legendary.

Obviously, the police state in Orwell would go broke the same way the Soviet Union did and communist China is (despite our heroic efforts to prop them up) going to. Perhaps it could last one hundred years, or two. But the whole theme of Orwell was that the state was like a boot that would trample a human face forever. The hopelessness is the core of the book’s message. Even Goldstein, the rebel against the system, is manufactured by Big Brother as part of the totalitarian control process.

As with Orwell and Huxley, most science fiction writers do not have the space on the page to invent a future as complex as the future will be. To introduce the reader to more than one idea takes more than one story.

This is one reason the Future History stories of Robert Heinlein were monumental in science fiction history: aside from Olaf Stapledon, no writer before had worked out over a number of tales placed in a number of eras the complexity realism requires.

Like his mentor Olaf Stapledon, Heinlein anticipated a future that was fairly complex, with ups and downs, its advances and its setbacks. After the theocracy of Nehemiah Scudder, a libertarian style Covenant government would become supreme in the world, ushering in the golden age called ‘The Maturity of Man.’

In TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE, we catch a glimpse of this utopia, where mankind is spreading rapidly across the galaxy, war is unknown, disease and aging are unknown, fathers are good to their children, and everyone has sex with everyone, male or female, human or machine.

Plus, space is a frontier without end, so the rugged frontiersmanship so beloved of Heinlein, and, in the days before PC, beloved of all Americans, finds infinite scope for its exercise. Heinlein’s future contains all the freedom of the wilderness and all the comforts of civilization wrapped up in one.

There is one oddity in the Future History of Heinlein, which I also perceive in Isaac Asimov, or, at least, in his FOUNDATION series. They do not have a satisfactory endpoint.

Let me explain specifically what I mean: there is a scene on METHUSELAH’S CHILDREN where Lazarus Long and the Howard Families confront godlike superbeings on a distant world, beings who have domesticated and indeed neutered their merely mortal beings on their world. The gods, whether in gentleness, or indifference, or contempt, simply fling the Earthman back aboard their ship and away into space. This scene is revisited in an aside in TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE, where Lazarus Long claims to have merely walked into the stronghold of the gods and slain them all with a handweapon.

Whether he is kidding or serious is not clear. But the clear point is that Lazarus Long, and perhaps all of Heinlein all-competent characters, cannot tolerate the idea of gods, not even the idea, first popularized by Nietzsche, that man would evolve into gods.

In TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE, it is stated blandly that all alien species mankind has encountered have been swept aside, perhaps regrettably, but inevitably. Man has not met his match, nor his superior.

A similar sentiment is expressed in STARSHIP TROOPERS. Rico announces a somewhat Darwinian doctrine that mankind is the toughest, roughest mongrel in the universe, and will continue to overspread the stars until we encounter someone tougher—and if we do, presumably they will treat homo sapiens with the same harshness the Colonists and Conquistadors  treated the Red Indians.

And yet the final step of evolution into Nietzschean gods is one where Heinlein, to his credit, recoils, fearing that such superior beings would not be human. I do not have a quote ready at hand, nor a specific scene in mind, but I draw your attention to the general direction of Heinlein’s writings. His future history does not end with the Singularity of Verner Vinge, nor the absorption of all the children of men into the Cosmic Overmind as in Arthur C Clarke’s CHILDHOOD END. Heinlein’s Future History does not have an end: Heinlein’s future reaches a frontier, and civilization simply continues to expand. Our heroes ride off into the sunset like cowboys and the sun never sets: there are always more worlds to pioneer.

In Asimov’s FOUNDATION, there is a similar unsatisfactory end state. The Seldon Plan works, and the Second Empire arises. The Dark Ages is staved off, and peace and prosperity return. The numberless quadrillions of the Milky Way are ruled by psionic Psychohistorians, a cabal of supermen whose reign no one can escape, because only the Psychohistorians control the secret knowledge of history. They also, at the insistence of John W Campbell Jr, have Way Cool mind powers. It is amazing what the study of statistics can do for one.

Now, I have not read the more recent sequels to Foundation, so I don’t know how the Second Empire actually turns out. I do know that Donald Kingsbury has the last word in this particular discussion, since he explored the question of what happens if the secret of Psychohistorical mathematics is released to the general public in his novel PSYCHOHISTORICAL CRISIS: the centralized power of the Empire crumbles. The future is one perhaps of endless freedom but also of endless civil war.

The theme of Asimov’s Foundation was how to prevent the downfall of civilization. As men who lived through World War Two, and saw the Cold War unfolding, the memory of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire was more pressing than it otherwise would have been on the imagination of futurists in those decades. Books as disparate as DUNE and A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ and AGAINST THE FALL OF NIGHT all touch on the theme of the fall of empires and civilizations. So while I will not fault Isaac Asimov for not departing from his theme—the story is about the unfolding of Seldon’s Plan to restore the Galactic Empire—I do note that if Robert Heinlein had written FOUNDATION, some character, if only one, would have expressed a preference, if only once, for the restoration of the Republic, or mentioned a discontent with being ruled by a godlike elite of scholarly intellectuals with Way Cool Mind Powers. No doubt Lazarus Long would have entered their secret chambers with a hand weapon and done them all in.

But then what? Unlike the unclaimed galaxy of Heinlein, the Asimov galaxy is colonized and civilized out to its farthest star, Terminus.

Before Heinlein or Asimov, Olaf Stapledon in his majestic LAST AND FIRST MEN spun out a future history where he predicted not one world war and collapse of civilization, but ten or more, and the destruction of at least three planets, before the rise of the final glorious communally-minded communism among the Last Men of Neptune (in this book, Neptune has a solid surface and a breathable atmosphere, albeit a higher gravity). But the Neptunians perish when the solar system is overcome by a cosmic disaster.  They salute the disaster overcoming them with a joy beyond mere stoic resignation, in awe of the cosmos and its blind cruelty of Darwinian extinction, even as they themselves go extinct.

In the not-quite-sequel, Stapledon explores the future history of all the mankinds of all worlds, both in this galaxy and beyond, to the ultimate end of time, and even partway into eternity. The ending is one of the most cosmically unsatisfying that can be imagined: all minds in the universe link in telepathic communion during the last hours of the universe, and make contact with the omnipotent Star-Maker, the creator of universes. The Star-Maker swats the intelligences he has created aside with contempt, having already used them and learned from them what little the experiment of their petty lives could teach him, and he plans to create more universes on more complex themes, and, as here, inflicting pain and death on his subjects, with no more concern for their wellbeing than Shakespeare has for the happiness of Hamlet. But the narrator urges the reader to feel good about his, and all, life in the cosmos being sadistically cruel and meaningless and short. I am not kidding: that is the theme of the book.

In his (in my opinion, deservedly) little known and little read DARKNESS AND LIGHT, Olaf Stapledon spins out not one but two future histories, one ending in a transcendence from mankind to a second and higher species beyond our comprehension, or ending in a collapse of civilization so entire that the final degraded survivors of the once-human race are overwhelmed by rats.

If I may wax philosophical, I propose the theory that all future histories as anticipated by secular men must generally fall into one of four camps, since there are only four basic philosophical postures, and only four, available to the modern man.

I restrict my comments to the modern man, because the concept of the eternal return, although it has been touched on once or twice by science fiction writers, the idea that all time is a cycle, and that all things which happened before will happen again, without change, throughout eternity, is an ancient idea that offends the basic appeal of science fiction, which is to explore what might differ between our time and the times of our progeny, or what might be different between the world as we see it and the world as science might portray it. Several authors have written stories where, after the heat death of the universe, the universe begins again and is the same universe, including the memorable TAU ZERO by Poul Anderson.

Many writers, to be sure, have written stories about the collapse of our civilization, so much so that it forms its own sub genre with its own name, and even comic books and popular movies reflect these themes, from MAD MAX to WATERWORLD to PLANET OF THE APES to THUNDARR THE BARBARIAN to KAMANDI LAST BOY ON EARTH.

But as far as I know, none have written a story where technical civilization passes away, and we return to the agrarian lifestyles of our ancestors forever, and any industrial revolutions of the future are followed by industrial collapses, so we always stay at a Bronze Age or Iron Age level of technology. I have yet to read a science fiction book where the predicted fate of mankind is not to change, but that the ancient world, with its tyrants and serfs and slaves, and most of the population devoted to growing crops or herding cattle, will be the sum of what all futures holds. Even this could not be fitted into a science fiction background, unless time travelers deracinated the futurians back into the Paleolithic, because a science fiction reader will expect either the extinction of man or of his earth.  The idea of an eternal return cannot fit within the modern model of the world.

So, leaving the ancient idea behind, the four ideas exerting the most pressure on the Western mind at this point in history, and therefore on our popular entertainments, I would list as

(1) Classical liberalism, also called individualism, which is the optimistic glorification of worldly and bourgeoisie values of self-reliance and self-rule. The individualist above all things insists that individual rights are sacred.

(2)  Socialism, also called collectivism, which rebels against the complacency of individualism, and glorifies anything totalitarian, collective, or futuristic. Unlike classical liberalism, the collectivist has an vision of a utopian future, an end-state. Unlike classical liberalism, the collectivist dismisses the idea of a marketplace of ideas, where each man can settle for himself the unimportant question of right and wrong and absolute truth. The collectivist believes in absolute truth, and believes truth should be imposed by coercive force by the elite onto the weak and foolish. The collectivist above all things insists on uniformity of thought.

(3) Mysticism, also called New Age, which rejects the rigidity and inhumanity of socialism, but also rejects the selfishness of classical liberalism and the loneliness of individualism. The mystic seeks union with the cosmos.

(4) Nihilism, also called postmodernism. The Nihilist rejects the woozy thinking of the mystic, and regards with contempt the folly of the classical liberal, whose promises he sees as frauds, and regards with hatred the simplistic binary world-view of the collectivist. The nihilist insists that some nameless force, perhaps evolution, perhaps some life-force, will alter mankind as if by alchemy to new forms and new identities, leaving human nature and human morality behind (for, ultimately, there is really no such thing as nature, or morality).  The nihilist, whether he knows it or not, seeks the abolition of man and the annihilation of the cosmos. (That his goal is both self destructive and logically absurd, not to mention silly, adds rather than detracts from the appeal to the nihilist psychology.)

The science fiction futures discussed above fall roughly into one of these categories, or, at least, bear a thematic or emotional similarity to them.

Heinlein is a classical liberal par excellence. The ‘Maturity of Man’ foretold at the end of his future history is the daydream of Victorian optimism: that one day, due to good education and the progress of the sciences, the universal commonwealth of man will abolish war, along with insanity, sin, disease, and death. The oddness in this vision is that it has no sequel it can imagine: evolution into the nonhuman superman of Nietzsche is abhorrent to the classical liberal mind. For Heinlein, to encounter the superior beings of higher evolution is merely to throw down a gauntlet: either the gods must be destroyed or we must. Even the most benevolent of advanced aliens in the Heinlein background, the Mother Thing’s superiors in HAVE SPACE SUIT, WILL TRAVEL, a combination of human and machine, regard man in stark Darwinistic terms, as possible competitors i.e. threats to galactic peace, and determine whether to extinguish mankind or spare us based on purely realpolitick considerations, not as if we are worth anything in and of ourselves. Of course, for the secular man, no one is worth anything in and of himself.

So there is something of a flat uneasiness, a missing last step, in the far futures of Heinlein, and, to a degree, of Asimov. They are great believers in progress, in Man’s ability to solve man’s problems, but the progress cannot be envisioned as taking the race beyond the human. Heinlein’s rather rococo solution to this metaphysical conundrum is to retreat into self-worship. In STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND, it is postulated that all rational creatures are gods. He is following in the footsteps of Kirillov, a  character in the Dostoevsky novel THE POSSESSED who announces “‘if there is no God, then I am God.”

In NUMBER OF THE BEAST, this logical absurdity is carried to its absurd extreme, but apparently meant by the author as being something desirable, when the characters discover that the multiverse is created by mankind out of its own imagination, so that every story told is true, and all worlds are real (or unreal, or both or neither). You can simply have a big party outside of time with all your favorite characters and friends, and condemn your critics to hell. This conceit has the stupid simplicity of solipsism without the loneliness, because your friends exist as well, and can share their solipsistic universes with you. This poly-solipsism is the result of individualism and liberal insistence on self-reliance taken to a comical if not diabolic extreme: there is no god but you, but you also are free of the responsibilities of god, and need not suffer for your creations, or redeem them. There is no holiness in the Heinlein universe, and no sin. There are rational, self-made men who are blessed, and there are yammerheads who are damned.

The discontent with the worldly utopia is its worldliness. The worldly man cares nothing for ultimate truth: he cares for his rights, which he regards as sacred, and for his property, and the more elevated among them care for imponderables like honor, decency and a sense of humanity. They achieve Eden, but they are still the same old slobs they were here on earth, so what have they gained?

Collectivists ceased to imagine their utopias in any detail about when Ralph Bellamy wrote LOOKING BACKWARD. They are not good at building things, but they are good at criticizing the present state of things, emphasizing the discontents and even absurdities, and calling for the downfall of capitalism. They rarely admit they are totalitarians or collectivists, and many may be unaware of it, or unwilling to be aware of it. A sterling example of this is the FOUNDATION series mentioned above. Not a single character even seems aware of the idea that the rule by a galactic empire governed by mind-reading and mind-altering supermen who have mathematical control of the nuances of history is not a desirable thing. No one says a word in favor of it, nor against it. It is just a given that civilization is one and the same with Imperium. Hail Caesar!

The discontent with collectivism is that the absolute truth is backed by an absolute state. (In the case of FOUNDATION the truth is a scientific one, that is, the predictive science of history.) To be sure, all variations of collectivist seek the abolition of the state and the return to the anarchy of Eden, when brother love shall take the place of court of law, policemen, armies, treaties, as the mechanism to settle disputes between men: and the more elevated collectivists think of the spirit of man as a real being who will rule the Millennium, the absolute truth made flesh. As a Christian, I give the collectivist credit for at least believing in an absolute truth; but since their absolute truth is merely a material dialectic after all, a sum of laws of nature, a description of matter in motion, it is an absolute void rather than an absolute truth.

I mention Mr Kingsbury above. The question he asks, along the lines of ‘who watches the watchman’ is ‘who psychohistorically sets the future of the psyhohistorians?’ C.S. Lewis asks a similar and more poignant question in THE ABOLITION OF MAN, his nonfiction version of the ideas explored in THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH. His question is, once science has discovered how to control and condition man to have whatever reactions are deemed good, who conditions the conditioners? How can any being for whom the good is contingent reality based on neuropsychology follow an absolute good? Answer: he cannot.

Nowhere have I read the description of what the galactic emperor would be like, if he controlled a cadre of psychohistorians to establish, before they happen, the events of his reign, not to mention read and control the minds of his subjects, or, rather, his patients and raw materials. I am assuming that the galactic emperor in Warhammer 40K would turn out to be more human and humane.

As I say, I have not read the later Foundation books beyond the original trilogy. I read the fourth book up to a point where the characters are contemplating the idea of the galaxy as a single living organism, and man as absorbed into it as part if it’s intricate ecological machinery, and tossed the book away in disgust.

That scene is a segue between collectivism and its next step, mysticism, which proposes not just a collective state, but to extinguish the selfish ego into the mass consciousness of the inanimate universe, always portrayed as being possessed of a consciousness of its own.

The best example of this mysticism comes, oddly enough, from Arthur C Clarke, regarded as the hardest of hard SF writers after Jules Verne. In his CHILDHOOD’S END, in an almost picture-perfect portrayal of the Gnostic world view, Clarke proposes that the next stage of human evolution, his version of the Maturity of Man, is transmogrification to the non-material state, and an absorption of all the children of men into a cosmic oversoul or overmind.

The Gnostics, for those of you unfamiliar with them, reject the entire world system very much as Christians do, except that they consider the world evil from the start, and God to be the devil. Of persons to oppose the vision of a galactic collectivist totalitarian Imperium that controls each nuance of history and every thought of men, none is more appropriate than these ancient heretics.

(I do not think that Mr Clarke when he wrote this was a Gnostic, or even had the least idea of this theories: I submit that thoughts, like all natural things, follow certain laws, and that if you accept the Gnostic axiom, you get a Gnostic conclusion.)

Something of this same aura of Gnosticism overhangs stories of technological transcendentalism or singularity, where human beings download themselves into computer mainframes, or imprint their brain engrams on the fabric of timespace itself,  and so achieve expanded consciousness, supreme intelligence, and endless life, becoming as angels are. Gnostics hate the physical body, regard the doctrine of the Incarnation as a scandal, and abhor the idea of the resurrection in the flesh, glorified or no. It is their trademark. The idea that you can become god by your own effort is the trademark of that serpent who first promised the mother of all living that selfsame snake oil back in the garden of Eden.

So the worldly utopia of NUMBER OF THE BEAST is merely a party. You are still you, and if you have no desire to discover ultimate truths, you can get along and do your business well enough, and let your neighbor mind his. The shallowness of this vision is jaw-dropping. One is reminded of how a starving man dreams and speaks of nothing but food, and if you ask him, “yes, but what will you do with your time after the feast, once your belly is full?” he cannot either imagine the condition nor answer the question. What does the classical liberal do once liberty is his to enjoy? Uh. Enjoy himself?

The worldly utopia of the Second Empire is merely a nightmare. Collectivists, no matter how accomplished they are in other fields, are intellectually incoherent when it comes to identifying their desires and their goals. They seem to assume Caesar will be able to be all wise once he is all powerful, but that he will also be so benevolent that he will never once be tempted to use his omnipotent power to secure his reign, rather than serve the public good. Now, no one can make such a bone headed error unintentionally. There are certain topics the collectivist, by a practiced method of suspending thought, has learned to avoid addressing, simply by never thinking about them.

The otherworldly utopia of the Overmind in CHILDHOOD’S END, or the trans-human states of being imagined by other authors, simply don’t come on stage, as being inexplicable to the human minds of the readers. This is no flaw, this is a feature: mystics aver that there is a reality that cannot be put into words. If they are right, and there is such a reality (and I, for one, say they are right) then of the ineffable, nothing can be said. But I will mention the discontent of worldly men like Heinlein with such a vision. To worldly men, the ineffability of the ineffable is a confession of it mental incoherence. It seems less than a dream to him: it is a nightmare. What profits it a man to gain the whole of the otherworld, if he loses his soul?

Is there and other logically possible option, aside from the endless freedom of a classical liberal utopia, the endless peace of a collectivist utopia, or the abolition of the limitations of self in the endlessness of mystical transmogrification into something more than human?

Well, yes. Yes of course there is another option. Obliteration. The other option aside from infinite life as a man, or mystical communion with the infinite, is death.

Nihilist visions of the future are more common in horror stories than in science fiction, but they are still to be found. Olaf Stapledon is perhaps the clearest preacher, in SF, of pure nihilism. His books explicitly state that life is meaningless, but that men of advanced mind, by a pure effort of will, can perceive and enjoy the beauty inherent even in pain and suffering, and so be aloof from their own demises, or even rejoice in them.

A similar theme, in the fantasy genre, is explored in Philip Pullman’s achingly empty-hearted ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy. When God Almighty is killed by mistake by a little boy, falling out of bed or something, he looks momentarily overjoyed before he dissolves into dust, because he contemplates reunion with the universe, albeit dead. The ghosts on whom Lyra commits a particularly pointless euthanasia have the same reaction for the same reason, if I read these books aright.

And that is it. The visions of the future are either one of endless liberty, endless law, self-transcendence or self-destruction.

The advent anticipated by the Christians is none of these, albeit it incorporates elements of each.

For the damned, the endless torment of isolation from the source of all good, God, is the oblivion the atheist expects and the suicide craves, except that it is an oblivion which, paradoxically, the suffer experiences: all the emptiness of the abyss is his. The nihilist, who wishes to destroy himself and destroy the universe, is granted his wish insofar as it is logically possible to grant it, and the powers of his immortal soul are bent to his own eternal self-destruction, fittliest called hell.  This is a nothingness more profound than the nihilist can envision, and nowhere near as gentle.

For the saved, we expect the pleasures imagined by the paradises of Mohammad, and the Elysium of the pagans, in such glory as can only be described by metaphors of golden crowns, of rulership, of praise, of nuptial intimacy with a bridegroom, or of a feast. This is luxury beyond the tepid daydreams of hedonists, in the same way the true love is beyond lust. The bridal feast is something more solemn and solid and exquisite in joy than the party-time of folk at liberty to enjoy themselves.

The benevolent rulership we expect from Him who earned it by his self-sacrifice, and our salvation. No benevolent dictator, but an indwelling spirit of infinite love and wisdom will rule all things, and lay his golden scepter by, becoming all in all.

We also expect the communion of saints, a unity that does not abolish human nature but fulfills and completes it. This is not the self-extinction of the Gnostic, but rather it is something they, in their fastidious disgust for creation, cannot anticipate: a new heaven and a new earth, and everything made new, and man at last at one with the creation he was created to rule.

There is not a single science fiction story I mention here which I would not recommend. I am not mocking them. I am saying that they appeal to our imaginations precisely because in our souls we know, even if we know not how we know, that something more wonderful and more awe-striking, something of which no tongue can speak and no man has seen, awaits in the real future that comes before us.

If you had told the ancient Jews of the coming of their messiah, that he would be born in a stable, amid animals and filth, witnessed not by priests and kings but by humble shepherds, they either would have been awed with the paradox or angered by the scandal of it. It would have been unbelievable for the wonder of it, or, for the skeptic, unbelievable for the silliness of it. God in a stable? The faithful Mohammedan is to this day repulsed by the idea.

The second Advent, when the messiah comes again, this time in glory rather than in humility, no doubt will be accompanied by similar disbelief or disbelieving wonder.

It does no harm if, while we linger in our pilgrim journey here on Earth, we read some yarns of science fiction to train our imaginations to accept that wonders do indeed come to pass, and wonders mightier than these.

Even the worst of these SF tales (and believe you me, I have read some of the worst) contains some echo of that wonder of hope which shall ring from the trumpet of Gabriel, when all the dead are risen again, and called before the Last Judgment. Even the humblest science fiction keeps its eyes on Things to Come, even if the secular world cannot say what those four last things shall be.

by John C Wright at December 31, 2014 01:00 PM

Inconsolation

Bonus: More from the deepest depths of Debian

That title is only partly accurate any more: I’ve added quite a few that are only found in Arch and some that aren’t in either distro. Be that as it may, the plethora of Debian-based titles were the original reason for this four-part series. So we’ll keep that for now.

Once again, the bulk of these require hardware I can’t muster, or software arrangements that would be of such an inconvenience as to make testing the program an egregious expenditure of time for me. A few others are obviously graphical, but managed to creep into The List anyway. >:(

It may be that you have the hardware or the software suite that streamlines testing, or don’t mind building a graphical game or utility just to try it out. If that’s the case, leave us a note and let us know how it went. Science demands an answer. ;)

  • atom4: I haven’t been able to pin down a proper home page for this game, and to complicate things, I could only get the graphical version working in Mint. Which is strange, since it’s usually the other way around. …
  • confy: This confy (and I say “this confy” because I found others) should work as a quick configuration file swapping tool, letting you run a program — console or otherwise — with a series of unique configuration files. Sounds great, but the version I tried from git was misnaming its targets, putting them in the wrong location, and couldn’t track its own actions. I think perhaps the author tried to update or change the way confy worked, but didn’t follow through and the version I got just didn’t perform. Not in Debian or Arch, I think.
  • doomsday: This is in Debian, and is a graphical Doom-like game. I’m not sure how or when it added itself to my list. I should put a lock on the thing.
  • dotfiles: Jon Bernard‘s dotfiles seemed like a viable solution for remote dot-file caching, but I only got python errors when I tried to use it. I tried the AUR version and a vanilla setup cloned straight from github, but didn’t get far. I think it is fairly popular though, and so the error might have been in my local configuration. That happens. Not in Debian.
  • mgt: Another title I couldn’t find a proper home page for. This is in Debian as a recording tool for games of gnugo. I put the kibosh on it since it’s only intended for that one purpose, and didn’t seem to stand on its own. Didn’t see in Arch or AUR.
  • netris: An attempt to build another networked version of Tetris, but the home page yields a 403 and the AUR version is orphaned. In Debian as well, even though the suggestion is made elsewhere on the Internet (and on the Debian package page) that it is incomplete.
  • nfswatch: An NFS traffic monitor. In Debian but not Arch or AUR that I could find. Also in Fedora, if I remember correctly. I don’t have enough machines on hand right now to create the NFS arrangement to test it.
  • plotgen: plotgen (and its successor, ficgen) bewildered me, and I’m not afraid to admit it. It’s a very large repository to clone, and what I was left with was not so much a tool or a series of tools for plot generation that I could see, but rather what appeared to be a series of smaller ditties for generating the lists and names and characters that could be used to … somehow … generate computerized fiction. In sum, I felt like I had downloaded all the notes, products and tools that the author had used to complete his own adventure in generating computerized fiction. If there was some sort of overarching utility that tied them all together, I couldn’t find it. Not in Arch or Debian, and perhaps that makes sense to me. There appears to be an online version of ficgen here.
  • predict: An amateur radio utility that is useful for satellite tracking. I don’t have a satellite, and I suppose if I did, I’d have a hard time not tracking it, since it would probably take up my entire living room. In Debian only, but couldn’t come up with a home page for it. You try searching for “linux predict.”
  • scottfree: An interpreter for a certain series of text-based adventures that I believe date back to the TRS-80. The interpreter alone doesn’t do much, and the link on the Debian package page to the adventure source file repo yields an error. It’s possible these have moved and still work. Not in Arch or AUR that I could find.
  • tmon: “Monitoring and testing tool for Linux kernel thermal subsystem.” Strangely, this is in Arch but not in Debian. It’s possible that it’s hiding in another package though. The only home page I have is kernel.org.
  • tomoyo-tools: This is in both Arch and Debian as a security testing tool. I read a little of the first pages and was hopelessly overwhelmed. :(
  • uhd-host: This appears as uhd-host in Debian and I believe its equivalent is ettus-uhd-git in AUR. A universal driver specific to an exact brand of hardware. I don’t recognize the brand, and I don’t believe I have anything that would use this driver.
  • utalk and ytalk: These are both implementations of the GNU talk utility that didn’t work for me, oh-so-long-ago. I can find no home page for utalk, and the only link I have for ytalk comes from AUR and ends in a “page not found” page. Both are in Debian, but both gave me just as much attention in Mint as talk did everywhere else. :roll:
  • varmon: A monitor for VA RAID equipment. The screenshot looks good, but I’m not going to go out and buy an entire arrangement of DAC 960 RAID controllers just to give this a try. In Debian only, I believe, although it may be masquerading as something else in Arch/AUR.
  • wulfstat: I can find references to wulfstat on the net, and I see where it supposedly is (or was) part of the Debian entourage, but I’m not finding it in either Debian or Arch-plus. I believe (but I am not sure) that’s the correct home page. Supposedly a monitoring utility for networked systems and beowulf clusters. Sadly, I don’t have one of those. Oh, how I wish I did though. …
  • xawtv: In both Debian and AUR, with a wide array of tools and utilities. But I have a strong suspicion this is a TV utility for a graphical environment.
  • xcutmp3: Definitely graphical. Who put all these graphical programs in my list??! >:(
  • xpacman2: This is in Arch, but it’s clearly a graphical program. Someone is playing a trick on me. …
  • xview-examples: These are in Debian as example programs and source code from XView, which I’m not familiar with. I looked briefly at this but didn’t see much potential for programs to list here. If I was wrong, let me know.
  • yorick-curses: Debian lists yorick-curses as specific text-based programs for use with the yorick programming language. AUR has a huge smattering of yorick-related programs. I have no experience with yorick and I have a feeling the time it would take me to learn it would not be recouped in the few text-based tools that might be available.
  • zhcon: This is in both Debian and AUR as a framebuffer terminal emulator with support for double-wide (think: Chinese, Japanese and Korean, plus some other) characters. I was tempted to try it out, but anything I posted about it would be showing off another program, and not zhcon itself. If you use a language that needs that kind of support at the framebuffer, this might be a good place for you to start.

And there you have it: The last of the overflow from 2014. Again, listing a program here doesn’t mean it won’t work, only that it didn’t work for me, couldn’t work for me, or would have involved an inordinate amount of work to approach. If anything is better suited to your setup and you feel adventurous, please tell us about your experience. … ;)

by K.Mandla at December 31, 2014 01:00 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Org Mode publishing workflow for Sketched Books collection

I want to publish things in chunks that are bigger and more logical than blog posts, so I’ve been experimenting with my ZIP/PDF/EPUB/MOBI workflow.

Org Mode, Calibre, and Vagrant are terrific tools. Org Mode lets me write easy-to-modify source that I can export to different formats, like HTML and LaTeX (with the Beamer package), which lets me use PdfLatex to convert to PDF. Calibre converts HTML to EPUB and MOBI. Since tools can be difficult to set up on Windows, I use Vagrant to set up a virtual machine running Linux and I share my working directory with it.

multiple-cursors was so useful when I was wrangling the directory listing into the right format for Org. I’m glad I learned how to use it!

Here’s a Makefile I put together that simplifies the process for me:

all: index.html sketched-books.epub sketched-books.mobi ebook.pdf sketched-books.zip

clean:
	rm -f *.dvi *.log *.nav *.out *.tex *.snm *.toc

distclean: clean
	rm -f Sketched\ Books.zip index.html *.epub *.pdf *.mobi

Sketched\ Books.zip: *.png index.html
	(cd ..; zip sketched-books/sketched-books.zip sketched-books/* -i *.css -i *.png -i *.html)

index.html: index.org
	emacs --batch -l build.el index.org -f org-html-export-to-html --kill
	cp index.html index.tmp
	sed -e "s/org-ul/org-ul small-block-grid-3/" -e 's/div id="content"/div id="content" class="columns"/' -e 's/class="status"/class="status columns"/' index.tmp > index.html
	rm -f index.html~ index.tmp

ebook.html: ebook.org
	emacs --batch -l build.el ebook.org -f org-html-export-to-html --kill

cover-base.png:
	montage *Sketched*.png -geometry -30-30 -thumbnail x400 -tile 6x5 cover.png

sketched-books.epub: ebook.html
	ebook-convert ebook.html sketched-books.epub --cover cover.png --authors "Sacha Chua" --language "English"

sketched-books.mobi: ebook.html
	ebook-convert ebook.html sketched-books.mobi --cover cover.png --authors "Sacha Chua" --language "English"

ebook.tex: ebook.org
	emacs --batch -l build.el ebook.org -f org-beamer-export-to-latex --kill

ebook.pdf: ebook.tex
	pdflatex ebook.tex
	cp ebook.pdf sketched-books.pdf
	rm ebook.pdf

And here’s a very simple build.el:

(require 'package)
(package-initialize)
(require 'ox-beamer)
(setq org-html-validation-link nil)
(setq org-export-with-section-numbers nil)
(setq backup-directory-alist '(("." . nil)))

This assumes I’ve already set up the environment by installing the latest Org from MELPA.

You can check out the index.org and ebook.org I use, too.

I’m not quite sure about the MOBI output yet. I have to test it on a Kindle, or in the app on my tablet. Most of the things display fine on my computer, though. Hooray!

Neat, huh? I want to get into the habit of making and also making it easy for me to update these things. You can check out the results at http://sketchedbooks.com/collection .

Someday I might even figure out how to use the Gumroad API to publish updated resources automatically. Wouldn’t that be neat? In the meantime, I’ll just have to replace them myself.

I like giving people the ability to choose which files to download. If I get annoyed with replacing multiple files, though, I might change this to one large ZIP that has the images, PDF, EPUB, and MOBI.

View the source on Github

The post Org Mode publishing workflow for Sketched Books collection appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at December 31, 2014 01:00 PM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

End-of-Year Giving and 2014 Highlights

As we prepare for 2015, our 10th year of ministry, I wanted to share some highlights from 2014.

But first, as you consider your year-end giving, I want to join Tim Keller and Don Carson and invite you to partner with us as a Friend of TGC. As we steward the opportunity to grow gospel-centered ministry around the globe, we are asking the Lord for $600,000 in annual support from you, our friends and readers.

To receive a tax-deductible receipt for your 2014 taxes, you can give by:

  • making your gift online by clicking here before midnight on December 31
  • sending a check made out to "The Gospel Coalition"—postmarked no later than December 31—to the following address:

              The Gospel Coalition
              Office of Advancement
              P.O. Box 583542
              Minneapolis, MN 55458-3542

If you have any questions about giving or would like to speak with someone about our work, don’t hesitate to contact Dan Olson, director of advancement, at 612-460-5402.

We have heard from so many of you that God is using TGC to equip you as you minister in your community. Partner with us by giving here this end-of-year as we come alongside Christians worldwide and help them minister to theirs.

Happy New Year,

Ben Peays
Executive Director


Events

TGC hosted ten events attended by 12,000 people on site and tens of thousands more online. These included our Council Members Colloquium in April, our National Women’s Conference in Orlando (June 27 to 29), more than eight regional chapter conferences (Hawaii, Prince Edward Island, Canada, Boston, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Albuquerque, Bay Area, and others) and an international conference in Geneva, Switzerland (making more than 44 events since May 2005). Following protests in Ferguson and New York we sponsored the "Time to Speak" event at the historic Lorraine Motel and National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. Next year will see the official launch of TGC Australia as well as continued work by similar groups in Poland, Germany, and Switzerland.

Website

We have welcomed nearly 12.5 million unique visitors to TGC.org in 2014, a 32 percent increase over 2013—with more than 42 million pageviews. These solid gospel-centered resources promote and defend biblical beliefs and historic theological truths. I encourage you to read Collin Hansen’s list of 10 favorite TGC resources from 2014 and his ranking of the top 10 theology stories of the year.

Our French website continues to gain strength, and in 2015 the new TGC Australia Council will launch its Australian website. Our Spanish-language site, Coalición por el Evangelio, has seen a traffic explosion in the year last with 1.5 million unique visitors; in November pageviews increased 1,300 percent compared to November 2013. And we are gearing up for a Spanish line of church curriculum in 2015. The top international internet traffic cities in 2014 were Sydney, London, Singapore, Melbourne, Toronto, Brisbane, Santa Domingo, Mexico City, and Vancouver.

Publishing Resources

We published several new resources in 2014, including two Bible study programs for women: Rebuild: A Study in Nehemiah, written by Kathleen Nielson and featuring video teaching by Don Carson and Nancy Guthrie; and Jen Wilkin’s Sermon on the Mount, which features her keen insights previously shared through her popular Bible studies in Dallas. Forthcoming studies including Praying with Paul by Don Carson and Brian Tabb and What Jesus Demands from the World from John Piper and Brian Tabb. We have also planned a new line of group studies designed to help churches instill theological vision of ministry, starting with their worship and outreach.

Free International Book Distribution

In 2014, you helped us equip indigenous pastors by delivering more than 90,000 books in 10 different languages to 77 different countries around the world. Your Packing Hope efforts provide Theological Famine Relief to the global church, and physical books are so important for those countries that don’t have easy internet access. In God’s mercy, the lifetime output of the International Outreach effort will surpass 500,000 resources distributed in the near future.

Non-English Global Resource Library

We increased our internal translation team to 80 translators and added thousands of new resources to our free database in 40 different languages—with a focus on Chinese, Korean, Spanish, Portuguese, Hindi, and Arabic.

To support TGC and expand these various initiatives in 2015, you can become a Friend of TGC here. If you have any questions about giving or would like to speak with someone about our work, don’t hesitate to contact Dan Olson, director of advancement, at 612-460-5402 or dan.olson@thegospelcoalition.org.

by Ben Peays at December 31, 2014 09:01 AM

trenchant.org daily

Hacking Distributed

Micropayments and Cognitive Costs

There have been many micropayment systems. Yet none of them have managed to stick around. What could explain the failure of the market to materialize?

Thinking Man

The main transaction costs are in the mind, not in the transaction system.

Most people cite transaction costs as the culprit. Not the technological transaction costs, that is, the annoying fees exacted by the banking sector that mostly stopped innovating in the payments space two centuries ago and started coming up with new ways of tacking on fees to transactions. The relevant transaction costs that pose a real problem are all in the user's head: Will this item live up to my expectations? What's my budget? Will I run out of my cash supply and be unable to carry out a transaction that I really care about later?

Cognitive costs of managing money, no matter how small, create friction and may even trump the benefits to be had from the microtransactions themselves.

I just came across Nick Szabo's interesting paper, from about a decade ago, titled "Micropayments and Mental Transaction Costs." His analysis is spot on:

A lesson for micropayment efforts is that mental costs usually exceed, and often dwarf, the computational costs. ...

We have seen how customer mental transaction costs can derive from at least three sources: uncertain cash flows, incomplete and costly observation of product attributes, and incomplete and costly decision making. These costs will increasingly dominate the technological costs of payment systems, setting a limit on the granularity of bundling and pricing. Prices don't come for free.

Indeed, the mental transaction costs, aka cognitive costs, take a toll, even, or especially, for a 100 bit ($.003) transaction. This is why replacing ads with micropayments is a non-starter: far fewer people tip. It's not because they are miserly, it's because the act of tipping takes not only an extra physical step, but also exacts a mental toll. In contrast, ads are hassle free for the user. Micropayment systems have to address these mental transaction costs if they are going to have any longevity.

Speaking of micropayment systems, the following paper is quite interesting:

Ronald L. Rivest and Adi Shamir. PayWord and MicroMint: Two simple micropayment schemes In Proceedings of CryptoBytes, pages 69-87, 1996.

I mention it for two reasons:

  1. to point out that the technique it uses to achieve scarcity is very cool, is reminiscent of Bitcoin, and predates Hashcash, the system that many practitioners believe to be the earliest entry in this space.
  2. to drive home the point that microtransaction systems are more than two decades old by now. The introduction section of this paper provides a good sense of just how many micropayment systems have been invented, deployed and failed.

A sustainable success story in the micropayment space will require innovation in the user experience to bring down these cognitive costs.

by Emin Gün Sirer at December 31, 2014 07:10 AM

Table Titans

Tales: Kobold Katastrophe

News

I had been interested in D&D for quite a while and finally talked my wife into the idea. We found a group of friends who were playing 3.5 and the DM said he would run everyone through a beginner adventure for us. Enter Feargus Doorwielder, my Fighter, and Nivara the Sorceress, my wife's Wizard.

Read more

December 31, 2014 07:00 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Taking Aim at the Seven Deadly Sins

The Christian life is a war, and one of your most lethal enemies hangs its helmet inside your heart.

This infernal, internal enemy is sin, which even after new birth continues to reside in every believer. As followers of Jesus, we’ve been given a simple mission regarding sin: search and destroy. Put it to death.

But in the words of Cornelius Plantinga Jr., in his book Not the Way it is Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin, “sin has a thousand faces.” The most famous faces of sin are the so-called "seven deadly sins:" pride, envy, wrath, sloth, greed, gluttony, and lust. The deadly sins are the big seven among our moral and spiritual foes. They are the leading undercover operatives for the world, the flesh, and the Devil, that evil complex of powers arrayed against our souls. And while we may recognize these sins by their names, we are often misled by the subtlety of their methods and ways.

Naming the Sin

The various names and models for understanding the list of seven lend insight into its value. The most common designation, of course, is the one I’ve already used: seven deadly sins. We can agree these sins are deadly, because Scripture clearly teaches that the “wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). But this is true of all sins, not just the seven that made the list.

I find more helpful an older designation for the list of seven: the capital sins. “Capital” comes from the Latin word for head, caput, meaning source, like the head of a river. These sins were considered capital sins not because they were the worst, but because they were gateway sins, what Dorothy Sayers called “well-heads from which all sinful behavior ultimately springs . . . the seven roots of sinfulness."

But the seven sins should be viewed not only as capital sins, but also as deeply ingrained, character-shaping habits of the heart. This insight is captured by the language of virtue and vice. “Virtues,” Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung writes in her work Glittering Vices: A New Look at the Seven Deadly Sins and Their Remedies (Brazos Press), “are ‘excellences’ of character, habits, or dispositions of character that help us live well as human beings. . . . Similarly, the vices are corruptive and destructive habits. They undermine both our goodness of character and our living and acting well.” As the vise in your garage or workshop has the capacity to clench an object tightly in the grip of its mechanical jaws, so the seven vices tenaciously hold human beings in their grasp, DeYoung argues further. 

Like all sin, the Puritan divine John Owen argues in Overcoming Sin and Temptation, these seven arise from our confused attempts to secure happiness apart from God. Each one of our sins, in other words, is a case of misdirected, disordered love. This perspective was developed by later thinkers like Aquinas and Dante, but it is also a window into the biblical category of idolatry, for idols in Scripture aren’t merely or mainly images of wood and stone, but substitutes for God himself, paramours we pursue with adulterous hearts when we’ve forsaken our divine lover. Seeing our sins as foolish and fatal attempts to find satisfaction apart from God should provoke both sorrow and hope in our hearts. Sorrow, when we realize our sins aren’t mere peccadilloes, but grievous offenses against the lover of our souls. But also hope, when we see that the thirst we sought to quench in broken cisterns is actually a yearning that God alone can satisfy.

Curing the Sin

In my research on the deadly sins, I have found that the ancient moral theologians of the church are helpful for diagnosis, but not always for cure. I’m too far removed from the monastic spirituality of the desert fathers to find them of great help. I’m not a cloistered hermit, but a busy pastor, husband, and father of four children. I inhabit a different theological tradition than they, one that I believe is both more hopeful and more true to the Scriptures. In keeping with the teaching of the Reformers, the Puritans, and their heirs, I'm convinced that the only way to dismantle vices and mortify sin is with a strong dose of justification by faith alone and the heart-transforming ministry of the Holy Spirit.

John Owen writes, “Mortification from a self-strength, carried on by ways of self-invention, unto the end of a self-righteousness, is the soul and substance of all false religion in the world.” Unfortunately, he describes just the kind of moral advice given by many counselors both living and dead: a prescription of cognitive therapy, behavior modification, or religious practices that may result in superficial change, but essentially leave us to ourselves, with hearts untouched by the love of Christ and the grace of his Spirit.

Killing sin isn’t simply a matter of exercising greater willpower. It’s not less than that, of course, but it is far more. For the only effective way to mortify sin is to draw on the resources already ours through our union with Christ in his death and resurrection. Then, with the confident security of God’s grace beneath us, the solid hope of glory before us, and the power of his Spirit within us, we can enter the fray. No, we won’t achieve perfection. But we don’t have to, for Christ’s obedience is already ours. The war is already won. “’It is finished’” (John 19:30).

This means we can fight with confidence, knowing we’re already accepted in Christ and someday we will be fully conformed to his glorious image once and for all. And this means real change is possible now, even as the battle continues. Therefore, my friend, in the words of John Owen, set faith at work on Christ for the killing of your sin. His blood is the great sovereign remedy for sin-sick souls. Live in this, and you will die a conqueror; yea, you will, through the good providence of God, live to see your lust dead at your feet.


Editors' note: This article is excerpted and adapted by permission from Brian G. Hedges's recent book, Hit List: Taking Aim at the Seven Deadly Sins (Cruciform Press, 2014). 

by Brian Hedges at December 31, 2014 06:01 AM

Roman Catholic Theology and Practice

Gregg R. Allison. Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014. 496 pps. $28.00.

Since Gerrit Berkouwer’s The Conflict with Rome (1948) and Loraine Boettner’s Roman Catholicism (1962), evangelical theology has been lacking a thorough assessment of Roman Catholicism that penetrates the real theological issues at stake. There has been little work on the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), and many evangelicals don’t have the tools to theologically grasp what happened then and how it has been affecting the Roman Church since. Growing numbers of people are impressed by the aggiornamento (update of language and expressions without substantial change) taking place in Rome and are asking whether or not the Reformation is definitely over. Most of these analyses are based on a pick-and-choose approach to Roman Catholicism. Bits of its theology, fragments of its practice, pieces of its history, and sectors of its universe are considered as representing the whole of Roman Catholicism. But when the big picture of the Roman Catholic theological cathedral is lost, interpretations become superficial and patchy.

Gregg Allison’s new book is good news to all who have long desired a reliable theological guide in dealing with Roman Catholicism. Based on a painstaking analysis of the 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church, it covers the all-embracing trajectory of Roman Catholic theology and practice. Instead of juxtaposing ephemeral impressions and disconnected data, the professor of Christian theology at Southern Seminary in Louisville provides a theological framework that accounts for the complexity of the Roman Catholic system and its dynamic unity.

Two Axes

In the first chapter Allison sets the theological framework that will orient his analysis of the Catechism. In Roman Catholicism there are two main axes that form its background: on the one hand, the “nature-grace interdependence” and, on the other, the “Christ-Church interconnection.” Historically, the Roman magisterium has given assent to both the Augustinian tradition (philosophically influenced by Neoplatonic thought) and the Thomistic tradition (emerging from a Christian reinterpretation of Aristotle via Aquinas). Whereas Augustinianism has stressed the corrupting reality of sin and the utter primacy of grace, Thomism has given a more positive account of human nature’s intrinsic disposition toward the operations of grace. Both traditions manage to coexist, in that the Roman Catholic system provides a sufficiently capable platform that can host both without being totally identified or identifiable with either. This is another significant pointer to the catholicity of the system itself.

The spheres of nature and grace are thus in irreversible theological continuity, as “nature” in Catholicism incorporates both creation and sin, in contrast to the Reformed distinction between creation, sin, and redemption. This differing understanding of sin’s effect means grace finds in “Roman” nature a receptive attitude (enabling Catholicism’s humanistic optimism), as against a Reformed doctrine whereby entrenched sin leaves us unaware of our reprobate state. This stark anthropological difference underpins even Catholicism’s veneration of Mary. The Roman Catholic epistemological openness, its trust in man’s abilities, and its overall reliance on the possibility of human cooperation all converge in the articulated theology regarding the biblically sober figure of Mary. In this respect, Mariology expresses the quintessential characteristics of the Roman Catholic nature-grace motif.

Second, Roman Catholicism needs a mediating subject to relate grace to nature and nature to grace—namely, the Roman Church—and thus Allison speaks of the “Christ-Church interconnection.” The Church is considered a prolongation of the incarnation, mirroring Christ as a divine-human reality and acting as an altera persona Christi, a second “Christ.” It is therefore impossible for Roman Catholicism to cry with the Reformers solus Christus, for this would be seen as breaching the organic bond between Christ and the Church. The threefold ministry of Christ as king, prophet, and priest is thus transposed to the Roman Church—in its hierarchical rule (king), its magisterial interpretation of the Word (prophet), and its administration of the sacraments (priest). There is never solus Christus (Christ alone), only Christus in ecclesia (Christ in the Church) and ecclesia in Christo (the Church in Christ).

Same Terms, Different Dictionaries

At this point, Allison offers his detailed chapter-by-chapter analysis of the Catechism, summarizing its main tenets and offering an intrigued yet critical evangelical assessment. The emerging picture is different from what Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom presented in their 2005 Is The Reformation Over? In that book, Noll and Nystrom argue that “evangelicals can embrace at least two-thirds” of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Later, they admit that when the Catechism speaks of Christ, it interweaves him to the Church to the point of making them one, which is unacceptable for evangelicals who consider the exaltation of a created reality an instance of idolatry. So, on the one hand, there is apparent “common orthodoxy”; on the other, there is profound difference over the meaning of its most basic words (for example, Christ, the church, and so on).

Building on the “nature-grace interdependence” and the “Christ-Church interconnection,” Allison helps the reader to make sense of both areas of agreements and disagreements while pointing to the hermeneutical grid set at the beginning. For example, the Catechism teaches a doctrine of “justification by faith.” What the catechism means by “justification,” though, is a synergistic work that is not forensic (legal) in nature but transformative and administered via the sacramental system of the Church and by taking into account one’s own merits. The word is the same, but the theological meaning, confirmed by the devotional practices of Rome, strays far from the biblical understanding of justification. The same is true as far as all other key gospel terms are concerned.

Organic System

Roman Catholicism is an all-encompassing system, and one needs to approach it as such, trying to make sense of its teachings not as isolated items but realizing they belong to a dynamic yet organic system.

In dealing with Roman Catholicism, especially in times of mounting ecumenical pressure, evangelical theology should go beyond the surface of theological statements and attempt to grasp Roman Catholic theology’s internal framework of reference. From there, one may try to assess it from an evangelical perspective.

This is the main contrbituion of Roman Catholic Theology and Practice. Allison is to be commended for his biblical depth, theological acuteness, historical alertness, and systemic awareness. Evangelical theology has finally begun to do its homework in parsing the vision of present-day Roman Catholicism. My hope is that this landmark book will reorient evangelical theology away from its attraction to shallow ecumenicity with Rome and toward serious dialogue based on the Word of God. The Reformation according to the gospel is as alive and relevant as ever.


Editors’ note: This review originally appeared at 9Marks.

by Leonardo De Chirico at December 31, 2014 06:01 AM

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

An Open Letter to Mr Hines

Mr Jim Hines takes exception to the grave insult done to all fans of LEGEND OF KORRA by asserting, first, that I am the only one dismayed and dissatisfied by the bad writing, cheap ending, lame out-of-nowhere romance between two female characters (neither of who previously was homosexual) being shoehorned into the last scene in the closing episode of LEGEND OF KORRA for reasons of Political Correctness; and second, that the reason for my dismay was not my artistic judgment, love of the show, and a normal human sense of decency, but the pure evil of my character.

As for the first point, it is the informal logical fallacy known as ad populum. He is asserting that the minority opinion is always wrong. And it is a false assertion in any case: Their great claim to moral superiority of the pro-irrationality faction Mr Hines represents rests on their inferiority in numbers or in power or both, that is, on their underdog status. If they are in the majority, that claim evaporates.

As for the second point, it is ad hominem. Evidently Mr Hines imagines himself to be The Shadow, who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men.

Sadly for him, the evil is not where he detects it. I am not the bigot here. The bigot is the one who denounces everyone whose opinion differs from his own as bigots.

He makes much ado of the fact that the scene is so short and so trivial, and therefore it shows a lack of judgment on my part to take offense, or a lack of moral uprightness. But, by the same logic, if the scene is trivial, then those who celebrate it (including, by their own testament, the writers themselves) are celebrating a triviality. The scene cannot be a landmark only for those who praise it, but at the same time be a triviality too small to notice only for those who dispraise it.

Here are his remarks: I do him the courtesy he does not do me, by linking to his column. He did not wish me to learn of his backbiting. That is understandable. I would also be ashamed of my cowardice, were I so cowardly as to slander and denigrate a man behind his back, and call him by name, then call him names, but not invite him to speak a word to defend himself.

http://www.jimchines.com/2014/12/john-wright-legend-of-korra/

* * *

Dear Mr Hines: If a writing team betrays me for my loyalty by halting the story to preach a sermon on a religion that is alien to my religion and hostile to it, those writers get no grief for being treacherous, sly, or underhanded; but I get grief for daring to have a religion that differs from theirs, and for following as my conscience dictates, even though I am not being treacherous, sly, or hidden here.

I am the not ashamed of my beliefs, ergo I do not need to sneak in little sly advertisement for them into a children’s show, into the literal last two minutes, without warning, and so ambiguously that it requires a later public statement to take a stand.

Nor am I, Mr. Hines, the bigot here. You are. You are so craven in your bigotry, that you do not even do me the courtesy of addressing me directly, nor linking to the column with which you took exception, nor discussing the merits of the case.

(Also: learn to read English, please, sir. I did not call for the extermination of people, but of ideas: man’s politics, policies, or faith.)

by John C Wright at December 31, 2014 05:23 AM

Testbit

Is SSH Insecure?

In the true tradition of previous years, this years 31c3 in Hamburg revealed another bummer about surveillance capacities: 29c3: 2012: exit(0) 30c3: Glenn Greenwald’s keynote starts 31c3: Reconstructing Narratives – Jacob Applebaum & Laura Poitras The brief summary is that viable attacks are available to surveillance agencies for PPTP, IPSEC, SSL/TLS and SSH. New papers [...]

by timj at December 31, 2014 03:37 AM

Beeminder Blog

Beeminder ♥ Sleep as Android

Sleepy android + Beeminder Bee in a sleeping cap.

Another integration! And one that I personally use daily (well, nightly). Sleep as Android is a popular sleep tracking app that’s delightfully nerdy and quantified-self focused. (Much like Beeminder!) As a welcome to Sleep as Android users new to Beeminder, we’ll start with our usual recap. For Beeminder regulars who don’t already know about Sleep as Android, we summarize that as well. If you’re already sold on both separately, start using Beeminder and Sleep as Android together!

Beeminder Reprise

You’re probably here because you either know and love Beeminder, or you know and love Sleep as Android. Since this is Beeminder turf we’ll start with a quick explanation of what Beeminder’s all about. (For the full Beeminder story, you could start with our inaugural blog post about akrasia and self-binding, a.k.a. commitment devices.)

What’s special about Beeminder is that we combine Quantified Self — where Sleep as Android excels — with commitment contracts. If you don’t know anything about commitment devices, it works like this with Beeminder: We plot your progress along a Yellow Brick Road to your goal and if you go off track, we charge you money. Long-time Beeminder users find that those stings (get it?) are well worth it for all the awesomeness we induce the rest of the time. But if the thought of having to pay money is too scary, that’s perfect: you’ll be very motivated to keep all your datapoints on your yellow brick road. We don’t even ask for a credit card until the first time you go off track.

Sleep as Android

If you’re a Quantified Self nerd, which, reading this blog you probably are, there are so many things to love about Sleep as Android! It tracks your sleep cycles, wakes you up at the optimal point in your sleep cycle, tracks sleep debt and bedtime, even plays you lullabies. It also tracks snoring statistics and records your talking in your sleep. One of our favorite features (philosophically, if not in terms of our personal need for it) is built-in commitment devices for waking up on time. You can use captchas, math problems, NFC tags, QR codes, and shaking your phone as ways to ensure you’re actually awake before dismissing the alarm. This is pretty brilliant and I personally would love to get an NFC tag to get me out of bed as soon as the alarm rings in the morning. This is basically the same idea as putting your alarm out of arm’s reach across the room, except that you can put the snooze button arbitrarily far away from your bed. I could even attach the NFC tag to a tree several blocks away so I had to get up and go outside to turn my alarm off in the morning!

Best of all, Sleep as Android integrates with more and more services via their SleepCloud platform. In addition to Beeminder, there’s the Pebble smartwatch, Philips programmable lighting, and ZenoBase.

Beeminding Sleep

For our initial launch there’s only one aspect of your sleep you can mind: total amount of sleep. You authorize Beeminder (via Google) to read your Sleep as Android data and then tell us how many hours per night you want to commit to. That’s really all you need to know to get started. Next we plan to add the ability to commit to getting to bed or waking up by certain times, or limiting the amount of time spent awake after your chosen bedtime. [1] If any of those options gets you excited, let us know!

 

Footnotes

[1] The sufficiently nerdy can do that now, using Beeminder’s API, Sleep as Android’s SleepCloud, and Yorick van Pelt’s script, Beeminder-sleepcloud.

by bsoule at December 31, 2014 01:23 AM

CrossFit Naptown

New Years Eve Tradition…Dress Warm

Wednesday’s Workout:

“Hidalgo”
For time:
Run 2 miles
Rest 2 minutes
20 Cleans (135/95)
20 Box Jumps (24/20)
20 Walking Lunges with Plate (45/25)
20 Box Jumps (24/20)
20 Cleans (135/95)
Rest 2 minutes
Run 2 miles
*60:00 Time Cap

OR

 

“Mini Hidalgo”

Run 1 Mile
Rest 1 Minute
135 pound Squat clean, 10 reps
10 Box jump, 24″ box
10 Walking lunge steps with 45lb plate held overhead
10 Box jump, 24″ box
135 pound Squat clean, 10 reps
Rest 1 minutes
Run 1 miles

*Reminder 6:00pm, 7:00pm, and 8:00pm are cancelled today

 

Tradition Lives On

End 2014 of right with this hard-core workout. This is going to be a quick moving day folks so try to arrive a few minutes early for class if possible to get warmed up so that your coach can start the clock off right out of the gate and give you all a full hour to finish this beast of a workout. Hidalgo is a hero workout in honor of a fallen hero:

“U.S. Army First Lieutenant Daren M. Hidalgo, 24, of Waukesha, Wisconsin, assigned to 3rd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, based in Vilseck, Germany, died on February 20, 2011, in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, from wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. Two weeks prior to his death, he was hit by an earlier improvised explosive device. Despite his injuries, he stayed in country and on patrols rather than return home. He is survived by his father Jorge, mother Andrea, brothers Miles and Jared, and sister Carmen.”

Check out the posts and scores from the 3 previous years of this New Years Eve Tradition:

Hidalgo 2011

Hidalgo 2012

Hidalgo 2013

 

Indianapolis Indoor Rowing Championships

Indy Rowing Champs

 

 

This event is put on by our dear friend, coach, and Olympian Jen Kaido and the Indianapolis Rowing Center. The past few years we have had quite the showing of CrossFit NapTown members participating in the event and killing PRs in the cool atmosphere and we hope to make it even bigger in 2015. Click here to register for the event!

by Anna at December 31, 2014 12:35 AM

December 30, 2014

assertTrue( )

A Mental Illness Memoir in the Making

Lately, I've been working on a book project, a mental illness tome, tentatively titled South of Normal: Schizophrenia, Manic Depression, and Matrimony (a Memoir). It started as a kind of note-taking or journaling exercise, and for the longest time, I didn't seriously consider that it would turn into a full-blown book. But after passing the 78,000-word mark, with more yet to write, I couldn't very well deny that I was, indeed, engaged in "writing a book."

The book is about mental illness and what a terrible struggle it is to get help. The quality of available help is, overall, rather poor. You can get it, but not in the straightforward fashion everyone thinks.

My wife is on disabiliy; she was diagnosed schizoaffective 15 years ago. (She also has PTSD symptoms, which as many as 40% of schizophrenia patients do.) Schizoffective means you have schizophrenia plus bipolar (mania and depression). Like many schizophrenia patients, my wife also has irritable-bowel symptoms, but that's the least of her issues, at this point.

I struggled with bipolar disorder for many years, before "recovering" from that condition (largely as a result of giving up alcohol) only to lapse into dysthymia, which is a chronic form of unipolar depression that (unlike major depression, which is generally episodic) persists, like an unwanted host guest, for years. Emotional flatness, dour disposition, and anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure) are hallmark symptoms.

Meds for schizophrenia (my wife's condition) often are quite effective for treating the "positive symptoms" of that condition: hallucinations, delusions, bizarre mentation. They're somewhat effective at treating paranoia. They're less effective (or even ineffective) in treating the so-called "negative sypmtoms" of the condition: avolition, anhedonia, flat affect, social withdrawal, inability to attend to hygiene. (In mental illness, positive symptoms are things you have that you don't want: anxiety, for example, or rage. Negative symptoms are things you don't have that you wish you did, like a zest for life.)

Depression is even harder to treat (arguably) than schizophrenia. The meds, by and large, are no more effective than placebo; they help only about a third of people who try them; and relapse rates are high (higher with drugs than without them). In some people, these drugs bring out suicidal thoughts (read the black label warnings and for God's sake don't be so blind as to believe the warnings only apply to adolescents). Adverse Drug Events (ADEs) involving psychiatric medications result in 90,000 emergency room visits per year in the United States. Over 25,000 visits involve antidepressants. Robin Williams was taking Remeron (an antidepressant) and Seroquel (an antipsychotic) before he killed himself, and in fact he had just started Seroquel seven days before.

The risk-benefit characteristics of antidepressants have been grossly misrepresented by drug companies (and the mental health professionals who prescribe and recommend these medications); patients have been misled, or at the very least, not kept properly informed. That's one reason I wanted to do the book I'm working on, and it's why the book (about 80% finished, at this point) has 175 footnotes, almost all of them giving references to the scientific literature, so that readers of the book can do, for themselves, the kind of background research on these matters that family doctors (who prescribe most of the antidepressants now in use in the U.S.), nurse practitioners, and others either can't or won't do.

Mental illness is not a simple matter. Getting help for it is not a simple matter. Everyone would like to think it's a matter of just seeing the right "providers" and getting the right drugs, but the reality of the situation is more nuanced. Relief doesn't get delivered to you in a cardboard box from Amazon. You don't push a button and get relief. You don't take a pill and magically get relief. (Unless you're among the lucky few.) Things are considerably messier than that.You have to fight to find a competent therapist; you have to struggle to find "the right medication" (if indeed you ever do find it). You have to fight to get better, because in the end, as Nathaniel Branden so aptly said, "No one is coming."

I'll have more to say on some of the things I've learned while researching my book, in future posts, right here, so please come back often. In the meantime, thanks for visiting, and if you have specific concerns or questions, write to me at kas.e.thomas@gmail.com. Thanks and have a happy holiday. See you on Twitter!

by Kas Thomas (noreply@blogger.com) at December 30, 2014 09:02 PM

A Few Thoughts on Cryptographic Engineering

On the new Snowden documents

If you don't follow NSA news obsessively, you might have missed yesterday’s massive Snowden document dump from Der Spiegel. The documents provide a great deal of insight into how the NSA breaks our cryptographic systems. I was very lightly involved in looking at some of this material, so I'm glad to see that it's been published.

Unfortunately with so much material, it can be a bit hard to separate the signal from the noise. In this post I’m going to try to do that a little bit -- point out the bits that I think are interesting, the parts that are old news, and the things we should keep an eye on.

Background

Those who read this blog will know that I’ve been wondering for a long time how NSA works its way around our encryption. This isn't an academic matter, since it affects just about everyone who uses technology today.

What we've learned since 2013 is that NSA and its partners hoover up vast amounts of Internet traffic from fiber links around the world. Most of this data is plaintext and therefore easy to intercept. But at least some of it is encrypted -- typically protected by protocols such as SSL/TLS or IPsec.

Conventional wisdom pre-Snowden told us that the increasing use of encryption ought to have shut the agencies out of this data trove. Yet the documents we’ve seen so far indicate just the opposite. Instead, the NSA and GCHQ have somehow been harvesting massive amounts of SSL/TLS and IPSEC traffic, and appear to be making inroads into other technologies such as Tor as well.

How are they doing this? To repeat an old observation, there are basically three ways to crack an encrypted connection:
  1. Go after the mathematics. This is expensive and unlikely to work well against modern encryption algorithms (with a few exceptions). The leaked documents give very little evidence of such mathematical breaks — though a bit more on this below.
  2. Go after the implementation. The new documents confirm a previously-reported and aggressive effort to undermine commercial cryptographic implementations. They also provide context for how important this type of sabotage is to the NSA.
  3. Steal the keys. Of course, the easiest way to attack any cryptosystem is simply to steal the keys. Yesterday we received a bit more evidence that this is happening.
I can’t possibly spend time on everything that’s covered by these documents — you should go read them yourself — so below I’m just going to focus on the highlights.

Not so Good Will Hunting

First, the disappointing part. The NSA may be the largest employer of cryptologic mathematicians in the United States, but — if the new story is any indication — those guys really aren’t pulling their weight.

In fact, the only significant piece of cryptanalytic news in the entire stack comes is a 2008 undergraduate research project looking at AES. Sadly, this is about as unexciting as it sounds -- in fact it appears to be nothing more than a summer project by a visiting student. More interesting is the context it gives around the NSA’s efforts to break block ciphers such as AES, including the NSA's view of the difficulty of such cryptanalysis, and confirmation that NSA has some ‘in-house techniques’. 


Additionally, the documents include significant evidence that NSA has difficulty decrypting certain types of traffic, including Truecrypt, PGP/GPG, Tor and ZRTP from implementations such as RedPhone. Since these protocols share many of the same underlying cryptographic algorithms — RSA, Diffie-Hellman, ECDH and AES — some are presenting this as evidence that those primitives are cryptographically strong.

As with the AES note above, this ‘good news’ should also be taken with a grain of salt. With a small number of exceptions, it seems increasingly obvious that the Snowden documents are geared towards NSA’s analysts and operations staff. In fact, many of the systems actually seem aimed at protecting knowledge of NSA's cryptanalytic capabilities from NSA's own operational staff (and other Five Eyes partners). As an analyst, it's quite possible you'll never learn why a given intercept was successfully decrypted.

To put this a bit more succinctly: the lack of cryptanalytic red meat in these documents may not truly be representative of the NSA’s capabilities. It may simply be an artifact of Edward Snowden's clearances at the time he left the NSA.

Tor

One of the most surprising aspects of the Snowden documents — to those of us in the security research community anyway — is the NSA’s relative ineptitude when it comes to de-anonymizing users of the Tor anonymous communications network.

The reason for our surprise is twofold. First, Tor was never really designed to stand up against a global passive adversary — that is, an attacker who taps a huge number of communications links. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the Snowden leaks, the NSA (plus GCHQ) is the very definition of the term. In theory at least, Tor should be a relatively easy target for the agency.

The real surprise, though, is that despite this huge signals intelligence advantage, the NSA has barely even tested their ability to de-anonymize users. In fact, this leak provides the first concrete evidence that NSA is experimenting with traffic confirmation attacks to find the source of Tor connections. Even more surprising, their techniques are relatively naive, even when compared to what’s going on in the ‘research’ community.


This doesn’t mean you should view Tor as secure against the NSA. It seems very obvious that the agency has identified Tor as a high-profile target, and we know they have the resources to make much more headway against the network. The real surprise is that they haven’t tried harder. Maybe they're trying now.

SSL/TLS and IPSEC

A few months ago I wrote a long post speculating about how the NSA breaks SSL/TLS. Because it’s increasingly clear that the NSA does break these protocols, and at relatively large scale.

The new documents don’t tell us much we didn’t already know, but they do confirm the basic outlines of the attack. The first portion requires endpoints around the world that are capable of performing the raw decryption of SSL/TLS sessions provided they know the session keys. The second is a separate infrastructure located on US soil that can recover those session keys when needed.

All of the real magic happens within the key recovery infrastructure. These documents provide the first evidence that a major attack strategy for NSA/GCHQ involves key databases containing the private keys for major sites. For the RSA key exchange ciphersuites of TLS, a single private key is sufficient to recover vast amounts of session traffic — in real time or even after the fact.


The interesting question is how the NSA gets those private keys. The easiest answer may be the least technical. A different Snowden leak shows gives some reason to believe that the NSA may have relationships with employees at specific named U.S. entities, and may even operate personnel “under cover”. This would certainly be one way to build a key database.



But even without the James Bond aspect of this, there’s every reason to believe that NSA has other means to exfiltrate RSA keys from operators. During the period in question, we know of at least one vulnerability (Heartbleed) that could have been used to extract private keys from software TLS implementations. There are still other, unreported vulnerabilities that could be used today.

Pretty much everything I said about SSL/TLS also applies to VPN protocols, with the additional detail that many VPNs use broken protocols and relatively poorly-secured pre-shared secrets that can in some cases be brute-forced. The NSA seems positively gleeful about this.

Open Source packages: Redphone, Truecrypt, PGP and OTR

The documents provide at least circumstantial evidence that some open source encryption technologies may thwart NSA surveillance. These include Truecrypt, ZRTP implementations such as RedPhone, PGP implementations, and Off the Record messaging. These packages have a few commonalities:
  1. They’re all open source, and relatively well studied by researchers.
  2. They’re not used at terribly wide scale (as compared to e.g., SSL or VPNs)
  3. They all work on an end-to-end basis and don’t involve service providers, software distributers, or other infrastructure that could be corrupted or attacked.
What’s at least as interesting is which packages are not included on this list. Major corporate encryption protocols such as iMessage make no appearance in these documents, despite the fact that they ostensibly provide end-to-end encryption. This may be nothing. But given all we know about NSA’s access to providers, this is definitely worrying.

A note on the ethics of the leak

Before I finish, it's worth addressing one major issue with this reporting: are we, as citizens, entitled to this information? Would we be safer keeping it all under wraps? And is this all 'activist nonsense'?

This story, more than some others, skates close to a line. I think it's worth talking about why this information is important.

To sum up a complicated issue, we live in a world where targeted surveillance is probably necessary and inevitable. The evidence so far indicates that NSA is very good at this kind of work, despite some notable failures in actually executing on the intelligence it produces.

Unfortunately, the documents released so far also show that a great deal of NSA/GCHQ surveillance is not targeted at all. Vast amounts of data are scooped up indiscriminately, in the hope that some of it will someday prove useful. Worse, the NSA has decided that bulk surveillance justifies its efforts to undermine many of the security technologies that protect our own information systems. The President's own hand-picked review council has strongly recommended this practice be stopped, but their advice has -- to all appearances -- been disregarded. These are matters that are worthy of debate, but this debate hasn't happened.

Unfortunate if we can't enact changes to fix these problems, technology is probably about all that's left. Over the next few years encryption technologies are going to be widely deployed, not only by individuals but also by corporations desperately trying to reassure overseas customers who doubt the integrity of US technology.

In that world, it's important to know what works and doesn't work. Insofar as this story tells us that, it makes us all better off. 

by Matthew Green (noreply@blogger.com) at December 30, 2014 08:57 PM

Mike Ashley

2014 End of Year Booklist

This summer I decided to read more and higher-quality writing. I reduced the time I spent reading on the Internet to maybe twenty minutes a day and set aside time to read books instead. Looking back, I am happy I did it.

I think the biggest disappointment were the business books (Horowitz, Catmll, and Brooks). They are fun stories, but the lessons that can be applied to my own work are few and far between. Contrast those books with Truman, for example, which inspired leadership and courage when making difficult decisions. I hope to read one or two more biographies in 2015.

The fiction I read was delightful. Almost all the authors on the list were new to me, and I managed to cover some diverse ground, everything from struggling marriages to fly fishing to post-apocalyptic communes. Far from being an escape, these books encouraged more creative thinking and gave me some badly-needed decompression from work.

Here are my lists force-ranked from really great to just ok. I omitted a few stinkers.

Nonfiction

Fiction

December 30, 2014 07:55 PM

512 Pixels

Inconsolation

dosage: Get yours daily

It seems like a very long time since dailystrips, the comic downloader that had too many years between it and the current generation of comic hosting sites. dailystrips tried hard but as best I could tell, was unlikely to ever recover its 2003-era glory.

dosage, on the other hand, seems to have a firm grasp of The Way Things Are Now.

2014-12-30-jsgqk71-dosage-01

dosage takes the name of the comic as a target, and dutifully downloads the image at your command. It also archives those targets in a folder tree, meaning after you start collecting images, dosage only needs one abbreviated command to update your entire collection.

It’s a good system and lends itself to the process. To add to that, you can attach target dates to dosage commands, and retrieve specific issues. Or add the -a flag, and pull down everything from a date to present. And retrieve “adult” comics, with a specific flag.

Supposedly dosage can retrieve around 2000 comics from their respective host, and I can vouch for two or three I really didn’t think it would know, but it grabbed quite willingly. If you want to test its ability, you can feed it the --list flag, and see a giant list of what it knows, sent straight to your $PAGER.

2014-12-30-jsgqk71-dosage-02

I see where dosage flags multi-language comics with their translations, and so if you’re looking for something in another tongue, dosage may be able to help you.

Compared with dailystrips, dosage seems to have better access and better retrieval skills. Of course, that’s not really fair since dailystrips hasn’t seen much activity over the last decade.

dailystrips did have the option to build primitive HTML pages and plant your comics in them though, and while I do see something similar in dosage, it took me a few tries to build it correctly, and it seemed rather finicky if it had already built a file.

dosage is quite useful and if you’re a fan of comics — printed or electronic — it’s a must-have tool. And the beauty of dosage may be that it doesn’t require you to live in a graphical environment, since it’s primarily the downloader and organizer, and not the viewer.

And what should you do for a viewer? Well, that’s something we could review. … ;)


Tagged: comics, download, manager

by K.Mandla at December 30, 2014 07:00 PM

The Brooks Review

Unexamined Privilege

Jeffrey Zeldman:

If we keep throwing only young, mostly white, mostly upper middle class people at the engine that makes our digital world go, we’ll keep getting camera and reminder and hookup apps—things that make an already privileged life even smoother—and we’ll keep producing features that sound like a good idea to everyone in the room, until they unexpectedly stab someone in the heart.

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by Ben Brooks at December 30, 2014 06:40 PM

Cadillac Allantes

Matt Mullenweg:

In a region that prides itself on disruption and working from first principles, San Francisco’s scaling problem is pretty humorous if you look at it from the outside: otherwise smart and inventive founders continue to set up offices and try to hire or move people in the most overheated environment since there were carphones in Cadillac Allantes.

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by Ben Brooks at December 30, 2014 06:29 PM

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

Unexpected Enlightenment from Instapundit

Instapundit is boosting the Hermione-Granger-meets-Aslan-and-Cthulhu juvenile novels of L. Jagi Lamplighter, the greatest living writer today, living in my house:

http://pjmedia.com/instapundit/199591/

http://pjmedia.com/instapundit/199588/

You must read them to see the illustrations. They were done by her husband, who I assume is named Mr. Lamplighter.

The cover art is top notch, painted by top notch cartoonist Dan Lawlis.

rachel-griffin-cover

! The Raven- the Elf- and Rachel finish

 

 

by John C Wright at December 30, 2014 05:40 PM

Feed: » stratechery by Ben Thompson

The Stratechery 2014 Year in Review

2014 was Stratechery’s second year, and what a momentous one it was! In April Stratechery became my full-time job, and although I made some quick changes to the model, it’s been a big success. It has certainly kept me busy: in 2014 I wrote 88 free articles, 169 Daily Updates, and recorded 41 podcasts (29 of them were Exponent episodes).

Here are the highlights (the 2013 edition is here):

Brand advertising is worth a lot more than search advertising; if it moves to the Internet, .Google's share of digital advertising would be dwarfed

Peak Google

The Five Most-Viewed Articles:

  1. Peak Google – Google owns search, and will continue to do so. But the online ad market is about to get a lot bigger, and it’s not clear that Google will win. They may be eclipsed like Microsoft before them
  2. Apple Watch: Asking Why and Saying No – Apple Watch is beautiful and has many compelling features, but Apple never said why it exists. Has that led them to do too much? (Note that I later changed my mind: see What I Got Wrong About Apple Watch and Why Now for Apple Watch
  3. Smartphone Truths and Samsung’s Inevitable Decline – All of the reasons to buy high-end Samsung’s are disappearing; Apple, meanwhile, will always have software-based differentiation and a big market to address
  4. It’s Time to Kill Surface – It’s important to evaluate products – like the Xbox and Surface – in the light of their original goals. If you do that, then it’s clear Surface has failed
  5. Two Microsofts – Making Mobile Office (nearly) free bring a lot of clarity to MIcrosoft’s business: it’s actually two different ones – consumer and enterprise
When a successful company seeks to address a new problem, they are often handicapped by their old incentive structure, leaving them susceptible to a startup able to fashion problem-specific incentives

PayPal’s Incentive Problem, and Why Startups Win

Five Big Ideas

Apple's focus on creating a great user experience builds consumer loyalty. Consumers then put market pressure on Apple's potential partners, which result in concessions to Apple, further enhancing the user experience

How Apple Creates Leverage and the Future of Apple Pay

Five Company-Specific Posts

  • Twitter’s Marketing Problem – Twitter’s initial product was so good that they never went to the trouble of understanding their market, and now they are paying the price.
  • It’s Time to Split Up Microsoft – Satya Nadella is saying all of the right things, but Microsoft’s culture has always been Windows first. The solution is to get rid of Windows
  • How Apple Creates Leverage, and the Future of Apple Pay – How Apple Creates Leverage, and the Future of Apple Pay
  • Best – Apple avoids disruption by creating a superior user experience. That requires focus, and any advice to the contrary doesn’t make sense
  • Why Uber Fights – Big business is brutally competitive, and a very big business is exactly what Uber is fighting for. Their potential is absolutely massive
Publishers and the Smiling Curve

Publishers and the Smiling Curve

Five Daily Updates

(Please note that these are subscriber-only links – you can sign-up here)

  • August 5 – Xiaomi Wins on More than Price, Micromax and Local Taste, Local Brands and Scale
  • October 22 – The Disruption of IBM, An Alternate View of IBM’s 2015 Profit Goal, IMB Sells Fabs to Global Foundries
  • November 12 – Taylor Swift vs Daniel Elk, What Swift Gets Right, The Problem with Spotify
  • December 1 – Why Vox (and BuzzFeed) are Valuable, Outbrain Files for IPO
  • December 2 – The Solo Selfie and its Cool Factor, The Donut Selfie and its Creator
App stores take 30% of in-app purchases; the remainder goes to free-to-play publishers like King. These publishers, in turn, drive the majority of Facebook mobile advertising, as that is the best channel to find more digital whales. And now, 3rd-party developers can get their piece.

Dependent on Digital Whales

Five Podcasts

Happy New Year. I’m looking forward to a great 2015.

The post The Stratechery 2014 Year in Review appeared first on stratechery by Ben Thompson.

by Ben Thompson at December 30, 2014 05:25 PM

The Brooks Review

∞ Monochrome Moon

I’ve been playing around with my X100T lately, and snapped this from my backyard the other night. After a quick spin through Flare, it looked pretty good for a wallpaper. Here’s the image (the full resolution version doesn’t have the compression banding/artifacts):

Go ahead and download this high resolution version and take it for a spin for yourself.

Please consider becoming a member to support my writing. All writing is 100% member funded.

by Ben Brooks at December 30, 2014 04:41 PM

Jon Udell

Federated Wiki for teaching and learning basic composition

The FedWikiHappening has mainly explored Federated Wiki as an environment for collaborative writing. But the underlying software is rich with unexplored capability. It is, among many other possible uses, a great platform for the teaching and learning of basic writing skills.

Every page in FedWiki is backed by two data structures. The story is a sequence of paragraphs. The journal is a sequence of actions that add, edit, move, or delete paragraphs. Because editing is paragraph-oriented, the progressive rewriting of a paragraph is recorded in the journal.

I once taught an introductory writing class to undergraduates. Part of my method was to awaken students to the notion that paragraphs can and should evolve, and that it’s useful to observe and discuss that evolution. In FedWiki the evolution of a paragraph is not directly visible, but it’s available just below the surface. Here’s a beautiful example from a Kate Bowles essay called Sentences that get things done. The essay emerged in response to a collaborative riff that ends with Kate’s title. But here let’s watch one paragraph in Kate’s essay grow and change.

1. The relevance to wiki is that vernacular language is both capable of sustaining narrative and does not depend on citation.


2. The relevance to SFW is that vernacular language is both capable of sustaining narrative and does not depend on citation.


3. The relevance to SFW is that vernacular language is both capable of sustaining and amplifying personal narrative and yet does not depend on authorial celebrity or citation.


4. The relevance to SFW is that vernacular language is both capable of sustaining and amplifying personal narrative and yet does not depend on authorial celebrity or citation. Vernacular language is available to be borrowed, forked, repurposed.


5. The relevance to SFW is that vernacular language is both capable of sustaining and amplifying personal narrative and yet does not depend on authorial celebrity or citation. Vernacular language is available to be borrowed, forked, repurposed, and so becomes a practice of creating sentences that get things done, rather than further intensification of the spectacle of heroic individuals doing things.


6. The relevance to SFW is that vernacular language is both capable of sustaining and amplifying personal narrative and yet does not depend on authorial celebrity or citation. Vernacular language is available to be borrowed, forked, repurposed, and so becomes a practice of collaboratively creating sentences that get things done, rather than further intensification of the spectacle of heroic individuals doing things.


7. The relevance to SFW is that vernacular language is both capable of sustaining and amplifying personal narrative and yet does not depend on authorial celebrity or citation. Vernacular language is available to be borrowed, forked, repurposed, and so becomes a practice of collaboratively creating sentences that get things done, as a counterpoint to the intensification of heroic individuals doing things.


8. The relevance to SFW is that vernacular language is both capable of sustaining and amplifying personal narrative and yet does not depend on authorial celebrity or citation. Vernacular language is available to be borrowed, forked, repurposed, and so becomes a practice of collaboratively creating sentences that get things done.

Version 4 might have been a keeper. But something propelled Kate to work through versions 5, 6, and 7. In the final version we see what she was reaching for: a way to land on the sentence that is both the essay’s title and a reference to the context from which the essay arose.

Any kind of web client software, running in the browser or in the cloud, could access that essay’s journal and surface that paragraph history. The FedWiki API (application programming interface) is simple and universal: just subtract /view from a FedWiki URL and append .json to the name of a page. So, for example:

Kate’s page: http://kate.au.fedwikihappening.net/view/sentences-that-get-things-done

The API for Kate’s page: http://kate.au.fedwikihappening.net/sentences-that-get-things-done.json

We can also construct URLs that arrange versions side by side. Here’s a FedWiki lineup that arranges two versions of the paragraph side by side and in context:

http://kate.au.fedwikihappening.net/view/sentences-that-get-things-done_rev26/view/sentences-that-get-things-done_rev36

Now imagine that I’m the teacher, Kate is the student, I’ve forked Kate’s essay, and I’ve written version 8 as an example for Kate. Here’s an URL that arranges her version alongside mine:

http://kate.au.fedwikihappening.net/view/sentences-that-get-things-done_rev26/jon.sf.fedwikihappening.net/sentences-that-get-things-done_rev36

I would love to help build tools that mine FedWiki’s latent ability to support the teaching and learning of prose composition. And I would equally love using those tools to facilitate that teaching and learning.


by Jon Udell at December 30, 2014 04:41 PM

512 Pixels

The best Pinboard app for iOS →

The hardest part of working on The Sweet Setup is keeping older reviews updated. The vast majority of the apps we look at receive updates on a regular basis, and sometimes, that march of progress means we need to revisit the whole thing.

iOS Pinboard apps have seen an incredible year, and as of today, we've chosen a new favorite: Pinner.

Permalink

by Stephen Hackett at December 30, 2014 04:23 PM

Inconsolation

prettyping.sh: An irrefutably prettier ping

prettyping.sh is a very straightforward tool: It’s a shell script that gives a little more pizazz to the traditional ping tool.

2014-12-30-jsgqk71-prettyping.sh

And seeing that screenshot gives you 90 percent of what you can accomplish with prettyping.sh. By default, all of prettyping.sh’s flair is turned on, and with the few hard-wired options that have to be set for the translation to ping. It’s colorful, clean, nicely arranged and a breeze to use.

But as always, I must offer a few points that stick out. In the hope of course, that they will be smoothed over in the future.

First, the legend is visible by default, and as luck would have it, it’s intended for about 150 or 160 columns (I didn’t count it out exactly; please forgive me). That’s all fine and dandy, but I honestly am not sure how often I run a terminal of that width, especially for a ping tool. So I find myself omitting the legend, which is pretty, but a little skewed.

Second, prettyping.sh’s output is very much like spark, with gradated characters of set color arrangements representing ranges of values returned from ping. Fair enough, and I see a general logic to the legend.

The problem is probably obvious though: In a virtual console, you might not get that same effect. I tried it on a random machine in my collection, and what I got was a blotchy mess of unprintable boxes, in varying colors, both in the output and in the legend.

So you’re more or less trapped in an emulator if you decide to make regular use of prettyping.sh, which might mean you’re also trapped in a graphical environment. Which might defeat the purpose of this entire escapade. (Let me know if you try prettyping.sh in a framebuffer terminal emulator, and whether or not you get the correct effect. You might.)

Another caveat: The link above may or may not be the original prettyping.sh. Shell scripts, in my observation, get traded around like spare pencils, and sometimes contort without earning a new name. I know the link for prettyping-hg out of AUR points to a dead MyOpera page, so it might be that there are three or four variants around.

The link I gave at the start was one I found on my own, that led to a posted source. I see that it’s also the source link for the prettyping package in AUR.

I also wish someone had renamed it to pretty-ping.sh, because I see the word “typing” in there, every time I read it. How’s that for a shallow and pointless criticism? :roll:

If you can overlook these faults or eccentricities, prettyping.sh is a very nice text-based interface for watching pings over long periods of time. There are a lot of ping tools out there (we’ve seen plenty, even in recent weeks), so if it doesn’t suit you, there are options available. :)


Tagged: information, network, ping, troubleshooting

by K.Mandla at December 30, 2014 03:45 PM

Daniel Lemire's blog

How to learn efficiently

I am convinced that much of the gap between the best college students and the worst is explained by study habits. Frankly, most students study poorly. To make matters worse, most teachers are incapable of teaching good study habits.

Learning is proportional with effort

Sitting in a classroom listening to a professor feels like learning… Reading a book on a new topic feels like learning… but because they are overwhelming passive activities, they are inefficient. It is even worse than inefficient, it is counterproductive because it gives you the false impression that you know the material. You can sit through lecture after lecture on quantum mechanics. At some point you will become familiar with the topics and the terminology. Alas you are fooling yourself which is worse than not learning anything.

Instead, you should always seek to challenge yourself. If some learning activity feels easy, it means that it is too easy. You should be constantly reminded of how little you know. Great lectures make it feels like the material is easy: it probably is not. Test yourself constantly: you will find that you know less than you think.

Some students blame the instructors when they feel confused. They are insistant that a course should be structured in such a way that it is always easy, so that they rarely make mistakes. The opposite is true: a good course is one where you always feel that you will barely make it. It might not be a pleasant course, but it is one where you are learning. It is by struggling that we learn.

On this note, Learning Style theory is junk: while it is true that some students have an easier time doing things a certain way, having it easier is not the goal.

There are many ways to challenge yourself and learn more efficiently:

  • Seek the most difficult problems, the most difficult questions and try to address them. It is useless to read pages after pages of textbook material, but it becomes meaningful if you are doing it to solve a hard problem. This is not news to Physics students who have always learned by solving problems. Always work on the toughest problems you can address.
  • Reflect on what you have supposedly learned. As an undergraduate student, I found that writing a summary of everything I had learned in a class was one of the best ways to study for an exam. I would just sit down with a blank piece of paper and try to summarize everything as precisely as possible. Ultimately, writing your own textbook would be a very effective way to learn the material. Teaching is a great way to learn, because it challenges you.
  • Avoid learning from a single source. Studying from a single textbook is counterproductive. Instead, seek multiple sources. Yes, it is confusing to pick up a different textbook where the terminology might be different, but this confusion is good for you.

If sitting docilely in a classroom is inefficient and even counterproductive, then why is it so common a practice? Why indeed!

Interleaved study trumps mass study

When studying, many people do not want to mix topics “so as not to get confused”. So if they need to learn to apply one particular idea, they study to the exclusion of everything else. That is called mass (or block) practice.

Course material and textbooks do not help: they are often neatly organized into distinct chapters, distinct sections… each one covering one specific topic.

What researchers have found is that interleaved practice is far superior. In interleaved practice, you intentionally mix up topics. Want to become a better mathematician? Do not spend one month studying combinatorics, one month studying calculus and so on. Instead, work on various mathematical topics, mixing them randomly.

Interleaved practice feels much harder (e.g., “you feel confused”), and it feels discouraging because progress appears to be slow. However, this confusion you feel… that is your brain learning.

Interleaved practice is exactly what a real project forces you to do. This means that real-world experience where you get to solve hard problems is probably a much more efficient learning strategy than college. Given a choice between doing challenging real work, and taking classes, you should always take the challenging work instead.

Further reading: Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter C. Brown et al. and Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques by Dunlosky et al.

by Daniel Lemire at December 30, 2014 03:21 PM

512 Pixels

Breathe life into an old Mac

Editor's Note: This is a guest post by Joe Caiati. Joe works as an IT professional in New York City. He maintains a weblog called dot info and calls Twitter his second home.


Depending on the year it was purchased or whether you configured it with top-tier specs, your once-current Mac’s performance may be less than desirable and at this point you could be facing those tough questions.

Luckily, older Macs are more flexible with hardware upgrades and coupled with third-party software, you can unlock features that Apple doesn’t support on older models. Here is how to get the most life out of an aging Mac.

Hardware

Most Macs sold before 2012 used spinning hard disk drives and RAM that are removable. Upgrading both of these parts alone will drastically improve the way your Mac performs, but there is some research involved and you want to make sure you are getting the right parts and tools. There are great benefits in upgrading these internals and I’ll be able to guide you through the process. [1]

(Don’t worry, I’m a professional. I’ve been an Apple Certified Mac Technician professionally for three years.)

Repairability

The most efficient way of keeping these costs low is to do these repairs yourself, but depending on the model of your Mac, certain repairs can seem complicated and you never want to start a repair if you aren’t sure that you can complete it. If you have a tech-savvy friend or can find a third-party Apple service provider to do this for a good price, it is worth it.

A great gage on whether your Mac is easy to repair is by visiting iFixit’s repair guides. They provided a score next to each type of repair from easy to difficult. Hard drives and RAM are normally the easiest things to replace on older Macs, but it doesn’t hurt to look through the guides, have the right tools and make sure you are conformable performing the repair.

RAM

There are sometimes two thresholds of how much RAM your Mac can take. There is Apple’s recommended maximum amount of RAM and then there is the Main Logic Board’s (MLB) real maximum. Apple only tests your Mac with a certain amount of RAM for a reason. You could go with the MLB’s maximum amount, but if you run into weird kernel panics or crashes, it could be due to that machine not responding to the amount of RAM you put in because it wasn’t designed that way.

Let’s stick with Apple’s advice. If you want to know what Apple recommends, you can copy the serial number of your Mac and paste it into the Apple Specs Support page by clicking browse, pasting it in the search box and clicking on your model after the search results appear to see how much RAM it can go up to. Once you know how much you can get, I recommend Crucial or OWC for purchasing RAM. In certain cases, Amazon will price competitively once you’ve selected the right chips.

SSD

If I was writing this four years ago, I’d be hard-pressed to recommend a solid-state drive (SSD) to you solely because of how expensive they used to be. An 80GB SSD used to cost over $200 back in 2010 and to downgrade your storage to save money would hurt many users especially if you store a lot of media. Prices have dramatically gone down over the years and an SSD gives your Mac that extra kick to make it feel snappy again.

Putting price aside, SSDs are better in every class up against hard drives. Startup times are faster, apps open with less bounces on the dock and the fear of data loss isn’t something that you’d worry as much about .[2]

An SSD paired with your upgraded RAM is almost guaranteed to make your Mac feel young again. Using the same sources that I recommended to buy your RAM from, here are current prices for SSDs:

  • 128GB SSD cost ~ $58–80.
  • 256GB SSD costs ~$100–130.
  • 512GB SSD costs ~$189–230.
  • 1TB SSD costs ~$380–450.

Both from a personal and professional standpoint, l’ve seen a good track record from Crucial SSDs. One of their current top performing drives, the MX100, is highly recommended by multiple websites and I’ve installed this SSD in a number of Mac Minis which have been running great. Crucial’s other drives, the M550 and 500, are also favored by many though could have slower write speeds in comparison to the MX100 during certain computing-intensive tasks.[3]

Prices are much more manageable and will continue to go down to where HDDs are at today. Be sure to back up your current HDD on an external drive or cloud service before replacing it with an SSD.

iMac SSDs

Tackling an iMac repair is very ambitious for the untrained. I’ve seen many trained techs (Not me; I swear.) break glass and puncture LCDs while trying to replace drives and there is also that in-line digital thermal sensor kit that you mustn’t forget about to make sure your third-party drive can function properly. For a full SSD upgrade kit, OWC sells the tools you’ll need to have a successful repair.

Software

After the hardware upgrades are completed, your Mac should be able to run the most recent version of OS X it supports without issue, but what about the features that your Mac may not have received with these updates? Or what if you can only go up to Lion or Mountain Lion? This is where third-party software has come to the rescue.

AirParrot

Pre–2011 machines can not AirPlay mirror or extend your display with an Apple TV. Fortunately that’s where AirParrot comes in. AirParrot 2 is a powerful third-party AirPlay client that unlocks features for Macs not supported by Apple and also enhances features for Macs that are already AirPlay capable. It mirrors, extends, can stream to multiple sources at once and can pause your display. If OS X Lion or later is installed and your processor is an Intel Core 2 Duo or later (~2008 Macs and beyond), then you’ll be able to use AirParrot.

I’ve used AirParrot on an 2008 MacBook (White pre-unibody) and it has impressed me. Your fan(s) may spin up loud while using it, but that’s to be expected for older machines. AirParrot costs $14.99 for a single user license and is a must-have if you own an Apple TV.

TotalFinder

TotalFinder can be a Mac power users dream, but also looked at as a utility that unlocks features you would normally not receive on an old version of Mac OS X.

If you can’t go beyond Lion or for some reason need to stay on a pre-Mavericks OS, TotalFinder brings you great features like Finder tabs and allows you more fine-grained customization for how you organize your files. I’ve used TotalFinder on old Macs and for something that changes a very important part of your OS, it performs very well. A single user license for TotalFinder costs $18.00.

More Apps Worth Discussing

  • Alfred - A powerful search tool to increase productivity. A replacement to Spotlight that works closer to the functionality that Yosemite has to offer. It is free to download.
  • Growl - It brings Notification Center like notifications to pre-Mountain Lion machines. It costs $1.99)
  • Filedrop - For AirDrop-like behavior between your phone and Mac. Filedrop costs $2.99 for the iOS and is $2.99 on the Mac App Store.

Tally

Let’s tally these upgrades up if we were to modify a MacBook Pro (15-inch, Mid 2010) for example.

  • 8GBs of RAM = ~$100
  • 256GB SSD = ~$120
  • All software mentioned: $41

For $261, I can justify investing more money into a portable that originally cost $1500 at the time of purchase. Though there is a threshold to this. Anything pre–2007 can be hit with processor performance issues and depending on what you need to use your computer for, upgrade cycles can become shorter for certain professions.

With that in mind — go ahead; breathe some new life into your Mac.


  1. One thing to note is that your processor will always be a limiting factor for very heavy processes like rendering video and since it is soldered to the Main Logic Board, it is not cost effective to replace.  ↩

  2. Keep backing up you computer no matter how reliable the drive is!  ↩

  3. Stephen has been using one of Crucial’s M5 series SSDs for two years and has not run into any issues.  ↩

by Stephen Hackett at December 30, 2014 03:00 PM

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

Christmastide

Some say that ever ‘gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour’s birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long:
And then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad;
The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, no witch has power to charm,
So hallow’d and gracious is the time. –Hamlet

It has become something of a tradition here at John C. Wright’s Journal for yours truly to list the feast days of the Twelve Days of Christmas, and to urge my fellow traditionalists to continue the Christly and Christian work of Keeping the Feast and Partyin’ On! Let us pause for unsolemn reflection on these solemnities.

We all know the Twelve Days of Christmas from a famous nonsense song about a lady whose true love gives her 184 birds of various types, not to mention 12 fruit trees, 40 golden rings, 106 persons of the various professions either musical or milkmaidenly, and 32 members of the aristocracy variously cavorting.

No doubt you have ever wondered how the lady in the song feeds all the leaping lords and dancing ladies, pipers, drummers, and milkmaids now living in her parlor, the answer is that she feeds them the 22 turtledoves, 30 French hens, 36 colly birds, and 42 swans, not to mention the nice supply of eggs from the geese, milk from the cows and pears from the pear trees.

You may have heard that the lyrics contain a secret meaning, referring to Catholic doctrines or rites forbidden by Oliver Cromwell. This is true. The secret meaning is that the Walrus is St. Paul, and if you listen to a record of the carol backward, it says “Cromwell under his wig is bald.” All this is well known.

What is not as well known is that traditionally, these are twelve days of feasts which start on Christmas Day and run through to Epiphany on January 6th, which is the festival variously of the Adoration of the Magi and the Presentation in the Temple. (Really hard core Christmasteers extend Christmastide 40 days, ending on Candlemas February 2).

Before Christmas, during the season of Advent, while everyone else is shopping and partying, we who keep the traditions fast, pray, do penance, and make ourselves miserable. It makes the holiday much brighter by contrast.

After Christmas, the radio stations shut off their Xmas music and shops fold up their Santa Claus decorations at the stroke of Midnight on Dec 25th, just as Santa passes overhead in his sleigh, so as to make room for the Season of Returned Gifts for Store Credit which comes next in the Secular Calendar, followed by New Year’s Day and Saint Valentine’s Day. (The ACLU has not yet discovered that word ‘Saint’ in Saint Valentine’s Day nor Saint Patrick’s Day, nor hidden in Spanish in the names for San Francisco or Sacramento or San Diego or Santa Monica to have them removed and sterilized. The Bureau of Unmemory, commanded by Big Brother to remove all traces of Christ from Christendom, alas, has work that is never done.)

So the secular world never actually celebrates the real Christmas, which is two days shy of a fortnight of feast and festivity. And since the seculars never forswear self-indulgence (except during sports training) they don’t have the peculiar joy of following a fast with as feast. (For a similar reason, seculars don’t get to celebrate a Honeymoon. When you marry your artificially sterile live-in paramour of the last two years, nor does she change her last name, what differs except your income tax returns?)

So what are the Twelve Days? And why are there Thirteen of them?

I have not been able to find easy to hand a list of the Twelve Days of Christmas for 2011-2012. Here is my own list I have gathered from various sources:

Christmas: December 25th–The Nativity of Our Lord
December 26th—Feast of St. Stephen, first martyr
December 27th—Feast of St. John, apostle and evangelist
December 28th—The Feast of the Holy Family (supersedes the Feast of the Holy Innocents, martyrs)
December 29th—Memorial of St. Thomas Becket of Canterbury, bishop and martyr
December 30th—Feast of Our Lady of Bethlehem
December 31st—Memorial of St. Sylvester I, pope (in Eastern Church, this is the Apodosis, or final day of the Afterfeast)
January 1st —Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
January 2nd —Memorials of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, bishops and doctors
January 3rd —Memorial of the Most Holy Name of Jesus
January 4th —St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
January 5th —Memorial of St. John Neumann, bishop & St. Telesphorus, pope and martyr
January 6th —Epiphany (traditional)

And, for the sake of completeness, for those of you who want another few Christmas days tacked onto the twelve:
January 7th —Memorial of St. Raymond of Penafort, priest
January 8th —The Epiphany of the Lord Old Calendar(new) Feast of the Holy Family (traditional)
January 9th —Baptism of the Lord

First, why are there a Baker’s Dozen of days in the Twelve Days? That answer is easy enough. Christianity was invented before people learned how to count. That is why there is no Year Zero, and why the Millennium began on 2001 rather than on 2000 like everyone expected, and why the Twentieth Century is in the 1900’s. This is also why Christ was said to be “three days and three nights in the grave” even though tradition puts the Crucifixion on a Friday and Resurrection on a Sunday (which is only two nights). The inability of Christians to count also explains why Martin Luther, who taught that scripture and scripture alone was the sacrosanct and sole and sufficient and complete embodiment of Christian teaching, did not get all the books in scripture that are supposed to be there: he miscounted by seven. This is all because the Arabs did not invent the zero until the year 1000 (which, at that time, was written 1???) and so Bakers in Dark Ages, as well as everyone else, added an extra one to everything.

Second, what are the Twelve Days?

The Feast of Stephen we all remember from the words of that Carol no one remembers all the words to, Good King Wenceslaus.

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath’ring winter fuel

“Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know’st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?”

“Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes’ fountain.”

“Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither.”

(Some stanzas about the page boy whining about the snow omitted. Wimp.)

Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing!

Saint Stephen’s is the day when, traditionally, the scraps and leftovers from the Christmas feasting of the day before would be given to the wretched, poor and needy so that they could make merry, and also catch infectious disease from the goose leg you took one bite out of, before passing out from wassail fumes.

Particularly nice Christians (also known as “saints”) like Wenceslas, would actually get clean food from the larder (also know as “not-previously-owned-food”) and carry it to the poor — including wine and flesh and, if the poor people were REALLY hungry, pine logs.

The traditional celebration for the Feast of St Stephen is to share your bounty with the poor, such as by giving them the Christmas presents you don’t really want. Also, the day is set aside for horse parades and races, and as a feast for Deacons of the Church. It is a day for the blessing of oats and hay.

The Feast of Saint John the Evangelist is Dec 27th. Tradition holds that the saint was forced to drink of cup in which poison lurked, but took no hurt from it. In sacred art, this is often represented by showing John with a cup from which snakes rise. Traditionally, it is the day to bless the wine. It is also the festival for Priests.

The feast day of the Holy Innocents, also called Childermas, is Dec 28th and commemorates the massacre of the children of Bethlehem by Herod the Great. These children are considered martyrs by the Church.

The traditional celebration is to get into a theological argument with a Protestant about infant baptism and limbo. It is a contest where, whose ever theology makes God sound more arbitrary and cruel, wins. As of last round, the Calvinists are ahead of the Albigensians.

Just kidding. It is feast for choir boys and the youngsters. The tradition holds it as a time to bless the crib, or to place the youngest novice in charge of the Abbey for a day. You eat pudding or some other food fit for babies on the day.

The Feast of St. Thomas of Canterbury is an optional memorial. The traditional celebration I think is to drink cider and stab a bishop to death in an English cathedral.

The Feast of the Holy Family is the 28th of December this year. (The Feast of the Holy Family is celebrated on the Sunday following Christmas, unless that Sunday is January 1st.) It supersedes the Feast of the Holy Innocents. I am not sure what the tradition is on this day, either uprooting your family because of a bad dream and fleeing to Egypt or else getting your twelve-year-old lost in Jerusalem and not noticing he’s missing for the whole day.

Saint Sylvester’s Day is Dec 31st. His papacy is commemorated for the end of the persecutions under the Roman Emperors, and so his day becomes a symbol for peace on Earth. The tradition is to have the father bless all members of his family on that day, and for children to give thanks to their parents for their love and care.

The Solemnity of Mary is the same day as the Circumcision of the Lord. Unlike every other feast in the season, this is somewhat subdued memorial, since, technically speaking, the precious blood of Our Lord was shed this day. We also like to be solemn when the rest of the world is drunk and happy, just to be contrary.

The tradition in Patagonia, I believe, is for men to reflect on this day by clutching the groin and wincing, and giving thanks to Saint Paul that the Laws of Moses do not apply to Christians in their literal full force; and for wives slyly to point out that, of the two out of the three members of the Holy Family who were conceived immaculate and without sin, and ascended to heaven or were assumed to heaven for their coronation, neither one was the man of the household. Traditionally the men then grumble in mutters about uppity women and listen with agog disbelief to feminists complaining that the Roman Catholic Church is misogynistic.

Just kidding. There are no feminists in Patagonia. In reality January 1st is the feast for subdeacons.

New Year’s Eve is also the Feast of Fools, which, come to think of it, a lot of people still keep, in their own way, usually by trying to operate a motor vehicle while beer-blurred.

The Memorial of the Holy Name is on January 3rd and the Epiphany is on the 6th. Epiphany is actually three celebrations in one, since it commemorates the adoration of the Magi, the Baptism of Our Lord in the Jordan, and the Wedding Feast at Cana, each one of which, in its own way, can claim to be the first revelation of the Christ to the world.

Mormons and Christian Scientists celebrate Christ turning water into wine by refusing to drink wine. Or something like that.

The traditions of his day include the blessing of the waters, the eating of King’s Cake. A particularly cute tradition is to move the figurines of the Three Kings of the Nativity scene closer to the manger every day, and let them touch it on Epiphany.

It is also Twelfth Night, for which the Shakespeare play is named, is traditionally a fancy dress masquerade. It represents the topsy turvy nature of the Incarnation, the the King disguised as poor child, and shepherds hearing the tidings kings and high priests are not told. The various antics in the Shakespeare play, disguises and mistaken identities, capture this spirit of foolery.

The Sunday after Epiphany was the older date for the Feast of the Holy Family. As Pope Leo XIII explains, there is a lesson in this family for everyone: for fathers, for mothers, for children; for nobility (the Holy Family was from the royal house of David), for the poor (they gave up their possessions in fleeing to Egypt), and so on. On this day was held the “Shepherds’ Procession” as the children marched through the church dressed as shepherds and shepherdesses.

So, dear readers, there are a lot of old traditions around, like toys in a grandfather’s attic, our mothers’ dolls or fathers’ tin soldiers, still worth taking down and playing with.

Again, these traditions are like faded photographs showing scenes of joy it is better we not forget, lest, in our forgetfulness, we become too much like the world.

 

by John C Wright at December 30, 2014 02:41 PM

Crossway Blog

I Have a Problem...

I have a problem.

You see, I’m blessed. Incredibly blessed. Unfathomably blessed. Cataclysmically blessed. God has showered me with 10,000 gifts, and he won’t stop pouring.

Don’t get me wrong; I have problems too. Challenges, hardships, heartaches, pain. I could fill another blog post with those. But right now I want to talk about the ocean of blessings that cascade around me every single day.

Like the brown slippers that keep my toes warm in Minnesota winter. Or the furnace that hums along and keeps the rest of me from freezing when Jack Frost assaults the upper Midwest.

Or like fish tacos. I really like fish tacos. With black bean salsa. And there are a number of establishments within a quick drive of my house that will provide me with fish tacos for a small fee.

Or bacon. I’m a big fan of bacon. On hamburgers, with eggs, or just thick-cut and ready to go. Also Chipotle burritos. And Pad Thai. And vanilla ice cream. And steak fajitas with lime. And remind me not to write blog posts before I have dinner.

Leave aside food for a minute. I have other blessings and gifts worth mentioning.

Like the ability to think, reason, discover, and remember. I have a functioning brain and (most of the time) I know how to use it. What’s more, people pay me to use it. I spend all day reading and thinking and then speaking what I’ve read and thought to other people, and because of this, they put money in my wallet (which I then use to purchase the aforementioned foodstuffs).

Like the good friends who are there for me in a pinch, who enjoy watching college football with me, who help me with home improvement projects, who share the same vision of God and life and ministry.

I could go on. I have a wonderful wife, two lively sons who have taught me the meaning of the term “delightful,” an automobile (two actually), a functioning endocrine system, the ability to play softball, a pillow for my head (two actually), a library full of books, and glasses that enable my nearsighted self to see. Oh and the sun rose on me today. Again.

You see my problem, don’t you? I’m surrounded by these…these…these things of earth. They encircle me on all sides. They fill me with great joy. They follow me day and night (it’s a bit creepy if you think about it). And the worst part of it is that I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with them.

Being a Christian, I naturally go to the Bible for help. But that just confuses me more. On the one hand, I read, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2). But then a few pages later, I’m told, “Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving” (1 Tim. 4:4).

Or, I read that the enemies of the cross of Christ make their belly into their god (goodbye, bacon) and set their minds on earthly things (Phil. 3:18-19). But then one chapter later, I’m told that if anything is true, lovely, commendable, or praiseworthy, I should think about it (hello again, bacon; Phil. 4:8).

I even get confused within a single verse.

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. (1 Tim. 6:17)

Rich in this present age? That’s me. Don’t set your hope on riches. Got it. Instead, set your hope on the God who richly provides you everything to enjoy. How is this possible? How can I enjoy everything God supplies without setting my mind and affections on the things of earth?

And so after all of this wrestling, I’m left here, living with a constant low-grade guilt because I don’t know if I love God’s gifts “too much” (or if I love God “enough”). I’m constantly confronted by the gifts, pleasures, and delights of earth, but I try to keep them at arms length. I hold them like a hot potato, lest they become too precious in my eyes. When it comes to the ocean of earthly pleasures, I do my best to stick to the shallows, but I sometimes find that I get swept into the deep end by a tickle fight with my boys or an evening out with my wife.

I feel stuck with these gifts. It’s like I can’t live with ‘em, and I can’t live without ‘em.

What am I going to do with the things of earth?

Somebody should write a book.


Joe Rigney (MA, Bethlehem College and Seminary) is assistant professor of theology and Christian worldview at Bethlehem College and Seminary in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is the author of Live Like a Narnian: Christian Discipleship in C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles and The Things of Earth: Treasuring God by Enjoying His Gifts. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two sons.

by Nick Rynerson at December 30, 2014 02:24 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

Are Your People Real? 6 Marks of a Real Christian Inspired by Jonathan Edwards

What is a real Christian?

This seemingly basic question was one Jonathan Edwards himself grappled with during the intense movement of the Spirit in America, known as the Great Awakening.

Of this question, pastor and author Todd Wilson notes that Edwards realized “this is a perennial question for the church. Each generation must wrestle with this issue and draw on the wisdom of Scripture and the saints of old to offer the church a faithful and relevant description of the marks of authentic faith.” (24)

In his book Religious Affection, Edwards answered his question by outlining twelve marks of genuine Christian faith. Inspired by this description, Wilson aims to provide the contemporary church with a similar description of what it means to be “real.”

In Real Christian, he outlines six important marks of real Christianity, which provides “a biblical standard for whether we are real” and unpacks “the substance of what mature faith looks like.” (25)

Read the six marks of a real Christian below, as inspired by Edwards. Because there’s no better time than the new year to inspire your people to ask and answer the only question that matters this year:

Am I real?

1) Humility: Transcendent Self-Confidence

“[T]he purpose of humility isn’t to make you think less of who you are, but to enable you to love others regardless of who they are.” (58)

OK, so what is it? “In short, humility is transcendent self-confidence—a quality of character that liberates a person from having to compare themselves with others and frees them to love everyone equally.” (59)

In reality, then, humility isn’t the goal, love is:

“Humility is simply the mind-set needed to love others as God calls us to love,” which is achieved by having the mind-set of Christ. (60)

2) Meekness: A Lamblike Disposition

“Christians must forgive all. Followers of Jesus will suffer mistreatment with a lamblike disposition—the kind we see in Jesus. Slights and slanders, hurts and harms are met with meekness, not hostility.”

In other words, “Forgiving others is one of the defining marks of a real Christian.” (76)

Again, we look to Christ for a compelling, complete picture of this mark:

“If we’re real…our lives will be defined by the same disposition we see in him. We will be marked by meekness, a posture of forgiveness, a willingness to suffer wrongs.” (82)

3) Contrition: The Gospel Emotion

“Contrition is brokenheartedness over sin. It is how real Christians respond to sin in their lives, while a lack of contrition shows us that a person isn’t real…Contrition is a uniquely Christian response to sin—it is a gospel response, indeed, a gospel emotion.” (94-95)

Both sorrow and joy are the simultaneous experiences of contrition: “grief because of the depravity of your heart, yet joy because of the prospect of God’s grace.” (95)

Wilson notes an important sign of contrition is when we look to Jesus for salvation from our sins, not merely salvation of our sins: “A contrite heart wants salvation from sin — deliverance, purging, cleansing” from its power and dominion over life. (104)

4) Wholeness: The Full Image of Christ

“Real Christians are Christlike; they’re whole, balanced people. Just as we see in the life of Christ a beautiful symmetry and proportionality, so we see the same in the lives of real Christians.” (115)

Unlike non-Christians, who are spiritually off-balance and morally lopsided, real Christians are marked by wholeness. “[B]ecause when you’re real, you’ve received not half of Christ but the whole Christ…No one gets a part of Christ. You either have him whole, or you don’t have him at all.” (115-116)

5) Hunger: A Torrent of Spiritual Desire

“Hunger shapes the lives of real Christians. It’s the secret to their spiritual vibrancy.” (129)

Here, Wilson warns of an important difference between real hunger and “fake” hunger:

Those who aren’t real only hunger for God until they find him—or at least find what they are looking for. Once they get from God what they are looking for, they stop seeking him. On the other hand, real Christians are truly hungry for one thing—God. They continue to desire God even after they have found him. (131)

6) Perfected Love: The Mark of Marks

This sixth mark is the ultimate mark: “all the other marks of a real Christian, from humility to hunger, express themselves in love, or are different ways in which love works itself out in our lives. Furthermore, perfected love is the goal of the other marks.” (150)

Perfected love is four things: it is visible, tangible, practical, and sacrificial.

Ultimately, it is from above: “God is also the one who defines love—not through the use of a dictionary, but by means of setting forth a living pattern in Jesus.” (152)

 

In the end, we could add a seventh mark, because Wilson insists perseverance proves the above six sturdy and sure:

Real Christians persevere in the faith. If you’re real, you’ll arrive at the end of life and join the apostle Paul in saying: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). And on that day those won’t be mere words, but cross-purchased, Spirit-wrought, hard-fought-for realities in your life. (169)

I can think of no better way to start the new year than with a good dose of real Christianity.

If you’re a ministry leader consider using this book as a study or sermon series to get your people asking the only question that matters this coming year.

by Jeremy Bouma at December 30, 2014 01:23 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Arbitrary Numbers, Part II

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After publishing yesterday’s post, I realized I also wrote about arbitrary goals in The Happiness of Pursuit.

Here’s the story:

I use an app on my phone to track my running, especially the longer runs that I do most Sunday mornings. On a recent eight-mile run, I noticed that my pace was consistently around 8:34 per mile. At the six-mile point, I decided it would be fun to aim for an average pace of 8:30 or less. Since I only had two miles left, this would require those final miles to be run much faster than the others. Alas, I slowed down and had to walk for part of the seventh mile, thus decreasing my average overall pace to 8:36.

For the final mile, I faced an even greater challenge: To achieve the 8:30 goal, I’d need to run much faster than I had for the past hour.

I ended up meeting the goal and finishing with an average pace of 8:29. Due to the final-mile sprint, I was more tired than usual at the end, but I also experienced a sense of satisfaction. The point? Without the ability to track my pace and record it for all posterity (that is, posting it for the two friends who followed my running times through the same app), I wouldn’t have had the goal of pushing myself at the end and thus getting a better workout.

As yesterday’s article noted, keeping up with average pace-per-mile (or kilometer) is motivating—even though it’s a completely random number.

The app I use is Runkeeper.

###

Image: Peter

by Chris Guillebeau at December 30, 2014 01:15 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Start your titles with a verb to make them stronger; or reflections on titles, filler phrases, and my life as a gerund

Instead of using a generic title (ex: Top 10 Ways to …), pick your strongest point and put that in the title as a clear recommendation.

Now that I’ve gotten that promised tip out of the way, here’s the reflection that prompted this post.

Many bloggers focus on improving their titles as a way to encourage people to click or share. Having repeatedly run into the limitations of my blog searches and index, I’ve been thinking about blog post titles as a way to make my blog posts more memorable – both in terms of retrieval (remembering what to look for) and recognition (recognizing it when I come across it).

That’s why many of the usual title-writing tips don’t appeal to me, even if they’re backed by A/B testing. List posts? A focus on new or exclusive information? Mysterious headlines? While writing a post called “10 New Emacs Productivity Tricks That Will Make Vim Users Hate You – #2 Will Save You Hours!” is tempting to consider as an April Fool’s Joke, that kind of title is useless for me when I’m trying to find things again. Any title generic enough to come out of a blog post title generator is too generic for me to remember.

Fortunately, there are plenty of role models on the Web when it comes to writing clear, specific blog post titles. Lifehacker somehow manages to do this well. Most of its posts start with a verb, even when linking to a post that doesn’t, and yet it doesn’t feel overbearing.

Here’s a sample of Lifehacker titles for posts that summarize and link to other posts (ignoring posts that were original guides, product links, or fully-reposted blog posts):

Lifehacker title Original post
Re-Read Old Books After a Few Years to Gain New Perspective How you know
Agree On a Special Signal So Your Colleagues Can Reach You On Vacation 11 Valuable Tips for Handling Emails While on Vacation
Find the Best Thrift Stores Near You Using Zillow and Google Maps How to Find the Best Thrift Stores in Your Area
Find a Hobby by Rekindling Your Childhood Passions 7 Strange Questions That Help You Find Your Life Purpose
Conduct a “Nighttime Audit” to Sleep Better How to Spend the Last 10 Minutes of Your Day
Get Your Ideas Out of Your Head to Start Improving Them 6 Lessons from Pixar that Will Set You Up for Success
Focus on Discipline More Than Motivation to Reach Financial Goals Forget Motivation, This is the Key to Achieving Your Goals This Year
Give Yourself a Creative Game Each Day to Boost Inspiration The Importance of Personal Projects
Fix Your Bluetooth Audio in Yosemite With This Terminal Command Commands to Make Yosemite Suck Less

Fascinating. Of the nine posts I looked at, all of them rewrote the titles from the original blog posts so that they started with a verb, making the titles more specific in the process. This makes sense in the context of it being a lifehack, of course. The concept has action at its core.

I like the new titles more. I can imagine that remembering and linking to the Lifehacker-style titles would be easier than linking to the original ones.

Most of my posts don’t quite feel like those, though. I noticed that most of my titles start with gerunds: thinking about, building, learning, exploring, experimenting. I think it’s because I write in the middle of things, while I’m figuring things out. I don’t feel comfortable telling people what they should do. I share my notes and let people come to their own conclusions. Starting a post with a verb seems to be too direct, as if I’m telling you to do something.

That said, filler phrases like “Thinking about…” aren’t particularly useful as part of a title, since the reflection is a given. But changing “Thinking about how to make better use of Yasnippet in my Emacs workflow” to “Save time with dynamic Yasnippets when typing frequently-used text in Emacs” doesn’t seem to accommodate the exploratory bits, although it could be a good follow-up post. Changing “Minimizing upward or downward skew in your sketchnotes” to “Minimize upward or downward skew in your sketchnotes” feels like I’m making a value judgment on skewed sketchnotes, when some people might like the fact that an upward skew tends to feel happy and optimistic.

So I use nouns or gerunds when reflecting (which is self-directed), and verbs when I’m trying to put together other-directed advice. This helps me differentiate the types of posts in my index and in my editorial calendar admin screen, and it also signals the difference to people as they browse. You might not be interested in my reflections and prefer to focus on tips, for example, or you might be tired of tips and want journal entries instead.

That works because those types of posts are generally quite separate. When I want to help someone learn a technique such as sketching quick ribbons, I don’t go on an extended tangent about how I learned how to do that or how I want to improve. When I’m thinking about how I can improve my delegation skills, I don’t expect someone to patiently go through all of that in search of three concrete tips to help them improve. I think that as I gain experience and become more opinionated (the latter probably being more related to this), I’ll write more advice/instruction posts, possibly linking to those personal-experience-and-reflection posts instead of going on internal tangents.

In this post, I’m experimenting with a verb title while doing extensive self-reflection. It feels a little odd, as if you started a conversation with someone and then proceeded to talk to yourself, idly musing out loud. You’ll have to tell me if I should never do that again, or if there’s a way to manage the balance. But it also feels odd to use my part of the conversation to tell you to do stuff, solely drawing on other people’s research or recommendations, without sharing my context so you can tell if something that makes sense for me might make sense for you. I figure there are plenty of other people out there who want to tell you what to do with your life, and I’m not completely fond of that approach anyway. And it also feels odd to natter away about my life like a self-absorbed ninny, making you do all the hard work of translating ideas into things that you can actually use. I still haven’t completely figured out how to make personal blogs more useful for other people.

Could I make an idea sandwich: summary and research at the top, personal reflection in the middle, call to action at the end? Maybe that could work.

Still, I want to do something with my titles so that I don’t end up with lots of “Thinking about …” and “Exploring …” and “Deciding between …” that blur in my memory. My ideal for these reflection posts, I think, would be a clear, concise summary of the key insight (perhaps saving it as an excerpt as well, if it doesn’t fit in the title). If I followed that up with an other-directed post with a crisp title that started with a verb, made the recommendation, brought in some research and observations, and linked to my reflection, that would give me a good, logical, memorable, useful chunk that I could share with other people.

Right. That makes sense to me. If I address you with a direct verb or “How to …”, I should deliver a post that requires minimal mental translation for you to get good tips out of it. If I clearly mark something as a reflection, you know what to expect. I tend to remember them as actions I decided to take (“The time I resolved to…”) or the particular new thing I came to understand. I can take a few minutes to update the titles and summaries accordingly, which could help me years later when I’m trying to make sense of things again.

In Buckminister’s somewhat strange book I Seem to Be a Verb (1970), he wrote:

I live on Earth at present, and I don’t know what I am. I know that I am not a category. I am not a thing—a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process—an integral function of the universe.

A verb seems too definite for me. I’m a gerund in at least two senses, I think: reflexive, the way “I read” is an act but “reading” is a noun that lets us talk about itself; and in the process of doing, not done.

Do you write other-directed posts that offer advice or instruction? Consider lopping off “How to …” and “Top 10 ways to…”. Start with a verb and give one clear recommendation. Do you write self-directed reflections? See if you can harvest the ideas for other-directed posts, and perhaps invest a little time into making your posts easier for you to remember. Do you write a mix of both, and have you figured out a good flow? I’d love to hear what works for you.

The post Start your titles with a verb to make them stronger; or reflections on titles, filler phrases, and my life as a gerund appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at December 30, 2014 01:00 PM

One Big Fluke

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Don’t Just Make a Resolution—Make a Habit

Making New Years' resolution is one of my favorite end-of-year activities. Every year I'm encouraged by the idea that in a mere 12 months I will have become a (marginally) better person. But every year I'm unable to keep the resolve in my resolutions for more than a few months. I've tried to be more persistent (Resolution #12 - 1988), develop more willpower (Resolution #9 - 1993), and even "resolved" to keep my resolutions (Resolution #1 - 1998). Nothing ever seems to be effective.

This year I'm trying something different. Instead of just making new resolutions, I intend to make new habits.

How Habits Create Character

Think back over your day’s activities. Did you pray or read your Bible? Did you have a snack before lunch or dinner? Did you check you email or social media after receiving a notification on your smartphone?

While these activities may not appear to have much in common they all share a common feature: they are usually done out of habit.

A habit is a recurrent, often unconscious pattern of behavior acquired through frequent repetition. Habits, whether good or bad, are behavior or practices that have become so ingrained they are often done without conscious thought. If we seek out a vending machine at 3 pm it’s likely because we have developed a habit of having a mid-afternoon snack. If someone were to confront us and ask why we were buying a cookie and soda we’d say that we were hungry. But the truth is we are simply re-enacting a pattern of behavior that has become ingrained in our daily routine.

Habits drive our behavior, which in turn forms our character. No one wakes up one day to find they’ve suddenly developed either an immoral or a godly character. It is through habits of rebelliousness against God that we become “slaves to sin” and through habits of obedience and obeying from our heart the “pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance” that we become “slaves to righteousness.” (Romans 6:15-18).

Our character is shaped by the responses we make to thousands of decisions over the course of our lives. Most of the time we respond without consciously thinking about how to act. We tell the truth because we’ve made a habit of truth-telling. Over time we become honest and trustworthy because the habit of truth-telling has become engrained in our character.

Because of the role habits play in spiritual growth (or spiritual degeneration), it’s important to understand how they work, how they’re formed, and how positive habits can be created. 

How Habits Work

Habits emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort. God designed our brains to automate mundane and rote tasks (such as walking) in order that we might have more mental energy to spend on spiritual or cultural tasks (such as worship or creating songs).

Every habit starts with a behavioral pattern called a "habit loop," which consists of a cue, routine, and reward. The cue is a type of trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and begin the routine, which is the behavior itself. The final step is the reward, an internal or external stimulus that satisfies your brain and helps it remember the habit loop.

Consider, for example, one of the most frequently practiced habits of personal hygiene. As you prepare to go to bed at night (this is the cue) your brain reminds you to brush your teeth (this is the routine). The fresh, clean feeling that results provides a positive experience (this is the reward).

If you forget to follow this routine, you may find your brain sending you a reminder or a signal that something is wrong (usually after you’re comfortably warm and snug in bed). This is because habits satisfy a neurological craving — our brains look forward to the sense of fulfillment that comes with completing the routine. This is also why it becomes so hard to not check our email when we receive a notification. Even if we know the email is something that can be handled at a later time, our brains want us to “close the loop” by completing our habitual routine.

How to Create a Habit

To create a new virtuous habit, apply the following four steps:

Identify the habit loop — The new pattern of behavior you want to create, such as one based on a resolution, will consist of the habit loop: a cue, a routine, and the reward. Take a few minutes to think through and write down the details of each part of the loop. For our example let’s use the habit of a daily devotional reading. To set up the routine — the main action of the habit, such as actually reading the devotional — we’ll need to identify the materials that are needed (e.g., access to a Bible and the devotional material) and establish a time in which we can consistently carry out the habit loop (e.g., in the morning, before work).

The more you understand the habit loop you are creating, the easier it will be to identify any problems that might prevent you from making it a habitual behavior.

Isolate the cue — Cues are signals that tell us to begin the habit routine. In his book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg says research has shown that almost all habitual cues fit into one of five categories: location, time, emotional state, other people, and immediately preceding action. Choose a cue for your habit loop that takes advantage of as many of these categories as possible. For instance, our cue could be pulling into the parking lot at work (location and immediately preceding action) at 8:40 am (time) when we are relived to be out of traffic (emotional state) and when no one else is around (other people).

Create a reward — When creating a virtuous habit, the reward stage can be the most difficult step of the habit loop. Why should we be rewarded for doing something we should be doing anyway? And isn’t the habit — such as our devotional reading — a reward in itself? It’s understandable that you may feel guilty about creating a reward of a good habit. But keep in mind that you are not rewarding yourself for doing thing right thing, you’re training your brain to create a neurological craving. If we have a “reward” (such as eating a small piece of candy) after reading a devotional it isn’t to actually reward us for our accomplishment. It’s merely a way to directly affect how our brain will respond to the habit loop.

Plan and evaluate — The reason habits are difficult to consciously create is because they have not yet become a habit. It’s the conscious part—making sure your brain is actively focused on the habit loop—that becomes the stumbling block.

For the habit loop to become an ingrained habit requires effort and persistence. You need a plan that outlines how you’ll handle obstacles and what you’ll do when if you miss your schedule and need to get back on track. Similarly, you’ll need to continuously evaluate your habit loop to ensure you have effective cues and rewards.

On their own, resolutions can be a helpful tool. But by combining them with habits you can create a powerful means for transforming your character and helping you to live a more godly life.

by Joe Carter at December 30, 2014 08:00 AM

Table Titans

Tales: Resurrection

News

It was 1981, Ouija boards were a thing, and we were needlessly having a faux-seance during the resurrection process of my Fighter Lex. The DM was laying it on thick. He dramatically called into the suburban Illinois air,

"Lex, LEX... if you can hear us from beyond the realms of Orcus and…

Read more

December 30, 2014 07:00 AM

One Big Fluke

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Why TGC Australia?

Everyone committed to gospel ministry in Australia must be encouraged by the energy for Christian ministry found in good expository preaching and in many strong churches, theological and Bible colleges, Christian publishers, and church planting networks.

Our aim is to facilitate more gospel cohesion in Australia and try to overcome the tyrannies of distance, competition, and tribalism so that people from different churches, states, and ministries are better able to encourage and support each other.

New Network

The Gospel Coalition has managed to bring together a good variety of ministries and interests in a supportive fellowship in North America. TGC also has a valuable website resource that provides support for thinking about and doing gospel ministry. This site very popular with Australians, and many of us use it regularly. 

Over the past few years there have been movements in several American states and Canada to set up local gospel networks. Earlier this year we began conversations with TGC, and the result was that a representative group of people met in August and agreed to set up TGC Australia. This group—which will be the Council of TGC Australia—appointed a steering group comprising Gary Millar from Brisbane, C. S. Tang from Sydney, and myself from Melbourne.

New Space

TGC will make a dedicated space for us on their website, and we plan to launch in early 2015. We already have a large bank of articles that will allow us to build and sustain momentum. This website space will enable informed and positive discussion about gospel ministry in our Australian context, and will provide useful resources for many.

On July 23, 2015, we will be holding a Leaders’ Consultation in Brisbane. We are inviting leaders from a large range of ministries, and we hope they will join to help us shape an effective ministry. There will be input from Don Carson, Peter Jensen, and TGC Australia Council members. During this Consultation we will celebrate the national launch of TGC Australia at the iconic Brisbane City Hall.   

Collaboration, Not Competition

We do not want to set up yet another Christian organization to compete with existing churches, ministries, or organizations. We do want to enable and support an increase in mutual recognition, mutual information-sharing, mutual prayer, and mutual support among our many churches, colleges, ministries, and organizations. We are sure this will enrich all our ministries, enable gospel fellowship across Australia, and allow each of us to contribute our special gifts to a common goal. (We also hope mutual information-sharing and support will enable us to coordinate our efforts so that we don’t end up with six excellent Australia-wide conferences in the same month!)

TGC is not supporting TGC Australia financially, but they have generously agreed to host us on their website, and have also given us helpful advice and information. May the Lord use our efforts to cultivate more effective gospel ministry in Australia, and in turn increase our country’s contribution to his global mission.

by Peter Adam at December 30, 2014 06:01 AM

The Sanctification Spiral

Some reading this article may be familiar with a method of teaching math called spiraling. As a math teacher, I never used that method in the classroom, but I did once tutor a student using that approach. At first, he and I were both frustrated. His book presented one concept in the first few pages. Then it went immediately onto another concept. But he hadn't mastered the first, and we were frustrated that the text moved on so quickly. Then, after the first few pages, the book spiraled back to review the first concept. A few pages later, it both reviewed that first concept and expanded on it. The text spiraled, coming back again and again to previously presented concepts, fleshing them out each time a little more. After two weeks of tutoring, my student was no longer frustrated, and it wasn't because I was a great math teacher. He was getting the concepts from the book on his own. The spiraling approach that had initially frustrated him was now key to his understanding of mathematics.

I have found that God uses a similar spiraling approach in my life. He teaches me something, but then quickly moves me on to the next thing. And the next thing. However, over time, the first struggle reappears in my life along with an expanded opportunity to trust God in the middle of it. After the third or fourth time working through the same struggle, I start to deeply internalize the things God is teaching me in a way I had not during the first or even second pass. 

Identity. Temptation. Idolatry. Sin. Suffering. Sickness. Strife. Redemption.  

Repeat. 

This is the rhythm of Christian life, and that rhythm is helpful in informing how we disciple others. Even as we meet someone in the midst of a particular struggle, they struggle in the middle of a much larger one. All of our smaller struggles are subsets of our larger one, and this larger struggle repeats in our lives with similar but different iterations each cycle. 

Created, Fallen, Redeemed

It starts with identity. Who was I created to be? How can we help ourselves or others if we don't first know whom we are called to reflect at a foundational level? God calls us his image bearer. He particularly calls women strong helpers after his example. At the dawn of creation, woman in perfection was image bearer, helper, and worker, exercising co-dominion over earth with the man. We will never understand Genesis 3 without first knowing Genesis 1 and 2. 

Then comes the fall. What do I struggle with? How am I bent away from reflecting God's image? Idolatry. False identity. Looking in all the wrong places for something to satisfy longings in my heart made for God alone. But how can we understand our idolatry without first knowing the relationship the one true God created us to enjoy? 

Finally, there is redemption. What has Christ done for me? Who am I in him? We are redeemed by God to once again be imitators of him. But I don't know what imitating God means for myself or others if I don't understand my identity as an image bearer of him first. I don't recognize what I have been redeemed from if I don't comprehend the depth of the results of the fall in my own heart. 

Getting Stuck in the Cycle

Yet, on any given iteration through this cycle, I have not plumbed the depths of each idea. So I spiral through these lessons again and again. Who was I created to be with my children? How has the fall bent me away from God's purposes for me with them? How has Jesus made a way for me to once again reflect God's image in my relationship with my children? Who was I created to be with my job? How has the fall bent me away from God's purposes . . . you get the picture. 

My intent is not to boil discipleship down to a three-part method. Instead, I want to provoke thought about where you might be stuck in the process and what it looks like in your life (or as you disciple others) to revisit each piece of the spiraling structure over time. Are you strong in your understanding of redemption but weak in remembering what you are redeemed for? Do you understand your bent away from God's image more than you recognize his image? Do you know the pain of sin but not the beauty of righteousness? Do you know what God wants you to be but live in frustration at your inability to get there? Imbalance in the spiral leads to stunted growth.

Whether the topic is our own personal growth or walking in love with another, there is a rhythm of sanctification in a believer's life. It's not linear. It's cyclical. And it's not a circle, it's a spiral. The circle is repetitive, but the spiral grows with each turn. Who did God create me to be? How am I bent away from his image? How has Jesus made a way for me to reflect God's image once more?

When you feel “stuck,” when you feel like you are continually rehearsing the same struggles, remember this: sanctification is not an endless, repetitive circle. It is a growing spiral in which each round penetrates more deeply into our identity as fallen, but redeemed, image-bearers of God. Spiritual growth can be a long, slow process—with one step backward for every two steps forward—but as you trust in Christ, God will complete the work he has begun in you (Phil. 1:6). Remember: your spiral is not a circle!

by Wendy Alsup at December 30, 2014 06:01 AM

Addressing the Vital Doctrine of Scripture

In various quarters and in myriad ways the Scriptures are being questioned, undermined, reinterpreted, and denied. Many desire to update the Bible to ensure its truth and teachings remain relevant. But to update the Scriptures to ensure they speak “truth” is to step away from the God's authoritative Word.

This assault on God's Word was at the heart of the initial temptation of Satan in Eden, when the serpent asked his question: “Did God actually say?” (Gen. 3:1). This question was the means by which Satan sowed seeds of doubt in the minds and hearts of Adam and Eve.

Tragically, our first parents regressed from the initial question to an outright denial of God's Word, which was the basis of the fall. They ate the forbidden fruit (Gen. 3:6), and all born since are “in Adam." In a twisted order of God’s design, rather than running to God, fallen humans hide from him. Rather than listening to him, they want to shield themselves from him. Thankfully, God did not leave them (or us) alone.

There is another question in the early chapters of Genesis, this time from God. He asks, “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9). This question is not asked out of ignorance, since God is omniscient. Rather, it is asked in love. After Adam and Eve rebelled against God and his Word, God had no obligation to respond. He could have remained silent and allowed sin to have its full effect in both physical and spiritual death. And he would have remained just and righteous in doing so. Yet, in his love and mercy (Ex. 34:6-7), he speaks. Though he will speak a word of judgment, he also speaks a word of hope, found in the promise of an offspring (Gen. 3:15), a son, the Word incarnate (John 1:14) revealed through God’s Word inscripturated.

Every generation will face the age-old lie of Satan, the temptation to deny God and his Word. But the manner in which the questions are asked today reflects the spirit of the age. This is why it is critical that every generation believes, confesses, and affirms the authority of Scripture.

Important Questions 

If we are not aware of how the doctrine of Scripture is being questioned or undermined, we will not be able to equip God’s people to defend the faith. Evangelicals need to stand ready to give an answer to such questions as: What about the creation of the universe and the historicity of Adam and Eve? Do we affirm that the Scriptures are inspired, inerrant, and authoritative in matters of faith and practice alone, or do we also include history and science?

Many questions ring with contemporary significance: How do we understand the human genome project? What do the Scriptures honestly say about homosexuality? Is it really an Old Testament matter and not a New Testament matter, guided by Jesus’s love ethic alone? Are the Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) documents the definitive grid by which to interpret the Scriptures? Is God a “moral monster” with his command to commit genocide against the Canaanites? 

EFCA Theology Conference

In response to these questions and in defense of the Scriptures, the 2015 Evangelical Free Church of America Theology Conference theme is “The Doctrine of the Scriptures.” Conference dates are January 28 to 30, 2015, at Trinity International University/Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.

The conference will address why it is important to equip Christians to uphold the truths of the Bible in today’s culture. Three intensely focused days will include seven teaching sessions, two panel discussions, and corporate worship. 

Speakers and topics include:

  • D. A. Carson, “The Doctrine of Scripture: Introduction to the Present-Day Discussion.” 
  • John Woodbridge, “The History of the Doctrine of Scripture.”
  • Kevin Vanhoozer, “Inerrancy and Hermeneutics.” 
  • V. Philips Long, “Competing Histories, Competing Theologies, and the Challenge of Old Testament Interpretation.”
  • Douglas Moo, “The New Testament Use of the Old Testament.”
  • Graham Cole, “The Theology of Canonicity: Why a Book, Why this Book, Why this Sequence of Books within the Book.”
  • Daniel Doriani, “Scripture in the Life of the Pastor.”

Attendance is not limited to those in the EFCA or at TIU/TEDS. For more information or to register, see the conference website or email credentialing@efca.org.

by Greg Strand at December 30, 2014 06:01 AM

One Big Fluke

Generic programming in Go using "go generate"

Go 1.4 was released on December 10th and brings us the new go generate command. The motivation is to provide an explicit preprocessing step in the golang toolchain for things like yacc and protocol buffers. But interestingly, the design doc also hints at other use-cases like "macros: generating customized implementations given generalized packages, such as sort.Ints from ints".

That sounds a lot like generics to me! As you've probably heard, generics are a glaring omission from Go and the subject of a lot of debate. When I saw the word "macro" in the design doc I was reminded of "C with Classes", Bjarne Stroustrup's first attempt at shoehorning object-oriented programming into C. Here's what he recalls from the time:

In October of 1979 I had a pre-processor, called Cpre, that added Simula-like classes to C running and in March of 1980 this pre-processor had been refined to the point where it supported one real project and several experiments. My records show the pre-processor in use on 16 systems by then. The first key C++ library, the task system supporting a co-routine style of programming, was crucial to the usefulness of "C with Classes," as the language accepted by the pre-processor was called, in these projects.

Perhaps go generate is the first version of "Go with Generics" that we'll look back at nostalgically while we're all writing Go++. But for now I'd like to take generate for a spin and see how it works.


Why generics?

To make sure we're on the same page, I'd like to answer the question: why do I want to do this? For me the first painful moment using Go was when I tried to join together some strings with a newline character. The problem was that I'm far too reliant on writing Python code like this:

#!/usr/bin/env python

from collections import namedtuple

Person = namedtuple('Person', ['first_name', 'last_name', 'hair_color'])

people = [
    Person('Sideshow', 'Bob', 'red'),
    Person('Homer', 'Simpson', 'n/a'),
    Person('Lisa', 'Simpson', 'blonde'),
    Person('Marge', 'Simpson', 'blue'),
    Person('Mr', 'Burns', 'gray'),
]

joined = '\n'.join(repr(x) for x in people)

print 'My favorite Simpsons Characters:\n%s' % joined

Note how the '\n'.join(repr(x) for x in people) does all the heavy lifting here. It converts the object to a string representation using the repr function. The join method consumes all of those converted inputs and returns the combined string. The same approach works for any type you throw at it. The output is unsurprising:

My favorite Simpsons Characters:
Person(first_name='Sideshow', last_name='Bob', hair_color='red')
Person(first_name='Homer', last_name='Simpson', hair_color='n/a')
Person(first_name='Lisa', last_name='Simpson', hair_color='blonde')
Person(first_name='Marge', last_name='Simpson', hair_color='blue')
Person(first_name='Mr', last_name='Burns', hair_color='gray')


Here's an attempt at accomplishing the same thing generically in Go. The idea here is that I'll implement the method required to make my struct satisfy the fmt.Stringer interface. Then I'll use a type conversion to invoke the generic method With on a []fmt.Stringer array. This should work because my struct Person satisfies the interface, right?

package main

import (
 "fmt"
 "strings"
)

type Join []fmt.Stringer

func (j Join) With(sep string) string {
 stred := make([]string, 0, len(j))
 for _, s := range j {
  stred = append(stred, s.String())
 }
 return strings.Join(stred, sep)
}

type Person struct {
 FirstName string
 LastName  string
 HairColor string
}

func (s *Person) String() string {
 return fmt.Sprintf("%#v", s)
}

func main() {
 people := []Person{
  Person{"Sideshow", "Bob", "red"},
  Person{"Homer", "Simpson", "n/a"},
  Person{"Lisa", "Simpson", "blonde"},
  Person{"Marge", "Simpson", "blue"},
  Person{"Mr", "Burns", "gray"},
 }
 fmt.Printf("My favorite Simpsons Characters:%s\n", Join(people).With("\n"))
}

Unfortunately, this fails with a cryptic message:

./bad_example.go:40: cannot convert people (type []Person) to type Join

Perhaps the type conversion Join(people) is no good. What if instead I just accept an array of fmt.Stringer interfaces? My Person struct implements String so it's assignable to a fmt.Stringer. It should work. Here's the revised section of the program:

type Joinable []fmt.Stringer

func Join(in []fmt.Stringer) Joinable {
 out := make(Joinable, 0, len(in))
 for _, x := range in {
  out = append(out, x)
 }
 return out
}

func (j Joinable) With(sep string) string {
 stred := make([]string, 0, len(j))
 for _, s := range j {
  stred = append(stred, s.String())
 }
 return strings.Join(stred, sep)
}

This also fails, this time a bit more clearly:

./bad_example2.go:51: cannot use people (type []Person) as type []fmt.Stringer in argument to Join

The problem here is the difference between an array of structs and an array of interfaces. Russ Cox explains all the details here. The gist is that interface references in memory are a pair of pointers. The first pointer is to the type of the interface (like fmt.Stringer). The second pointer is to the underlying data (like Person). A []Person array is contiguous bytes in memory of Person structs. A []fmt.Stringer array is contiguous bytes in memory of interface reference pairs. The representations aren't the same, so you can't convert in a typesafe way.

So we're stuck. The only way out is to use reflection, which will slow everything down. Luckily, in Go 1.4 we now have another built-in option: go generate.


Writing a generate tool

The Go team helpfully provided an example tool for generating Stringer implementations using go generate. The code for the tool is here and it's pretty gnarly. It walks the abstract syntax tree (AST) of the source code and determines the right code to output. It's quite an odd form of generic programming.

Based on this example I tried to implement my own generate tool. My goal was to provide the join functionality I sorely missed from Python. I'd consider it success if the following program would execute simply by running go generate followed by go run *.go.

package main

//go:generate joiner $GOFILE

import (
 "fmt"
)

// @joiner
type Person struct {
 FirstName string
 LastName  string
 HairColor string
}

func main() {
 people := []Person{
  Person{"Sideshow", "Bob", "red"},
  Person{"Homer", "Simpson", "n/a"},
  Person{"Lisa", "Simpson", "blonde"},
  Person{"Marge", "Simpson", "blue"},
  Person{"Mr", "Burns", "gray"},
 }
 fmt.Printf("My favorite Simpsons Characters:\n%s\n", JoinPerson(people).With("\n"))
}

I also had to do some AST walking (that's the core of the tool). I rely on the comment // @joiner to indicate which types I want to make joinable. Yes, this is a gross overloading of comments. Perhaps something like tags for type declarations would be better if the language supported it (similar to "use asm"). Go's built-in templating libraries made it easy to render the generated functions.

The full code for my tool is available on GitHub. You can install it on your system with go install https://github.com/bslatkin/joiner. Once you do that, you can run go generate to cause Go to run the tool and output a corresponding main_joiner.go file that looks like this:

// generated by joiner -- DO NOT EDIT
package main

import (
 "fmt"
 "strings"
)

func (t Person) String() string {
 return fmt.Sprintf("%#v", t)
}

type JoinPerson []Person

func (j JoinPerson) With(sep string) string {
 all := make([]string, 0, len(j))
 for _, s := range j {
  all = append(all, s.String())
 }
 return strings.Join(all, sep)
}

Remarkably, this works for my original example above with no modifications. Here's the output from running go run *.go:

My favorite Simpsons Characters:
main.Person{FirstName:"Sideshow", LastName:"Bob", HairColor:"red"}
main.Person{FirstName:"Homer", LastName:"Simpson", HairColor:"n/a"}
main.Person{FirstName:"Lisa", LastName:"Simpson", HairColor:"blonde"}
main.Person{FirstName:"Marge", LastName:"Simpson", HairColor:"blue"}
main.Person{FirstName:"Mr", LastName:"Burns", HairColor:"gray"}


Conclusion

Does go generate make generics for Go easier? The answer is yes. It's now possible to write generic behavior in a way that easily integrates with the standard golang toolchain. I expect existing Go generics tools like gen and genny to move over to this standard approach.

However, that helps most in consuming generic code libraries and using them in your programs. Writing new generic code is still an exceptionally laborious process. Having to walk the AST just to write a generic function is insane. But you can imagine a standard generate tool that helps you write other generate tools. That's the piece we're missing to make generic programming in Go a reality. Now with go generate in the wild, I look forward to renewed interest in projects like gotgo, gonerics, and gotemplate to make this easy!

by Brett Slatkin (noreply@blogger.com) at December 30, 2014 05:52 AM

eagereyes

eagereyes will be bloggier in 2015

I always mess with my site around the new year, and this year is no exception. In addition to a new theme, I’ve also been thinking about content. Here are some thoughts on what I want to do in 2015.

I don’t know what it is, but I always start hating my website theme after about a year. We’ll see if this one is any different. Either way, it’s new. If you’re curious, this is the new Twenty Fifteen Theme that’s part of WordPress 4.1, with some minor tweaks. It’s nice, simple, clean, and has a few subtle little features.

It’s also decidedly a blog theme, with a focus on images. I’ve been using teaser images for most postings for a while now, and will make a bigger effort to find good and fitting ones. These may not even show up in your newsreader, especially for link posts (though you will see them on facebook and in the Twitter cards). But they make the site a lot nicer to look at and navigate.

As for content, there are mainly two things. One is that I want to make some more use of the post formats in WordPress, in particular links. These are different in that their title link goes to the page I want to link to, rather than a posting. The text that goes with each will also be short, so you’ll be able to see the entire thing on the front page. If you care to comment, you can click on the image to go to the posting page.

I already posted the first one recently, and have a few more scheduled for the coming weeks. The idea is to post a few of these a month, in addition to the regular content. If you’re following me on Twitter, it’s likely that you will have seen these links there before, but there will be a tad more context here, and there won’t be nearly as many.

As for the other content, my plan is to make a clearer distinction between blog postings and articles. I already have that in the way the categories are set up, but that isn’t very visible. I’m aiming for more consistent posting (i.e., one posting a week, every week), with the blog postings being shorter and more informal, while the articles will be longer and more organized.

Link titles will start with “Link:” from now on, but I don’t want to do that for blog postings or articles. I’m not sure yet how I will indicate the distinction, but it should at least be clear from the length and maybe the tone.

The goal is to make the content easier to consume, since I know that anything beyond a few paragraphs is much less likely to be read in its entirety (or at all). And perhaps I’ll even find a use for those other post types, like quote, image, and aside.

by Robert Kosara at December 30, 2014 04:17 AM

CrossFit Naptown

New Years Eve and Day Schedule

Tuesday’s Workout:

1 Behind-the-Neck Split Jerk
1 Split Jerk
Every 2:00 for 7 Rounds
*TECHNIQUE FIRST!

 

WOD:
Unbroken Chest-2-Bar Pull Ups
1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10
12:00 Time Cap

 

Post Workout:
175 Double Unders
-or-
5:00 Double Under Practice

 

 

New Years Schedule

New Years Eve December 31st:

6:00pm CANCELLED
7:00pm CANCELLED
8:00pm CANCELLED
*all other classes are on as scheduled

New Years Day January 1st:

Open Gym 11:00am-2:00pm
*join us for hero wods and fun to bring in the New Year

 

The New Year glasses seem a little impractical after 2009 (though a case can be made for 2010...) yet we still keep 'em going *sigh*

The New Year glasses seem a little impractical after 2009 (though a case can be made for 2010…) yet we still keep ‘em going *sigh*

 

 

 

 

 

CrossFit Kids is Here!

 

After the joy of the holiday season, cabin fever will be sure to set in. Grab your little ones and get active this January as we reintroduce CrossFit Kids for a 3 weekend engagement!

When? January 3, 17, 31 from 12-1pm

Who? Families (CFNT members and Non-Members welcome) children ages 4-8 and 8-13

What? CrossFit Kids class while the adults have a scheduled class so they can workout while their children do!
The adults will have a workout on one side, while the kids are working out on the other.

Where? CrossFit NapTown, 609 N. Delaware Street

plankwars

 

Cost:

*Paying up front for all 3 sessions
member $45 per one child
member $80 for two children
member $115 for three children
non-member $55 per one child
non-member $90 per two children
non-member $125 per three children
**Paying per session
$20 member/ $25 non-member


Frequently Asked Questions:

1. What if my child is over 13? You are welcome to bring your teen to workout in the general class with you, as long as you fill out a waiver for them.

2. How many kids are you allowing in the program? We are capping it at each age group for 15 kids.

3. How many instructors will there be? 2 for each age group and one for the adult class.

4. What should my child wear? tennis shoes, comfortable gym clothes, and make sure they have a bottle of water :).

5. What is the class structure like? Parents will be on one side of the gym, kids on the other. Kids will go through a warm up, skill session, review workout movements, WOD (10 minutes TOPS) and a game.

6. What if we miss a class? Can we make it up?We are not offering refunds if you miss a class. This will only be a 3 week engagement for the time being.

by Anna at December 30, 2014 03:13 AM

Caelum Et Terra

Learning to See

amblyopia-cover-eye

 

‘If thine eye be single thy body will be filled with light.’  

 

I have always felt out of place in this world. Besides an atypical temperament and looks I felt like I just saw the world differently from other people.

And so I did, quite literally.

I was diagnosed at an early age with amblyopia, commonly called ‘lazy eye’. There are various forms of this, but in my case it meant that my left eye was so much stronger than my right that my eyes did not work together. While the mind can compensate for a lot, including the resultant shattered vision, it also ‘wants’ to see singly, so I developed a habit, especially in bright light, of closing my right eye so I would see a single image, not a double or a fragmented one. Most of the time I used both eyes, though, and the dominant left would predominate, while the right eye offered a sort of shadow image, if I thought about what I was seeing.

The condition results in perceiving a very different world than normal people, sort of like being color blind, only it affects depth perception. The visual world is less rich, less integrated, more fragmented.

Indeed it occurred to me only recently that this disturbance in spatial perception explains my inability as a young baseball player to catch a fly ball in the outfield. When the ball was in the air I would look up at it and have no idea where it was going to land. I would run up on it and it would fall behind me, or I would back up and it would land in front of me. I don’t think I ever caught a fly ball playing outfield, which combined with my lousy throwing arm meant a humiliating career as an outfielder.

But I was one fine shortstop, a position where speed and instinct are more important than spatial reasoning or a good arm.

And I could never see 3D. I would stare at those patterns that are supposed to transform into vivid images, but only saw the abstract image, never the 3D one.

When I was small they tried an eyepatch over my strong eye, but it never took.

Living with amblyopia, of course, one does not think much about it, or about how much visually richer the world appears to others. One sees the way one sees, the mind compensates, and all appears  ‘normal’, if you don’t know better, which of course you don’t.

I did once, a few years ago, come across a firsthand account by a woman who had done some sort of eye exercise and overcame the syndrome and the way she spoke about the revelatory nature of seeing with both eyes in union made me curious and envious. I tried to find information about this online but all I could find was some dead end links in Malaysia.

Mostly, human nature being resilient, I did not think about it and about the only reminder of my oddness occurred when people commented that my right eye would ‘wander’, gaze off into the distance just beyond them when I was talking to them, which is disconcerting to whoever I am talking to. This happened especially when I was tired, as in my mild case it was not often noticeable (some people’s eyes appear permanently crossed or walleyed).

But then a funny thing happened. I developed cataracts, though I was unaware of what was happening. I at first only knew that something was wrong because I increasingly found trying to paint icons frustrating. My hand-eye coordination was so skewed that I found the act of painting stressful, while it had always been very calming. Eventually I figured out that my right eye did not see clearly and I went to the eye doctor. He diagnosed a cataract on my right eye, and a nascent one on the left, and he prescribed surgery to replace the lenses with some high tech super plastic version of a lens.

After the surgery my right eye, dilated, was blurry. My bride drove me home, left eye shut, When the dilation wore off things gradually came into focus.

And I was amazed. I had thought that with the glasses I had worn since my early 40s that my vision was fine, but my new eye saw details and clarity that amazed me. Colors were brighter, lines more distinct. Everything was vivid.

Certainly nothing compared to my sister, who got glasses when she was ten or so and realized for the first time that when you looked a tree you were supposed to see many leaves,  not a green blur.

But it was still impressive. I had asked my wife to drop me off at the library after the surgery, where the dilation wore off. I walked home with my left eye closed, savoring the delight of all the fine details in the world. It was like being high, everything enhanced.

Since my right eye was now the clear one, I began closing my left eye, which was fuzzy by comparison. It was a few months before I had surgery on the other eye, and in that time my right eye grew strong for the first time. By the time I had my left eye done my eyes were, for the first time in my life, more or less equivalent in strength.

Which means that it gradually dawned on me that I was seeing differently. It is analogous to hearing only in mono and then hearing stereo. There was a depth and dimension that I had never seen before.

And for the first time I could perceive what other people did when they looked at 3D.

But as I have had so many years of habit, I often find myself, if I am not paying attention, reverting to my old way of seeing, even closing my right eye on bright days. It takes some effort to see rightly, with both eyes focused. And in fact my left eye is again the stronger. It takes time to correct lifelong habits at any age, let alone in one’s seventh decade. Only the other day I realized, after work, that my eyes had been reverting to fragmented vision all day.

It takes will and memory to see right.

It is sort of like the spiritual life in that: we know how to see, but without vigilance it is easy to revert to old habits.

But the reward for attentiveness in both realms is a rich one.

And next summer I will see if I can catch a long fly ball in center field.


by Daniel Nichols at December 30, 2014 03:11 AM

Cal Newport » Blog

Thinking is Uncomfortable but Exciting

Eric_Havelock - 320 pxThoughts on Thinking

“Thinking [is] a very special type of psychic activity, very uncomfortable, but also very exciting…”

This quote comes from the influential twentieth century classicist, Eric Havelock. It’s taken from a book in which Havelock argues that the invention of writing in the ancient world was a prerequisite for the activity we now call “thinking” (he’s talking here about thought in its most rigorous form in which we embrace abstraction and attempt to understand truths beyond specific concrete encounters with the world).

What strikes me is that Havelock describes demanding cognition as both uncomfortable and exciting.

These two adjectives sum up well the sometimes complicated experience of deep work. This activity is not fun in the sense that it can cause mental strain and discomfort, but at the same time, the rewards it produces are richer than anything that the addictive digital bazaars of the attention economy can offer.

I don’t have a specific suggestion to offer here. This is just a meditation to keep in mind as we enter a season of New Year’s resolutions and begin to ask, as we do most Januarys, how we should define a working life well lived…

#####

The quote comes from pages 283 – 284 in the 2009 Harvard University Press edition of Havelock’s influential Preface to Plato. It was first brought to my attention by James Gleick’s ambitious 2011 book, The Information.

 

 

by Study Hacks at December 30, 2014 02:03 AM

Jon Udell

Individual voices in the Federated Wiki chorus

In recent days I’ve been immersed in the Federated Wiki Happening, a group exploration of Ward Cunningham’s Smallest Federated Wiki (SFW). When I first saw what Ward was up to, nearly a year ago, I resisted the temptation to dive in because I knew it would be a long and deep dive that I couldn’t make time for. But when Mike Caulfield brought together a diverse group of like-minded scholars for the #fedwikihappening, I had the time and took the plunge. It’s been a joyful experience that reminds me of two bygone eras. The first was the dawn of the web, when I built the BYTE website and explored the Internet’s precursors to today’s social software. The second was the dawn of the blogosphere, when I immersed myself in Radio UserLand and RSS.

During both of those eras I participated in online communities enaged in, among other things, the discovery of emergent uses of the networked software that enabled those communities to exist. The interplay of social and technological dynamics was exciting in ways I’d almost forgotten. This week, the FedWikiHappening took me there again.

I want to explain why but, as Mike says today, so much has happened so quickly that it’s hard to know where to begin. For now, I’ll choose a single narrative thread: identity.

SFW inverts the traditional wiki model, which enables many authors to work on a canonical page. In SFW there is no canonical page. We all create our own pages and edit them exclusively. But we can also copy pages from others, and make changes. Others may (or may not) notice those changes, and may (or may not) merge the changes.

In this respect SFW resembles GitHub, and its terminology — you “fork” a page from an “origin site” — invites the comparison. But SFW is looser than GitHub. What GitHub calls a pull request, for example, isn’t (yet) a well-developed feature of SFW. And while attribution is crystal-clear in GitHub — you always know who made a contribution — it is (by design) somewhat vague in SFW. In the Chorus of Voices that Ward envisions, individual voices are not easy to discern.

That notion was hard for some of us in The Happening, myself included, to swallow. In SFW we were represented not as avatars with pictures but as neutral “flags” made of color gradients. Identity was Discoverable But Not Obvious.

Then Alex North cracked the code. He read through the FedWiki sources, found the hook for uploading the favicon that serves as SFW’s flag/avatar, and worked out a procedure for using that hook to upload an image.

The next day I worked out a Windows-friendly variant of Alex’s method and uploaded my own image. Meanwhile a few other Happening participants used Alex’s method to replace their colored gradients with photos.

The next day Mike Caulfield bowed to the will of the people and uploaded a batch of photos on behalf of participants unable to cope with Alex’s admittedly geeky hack. Suddenly the Happening looked more like a normal social network, where everyone’s contributions have identifying photos.

That was a victory, but not an unqualified one.

It was a victory in part because Alex showed the group that SFW is web software, and like all web software is radically open to unintended uses. Also, of course, because we were able to alter the system in response to a perceived need.

And yet, we may have decided too quickly not to explore a mode of collaboration that favors the chorus over the individual voice. Can we work together effectively that way, in a federated system that ultimately gives us full control of our own data? That remains an open question for me, one of many that the Happening has prompted me to ask and explore.


by Jon Udell at December 30, 2014 01:15 AM

December 29, 2014

The Brooks Review

∞ The Helgray

I’ve long felt mechanical watches are the only way to go, as they require no batteries and are therefore ideal because they keep working as long as you wear them — no finding dead batteries when you go to don the watch. A ‘win-win’ if you will.

A while back there was a KickStarter for HELGRAY watches, and they caught my eye. I cannot remember what about the watches caught my eye, as I didn’t need a new watch, it wasn’t mechanical, it wasn’t cheap, and it was on KickStarter. There was so much stacked against it that I forgot I ordered one as it seems very unlike me.

It arrived not long ago and I’ve been wearing the FIELD OFFICER watch just about everyday since it showed up on my desk.

I still am unsure what drew me to the watch, but it is lovely to look at, and seems well made.

One of the biggest annoyances I’ve found is the crown, as it is overly small. The scale of the crown doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the watch, and is next to impossible to adjust without removing the watch.

I do love the band, it looks like leather but feels like plastic in a good way. It is comfortable, but holds its shape well. But it suffers from one major flaw: the edge is coated in a rubber material which is prone to peeling off. Indeed, mine did peal off around the end of the band and revealed the innards of the watch band.

Typically this isn’t a big deal, and is hardly noticeable. However, in this case, it is noticeable. As the band has two pieces of brown leather sandwiching something white. It now looks cheap and the white is sure to turn a gray after more dirt finds its way to the white. Overall this is the worst part about the watch.

This isn’t a deal breaker, but certainly something to consider.

My thoughts on this watch are sparse because it is just a watch. There’s nothing special about it, and yet I do like it. I’ve been sitting on this review simply because this is all I have to say.

It is a nice watch, which is likely not worth the money considering the competition, and yet completely worth the money as you get a lovely well made watch. It is sharp looking, but it’s not going to draw attention. Maybe that’s what you want, and as it turns out I like it for that reason.

And you too can own this watch that I have such indecisive thoughts about, by getting it here.

Please consider becoming a member to support my writing. All writing is 100% member funded.

by Ben Brooks at December 29, 2014 11:35 PM

Notes on Parenthood: Ben and Erin Brooks

Tom Bihn interviewed my wife and me about parenthood and all the craziness that surrounds it.

Please consider becoming a member to support my writing. All writing is 100% member funded.

by Ben Brooks at December 29, 2014 10:12 PM

Jon Udell

TypeScript Successes and Failures

My last post buried the lead, so I’ll hoist it to the top here: I’ve left Microsoft. While I figure out what my next gig will be, I’ll be doing some freelance writing and consulting. My first writing assignment will be an InfoWorld feature on TypeScript. It’s an important technology that isn’t yet well understood or widely adopted. I made two efforts to adopt it myself. The first, almost a year ago, didn’t stick. The second, a few weeks ago, did.

I’ll reflect on those experiences in the article. But I’m also keen to mine other perspectives on why TypeScript adoption fails or succeeds. And I’m particularly interested to hear about experiences with TypeScript toolchains other than Visual Studio. If you have perspectives and experiences to share, please drop a note here or to jon at jonudell.info.


by Jon Udell at December 29, 2014 07:03 PM

CrossFit 204: Fitness in Winnipeg, Manitoba

December Programming Notes

Shaen trades a stroller for a sled!

Conditioning.

In December we’ve been focusing on a lot of positional work in the Olympic lifts, and we’ve been adding in more conditioning. At first, these two things look to be at odds with each other.

Olympic lifting is about getting the most weight overhead in two different ways, and conditioning is not a large factor in lifts lasting less than eight seconds. In CrossFit, the Olympic lifts are employed as the most efficient way to get loads overhead in a variety of workouts, and we vary the rep schemes. Because we are not training solely for max-effort singles, we have a great deal of liberty in how we program.

December has been characterized by a lot of lighter technique work on the lifts, and, interestingly enough, we’re seeing form improve and loads increase. We’re certain these improvements will result in better technique during workouts involving many lifts, as well as heavier loads when singles are tested. There isn’t a single lifter in our gym who couldn’t add 10-20 lb. to a PR simply by improving technique, and technique is only improved at lighter loads, not maximal loads. So this has been a period of investment.

The way-down-in-the-hole face.

Strength.

Also keep in mind that learning the snatch and clean and jerk takes focus, which is exhausting. We’ve been training your nervous systems with this skill work, and we’ve been working on balance, speed, agility, coordination and accuracy–all while snatching and cleaning. As we’re explained in classes, improvements in the Olympic lifts usually result in dramatic increases in overall athleticism and fitness.

December’s conditioning has for the most part come in small, intense doses that reflect our philosophy that longer is not better. We’ve been working to create couplets, triplets and interval work that makes you push very hard for short periods of time.

The principle is basic, but it’s regularly ignored by people who want to over-complicate things: the longer you go, the lower the overall intensity. For example, how far could you sprint at max speed? Not very far. But what if we asked you to sprint at max speed for 50 m, then gave you 2 minutes of rest before asking you to do it again? What if we repeated that interval five times? All of a sudden, you’ve found a brilliant way to amass a lot of work at a very high level of intensity.

Our Legends athletes!

Core training.

Of course, we sometimes do longer workouts. They’re also part of conditioning. But we use them less frequently, and we find ways to make them more intense. Recall the Dec. 24 12 Days of Christmas workout: It took 25-35 minutes and taxed the aerobic system. But if you look at that workout, you’ll notice all the movements and loads were chosen to allow (mostly) unbroken sets that required hard but brief effort before you got to rest as you moved to the next station. The movements were also chosen to be complementary and allow one body part to rest while the others worked: Box jumps were followed by rings dips were followed by squats were followed by sit-ups were followed by handstand push-ups were followed by deadlifts.

So, in reality, you had a 30-minute aerobic workout with some smaller anaerobic intervals slipped inside. It was a lot like 20 rounds of pulling 8 hard strokes on the rower followed by 16 easy ones. The result was 30 minutes of breathing hard with regular bouts of increased intensity occurring throughout.

Behold triple extension, as shown by Kerri.

Power.

Though one of the body’s energy systems is usually dominant at any one time, they’re all working in every workout to some degree, and we play with workout structure to take advantage of that fact. We believe this allows us to improve fitness and produce athletes who are good at long workouts as well as short ones.

In January, expect more of the same, with some new options available outside our CrossFit classes. Our brand new 204 Bootcamp program starts Jan. 5, and it will feature interval work as well as straight-up conditioning. The emphasis will be less on strength and power and more on aerobic capacity, muscular endurance and core training. In CrossFit classes, we’ll be lifting heavy at times, then cranking up the intensity with short, tough workouts that blur the lines between aerobic and anaerobic work.

The best part of any coach's day.C

Fun and overall fitness.

Our coaches always explain the point of the workout before class, but if you’d like more info, grab one of us and ask some questions. We’re happy to explain why we do what we do.

See you in the gym in January!

by Mike at December 29, 2014 06:43 PM

Workout: Dec. 26, 2014

Everybody loves thrusters?

Everybody loves thrusters?

Please note our holiday hours. The 6:30-a.m. and 8-p.m. classes are cancelled today, and yoga runs at 10:45 a.m. All other classes remain as scheduled.

Fran

21-15-9 reps of:

Thrusters (95/65 lb.)

Pull-ups

Gymnasty

by Mike at December 29, 2014 06:42 PM

Workout: Dec. 30, 2014

Consider today a squat neapolitan.

Consider today a squat neapolitan.

Please note our holiday hours on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.

Overhead squat 5-5-5

Front squat 8-8-8

Back squat 10-10-10

The 204 Bootcamp starts Jan. 5 and runs at 9 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It’s available to members for $15.75 per month, and to new clients for $105 per month. Class cards with 10 passes are available for $126. There is no on-ramp requirement, and we’re looking forward to working with athletes at any skill level.

by Mike at December 29, 2014 06:13 PM

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

Three Spots in the Top Ten

An anonymous character on the Internet posted his Top Ten for 2014! I am pleased to see Larry Correia’s name there, as well as my own. And ‘D.B. Jackson’ is a cherished acquaintance of mine.

http://derekthornton71.blogspot.ch/2014/12/my-top-ten-fiction-books-of-2014.html

I doff my hat to you, Mr Thornton, and will aim to please you again in the coming year. We Southerners must hang together.

The following words are his:

Here is a list of the top 10 fiction books I have read this year.

10. Fallen King (Cirian War Saga Book 1) by Eric Lorenzen

9. Warbound (The Grimnoir Chronicles Book 3) Larry Correia

8. Thieves’ Quarry (The Thieftaker Chronicles) by D.B. Jackson

7. Count to a Trillion by John C. Wright

6. Monster Hunter Alpha by Larry Correia

5. Monster Hunters International by Larry Correia

4. City Beyond Time: Tales of the Fall of Metachronopolis by John C. Wright

3. Sixty-One Nails: Courts of the Feyre, Book 1 by Mike Shevdon

2. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

1. Awake in the Night Land by John C. Wright This one I read twice this year. Just got through reading it again!

by John C Wright at December 29, 2014 06:09 PM

CrossFit 204: Fitness in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Workout: Dec. 29, 2014

Large sets of deadlifts feel excellent, according to Grant Sr.

The family that lifts together….

Please note our holiday hours on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.

Deadlift 3-3-3

8 minutes:

Even minutes: 12 front-rack lunges

Odd minutes: 8 kettlebell swings, 10 box jumps

by Mike at December 29, 2014 06:04 PM

512 Pixels

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Primary is free with one in-app upgrade. Go try it.

Permalink

by Stephen Hackett at December 29, 2014 05:08 PM

Inconsolation

wiki-stream: Less than six degrees of separation

I didn’t intend for there to be two Wikipedia-ish tools on the same day, but one good wiki-related utility deserves another. Or in this case, deserves a gimmick.

Josh Hartigan‘s wiki-stream (executable as wikistream) tells you what you probably already know about Wikipedia: that the longer you spend daydreaming on the site, the more likely you are to find yourself traveling to oddball locations.

2014-12-29-jsgqk71-wiki-stream

You might not think it possible to travel from “Linux” to “physiology” in such a brief adventure, but apparently there are some tangential relationships that will lead you there.

I don’t think Josh would mind if I said out loud that wiki-stream has no real function other than to show the links that link between links, and how they spread out over the web of knowledge. Best I can tell, it takes no flags, doesn’t have much in the way of error trapping, and can blunder into logical circles at times.

But it’s kind of fun to watch.

wiki-stream is in neither Arch nor AUR nor Debian, most likely because it’s only about a month old. You can install it with npm, which might be slightly bewildering since the Arch version placed a symlink to the executable at ~/node_modules/.bin. I’m sure you can correct that if you know much about nodejs.

Now the trick is to somehow jam wiki-stream into wikicurses, and create the ultimate text-based toy for time-wasting. … :\


Tagged: download, filter, follow, links, page, wiki

by K.Mandla at December 29, 2014 04:45 PM

wikicurses: Information, in brief

If you remember back to wikipedia2text from a couple of months ago, you might have seen where ids1024 left a note about wikicurses, which intends to do something similar.

2014-12-29-jsgqk71-wikicurses-linux

Ordinarily I use most as a $PAGER and it might look like most is working there, but it’s not. That’s the “bundled” pager, with the title of the wikipedia page at the top, and the body text formatted down the space of the terminal.

wikicurses has a few features that I like in particular. Color, of course, and the screen layout are good. I like that the title of the page is placed at the topmost point, and in a fixed position. Score points for all that.

Further, wikicurses can access (to the best of my knowledge) just about any MediaWiki site, and has hotkeys to show a table of contents, or to bookmark pages. Most navigation is vi-style, but you can use arrow keys and page up/down rather than the HJKL-etc. keys.

Pressing “o” gives you a popup search box, and pressing tab while in that search box will complete a term — which is a very nice touch. There are a few other commands, accessible mostly through :+term formats, much like you’d see in vi. Press “q” to exit.

From the command line you can feed wikicurses a search term or a link. You can also jump straight to a particular feed — like Picture of the Day or whatever the site offers. If you hit a disambiguation page, you have the option to select a target and move to that page, sort of like you see here.

2014-12-29-jsgqk71-wikicurses-disambiguation

That’s a very nice way to solve the issue.

There are a couple of things that wikicurses might seem to lack. First, short of re-searching a term, there’s no real way to navigate forward or back through pages. Perhaps that is by design, since adding that might make wikicurses more of an Internet browser than just a data-access tool.

It does make things a little clumsy, particularly if you’ve “navigated” to the wrong page and just want to work back to correct your mistake.

In the same way, pulling page from Wikipedia and displaying it in wikicurses removes any links that were otherwise available. So if you’re tracking family histories or tracing the relationships between evil corporate entities, you’ll have to search, read, then search again, then read again, then search again, then. …

But again, if you’re after a tool to navigate the site, you should probably look into something different. As best I can tell, wikicurses is intended as a one-shot page reader, and not a full-fledged browser, so limiting its scope might be the best idea.

There are a couple of other minor points I would suggest. wikicurses might offer the option to use your $PAGER, rather than its built-in format. I say that mostly because there are minor fillips that a pager might offer — like, for example, page counts or text searching — that wikicurses doesn’t approach.

But wikicurses is a definite step up from wikipedia2text. And since wikicurses seems to know its focus and wisely doesn’t step too far beyond it, it’s worth keeping around for one-shot searches or for specialized wikis that don’t warrant full-scale browser searches. Or for times like nowadays, when half of Wikipedia’s display is commandeered by a plea for contributions. … :roll: >:(


Tagged: download, filter, page, reader, wiki

by K.Mandla at December 29, 2014 03:05 PM

Crossway Blog

Reading the Bible with Dead Guys: John Calvin on John 3:16

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 3:16.


“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” - John 3:16

For God so loved the world. Christ reveals the first cause and, as it were, the source of our salvation in a way that leaves no room for uncertainty, for our minds cannot find rest until we embrace God’s unmerited love. Just as the entire basis of our salvation must not be looked for anywhere other than in Christ, so we must see where Christ came from and why he was offered to be our Saviour. Both these points are distinctly stated here. For faith in Christ brings life to everyone; and Christ brought life because the Heavenly Father loves the human race and wishes that they should not perish.

This order should be noted carefully, for our nature is so wickedly ambitious that when the question about the origin of our salvation arises, we quickly imagine diabolical things about our own merits. So we imagine that God is reconciled to us because he has thought that we are worthy to be looked on by him. But everywhere in Scripture God’s pure and simple mercy is extolled, which sets to one side all merits.

Christ’s words mean nothing else when he declares God’s love to be the basis for our salvation. If we want to go any higher, the Spirit stops us through Paul’s writing when he tells us that this love was founded “in accordance with his pleasure and will” (Ephesians 1:5). Indeed, it is clear that Christ spoke like this in order to stop people from thinking about themselves, in favor of looking to God’s mercy alone. The evangelist does not say that God was moved to deliver us because he saw something
in us which deserved such an excellent blessing; rather, he ascribes the glory of our deliverance entirely to his love.

This is even clearer from what follows; for he adds that God gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. So it follows that until Christ set about rescuing the lost, everyone was destined for eternal destruction. Paul also declares this by pointing out the order in which the events happened: “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8; see also Romans 5:10). For where sin reigns, we find nothing other than God’s wrath, which brings death in its train.

Therefore, it is mercy that reconciles us to God, so that he may also restore us to life.

This way of speaking, however, may seem to be different from many passages of Scripture which attribute to Christ the first foundation of God’s love for us and show that outside Christ we are detested by God.

But we ought to remember, as I have already said, that the Heavenly Father’s secret love which embraced us is the first love given to us. However, the grace which he desires us to know, and through which we are stirred up to know the hope of our salvation, begins with the reconciliation which was won through Christ. Since Christ must hate sin, how can we believe that we are loved by him until atonement has been made for those sins which rightly cause offense in Christ’s sight? So Christ’s love must intervene in order to reconcile us to God before we can experience God’s fatherly kindness. Just as we are told, first of all, that God gave his Son to die for us because he loved us, so it is immediately added that our faith should, strictly speaking, look on Christ alone.

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 December 29, 2014 02:44 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Why Arbitrary Numbers Can Be Very Motivating

DontStop

There’s nothing fundamentally different about a marathon that takes four hours and one that takes four hours and two minutes. But as the data show, runners will do everything they can to hit 4:00 instead of 4:02.

This isn’t bad. It’s good!

I thought a lot about arbitrary numbers when working on the goal to visit every country. My goal was “193 by 35”–all 193 countries by my 35th birthday.

Without the deadline, which was technically arbitrary, I’m not sure the goal would have mattered as much. It would have been more of a life dream—”someday, go to every country”—instead of a mission that I structured my life and calendar around, eventually ensuring its success. Hammering down the deadline made all the difference.

This also raises the question: if something has meaning to you, is it really arbitrary?

###

Image: Richard

by Chris Guillebeau at December 29, 2014 02:44 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

Ellipsis (What Is Missing in Luke 2:49?) – Mondays with Mounce 245

Here is a great example of why translation involves interpretation, and why a “word-for-word” approach can often fail.

When Jesus’ parents finally find Jesus, he responds, “Didn’t you know I had to be (δεῖ εἶναί με) in my Father’s house (ἐν τοῖς τοῦ πατρός μου)? (NIV).

As you can see from the Greek, there is no word for “house,” and yet every modern translation supplies “house.” The KJV is alone in suggesting another interpretation. “I must be about my Father’s business?”

One of the things you will learn as you get further into Greek is how Greek can drop out words; I suspect this is true of any language. Context and a basic knowledge of the language fills in the gaps. For example, as I have said in other blogs, I am from Minnesota and we are famous for ending sentences with a preposition such as, “Do you want to go with?” What word is missing? “Me.” Since it is so obvious, why waste the time saying it?

So the question is, what is missing in Luke 2:49?

It is possible that nothing is missing. τοῖς could be neuter and functioning substantivally. I suspect this is where the KJV derives its translation. “I must be about the things of my Father.”

On the one hand, if Jesus meant the temple, where he currently was, we would expect to see οἴκος (see 6:4; 11:51; 13:35; 19:46) or ἱερόν; however, it is dangerous to make an exegetical decision based on how we think a writer “should” say something.

The idea of “necessity” (δεῖ) is probably what God requires. Bock gives three possibilities (269f.)

  1. ”With the rabbis,” but considering the coming conflict and the ubiquity of their conflicts, having the discussions in the temple would not be of necessity.
  2. ”About my Father’s business” hardly answers Mary’s question because, once again, God’s business took Jesus into many places other than the temple.
  3. ”In my Father’s house,” since Jesus “must be involved with instruction in divine things, [and] the temple as presented by Luke is above all a place where instruction occurs” (270). Bock goes on to show that ἐν + neuter plural definite article + genitive is an idiom for “being in one’s house.”

Either way, it is a good example of ellipse and illustrates the need for interpretation in translation.

_____________________

William D. [Bill] Mounce posts about the Greek language, exegesis, and related topics on the ZA Blog. He is the author of numerous works including the recent Basics of Biblical Greek Video Lectures and the bestselling Basics of Biblical Greek. He is the general editor of Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words. He served as the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version Bible translation, and is currently on the Committee for Bible Translation for the NIV.

Learn more about Bill’s Greek resources at Teknia.com and visit his blog on spiritual growth at BiblicalTraining.org/blog/life-journey.

by Bill Mounce at December 29, 2014 01:49 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Sketched Book: The Inner Game of Work – W. Timothy Gallwey

So I was reading through J. B. Rainsberger’s site because I liked his blog post on Productivity for the Depressed, which I mentioned in my post on learning slack. His about page had this nugget that made me stop and think. He wrote:

I have found over the years that many companies request training when they need coaching, and request coaching when they need training. Tim Gallwey’s The Inner Game of Work makes the distinction very well:

  • training focuses on increasing capacity
  • coaching focuses on reducing interference
  • performance is capacity minus interference.

Reducing interference. Huh.

I’ve been curious about coaching. I haven’t quite made the jump because I’m a cheapskate who’s accustomed to introspection and who’s flexible about motivation. I figured I might as well see how far I can get exploring on my own, yeah?

But I know there are times I get in my own way, and I know that I probably don’t know even half of the times that happens. Interference.

So here’s what W. Timothy Gallwey’s The Inner Game of Work says:

2014-12-01 The Inner Game of Work - W Timothy Gallwey

I like this book. The author shares many examples of how paying attention to tiny details can help you learn more effectively, and how a coach’s role isn’t to provide answers but rather to help draw the student’s awareness to the right things and encourage them to trust in their own learning process. The book is useful not only for individual change but also for group change.

The Self 1 / Self 2 distinction resonated with how I’ve been thinking about motivation. It reminds me a little of the driver (Self 1) / elephant (Self 2) metaphor used in Chip and Dan Heath’s Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. The answer to internal conflict isn’t “try harder,” it’s to understand better and give yourself the time and attention you need.

I’m paying closer attention to the skills I want to develop. I’m practising more deliberately and with more focus. And when my Self 1 pipes up with “Shouldn’t you be doing something else instead?” or “Let’s go find someone with all the answers who can tell us what to do!”, I tell it, “It’s okay. Self 2’s got this. We’re learning how to learn, and everything is going to be okay.”

This still leaves me uncertain about getting an actual coach instead of asking myself questions from books. Since I can see big areas for improvement even on my own, I figure I’d go for the low-hanging fruit and keep going until I hit diminishing returns. Maybe someday. In the meantime, this book has given me a few things to think about.

If you’re curious, you can check out more reviews of this book on Amazon: The Inner Game of Work: Focus, Learning, Pleasure, and Mobility (affiliate link)

The post Sketched Book: The Inner Game of Work – W. Timothy Gallwey appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at December 29, 2014 01:00 PM

Hacking Distributed

Tips for ChangeTip

My post about the tipping craze got the predictable reaction from ChangeTip: a writeup at CoinDesk on how the CEO really means well for all of us. Let's use this as an opportunity to constructively discuss the responsibilities of micropayment companies in general, and ChangeTip in particular.

Root Problem

Helpful tip

For there are many indications that ChangeTip just doesn't get why the way it conducts its business might raise eyebrows. The very first sentence from the ChangeTip CEO is quite telling: "I feel like we're a charity getting yelled at."

What's wrong with this? Well: ChangeTip is no charity. At the very root of almost every one of their problems lies the fact that they are a for-profit corporation, engaged in profit-seeking behaviors at the expense of a wider community.

It's great to hear that CEO Sullivan has a strong commitment to user privacy. His substantial track record in this regard is something that anyone should be proud of.

But if we've learned anything from corporate America, it's that the profit motive has a way of trumping personal values. If a company misses its earnings forecasts, if user growth stalls, if the board realizes that the current revenue model cannot yield the types of returns they seek, it will have no scruples about a pivot. A company's commitment to motherhood, apple pie and emphatic-sounding buzzwords that appease the user community this year is as replaceable as its CEO.

Moving Forward

Helpful tip

Instead of going over my previous post and extracting a "tl;dr", let me outline what a positive path might look like from here:

  1. ChangeTip should outline a response that goes beyond "but we're good people and can do no wrong." Mark Karpeles, Danny Brewster and Alex|Ryan Kennedy|Green were all good people once. Everyone who violates social norms has some story that starts out with them being good people. The ChangeTip ToS needs to be so good that it stands on its own, without reference to the personal history of the company officers.
  2. Having made strong guarantees, ChangeTip should protect them by explicitly commiting to them in perpetuity. The current ToS says that the terms can be changed at will in the future, with some lip service to user notification. But notification is not equal to informed consent on the Internet, and the latter is often not real consent at all. This is true especially for ChangeTip, because their users rarely interact through their website.
  3. ChangeTip should guarantee that users who sever their relationship with ChangeTip will be completely forgotten. If their company values privacy, this should be easy. If they feel no obligation to us the moment they decide they cannot make a dollar off of us, they are just like every other unenlightened corporation.
  4. ChangeTip needs to steer its user community away from cringeworthy behavior towards being better people. It should be ChangeTip, not I, who should be publishing tipping etiquette. I googled for "changetip etiquette" and I got a link to ChangeTip features touting how universal their product is, and then my own blog.
  5. No tip dusting. ChangeTip needs to get its users to stop kicking around penny shavings. This will help their bottom line, too.
  6. No spam. ChangeTip needs to tip privately by default. The very public posts were part of a symbiotic pact with the Bitcoin fringe to spam for Bitcoin. That has to stop. If ChangeTip believes that online tipping is the way of the future, make it live off of tips, not off of underhanded advertising.
  7. No guerilla marketing. I am not sure how much money ChangeTip dropped around in various discussion boards, or which specific companies seeded the tips given out by radio DJs and Andreas at the time of the #BitcoinBowl. But this kind of marketing is a social blight.
  8. Respect communities. Don't force change and tipping and penny pieces on groups who have not opted in. ChangeTip's blog post smugly told their users to "tip everywhere on the Intarwebs," and now the CEO is confused about why people are upset.
  9. Don't try to monetize everything. There are many communities where experts who charge more than $750/hour during their day jobs freely provide help to others. Putting a price on that interaction demeans their effort, invites spammers, and affects the outcomes for all. Educate your users on where not to proselytize.
  10. Be a force for good. Provide an easy way to direct tips and action towards worthy causes, like an actual charity.

The last point is critical, as it's a litmus test of corporate values. The concerns I raised stem from observing a company encourage sociopathic behavior to further its own agenda. Of course people are going to be worried that a company that violates social norms will do the same to its users by collecting and selling our data. Real change will be marked by a shift from profit-oriented action ("how can we spam a broad audience at any cost?") to community-oriented behavior ("how can we achieve some tangible good for society at large?").

Who Will Win In The Micropayment Space?

Helpful tip

The bigger question is: is there a future in micropayment channels? Many companies have failed in this space before. The arguments in support of micropayments seem to hit a wall when users face the cognitive cost of making a payment decision. So it's hard to tell which, if any, micropayment company will actually succeed. I won't try to pick winners -- probably all of the current contestants are flawed in some way -- but I will take a guess and name the defining characteristic of the company that will be ultimately successful in this space.

The winning micropayment company will be one that has figured out how to convert the Brownian motion of users into cohesive action.

ChangeTip does the precise opposite: it takes the collective good will of a large community interested in Bitcoin and squanders that effort into tiny slithers, each of which are too small to do anything but be a nuisance. This achieves the superficial goal of getting the spam out to a broad audience. But it cannot be a sustainable long-term goal. Since it's economically not going to pay off for ChangeTip, there is a legitimate concern that they will have to sell out our data. Worse, it's socially not sustainable for the community to engender $1 of annoyance for every $.001 in tips. And that brings us full circle back to the original criticism.

The winning move here is to figure out how to actually extract a sustainable, cohesive action from a group of users whose interests are aligned but whose actions are unorganized. Micropayments are touted as a competitor to ads, but the math just doesn't add up: voluntarily-collected tips fall short of implicitly-collected advertising revenue by three or four orders of magnitude.

It's easy to take a chunk of cash from a company and throw it at tweeters during #BitcoinBowl, but it's not going to achieve much. The company that will win in this space is going to be the one that does the opposite: get the casual tippers to actually carry out a demonstrable social good. Fund something that would otherwise not happen. Turn that good feeling into action. Maybe buy the actual $0.10 donut hole and give it to someone who is hungry. Or get a user to listen, really listen, to what someone has to say, where they are coming from, what they're dealing with, at $0 cost. That'll go much farther than $0.003.

As a society, we're still struggling to determine the acceptable traditions and customs for online interactions. ChangeTip pushed the scales very far in one extreme direction, for a profit motive where the math did not add up. If they want good will from a broad audience, they will need to demonstrate that they are not just trying to make a buck at the expense of others. I have full faith in their team, and hope to see them prosper by improving the quality of discussion in online communities.

by Emin Gün Sirer at December 29, 2014 01:00 PM

The Finance Buff

Mega Backdoor Roth and Access To Your Money Before 59-1/2

lock and hinge

In previous articles I showed that contributing to after-tax 401k/403b and rolling it over to Roth IRA (the “mega backdoor Roth”) is great if your 401k/403b plan allows it. It’s still worth it even if you have to wait a few years before you can roll it over to Roth. You should still do it even if it drops your paycheck next to nothing.

A new question is, wouldn’t it lock your money up until you are 59-1/2?

What if you want to use your money before you are 59-1/2 because you will retire early or buy a house? If you just invest in a regular taxable account, you can tap your money anytime you want and you only pay capital gains tax. Do you lose flexibility if you push all your money into your Roth IRA?

Yes and no. It’s time to get familiar with Roth IRA’s ordering rules for distributions.

First of all, as you know, one great feature of Roth IRA is that you can withdraw your regular [direct] contributions at any time with no tax or penalty. Any money you withdraw from your Roth IRA is considered to come from your regular contributions first. If you need money before 59-1/2, you can always withdraw up to the sum of your regular contributions. However, if you haven’t been able to contribute directly to Roth IRA due to the income limit, this amount may not be much.

Second, everything is forgiven after 59-1/2 AND you have had any Roth IRA for 5 years. After that point it doesn’t matter how the money came into the Roth IRA; all withdrawals are tax free.

You are left to worry about withdrawing money above the sum of your regular [direct] contributions before age 59-1/2. The withdrawals go by this order:

  1. money you converted to Roth (including rollover from after-tax 401k/403b), first-in first out; and
  2. earnings on both your regular contributions and the converted money

If you wait 5 years before you withdraw your converted money, you are again forgiven. No tax, no penalty.

If must withdraw within 5 years (remember first-in first out), you look at how much of the conversion you paid tax on at that time. For example if you contributed $10,000 to your after-tax 401k and by the time you rolled it over to Roth it grew to $12,000, you paid tax on $2,000 when you rolled it over. Withdrawing this $12,000 within 5 years will have you pay a 10% penalty on the $2,000 but you don’t pay  income tax on the $12,000. That comes out to paying $200 to withdraw $12,000, which is less than 2%.

If you had very little earnings when you rolled over, or if you did a split rollover (earnings went to a traditional IRA), withdrawing within 5 years will have you pay a 10% penalty on very little, or possibly zero.

Finally, earnings on both your regular contributions and the converted money are indeed locked up until 59-1/2, with some limited exceptions. After you exhaust all your converted money, withdrawing earnings before 59-1/2 will be taxable and subject to a 10% penalty.

Does doing the mega backdoor Roth lock up your money? For post-rollover earnings, absolutely. For your after-tax rollover itself, not much at all. If you stack up the rollovers and you always withdraw money from more than 5 years ago, there is no tax nor penalty. Even if you have to withdraw your after-tax rollovers within 5 years, you only pay 10% on the small amount of pre-rollover earnings. 10% on a small amount is very small. 10% of zero is still zero.

Bottom line, you still have good access to your money before age 59-1/2 when you do the mega backdoor Roth.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Len Matthews]

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Mega Backdoor Roth and Access To Your Money Before 59-1/2 is copyrighted material from The Finance Buff. All rights reserved. ( b87e8215d24496480249d6aaf20c77ea )

by Harry Sit at December 29, 2014 12:52 PM

eagereyes

Data Stories starring Tamara Munzner

The latest episode of the Data Stories podcast has Tamara Munzner as the guest. They talk about her much-anticipated book, visualization taxonomies, and a lot more. It’s a great episode, well worth listening to.

by Robert Kosara at December 29, 2014 07:28 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

End-of-Year Giving and 2014 Highlights

As we prepare for 2015, our 10th year of ministry, I wanted to share some highlights from 2014.

But first, as you consider your year-end giving, I want to join Tim Keller and Don Carson and invite you to partner with us as a Friend of TGC. As we steward the opportunity to grow gospel-centered ministry around the globe, we are asking the Lord for $600,000 in annual support from you, our friends and readers.

To receive a tax-deductible receipt for your 2014 taxes, you can give by:

  • making your gift online by clicking here before midnight on December 31
  • sending a check made out to "The Gospel Coalition"—postmarked no later than December 31—to the following address:

              The Gospel Coalition
              Office of Advancement
              P.O. Box 583542
              Minneapolis, MN 55458-3542

If you have any questions about giving or would like to speak with someone about our work, don’t hesitate to contact Dan Olson, director of advancement, at 612-460-5402.

We have heard from so many of you that God is using TGC to equip you as you minister in your community. Partner with us by giving here this end-of-year as we come alongside Christians worldwide and help them minister to theirs.

Happy New Year,

Ben Peays
Executive Director


Events

TGC hosted ten events attended by 12,000 people on site and tens of thousands more online. These included our Council Members Colloquium in April, our National Women’s Conference in Orlando (June 27 to 29), more than eight regional chapter conferences (Hawaii, Prince Edward Island, Canada, Boston, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Albuquerque, Bay Area, and others) and an international conference in Geneva, Switzerland (making more than 44 events since May 2005). Next year will see the official launch of TGC Australia as well as continued work by similar groups in Poland, Germany, and Switzerland.

Website

We have welcomed nearly 12.5 million unique visitors to TGC.org in 2014, a 32 percent increase over 2013—with more than 42 million pageviews. These solid gospel-centered resources promote and defend biblical beliefs and historic theological truths. I encourage you to read Collin Hansen’s list of 10 favorite TGC resources from 2014 and his ranking of the top 10 theology stories of the year.

Our French website continues to gain strength, and in 2015 the new TGC Australia Council will launch its Australian website. Our Spanish-language site, Coalición por el Evangelio, has seen a traffic explosion in the year last with 1.5 million unique visitors; in November pageviews increased 1,300 percent compared to November 2013. And we are gearing up for a Spanish line of church curriculum in 2015. The top international internet traffic cities in 2014 were Sydney, London, Singapore, Melbourne, Toronto, Brisbane, Santa Domingo, Mexico City, and Vancouver.

Publishing Resources

We published several new resources in 2014, including two Bible study programs for women: Rebuild: A Study in Nehemiah, written by Kathleen Nielson and featuring video teaching by Don Carson and Nancy Guthrie; and Jen Wilkin’s Sermon on the Mount, which features her keen insights previously shared through her popular Bible studies in Dallas. Forthcoming studies including Praying with Paul by Don Carson and Brian Tabb and What Jesus Demands from the World from John Piper and Brian Tabb. We have also planned a new line of group studies designed to help churches instill theological vision of ministry, starting with their worship and outreach.

Free International Book Distribution

In 2014, you helped us equip indigenous pastors by delivering more than 90,000 books in 10 different languages to 77 different countries around the world. Your Packing Hope efforts provide Theological Famine Relief to the global church, and physical books are so important for those countries that don’t have easy internet access. In God’s mercy, the lifetime output of the International Outreach effort will surpass 500,000 resources distributed in the near future.

Non-English Global Resource Library

We increased our internal translation team to 80 translators and added thousands of new resources to our free database in 40 different languages—with a focus on Chinese, Korean, Spanish, Portuguese, Hindi, and Arabic.

To support TGC and expand these various initiatives in 2015, you can become a Friend of TGC here. If you have any questions about giving or would like to speak with someone about our work, don’t hesitate to contact Dan Olson, director of advancement, at 612-460-5402 or dan.olson@thegospelcoalition.org.

by Ben Peays at December 29, 2014 07:01 AM

Table Titans

Tales: Low Blow

News

I was a late comer to this group but I knew all the people that were playing. The first session we were in together, my character was interacting with one of the known big-bad characters. We were in a bar and I was away from the group, without any support, carrying on a “social battle” with the…

Read more

December 29, 2014 07:00 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Unbroken: Long on Resilience, Short on Redemption

What if the story of Joseph stopped with Genesis 44? You would read all about Joseph’s unjust treatment at the hands of his jealous brothers. You would learn of his eventual arrival in Egypt as a slave, of his ultimate arrest and betrayal at the hands of Potiphar’s wife and two of Pharaoh’s workers. You would think Joseph showed a lot of grit and survived all that terrible stuff.

But what if the reconciliation between Joseph and his brothers was missing? What if there was no glorious and dramatic scene of Joseph forgiving his brothers through tears? How would we interpret the story if it were missing one of the Old Testament’s most glorious phrases: “What you intended for evil, God intended for good”?

We would leave the story of Joseph thinking, Wow, that Joseph is one resilient, tough guy. We might even be tempted to think along with Pelagius and his theological ancestors, The human spirit can be strong and indomitable sometimes.  

Or what if the Bible gave us the four Gospels, but not the epistles or other New Testament writings? We’d know about Jesus’s claims, his person, his work on the cross. We’d know about his ethical teaching, his understanding of the law and its proper application via the Sermon on the Mount. We would have a great story, much great teaching and deep courage and sacrifice shown by the central character, but we wouldn’t know the full meaning of Jesus’s work or its application. We wouldn’t know about justification by faith alone. We wouldn’t know much about penal substitution. We’d have a tremendous, uplifting story with high ethical principles and an incredible account of self-sacrifice. It would make us feel good about Jesus, but we would not have the depth of understanding of the gospel that Paul, Peter, and the other New Testament writers provide for us.

That is precisely how I left the theater feeling late last week after watching the new movie Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, based on the runaway bestseller of the same title by Laura Hillenbrand. Unbroken is the incredible story of Olympic runner and World War II hero Louie Zamperini. So spellbinding was the book, I read the 500-page work in about three days, which is something close to a personal record. Unbroken, the book, is simply incredible and lives up to its ultra-compelling subtitle.

The movie stunned me too, but in an unexpected way: I saw survival in spades, I saw plenty of human resilience, but I witnessed little redemption. But before I offer some critique, I want to make it clear that Unbroken, the movie, does have some decidedly strong points:

  • In a little more than two hours, it tells the skeleton of Zamperini’s story compellingly, portraying in particularly dramatic form the 47 days he spent afloat in a life raft in the shark-infested waters of the Pacific Ocean following the crash of his B-24 Liberator (such an unwieldy and dangerous flying machine, pilots called it “the flying casket”). The raft scenes complete with omnipresent sharks are the most interesting part of the movie.
  • It captures well the near insane hatred aimed at Zamperini by POW camp warden Mutsuhiro Watanabe (nicknamed “The Bird” by POWs). The Bird repeatedly beat the former Olympian and had Zamperini transferred to his prison camp each time he was “promoted” to another camp. The movie depicts well the incredible scene in which Zamperini holds a heavy wooden beam aloft for several minutes after Watanabe instructed guards, "Kill him if he drops it.”  
  • Christianity is neither mocked nor completely expunged from the movie. In one pivotal moment in the book, also portrayed in the movie, Louie and fellow survivor Phil Phillips, a believer and pilot of the moribund B-24, are still floating in the life raft. Louie turns to Phil and asks, as he gazes heavenward at the illuminated Milky Way, whether Phil believes in a creator of the universe. Phil affirms his belief in a creator who rules over his creation. Another scene shows Phil praying fervently.  

The main shortcoming with Unbroken, the movie, comes at the end. It stops short. The good news of redemption is missing. In the final scene, Zamperini returns to Los Angeles where he is greeted by his brother and parents. He hugs them, and then the movie ends. The book includes the incredible aftermath of Zamperini’s harrowing war experience. We learn that post-war stress sent Zamperini spiraling downward into a life of alcohol use and verbal abuse of his wife. Zamperini wrestled with inner demons that nearly broke the main character of Unbroken.

Like the famous “but God” clause following the account of man’s fallen nature in Ephesians 2, the final chapter in Unbroken, the book, powerfully recounts Zamperini’s conversion to Christ through his wife’s witness and the ministry of Billy Graham at his 1949 crusade in Los Angeles. Ultimately, like Joseph and his brothers in Egypt, Zamperini returns to Japan and seeks personal reconciliation with his captors. He even sought a meeting with Watanabe, but the former POW abuser refused to meet with him. Following the final scene, the movie provides these details in brief footnotes. But the truly happy ending of the story, redemption, is left for the moviegoer to search out in the book.

Ultimately, Unbroken suffers from a similar malady to Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ: it portrays the unconscionable suffering of its protagonist, but doesn’t tease out the redemptive significance of the suffering. Louie Zamperini was tested in ways that were difficult to watch at times. He was beaten and beaten and beaten and yet, by the grace of God, he survived. In the end, he became a new man in Christ, he turned the other cheek, and he forgave those who abused him. The book makes it clear that Zamperini knew his survival was an act of mercy from the hands of a sovereign God. In the end, Louie Zamperini was more than a conqueror through the Savior.

Unbroken is a good movie, but it is only a rough approximation of the book. It is the story of Joseph without the final chapters, the Gospels without the epistles. Survival and resilience, yes, but redemption, no. Watch the movie, but by all means, don’t miss the book.

by Jeff Robinson at December 29, 2014 06:01 AM

The Church Needs Men and Women to Be Friends

Recently a friend started a discussion thread by asking the question, “Can men and women be friends?” She was asking, essentially, if sexual attraction is a deal-breaker when it comes to male-female friendships. Immediately the thread filled with horror stories about male-female relationships that started as friendships and ended as train wrecks.
 
I know these stories as well. I’ve had a front row seat to several of them—in the workplace, in the neighborhood, in churches—so I’m sensitive to the cautionary tale they tell. They remind me, though, of the labor-and-delivery stories I heard when I was pregnant with my first child. As soon as the bump became visible, women began freely volunteering their uterovaginal horror stories, everyone from friends to total strangers in the grocery store. I’m sure these stories were true, but do you know what stories I never heard? The positive ones. My perception of the risk became skewed by my fear. Four positive delivery experiences later, I view those stories differently.

Red Flags and Risk

Part of the problem with asking the question, “Can men and women be friends?” is nailing down which men and which women (married? single?) and what kind of friendship is in view. The question often leads us to assume intimate friendship is being suggested—hanging out alone together, sharing your deepest hopes and fears. And no, that’s not a good idea. If you’re single it leads to a lot of weirdness about where the relationship is headed, and if you’re married, you should reserve intimate friendship for your spouse. But we need not rule out male-female friendship built on mutual respect and affinity, cultivated within appropriate boundaries. If we do, we set a course charted by fear rather than by trust.

Sexual attraction is a valid red flag to raise when we consider male-female friendships, and it should never be dismissed lightly. But it does not justify declaring all such friendships impossible. All relationships involve risk of hurt, loss, or sin, but we still enter into them because we believe what will be gained is greater than what we might risk. Consider the reality that:

  • Marriage is risky—your spouse might prove unfaithful or cruel.
  • Parenthood is risky—your child might grow up to hate you or harm others.
  • Same-gender friendship is risky—your friend might betray you or let you down.
  • Work relationships are risky—your subordinate might embezzle from the company.
  • Business relationships are risky—your auto mechanic might overcharge you.
  • Church relationships are risky—your pastor might turn out to be an abuser, or just a jerk.
Yet we still enter into these relationships. We do not remove them wholesale from the list of possibilities because they involve risk. We enter in because we believe the rewards of the relationship outweigh the risk. We decide to go with trust instead of fear.

Serving Side by Side

Like labor-and-delivery stories, the lust-and-infidelity stories of men and women who crossed a friendship boundary play and replay in our consciousness. But we seldom hear repeated the stories of male-female friendships that worked. I don’t think that’s because they don’t exist. In the church, even telling someone you have a friend of the other gender can raise eyebrows. We’ve grown positively phobic about friendship between men and women, and this is bad for the church. It implies we can only see each other as potential sex partners rather than as people. But the consequences of this phobic thinking are the most tragic part: When we fear each other we will avoid interacting with one another. Discussions that desperately need the perspectives of both men and women cease to occur. (Hint: most discussions desperately need the perspectives of both men and women, particularly in the church.)

Yet almost no one in the church is bold enough to say these friendships matter. We fear the age-old problem of “If I say X, will I unintentionally encourage Y?” So in the church we rarely tell divorced parents they can still be good parents because we’re afraid we’ll encourage divorce. We rarely tell young people that loss of sexual purity is something that can be overcome because we’re afraid we’ll encourage promiscuity. We rarely tell moms who work outside the home we value them because we’re afraid we’ll communicate we don’t value the home. And so on. We are so concerned that people will misunderstand what we mean by “appropriate male-female friendships” that we do not speak of them at all. Just as divorced parents and young people and working moms pay a price for our fearful silence, there is a price for our fearful silence on male-female friendships as well: The church is robbed of the beauty of men and women serving side by side as they were intended.

Not Can But Must

What bothers me most about the question, “Can men and women be friends?” is that even if I answer it in the affirmative, I have not done justice to the issue. Yes, they can be friends, but more than that, they must be friends. Appropriate forms of friendship—those in which we see each other as people rather than potential sex partners—must exist between men and women, especially in the church. How else can we truly refer to each other as brothers and sisters in Christ? Jesus extended deep, personal friendship to both men and women. We are not him, so following his example requires wisdom and discernment about our own propensity to sin as well as that of others. But his example is worth following, brothers and sisters, even if it involves risk.

“For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:35).


Editors’ note: Register to hear Jen Wilkin speak at our 2015 National Conference, April 13 to 15, in Orlando.

by Jen Wilkin at December 29, 2014 06:01 AM

Light into Darkness

Good news of great joy—that’s what the angels sang. That’s what we have been celebrating. The greatest news of the greatest joy, for all people: a Savior has come, Christ the Lord. Every Christmas season the joy of this good news flows into believers’ hearts afresh—and mixes with the current set of this world’s sorrows. 

It’s a recurring “sync.” Every sorrow gets updated. In light of joy, first of all sorrow’s colors show more dark and deep. 

It can jar our souls to take in the juxtapositions of the biblical story: the joy of a child’s birth surrounded by the agony of many deaths . . . Mary’s song echoing round mothers’ weeping for the baby boys Herod killed . . . farther back, Moses’s birth in the midst of the babies Pharaoh killed—and then deliverance from Egypt and through the Red Sea with all those corpses little and big left behind. In our own time we know the joy of births among family and friends and famous people celebrated against the shadowy backdrop of all those babies extracted from safe warm wombs and killed, by the millions. Unrelenting updates add deeper shadows to the landscape, as our family celebrations are lit up in part by news flashes of whole families slaughtered, of other people’s family members beheaded, of whole schools of children kidnapped, abused, or murdered, of men and boys shooting each other in the cities where we live.

Joy makes sorrow stand out starkly. This is surely meant to be; we must not let the sorrow and brokenness slide by without fierce recognition. I have one sibling, an older sister, who for years has taken great joy in training and directing children’s choirs in her church—especially at Christmas time. This year as the choirs sang she sat quietly with her walker, next to her husband who lovingly cares for her as she suffers the degenerative effects of a rare brain disease. My picture of this season’s joyful celebration includes this grievous part of the scene—and the grief of it seems accentuated by the joyful songs circling round my sister in that church. 

All kinds of sorrow and death, public and private, get exposed by the joy. You who are reading know. You who lost your loved one. You who lost your baby. You with dreams deferred. You whose spouse broke the vows of marriage. You who are caught in sin you hate and can’t seem to free yourself from. We all know, in one way or another.

This is why Jesus came: to shine in the darkness. This world’s been dark with sin and sorrow since the fall. We must not close our eyes and pretend it’s light, or assume that we can make it light. Joy comes in, and sorrow heaves up to meet it. Light comes in—the light of life—and death gets exposed.

But that’s not all. Of course that’s not all. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). No, the light overcomes the dark. Joy doesn’t just expose the sorrow; it pierces it through. This is the good news of great joy: the Savior of the world came to bring the light of life, and his light will dispel all the darkness forever.

How did Jesus pierce the sin and sorrow through? This is what we need to know, to think on, in order to suffer the death all around us now on the way to life and light. How? Jesus took our sin and sorrow, man of sorrows that he was, and he was pierced himself, on the cross, in our place. Light of the world by darkness slain. 

It was that piercing that pierced sin and sorrow and death, finally and fatally—because the light of the world could not be overcome. The remnants of death and darkness all around us are the violent death-throes of death, a writhing for just a little while until the full light of the risen Savior appears and banishes all the darkness finally and forever. That will be the final update. The fate of death itself is written down: it will be thrown with Satan into the lake of fire for eternity (Rev. 20:7-15). 

Right now, especially with Christmas light still shining, joy shows sorrow’s colors dark and deep. Let’s not close our eyes; let’s look deep and sorrow deeply, fiercely hating and battling the sin and brokenness that started with that serpent in Eden. And then let’s look at the Savior and see how bright is the light. Let’s keep singing songs of joy about the light—let’s sing loud and all together, so that our songs enfold all the present sorrow with the hope of the full light of day. Come on, children, sing of the Savior at the top of your voices, and let your songs swirl their joy all around my sister who knows that joy deep in her. Around all of us. 

The light has come, and conquered. This is the good news of great joy in the midst of present sorrow and death: Jesus came, he died, he rose, he reigns, and he is coming again.           

by Kathleen Nielson at December 29, 2014 06:01 AM

One Big Fluke

Spew is a super useful Go library that "implements a deep pretty printer for Go data structures to aid in debugging".

by Brett Slatkin (noreply@blogger.com) at December 29, 2014 05:31 AM

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

The Perversion of a Legend

http://www.vanityfair.com/vf-hollywood/2014/12/legend-of-korra-creators-confirm-korrasami-is-canon

Dear Mr DiMartino and Mr Konietzko,

I admire your creative effort tremendously. I watched your shows, bought your merchandize, and supported and lauded you. I made your work a part of my imagination and a part of my life, and introduced your show to my children.

And this is how you repay loyalty and affection?

A children’s show, of all places, is where you decided to place an ad for a sexual aberration; you pervert your story telling skills to the cause of propaganda and political correctness.

You sold your integrity out to the liberal establishment. In a craven fashion you deflect criticism by slandering and condemning any who object to your treason.

You were not content to leave the matter ambiguous, no, but had publicly to announce that you hate your audience, our way of life, our virtues, values, and religion.

From all the fans everywhere worldwide let me say what we are all feeling:

Mr DiMartino and Mr Konietzko: You are disgusting, limp, soulless sacks of filth. You have earned the contempt and hatred of all decent human beings forever, and we will do all we can to smash the filthy phallic idol of sodomy you bow and serve and worship. Contempt, because you struck from behind, cravenly; and hatred, because you serve a cloud of morally-retarded mental smog called Political Correctness, which is another word for hating everything good and bright and decent and sane in life.

I have no hatred in my heart for any man’s politics, policies, or faith, any more than I have hatred for termites; but once they start undermining my house where I live, it is time to exterminate them.

Sincerely,

A lifelong fan.

 

 

by John C Wright at December 29, 2014 05:04 AM

CrossFit Naptown

SWIFT Workout 12.29.14

Check out NapTown SWIFT’s blog for their Workout.

by Coach Jared at December 29, 2014 03:27 AM

NapTown Fitness in the News & Goal Setting Tonight

MONDAY’S WORKOUT

Strength:
Front Squat
2 min max effort
M(185/135/95)
F(135/105/75)

 

WOD
2 Minute AMRAP
3 Wall Walks
6 Goblet Squats (2/1.5)
9 Knees to Elbow

- 2 Min Rest

Then,
750m Row and
4 Rounds of
3 Wall Walks
6 Goblet Squats (2/1.5)
9 Knees to Elbow

 

goalssetting

 

 

 

Goal Setting at NapTown Fitness Capitol

(922 N. Capitol Ave)

 

What: Goal Setting Session
When: December 29th: 7:15pm-8:00pm
Where:NapTown Fitness Capitol
Cost: FREE
Who: Every member of the NapTown Fitness Family! CrossFit NapTown is a part of this family :)

This is a totally free session! Shannon will be hosting this lovely goal setting period to take the time to help you learn how to set goals in an effective manner. It is the perfect way to get a start on how to make 2015 and beyond the best years of your life. If you came to the last session, we will be reviewing the same content, but it is valuable to hear it after you’ve written your goals out once. If you haven’t joined us yet, this is a perfect introduction to your goals. Live a life you love by setting goals!

 

 

Screen shot 2014-12-28 at 10.18.33 PM

 

 

 

by Coach Jared at December 29, 2014 03:21 AM

512 Pixels

Dark Side of the Moon →

Jeanne Marie Laskas at GQ:

He was a war-hero fighter pilot. He was an MIT rocket scientist. He was a lot of impressive things, and then Buzz Aldrin went to the moon, which is maybe all you know about one of the most famous men on earth—a guy who's been frozen, like a footprint in lunar dust, in America's mind for forty-five years now. But the thing about Buzz is that he still wants way more than the moon.

Permalink

by Stephen Hackett at December 29, 2014 12:11 AM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Travel & Quest Case Studies Needed (“Are You Interesting? Do You Have a Great Story?”)

3Tom
Above photo from Tom Allen’s quest story

Hey everyone! For the past few months, we’ve been running a series of traveler and “quester” profiles, usually each Tuesday and Thursday.

Judging from your feedback and social sharing, here are several of your early favorites:

We have a bunch more of these in the queue, and I also want to open it up a bit wider for 2015 submissions. One of my major goals with the blog redesign from this summer was to shine a spotlight on as many people as possible who are traveling, forging an unconventional path in the world of work, pursuing a quest, or otherwise living differently—you know, pretty much the same goals as AONC in general.

In 2015 we’ll be expanding this series, and I’d love to get more of you in the mix.

Here’s what we’re looking for:

  • Great stories from interesting people (are you interesting? do you have a great story?)
  • Real, specific lessons that other people can apply
  • Fewer (or even better, none at all) platitudes or generic lessons (we don’t want to hear “follow your dreams” or “travel helps you find yourself” — our readers already believe these things)
  • Awesome, high-res photos to accompany the features

And here are the initial intake forms:

Note: The last category, Reader Stories, is for short features that are unique and compelling but don’t really fit the other two categories. For these, we aren’t looking for your life history—we want to hone in on something specific and special.

A post from two readers caught up in the Ukraine’s political situation while traveling is a good example, as is this unconventional destination wedding.

***

Thanks for reading AONC. 2015 is going to be a great year!

###

by Chris Guillebeau at December 29, 2014 12:02 AM

December 28, 2014

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Weekly review: Week ending December 26, 2014

A little less DIY-ing this week (waiting for tools, trying to figure out what to do with the floor, hours of browsing in Home Depot and Rona). Aside from that: family get-together, interesting conversations at Hacklab, revamping the Tableau reports at work.

Next week, I finally get to do my annual review. =) Looking forward to it!

Blog posts

Sketches

Link round-up

Focus areas and time review

  • Business (18.4h – 10%)
    • Earn (7.0h – 38% of Business)
    • Build (4.5h – 24% of Business)
      • Drawing (3.9h)
        • Post Take Charge of Your Talent to blog
        • Sketchnote Take Charge of Your Talent
        • Update collection
      • Delegation (0.0h)
      • Packaging (0.0h)
      • Paperwork (0.3h)
        • File payroll return
      • Fix random link on blog
      • Fix forgot password process
      • Fix link to introvert stuff on about page
    • Connect (6.9h – 37% of Business)
  • Relationships (30.5h – 18%)
    • Buy LG WH16NS40 internal BluRay drive for W-
  • Discretionary – Productive (14.3h – 8%)
    • Emacs (0.0h – 0% of all)
      • Revise transcript for Thomas Kjeldahl Nilsson
    • Draw yearly review for 2014
    • Visualize the connected components in my blog
    • Collect words and examples from tweets about Emacs
    • Writing (11.0h)
      • Work on Think like an Emacs Geek
  • Discretionary – Play (11.5h – 6%)
  • Personal routines (21.1h – 12%)
  • Unpaid work (10.3h – 6%)
  • Sleep (61.9h – 36% – average of 8.8 per day)

The post Weekly review: Week ending December 26, 2014 appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at December 28, 2014 10:53 PM

Reformedish

Turretin, Mapping Out Theologies, and Spiritual Map-Making

I just wrote about my 2014 theology reading project through Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics. It was a formative experience that I still haven’t fully processed, but after a week or two out, I found I needed to begin my new endeavour: Francis Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology. Throughout 2015, I aim to knock out Turretin’s masterpiece through a very imprecise reading program that will be likely of no use to anybody else but myself. I picked Turretin’s work on the recommendation of theologian type friends I trust, the fact that it was one of the standard Reformed textbooks in theology since its writing up until Hodge cranked out his magnum opus, and the itch to finally jump into one of the Post-Reformation Dogmaticians and see what all the fuss is about.

A few pages in, it seems the fuss is justified. I’ve only just begun, but I can tell this is going to be challenging, strenuous, but ultimately fruitful undertaking. Or so I hope. While the air is much different here in Turretinville than it was in Bavinck-land (denser and more Latin), it’s bracing in its own way. The elenctic method of question and answer and polemic edge should be a broadening change of pace.

But I didn’t write this post just to chat about my new project. So let’s talk theology. Or rather, types of theology.

Francis-TurretinA Typology of Theology

True to scholastic form, after some more effusive introductions, Turretin gets down to business asking about the nature of theology, whether we should even use the term, defining it, and so forth. In his second question on the subject, he asks whether there is such a thing as theology and, if so, what are its divisions. The first section is interesting simply because many of us would never even think to ask the question, much less argue for it. The part I want to talk about is his division of or mapping out of the types of theology there are, moving along in a logical order, whittling things down to the type of theology you and I participate in. In what follows I’ll try to briefly summarize and explain.

1. False. First, comes the division between false and true theology. Which, intuitively makes sense. If there is true theology, there’s bound to be false theology–theology that gets the truth of God wrong. But before moving on to discussing true theology, Turretin notes different types of false theology.

a. Gentile Myth.  While Turretin doesn’t give them these names, in the first type of false theology, he lumps things like pagan philosophies, mythologies, and cosmogonies recounting the birth of gods, and so forth. The pagans themselves have even subdivided their own theologies into categories like symbolic, mythical, and philosophical.  Whatever their source or mode, these are wholly divorced from the revealed truth of God.

b. Heresy. The second category is that of “infidels” and heretics. First are those who reject Christ, whether Jews or Muslims; they acknowledge one God, but not his Word. Or, there are those heretics who hold on to a great many Christian truths, but are so mixed in with error that in ruins the whole batch like Socinians, “papists” (Turretin’s words, not mine), and so forth.

2. True. Second, we come to true theology. As you might imagine, this can be broken down into categories. And actually, it turns out there are quite a few. 

a.  Archetypal, Or God’s Theology.  First, there is the distinction between “archetypal” and “ectypal” knowledge he inherited from Fransicus Junius. Archetypal knowledge consists of God’s own infinite, perfect, self-knowledge that he alone possesses. That’s right, even God has a theology. It is the “archetype”, the original copy of all knowledge of God.

b. Ectypal, or Creature Theology. From there, we get “ectypal” theology. This second category is finite, creaturely, analogical, derivative, yet true theology. It is “picture” knowledge, or “reflection” knowledge, in that it is drawn from God’s archetypal knowledge, and given to creatures on a level that they can receive it. It is a copy of the original, but a good copy nonetheless. Now, even this knowledge can be split up further in three types.

i.  Vision. First, is the knowledge of “vision.” This is is the kind of knowledge or theology of God that created beings have by direct sight of God. In other words, this is what angels and saints in heaven have, and we will have upon God’s return. It’s perfect, ectypal theology.

ii. Union. Second, there is a unique, middle kind of ectypal knowledge had by way of “union”, and it’s only possessor is the Godman, Jesus Christ. In other words, this is the theology that Jesus had in his human soul, by way of the hypostatic union of natures. Jesus was fully human, and yet, fully God, so it figures he’d have his own arrangement concerning knowledge of God going. Also, this is perfect, ectypal theology too. (And, just to be clear, on top of this, in his Divine nature, the Son continues to possess archetypal knowledge too.)

iii. Pilgrim or Revealed. Finally, we get to the kind of theology you and I as Christians have, which can be termed either “pilgrim” theology, or a theology of revelation. It’s a pilgrim theology because it’s the kind of theology, or knowledge of God, you pick up along the way. It is “revealed” theology because it’s the kind that you get by God revealing himself, showing you himself and you taking by faith. This is imperfect (but not inaccurate), ectypal theology. It’s a theology of promise, not fulfillment. We know in part, not in whole. Or, we may say that compared to the theology of “vision” had by sight, this is theology we have by faith or trust.

Now, as you may have begun to suspect, there are even further subdivisions.

1. Natural. Alright, next, there is what we can call “natural” theology. Note, even before I begin, this is still a subdivision of the theology of revelation. Even “natural” knowledge of God, is revealed to us by God himself. The question is the way God goes about revealing himself. This kind of theology comes about through an “innate” capacity to know and understand God, as well as process of receiving and acquiring it through experience and reason. This is the kind of theology is the kind that Adam had in the Garden before the fall. We currently can have this, but it’s extremely confused, and disordered through sin and idolatry. Think of it as light refracted through a broken mirror. It’s there, but it’s mangled.

2. Supernatural. Second, is “supernatural”, or special revelation. Somewhat obviously, this is the kind of theology and knowledge we come by through God’s supernatural means. It is beyond our natural grasp (reason, experience, etc.) and can come to us only through the special action of God via prophecy, inspiration of Scripture, theophanies, and so forth. This is the kind of knowledge that saints in the Old Testament had, Israel’s ‘revealed’ religion, as well as the special revelation of the New Testament. It is a “divine revelation strictly taken and made through the word, not through creatures.”

Turretin goes on from there to speak of even a couple further subdivisions of supernatural theology, the modes of acquiring theological knowledge, it’s nature as a science, and the overall unity of theology’s subject matter.

mapsTheology as Spiritual Mapmaking

Now, I summarized all of this, yes, because it’s kind of fun to lay everything out in a chart like that, but also because I think it’s helpful for us in our thinking about what exactly we’re doing when we’re writing and thinking through our theology. It helps clarify where we’re situated as theological thinkers and what we can and should expect of the process.

If we look at the whole chart, we’re reminded of a few realities. First, our theology is not God’s theology. There is a boundary between infinite and finite, Creator and creation, which ought to humble us in our endeavors to speak of God and his works. What’s more, of the created theology we do have, we have the theology suited to pilgrims. We do not yet see what we might, or what we will, but only what God gives us for the journey.

As I think of the idea of pilgrim theology, I’m reminded of the work of two thinkers who both suggested we ought to think of theology as a sort of map: C.S. Lewis and Kevin Vanhoozer. Lewis famously wrote of this metaphor in Mere Christianity. In response to the challenge that the science of theology seems like turning from something more real (God himself) to something less real (our ideas of God), he readily conceded some truth to it. Yet, the same thing is true when turning from the ocean, to a map of the ocean and continents. Undoubtedly, the ocean is more real than a piece of coloured paper. And yet the map is still quite valuable, as it is a guide to understanding, navigating, and moving about the ocean.

Now, Theology is like the map. Merely learning and thinking about the Christian doctrines, if you stop there, is less real and less exciting than the sort of thing my friend got in the desert. Doctrines are not God: they are only a kind of map. But that map is based on the experience of hundreds of people who really were in touch with God—experiences compared with which any thrills or pious feelings you and I are likely to get on our own are very elementary and very confused. And secondly, if you want to get any further, you must use the map.

In The Drama of Doctrine (pp. 295-297), Vanhoozer went a bit further and took the metaphor of “following maps” as a good one for thinking about thinking, especially about God. Very roughly, instead of picturing our knowledge as a series of bricks built one upon the other, we should think of it as maps of reality. Maps are a useful picture in that they have to correspond to reality, they retain the basic shape of things, they are coherent and consistent within themselves, but there is recognition that they’re situated, not extensive photographs of things. They are good, limited, representations of reality that function as guides, orient us to reality, and lead us where we need to go. The metaphor of the map, then seems quite suited to describe the character of our pilgrim theology.

Vanhoozer goes on to point out that God has, in Scripture, given us a divinely-authored collection of maps, an atlas of sorts, that directs us to a proper knowledge of God, salvation, and reality. The practice of systematic theology is our attempt to read the maps, and not only read them, follow their direction towards their proper end. Vanhoozer says, “To walk in the Christian way is to employ the biblical maps so that they direct one to Christ” (297). Theology, then, is spiritual map-making, and, more importantly, map-following. As Turretin will later point out, theology is a mixed discipline that is both theoretical and practical; our theoretical study of God pours forth in our practical worship of God.

May we continue to study the Scriptures, as pilgrims, with grateful humility, attempting, not only to become adequate map-readers and map-makers, but map-followers, as we journey towards Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria


by Derek Rishmawy at December 28, 2014 10:18 PM