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November 25, 2014

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

9 Things You Should Know About Adoption

Each year in November, the President of the United States issues a proclamation to announce National Adoption Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness of the need for adoptive families and to encourage citizens to become involved in the lives of children and youth in foster care. Here are nine things you should know about adoption in America:

1. Adoption has been and remains rare. Between 1973 and 2002, the percentage of ever-married women 18–44 years of age who had adopted a child fluctuated between 1.3 and 2.2 percent. Men were twice as likely as women 18–44 years of age to have adopted a child. Among ever-married persons, men (3.8 percent) were more than 2.5 times as likely as women (1.4%) to have adopted.

2. Relinquishment of infants at birth is extremely rare. Only 1 percent of children born in the United States in 1996–2002 to women 18–44 years of age as of 2002 were relinquished for adoption within their first month of life.

3. Surveys reveal that women currently seeking to adopt would prefer to adopt a child younger than two years old, without a disability, and a single child rather than two or more siblings. (Two-thirds of women would not accept a child 13 years of age or older or a child with a severe disability.) The data also suggest that women would prefer to adopt a girl rather than a boy.

4. In 2012 there were 397,122 children in foster care and 101,666 waiting to be adopted. The average age of a child in foster care waiting to be adopted was 7.8 years old. The average age of children in foster care being adopted was 6.3 years old.

5. On average, a child will wait three years in foster care awaiting adoption. About 55 percent of these children have had three or more placements with foster care families, and 33 percent had changed elementary schools five or more times, losing relationships and falling behind educationally.

6. In 1851 Massachusetts passed the Adoption of Children Act, the first modern adoption law in America. The law is considered an important turning point because t required judges to determine that adoptive parents had “sufficient ability to bring up the child” and that “it is fit and proper that such adoption should take effect.”

7. The beginning of the foster care concept in America was the Orphan Train Movement. Between 1854 and 1929, as many as 250,000 children from New York and other Eastern cities were sent by train to towns in midwestern and western states, as well as Canada and Mexico. According to the Adoption history project, families interested in the orphans showed up to look them over when they were placed on display in local train stations, and placements were frequently made with little or no investigation or oversight.

8. Each year thousands of U.S. citizens adopt children from abroad. In 2013, Americans adopted 7,092 children from abroad. The total number of intercountry adoptions from 1999 to 2013 was 249,694. According to UNICEF, approximately 13 million have lost both parents.

9. The Child Welfare Information Gateway, a government-funded adoption information service, estimates the average U.S. adoption costs of various types of adoptions:

Intercountry Adoptions — $15,000 - $30,000

Independent Adoptions — $8,000 - $40,000+

Licensed Private Agency Adoptions — $5,000 - $40,000+

Facilitated/Unlicensed Adoptions — $5,000 - $40,000+

Public Agency (Foster Care) Adoptions —  $0 - $2,500


Recent posts in this series:

Military Chaplains • Atheism • Intimate Partner Violence • Rabbinic Judaism • Hamas • Male Body Image Issues • Mormonism • Islam • Independence Day and the Declaration of Independence • Anglicanism • Transgenderism • Southern Baptist Convention • Surrogacy • John Calvin • TGC • Prayer in the Bible • The Rwandan Genocide • The Chronicles of Narnia • The Story of Noah • Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church • Pimps and Sex Traffickers • Marriage in America • Black History Month • The Holocaust • Roe v. Wade • Poverty in America • Christmas • The Hobbit • Council of Trent • C.S. Lewis • Orphans • Halloween and Reformation Day • World Hunger • Casinos and Gambling • Prison Rape • 6th Street Baptist Church Bombing • 9/11 Attack Aftermath • Chemical Weapons • March on Washington • Duck Dynasty • Child Brides • Human Trafficking • Scopes Monkey Trial • Social Media • Supreme Court's Same-Sex Marriage Cases • The Bible • Human Cloning • Pornography and the Brain • Planned Parenthood • Boston Marathon Bombing • Female Body Image Issues

by Joe Carter at November 25, 2014 07:03 AM

Proximate Justice Is the Only Justice We Have in this Age

“We pulled up to his house and called his cell phone to let him know that we had arrived,” the eyewitness testified under oath. “As Trey came down the steps of his front porch, his wife waived goodbye to him. There were three of us in the van already—the defendant was driving, I was in the passenger seat, and the shooter was on the seat bench right behind us. When Trey opened the sliding door and saw the blue tarp draped over the seat bench, he joked, ‘Who’s the body bag for?’ We all laughed, but uncomfortably. For we knew what he did not—that it was for him. Then he shut the door.”

I heard this testimony while sitting in federal trial court as an extern at Office of the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York (EDNY). Fascinated by the rule of law and the human condition, I had already taken every course on constitutional criminal law that Columbia offered—evidence, criminal investigations, and criminal adjudication. To me, this competitive externship at the EDNY was the culmination of my learning experience, taking what I studied in my casebooks and putting it into practice in real litigation. When I applied for the program, though, I did not know that I would be assigned a capital case.

From jury selection to eyewitness testimony to forensic evidence, I heard the story of a man who committed two murders-for-hire over the span of ten years. His first victim was a drug dealer with whom he was in competition for business; they worked the same corner of the same park in Brooklyn. His second victim, Trey, was the husband of the woman with whom he was having an affair; it was a modern-day David and Bathsheba story of killing the romantic competition.

Aftermath of Murder

After Trey closed the sliding door, the shooter—who, in his own trial, was so threatening to the court that he had to wear a Silence of the Lambs mask at one point—reached around Trey’s shoulders and pulled the trigger at the temple of Trey’s forehead. Blood spewed everywhere, but he didn’t die immediately. Instead, in a burst of energy he lunged at the door. As he mustered every effort to open it, the defendant passed the shooter another, more powerful gun to use. He did and dealt the final blow. Trey was motionless. And lifeless.

For the next year, the members of Trey’s family—except his wife, who was a part of the conspiracy—searched for answers. He was missing, but his body had not been found. As they circled the neighborhood on a weekly basis with a megaphone calling for people to come forward, Trey’s body was almost in plain view. “We decided to bury him in a cemetery,” the eyewitness, who had taken a plea bargain for his cooperation, confessed, “because, after all, there’s no strange dead body smell in a place that is filled with dead people. It’s expected.”

He was right. In fact, no one probably would have ever discovered Trey’s body if the eyewitness had not been riddled with guilt and come forward to the police.

My Role as a Student

Since I was a law student during the trial, I was not allowed to be at the table with the prosecutors. Instead, I sat with the families of the victims. I got to know their parents, their siblings, their nieces and nephews and, in the case of the first victim, his children.

One morning, while forensic evidence was being presented, Trey’s sister left the courtroom. I could tell that she was upset, so I followed her, hoping to talk with her or, perhaps, just listen. When I walked out the doors of the courtroom, though, I did not see her at the water fountain or in the hallway. So I checked the restroom, where I found her weeping. Sobbing, actually.

“No matter what that jury decides,” she told me through tears, “they cannot bring my brother back to life. That’s what I really want. I mean, I know he wasn’t perfect—he was a drug dealer and a terrible husband. But I think he was going to turn around. I hoped, anyway.”

I was speechless. As an officer-in-training of the court, I was supposed to be objective and represent the government. I was limited by the professional role I was tasked to play. As a Christian, though, I wanted to tell her about another judge—The Judge—who could bring the dead back to life, who once told a child, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” (Mark 5:41).

Proximate Justice

In that moment, I realized that proximate justice—that is, imperfect justice that recognizes that something is better than nothing—is the best we can do in this age. Steven Garber of the Washington Institute puts it like this:

When we pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we are yearning for the way things ought to be, and someday will be—even as we give ourselves to what can be in a world where evil persists, sometimes very malignantly. If we think that the lordship of Christ over every square inch of the whole of reality means that we can settle for nothing less than explicit recognition of that claim and its reality in public life, then we will never be able to sustain the vocations that are required for meaningful political witness in the face of the continuing injustice, which comes from the world, the flesh, and the Devil.

Proximate justice does not mean that we should forego the passionate pursuit of justice in this age. In fact, at the end of our trial, it was right and just that the jury convicted the defendant, because the evidence showed beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed the crimes alleged. And if they had not convicted him, we would have had cause to protest their decision as an unjust exercise of jury nullification. 

Yet we pursue proximate justice in this age even as we recognize that true justice—the kind of justice that brings the dead back to life—will ultimately come in the age to come. Our longings for justice will only finally be fulfilled in the new heaven and the new earth. As C. S. Lewis once wrote, “That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing that heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.”

by Bethany Jenkins at November 25, 2014 06:04 AM

The Gospel in Argentina

Famous for its tango dance, love of beef, and omnipresent consumption of the herbal tea “mate” (pronounced ma-te), Argentina is the second-largest country in South America and the eighth-largest country in the world, according to land size. Argentina has a population of more than 43 million, and about 76 percent of the population identify as Roman Catholic, although less than 10 percent practice.

In 2013, to the surprise of many, Argentina took center stage as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected as the new pope, the first one chosen from the Americas. On social issues, in 2010 Argentina became the first country in Latin America to approve same-sex marriage; as for abortion, with a few exceptions, it remains illegal. Mirroring trends in Europe, there is a growing secularist tide in the country. In this context, it’s not surprising that only 9 percent identify as evangelicals.

That said, there are many reasons to be encouraged. As Jairo Namnún of The Gospel Coalition’s Spanish site wrote recently, there are stirrings of revival in Latin America. We want to highlight a few of these “stirrings” and hear from those on the ground. With that in mind, I corresponded with Sam Masters, president of the Seminario Biblico William Carey in Cordoba, Argentina, about the evangelical church in Argentina, the challenges and encouragements of ministry there, and more.


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

People often tell me they have heard there is a great revival in Argentina. In spite of what C. Peter Wagner has said, I haven’t seen it yet. With the return of democracy in 1982, certain sensationalistic tendencies gained ground in evangelical circles. Televangelists filled stadiums, and certain churches grew. Evangelicals gained greater influence. However, some highly visible moral failures such as that of TV preacher Hector Gimenez damaged the church. The result was a slight increase in the percentage of people who identified themselves as evangelicals and the alienation of more than 90 percent of Argentines from the gospel.

Now the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, a Brazilian cult, is gaining ground. This group combines elements of neo-Pentecostalism and fetishism. It has actually begun to spread to the United States and the United Kingdom. This cult has had numerous problems with the law and most people aren't well enough informed to distinguish it from historic evangelicals.

In spite of this, we see there are many who respond to clear expository teaching of the Scriptures. We are also encouraged by the growth of gospel-centered ministries like Fiel in Brazil. We are praying to see similar movements in the southern cone.

What most encourages you about the evangelical church in your country?

We may be seeing the beginnings of reformation in some circles. Many young people are responding to teaching they find online. The Gospel Coalition’s Spanish website, for example, is an important resource. For now we are probably talking about hundreds and not thousands, but there are focal points all over the country. We need more churches committed to Reformed doctrine to guide these young people.

What is the biggest challenge facing the evangelical church in Argentina?

To find the path of sound doctrine without falling into unhealthy extremes. In general, we see churches that either are formal and legalistic or, on the other side, preach the health-and-wealth gospel and have pastors that claim to be apostles. I believe there is a great opportunity for churches that can combine cultural sensitivity and theological seriousness. We need reform that is both thorough and balanced.

What distinguishes the church in Latin America from the church in the United States?

A major difference between the evangelical church in the United States and Latin America is that in Latin America it has never been in the majority. There are different degrees of growth from one country to the next, but across the board the cultures of Latin America are still waiting to receive the benefits of the Reformation.

The United States has for a long time been squandering the historic benefits of its heritage. Latin America, on the other hand, is still looking to the future in hopes of a true revival. Sadly, one of the biggest obstacles is the unbiblical religious influence being exported from the United States, particularly the prosperity gospel.

How can we pray for the church in Argentina?

Please pray that the Lord would continue to raise up Latin American leaders who are committed to his Word and that he would provide the resources to train and send them out.

You serve as president of the Seminario Biblico William Carey in Cordoba, Argentina. Can you share more about your role there and the mission of the school?

We have about 100 students studying online. For now we offer a variety of diplomas for students who want to prepare for Christian service. We have students in Chile, Argentina, Peru, Mexico, and Cuba. In 2015 we will be opening new study centers in northern Argentina and southern Chile. Every year we host a theological conference that draws together people interested in Reformed theology.

Over the short term our plan is to open a master of divinity program here in Cordoba. We are committed to Reformed theology and missions outreach. We believe in the enormous potential of the Latin American missionary force. If we can put the right tools in their hands I have no doubt they will turn the world upside down (Acts 17:6).


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

by Ivan Mesa at November 25, 2014 06:01 AM

Is Your Church Ready?

The stats are staggering. And the safety of our children is at stake.

So what’s your church doing about it?

Deepak Reju’s new book, On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse (New Growth), is a brilliantly helpful resource aimed at instructing and empowering churches to respond to this quiet crisis. With 25 endorsements from a diverse range of leaders, On Guard is widely praised and tragically needed. After introducing us to the issue, Reju presents eight practical strategies for protecting against abuse and three for responding to it. 

I corresponded with the pastor of biblical counseling and family ministry at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., about why churches are so vulnerable, what makes his strategy uniquely effective, how a church can get started, and more. (After reading, watch our roundtable video discussions on “Preventing Sexual Abuse in the Church” and “Caring for Victims of Sexual Abuse” featuring Justin Holcomb, Scotty Smith, and Trillia Newbell.)


How widespread is the problem of child abuse in our churches?

Nobody knows for sure, but we can start with an FBI report on child abuse stating that:

  • 1 out of 5 girls, and
  • 1 out of 6 boys will be sexually molested by their 18th birthday. 

If you are in a congregation of 200 that means about 20 women and 16 men will have been abused. That’s 18 percent of your congregation—a sizable group.

But consider that these numbers are based on those who actually report the abuse. Many more are either too scared or find the pain too overwhelming to open up to others, let alone to get the authorities involved. So 18 percent is probably a conservative estimate.  

What are some of the biggest misconceptions you encounter among evangelicals concerning this issue?

There are quite a few. The assumption that abusers are monsters and not anything like us. A sexual offender is probably “seedy” looking, a drug addict or an alcoholic, visibly insane, depraved, brutal, or mentally retarded. Pick your version of a boogeyman and that’s what many people envision when they picture a sexual predator. But the truth is sexual offenders are people just like us—single or married; male or female; blue or white collar; educated or uneducated; rich, middle class, or poor. What surprised me is how many professionals are offenders. I came across examples of a college professor, doctor, lawyer, athletic director, pastor, and many, many more.

Other false misconceptions include:

  • It will never happen to us. Look at the statistics, and you discover it’s likely to affect your family or someone you know and love.
  • We know the people in our church. Relationships among Christians can be superficial. Have you ever considered how easy is it for someone to hide and not be known in your church? Sexual offenders know this fact and take advantage of it. Often, we know a lot of facts about our friends but don’t really know them deeply.  
  • Our church is safe. Do you know this for sure? Have you ever asked your pastor or children’s minister what they do to protect the children in your church? Some of you will ask and be delighted at how thoughtful your church is, but others of you might be surprised at how little your church is doing.

Why are churches particularly vulnerable to child abusers?

Many believers are ignorant about this issue of child abuse. They don’t want to bother with such an “icky” subject. And because Christians don’t know the extent of the problem, they don’t guard against it. This kind of ignorance can lead to a naiveté that makes children vulnerable.

Another reason is that too many churches provide easy access to children. Sexual offenders know that churches are always looking for help with children’s ministry and are often facing shortages of volunteers. They know that volunteers are often late, cancel at the last minute, or don’t even bother showing up for their service. So sexual predators show up at churches eager to make themselves known and ready to serve. No other organization provides such quick and easy access to kids.

A third reason is cheap grace. If a sexual offender is actually caught, he or she counts on cheap grace—grace that comes freely and with little cost. Abusers are not dumb. They know that if they cry, offer words of contrition, and promise never to do it again, they are likely to avoid significant consequences. Pastors and churches are forgiving. They are quick to apply the gospel and slow to apply the consequences that come from the law.

I list several other reasons in On Guard, including abuse of authority, manipulation of religious language, and attitudes of invincibility.

What’s the main way your plan for preventing child abuse is “more comprehensive” than others you’ve encountered?

Most churches will have parts of this strategy in place. A few will be doing all of these strategies. Sadly, many churches will be doing nothing. Look at the literature directed at churches. You see a lot about writing a policy, screening, reporting abuse, and responding to abuse. But there’s little other current and accessible instruction for churches. So On Guard details eight strategies for protecting against abuse and three for responding to it.  

Eight Strategies for Protecting Against Abuse:

  • Creating and implementing a child protection policy
  • A check-in and check-out process
  • Membership
  • Screening and verification
  • Building design
  • Training your staff and volunteers
  • Preparing church leaders, parents, children, and teens before abuse happens
  • Getting to know the people and resources in your community

Three Strategies for Responding to Abuse:

  • Help a church be responsible by reporting abuse
  • Help a church respond wisely to victims, the congregation, 
and the media
  • Help a church deal wisely with a child abuser

There were a few subjects—like how to deal with a sexual offender when he or she visits your church, or how to design your children’s ministry wing, or the problem of child-on-child abuse—that I couldn’t find anywhere. So I talked to several experts and churches that have dealt with such matters, did a lot of thinking in these areas, and came up with some guidelines to help others out.

None of us wants to deal with this issue, but the stakes are too high to ignore it. How would you counsel a church to get started?

Start by establishing a protocol for your church, which means writing up and implementing a child protection policy (CPP). A CPP is a set of self-imposed guidelines that describe how a church is going to protect and care for the children under its care. An important part of fighting abuse is planning ahead. You create and implement a CPP because you want to define the parameters for a safe environment for your children before a problem arises in your church.

But this is only a first step. There’s so much more we can and should do to protect the children in our care.

by Matt Smethurst at November 25, 2014 06:01 AM

How to Honor and Encourage the Singles in Your Church

Today there are more single adults in America than married ones—and the number is not shrinking. What can pastors and church members do to honor and care for singles in their midst?

“Singleness is not monolithic,” Carolyn McCulley explains in a new roundtable video with Jennifer Marshall and Betsy Childs. “It’s helpful to minister based on life stage more than on marital status. A single 50-year-old is very different than a single 20-year-old.”

“It’s vital to cultivate a congregation where families absorb singles, wrapping them up in the everyday life of the church,” adds Marshall, author of Now and Not Yet: Making Sense of Single Life in the Twenty-First Century (Multnomah, 2007). “We need to be learning from people who are different than us, who have different burdens and challenges.” As Childs points out, diverse community groups—as opposed to, say, siloed “married” and “singles” groups—can help foster such a culture.

After all, just as marrieds can give helpful input to singles, singles have valuable input to offer marrieds. “I think often we can absorb the culture’s false message that unless you’ve experienced something, you can bring no truth to it,” notes McCulley, author of Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye?: Trusting God with a Hope Deferred (Crossway, 2004). “We must really strive to emphasize the siblinghood of Christ.”

“Isn’t it wonderful to have the example of Jesus himself?” Childs concludes. “He knows from firsthand experience what it’s like to live as a faithful single.” Amen. See more from Childs in her article "Should I Be Content in My Singleness?"

Watch the full nine-minute video to hear these three women discuss the idolization of marriage, what McCulley loves about Psalm 25, advice for the discouraged, and more. 

Honoring Singleness and Encouraging Singles from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

by Matt Smethurst at November 25, 2014 06:01 AM

Nicholas Nethercote

Two suggestions for the Portland work week

Mozilla is having a company-wide work week in Portland next week. It’s extremely rare to have this many Mozilla employees in the same place at the same time, and I have two suggestions.

  • Write down a list of people that you want to meet. This will probably contain people you’ve interacted with online but not in person. And send an email to everybody on that list saying “I would like to meet you in person in Portland next week”. I’ve done this at previous work weeks and it has worked well. (And I did it again earlier today.)
  • During the week, don’t do much work you could do at home. This includes most solo coding tasks. If you’re tempted to do such work, stand up and try to find someone to talk to (or listen to) who you couldn’t normally talk to easily. (This is a rule of thumb; if a zero-day security exploit is discovered in your code on Tuesday morning, yes, you should fix it.) Failing that, gee, you might as well do something that you can only do in Portland.

That’s it. Have a great week!

by Nicholas Nethercote at November 25, 2014 02:41 AM

Practically Efficient

Twice the gender, twice the sales

If you interpret the 1970 Lego parent letter as anything other than a sales tactic, you’re giving Lego too much credit. If I'm handing out a medal for the most gender-progressive company of the 20th century, I'm extending a hand to Slinky first. Beginning in the late 1960s, they jingled it clear for decades: this industrial spring is fun for a girl and a boy.

I will say, however, that my son and daughter enjoy Legos equally, and until today, I hadn't given it much thought. Maybe that in itself is the greatest sign of progress.

by Eddie Smith at November 25, 2014 02:19 AM

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

Quote of the Day

From the Angelic Doctor. I am amazed to remember my youth, when this seemed crabbed. Now it seems the paragon of clarity. Even my eleven year old son can understand it.

I answer that, Man has free-will: otherwise counsels, exhortations, commands, prohibitions, rewards and punishments would be in vain.

In order to make this evident, we must observe that some things act without judgment; as a stone moves downwards; and in like manner all things which lack knowledge. And some act from judgment, but not a free judgment; as brute animals. For the sheep, seeing the wolf, judges it a thing to be shunned, from a natural and not a free judgment, because it judges, not from reason, but from natural instinct. And the same thing is to be said of any judgment of brute animals. But man acts from judgment, because by his apprehensive power he judges that something should be avoided or sought.

But because this judgment, in the case of some particular act, is not from a natural instinct, but from some act of comparison in the reason, therefore he acts from free judgment and retains the power of being inclined to various things. For reason in contingent matters may follow opposite courses, as we see in dialectic syllogisms and rhetorical arguments. Now particular operations are contingent, and therefore in such matters the judgment of reason may follow opposite courses, and is not determinate to one. And forasmuch as man is rational it it necessary that man have a free-will.

by John C Wright at November 25, 2014 01:44 AM

CrossFit Naptown

Exciting Schedule Additions!

Tuesday’s Workout:

Kettle Bell Floor Press
5×10
*Use a partner and be careful!

4 Rounds for Time
10 Kettle Bell Lunge Press (Males 16-20kg, Ladies 8-12kgs)
*5 Each Leg
20 One Arm Russian Swings
*10 Each Arm
10 Goblet Squats
20 American Swings
*Rest 1 Minute, then begin next round
18:00 Time Cap

 

Big Things Coming Your Way…

Drum roll please….

We are proud to announce that starting Tuesday December 2nd, we will be unveiling a new schedule to make all of your athletic hopes and dreams become realities! This new schedule includes an expanded endurance rowing and barbell club schedule. We are incredibly grateful o have such a well-rounded and passionate coaching staff that helped make this new schedule possible. Remember, this week is all about practicing gratitude, so perhaps take a minute to be grateful for these new opportunities to become a fitter, healthier, and more zombie apocalypse-ready you!

We will also be making changes to the NapTown Running Club in the near future and would love to hear some feedback from you to see what we may be able to do to fit your schedules as well as accommodate the natural changes that come with Indy winters (i.e. feeling like it is time for bed at 5:00pm because it is completely dark out). Please email info@crossfitnaptown.com if you have feedback to give! Otherwise, stay tuned for more information to come on the log soon.

Here is the new schedule with the following color-coded changes

Endurance Rowing = Blue

Barbell Club = Red

Endurance Running = Green

Starting Tuesday, December 2nd:

Monday:
No changes

Tuesday:
6am-7am: NapTown Rowing Class
11:30am-1:30pm: NapTown Barbell Club
NO RUNNING @ 6pm
7:00pm – 9:00pm: NapTown Barbell Club

Wednesday:
No changes

Thursday:
6:30am – 8:30am: NapTown Barbell Club
7:00pm – 8:00pm : NapTown Rowing Class
7:00pm – 8:15pm: NapTown Barbell Club

Friday:
No changes

Saturday:
9:00am – 10:30am: NapTown Barbell Club

Sunday:
10am-11am: NapTown Rowing Class

Thanksgiving Holiday Hours Announcement:

Wednesday Night: 8pm Open Gym Cancelled
Thursday-THANKSGIVING: CLOSED – Rest or Local Turkey Race (see link below)
Friday: Open Gym from 10am-1pm

DRUMSTICK DASH – http://drumstickdash.org/

 

 

by Anna at November 25, 2014 01:02 AM

The Art of Non-Conformity

How to Make the DMV a Happier Place: Dan Pink’s New “Crowd Control” Series

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You might remember Daniel Pink from his New York Times bestsellers, A Whole New Mind, Drive, and To Sell is Human, or from his hugely popular Ted Talk about motivation.

Using behavioral science, Dan has done some really interesting things to show us why we do the things we do. His newest project is a series on National Geographic called Crowd Control: “a hidden camera series that uses high-tech and mechanical builds to manipulate bad behavior.”

Here’s the synopsis:

“What if we could make the DMV a happier place by adding a little laughter? Or curb America’s speeding epidemic without issuing a single ticket? In NGC’s new 12-part series Crowd Control, viewers will discover that sometimes all you need is a little science to help make the world a better place.

Using hidden cameras to record his results, Dan Pink will tackle the seemingly impossible task of righting everyday wrongs—from convincing party-goers to clean up their streets to stopping the senseless rush an at airport baggage claim.”

Here’s a clip from an episode below, and check out the actual show if you can. It premiers tonight!

 

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by Chris Guillebeau at November 25, 2014 01:00 AM

November 24, 2014

512 Pixels

Revisiting the Pebble

When I reviewed the Pebble back in March 2013, I wasn't all that nice to it. The software was rough, and at the time, iOS didn't offered even less control over notifications than it does now.

However, with Apple stepping into the smartwatch arena early next year, I thought the Pebble was worth revisiting. Not that the Kickstarter darling is in the same league as Cupertino's device in terms of hardware or software, but the idea of notifications going to our wrists is about to be a lot more mainstream.

So, to see if that's actually helpful, last week, I ordered the basic $99 black, plastic Pebble. I've been wearing it since Friday, and am going to wear it for a month to see what life is really like with a tiny screen on my arm. I'll be reporting back over the next several weeks with my thoughts.

by Stephen Hackett at November 24, 2014 09:35 PM

CrossFit 204: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Workout: Nov. 25, 2014

The press starts below the shoulders. Ensure your foundation is solid by flexing the legs and gripping the floor with the toes.

The press starts below the shoulders. Ensure your foundation is solid by flexing the legs and gripping the floor with the toes.

Press 2RM

Push press 2RM

Gymnasty – Updated!

by Mike at November 24, 2014 09:25 PM

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Why Uber Fights

In his, to my mind, fair defense of Uber, Mark Suster made a very important observation about the reality of business:

Let’s put this into perspective. As somebody who has to rub shoulders with big tech companies often I can tell you that there is much blood spilled in the competitive trenches of Apple, Twitter, Facebook, Google and so on. Changes to algorithms. Clamping down on app ecosystems. Changing how third-parties monetize. Kicking ecosystem partners in the nuts.

Be real.

It’s a brutally competitive world out there because there are extreme amounts of money at stake. I’ve been on the sharp end of it and it doesn’t feel nice. And I pick myself back up, dust off and think to myself that I need to think through the realpolitik of power and money and competition and no matter how unpleasant it is – it’s a Hobbesian world out there. It ain’t pretty – but it’s all around us.

This is particularly relevant to Uber: the company is looking to raise another $1 billion at a valuation of over $30 billion, and, as I wrote when the company raised its last billion, they are likely worth far more than that. Still, though, skeptics about both the size of the potential market and the prospects of Uber in particular are widespread, so consider this post my stake in the ground1 for why Uber – and their market – is worthy of so many sharp elbows. I expect to link to it often!


There are three perspectives with which to examine the competitive dynamics of ride-sharing:

  1. Ride-sharing in a single city
  2. Ride-sharing in multiple cities
  3. Tipping points

I will build up the model that I believes governs this market in this order; ultimately, though, they all interact extensively. In addition, for these models I am going to act as if there are only two players: Uber and Lyft. However, the same principles apply no matter how many competitors are in a given market.

Ride Sharing in a Single City

Consider a single market: Riderville. Uber and Lyft are competing for two markets: drivers and riders.

uber

There are a few immediate takeaways here:

  • The number of riders is far greater than the number of drivers (far greater, in fact, than the percentage difference depicted by this not-to-scale sketch)
  • On the flip side, drivers engage with Uber and Lyft far more frequently than do riders
  • Ride-sharing is a two-sided market, which means there are two places for Uber and Lyft to compete – and two potential opportunities for winner-take-all dynamics to emerge

It’s important to note that drivers in-and-of-themselves do not have network dynamics, nor do riders: Metcalfe’s Law, which states that the value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users does not apply. In other words, Uber having more drivers does not increase the value of Uber to other drivers, nor does Lyft having more riders increase the value of Lyft to other riders, at least not directly.

However, the driver and rider markets do interact, and it’s that interaction that creates a winner-take-all dynamic. Consider the case in which one of the two services – let’s say Uber – gains a majority share of riders (we’ll talk about how that might occur in the next section):

  • Uber has a majority of riders (i.e. more demand)
  • Drivers will increasingly serve Uber customers (i.e. more supply)
  • More drivers means that Uber’s service level (i.e. car liquidity) will improve
  • Higher liquidity means that Uber has a better service, which will gain them more riders

In this scenario Lyft by necessity moves in the opposite direction:

  • Lyft has fewer riders (i.e. less demand)
  • Drivers will increasingly be occupied serving Uber customers and be unavailable to serve Lyft customers (i.e. less supply)
  • Fewer drivers means that Lyft’s service level (i.e. car liquidity) will decrease
  • Lower liquidity means that Lyft has an inferior service, which will cause them to lose more riders

The end result of this cycle, repeated over months, looks something like this:

uber2

There are three additional points to make:

  • It doesn’t matter that drivers may work for both Uber and Lyft. If the majority of the ride requests are coming from Uber, they are going to be taking a significantly greater percentage of driver time, and every minute a driver spends on a rider job is a minute that driver is unavailable to the other service. Moreover, this monopolization of driver time accelerates as one platform becomes ever more popular with riders. Unless there is a massive supply of drivers, it is very difficult for the 2nd-place car service to ever get its liquidity to the same level as the market leader (much less the 3rd or 4th entrants in a market)

  • The unshaded portion of the “Riders” pool are people who regularly use both Uber and Lyft. The key takeaway is that that number is small: most people will only use one or the other, because ride-sharing services are relatively undifferentiated. This may seem counterintuitive, but in fact in markets where:

    • Purchases are habitual
    • Prices are similar
    • Products are not highly differentiated

    …Customers tend to build allegiance to a brand and persist with that brand unless they are given a good reason to change; it’s simply not worth the time and effort to constantly compare services at the moment of purchase2 (in fact, the entire consumer packaged goods industry is based on this principle).

    In the case of Uber and Lyft, ride-sharing is (theoretically) habitual, both companies will ensure the prices are similar, and the primary means of differentiation is car liquidity, which works in the favor of the larger service. Over time it is reasonable to assume that the majority player will become dominant

  • I briefly mentioned price: clearly this is the easiest way to differentiate a service, particularly for a new entrant with relatively low liquidity (or the 2nd place player, for that matter). However, the larger service is heavily incentivized to at least price match. Moreover, given that the larger service is operating at greater scale, it almost certainly has more latitude to lower prices and keep them low for a longer period of time than the new entrant. Or, as is the case with ride-sharing, a company like Uber has as much investor cash as they need to compete at unsustainably low prices

In summary, these are the key takeaways when it comes to competition for a single-city:

  • There is a strong “rich get richer” dynamic as drivers follow riders which increases liquidity which attracts riders. This is the network effect that matters, and is in many ways similar to app ecosystem dynamics (developers follow users which which increases the number and quality of apps which attracts users)

  • It doesn’t matter if drivers work for both services, because what matters is availability, and availability will be increasingly monopolized by the dominant service

  • Riders do not have the time and patience to regularly compare services; most will choose one and stick with it unless the alternative is clearly superior. And, because of the prior two points, it is almost certainly the larger player that will offer superior service

Ride Sharing in a Multiple Cities

It is absolutely true that all of the market dynamics I described in the previous section don’t have a direct impact on geographically disperse cities, which is another common objection to Uber’s potential. What good is a network effect between drivers and riders if it doesn’t travel?

There is, however, a relationship between geographically disperse cities, and it occurs in the rider market, which, as I noted in the previous section, is the market where the divergence between the dominant and secondary services takes root. Specifically:

  • Pre-existing services launch with an already established brand and significant mindshare among potential riders. Uber is an excellent example here: the company is constantly in the news, and their launch in a new city makes news, creating a pool of riders whose preference from the get-go is for Uber

  • Travelers, particularly frequent business travelers, are very high volume users of ride-sharing services. These travelers don’t leave their preferences at home – when they arrive at an airport they will almost always first try their preferred service, just as if they were at home, increasing demand for that service, which will increase supply, etc. In this way preference acts as a type of contagion that travels between cities with travelers as the host organism

Most important of all, though, is the first-mover effect. In any commodity-type market where it is difficult to change consumer preference there is a big advantage to being first. This means that when your competitor arrives, they are already in a minority position and working against all of the “rich get richer” effects I detailed above.

uber3

This explains Uber and Lyft’s crazy amounts of fundraising and aggressive roll-out schedules, even though such a strategy is incredibly expensive and results in a huge number of markets that are years away from profitability (Uber, for example, is in well over 100 cities but makes almost all its money from its top five). Starting out second is the surest route to finishing second, and, given the dynamics I’ve described above, that’s as good as finishing last.

Tipping Points

What I’ve described up to this point explain what has happened between Uber and Lyft to-date. Still, while I’ve addressed many common objections to Uber’s valuation in particular, there remains the question of just how much this market is worth in aggregate. After all, as Aswath Damodaran, the NYU Stern professor of finance and valuations expert detailed, the taxi market is worth at most $100 billion which calls into question Uber’s rumored $30 billion valuation.

However, as Uber investor Bill Gurley and others have noted, Damodaran’s fundamental mistake in determining Uber’s valuation is to look at the world as it is, not as it might be.3 Moreover, this world that could be is intimately tied to the dynamics described above. I like to think of what might happen next as a series of potential tipping points (for this part of the discussion I am going to talk about Uber exclusively, as I believe they are – by far – the most likely company to reach these tipping points):

  • Tipping Point #1: Liquidity is consistently less than 5 minutes and surge pricing is rare – Once Uber becomes something you can count on both from a time and money perspective, rider behavior could begin to change in fundamental ways. Now, Uber is not just for a business meeting or a night out; instead, Uber becomes the default choice for all transportation. This would result in dramatically increased rider demand, resulting in complete Uber domination of driver availability. This would have several knock-on effects:

    • Driver utilization would increase significantly, increasing driver wages to a much more sustainable level
    • Competitor liquidity would decrease precipitously, leading to rider desertion and an Uber monopoly; this would allow Uber to raise rates to a level that is more sustainable for drivers, further increasing supply and liquidity

    By all accounts Uber is already close to this level in San Francisco, and there are lots of anecdotes of people all but giving up cars.4 The effect of this change in rider behavior cannot be overstated, especially when it comes to Uber’s potential valuation: taxis have a tiny share of the world’s transportation market, which means to base the company’s valuation on the taxis is to miss the vast majority of Uber’s future market opportunity

  • Tipping Point #2: Uber transports not just people – Uber has already done all kinds of experiments with delivering things other than people, including Christmas trees, lunch, a courier service, even drugstore items. However, any real delivery service would need to have some sort of service-level agreement when it comes to things like speed and price. Both of those rely on driver liquidity, which is why an Uber logistics service is ultimately waiting for the taxi business to tip as described above.

    However, once such a delivery service is launched, its effect would be far-reaching. First, driver utilization would increase even further, particularly when it comes to serving non centrally located areas. This would further accentuate Uber’s advantage vis-à-vis potential competitors: Uber service would be nearly instant, and drivers – again, even if they nominally work for multiple services – would be constantly utilized.

    Moreover, there is a very good chance that Uber could come to dominate same-day e-commerce and errands like grocery shopping: most entrants in this space have had a top-down approach where they set up a retail operation and then figure out how to get it delivered; the problem, though, is that delivery is the bottleneck. Uber, meanwhile, is busy building up the most flexible and far-reaching delivery-system, making it far easier to move up the stack if they so choose. More likely, Uber will become the delivery network of choice for an ecosystem of same-day delivery retailers. Needless to say, that will be a lucrative position to be in, and it will only do good things for Uber’s liquidity.

Why Uber Fights

The implications of this analysis cannot be underestimated: there is an absolutely massive worldwide market many times the size of the taxi market that has winner-take-all characteristics. Moreover, that winner is very unlikely to be challenged by a new entrant which will have far worse liquidity and an inferior cash position: Uber (presuming they are the winner) will simply lower prices and bleed the new entrant dry until they go out of business.

To put it another way, I think that today’s environment where multiple services, especially Lyft, are competing head-on with Uber is a transitional one. Currently that competition is resulting in low prices and suppressed driver wages, but I expect Uber to have significant pricing power in the long run and to be more generous with drivers than they are now, not for altruistic reasons, but for the sake of increasing liquidity and consistent pricing.

In short, Uber is fighting all out for an absolutely massive prize, and, as Suster noted, such fights are much more akin to Realpolitik. As Wikipedia defines it:

Realpolitik is politics or diplomacy based primarily on power and on practical and material factors and considerations, rather than explicit ideological notions or moral or ethical premises

It’s ethics – or, to be more precise, Uber’s alleged lack of them – that has been dominating the news most recently, and is what inspired Suster’s post. And, to be very clear, I can understand and share much of the outrage: in my Daily Update I have compared Uber to Wall Street and said that Emil Michael should be fired (both links members-only) for his comments suggesting Uber might investigate journalists – Sarah Lacy in particular – who disparage the company.5

However – and one of the reasons I’m writing this article – I am also very aware of just how much is at stake in this battle. Lyft has raised $332.5 million from some very influential investors, and I don’t for a minute believe that they don’t want to win just as badly as Uber does. It’s perfectly plausible, if not probable, that Lyft and its backers, overmatched in a head-on battle with Uber, are conducting a guerrilla campaign with the aim of inspiring so much disgust in riders that Uber’s liquidity advantages start to slip (and to be clear, such a campaign – if it exists – is only possible because Uber’s management speaks and acts poorly frequently).6

To be perfectly clear, I don’t know anything further about this situation – or other recent Uber PR fiascos, like this Verge piece about stealing Lyft drivers – beyond the size of the potential prize, as detailed here, and the reality of human beings and their incentives in the presence of such outsized rewards. In my experience the truth ends up being far more gray than the press – which really hates threats to journalists – has characterized this most recent episode.

In fact, in some ways I’m actually far more concerned about Uber’s perceived lack of ethics than most, because if I’m right, then Uber is well on its way to having monopoly power over not just taxi services but a core piece of worldwide infrastructure, and nothing about this crisis gives me confidence in the company’s ability to manage that gracefully.7 I get that Uber’s willingness to fight unjust laws is what got them to this point, but as James Allworth and I discussed on the most recent episode of Exponent, there is a deeper moral code that ought to govern Uber’s actions. Moreover, Uber needs rider goodwill to prevail in the many markets where it is facing significant regulatory resistance: it is local citizens who determine whether or not local laws and regulations will be changed to accommodate Uber, and Uber is making it very difficult to rationalize advocating for them, or, if my Twitter account is any indication, to even ride with them.

Ultimately, this blog generally seeks to analyze business, not render moral judgment or tell anyone what products or services they should or should not use. I myself am mixed: I plan on spending some time in the white part of that graph above, at a minimum. I hope, though, that you now appreciate exactly what is at stake and why so many elbows are being thrown.

  1. I’ve attempted to articulate Uber’s potential multiple times in the Daily Update – it’s one of my most frequent topics. This is my attempt to tie everything together that I have written there
  2. Lots of people have suggested to me that Uber will be doomed as soon as someone creates an app that serves as a front-end to all of the services allowing you to book the one with the lowest price and/or fastest availability; however, such an app would realistically need the cooperation of the largest player (which would not be forthcoming, and there is no public API) plus need to gain meaningful traction in a given market while competition still exists. It’s not happening
  3. To Damodaran’s immense credit, he was very gracious in his response to Gurley’s post (which, to be clear, was respectful of Daodaran as well)
  4. The broader effects of Uber on adjacent industries will have to wait for another post
  5. That said, no reporting has suggested a threat to Lacy or her family as many seem to believe; that came from Lacy herself
  6. I am not making any allegations, and it should be noted that Pando Daily shares investors with both Uber and Lyft
  7. First off, Michael’s comments, whether in jest or not, were incredibly stupid. Secondly, Kalanick’s tweetstorm was a terrible idea. You can’t admit that Michael’s “remarks showed a lack of leadership, a lack of humanity, and a departure from our values and ideals” and not fire him. Either stand your ground and insist Michael was misrepresented or let him go

The post Why Uber Fights appeared first on stratechery by Ben Thompson.

by Ben Thompson at November 24, 2014 07:17 PM

CrossFit 204: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Workout: Nov. 24, 2014

Channel your inner Michelle today.

Channel your inner Michelle today.

Snatch 1 rep

For those who finish early: 500-m row time trial

by Mike at November 24, 2014 07:15 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Remember to Earn Miles for Everyday Purchases (“AKA Shopping Online While At the Apple Store”)

5549475491_b1ee81f881_z

I went to the Apple Store to buy a new computer. I had already done my research and knew what I wanted. I just needed to verify a few things in person, which I did with the helpful associate. “OK, I’m ready,” I said—and then I logged on to a website from the in-store computer to make the purchase.

The associate was a little confused. “I can ring you up right here, and for the same price.”

“I know,” I said, “But this way I’ll earn more miles.”

I bought the computer through the AA shopping mall and selected “In-store pickup.” For pickup time, I selected “Now!”—as in, literally that moment.

Fifteen minutes later I was out the door with the new computer.

As a good travel hacker, I earn points and miles for every dollar I spend. I once rented out an entire zoo, in what’s been the largest charge I’ve had to date (lesson: whatever you think it costs to rent a zoo, it’s probably more). But in addition to earning 2,000 points for the base purchase of $2,000, I knew I could tack on some additional points.

For starters, by using the AA Mileage Mall, I’d earn an additional point for every dollar of spend. Finally, I also noticed that AA was running a limited-time promotion for even more miles:

AA Mileage Mall

Total Mileage Earning for this Purchase

  • 2,000 Starwood points for the base spend
  • 2,000 American Airlines miles for using the AA Mileage Mall
  • 1,050 additional AA miles for purchasing during the promotion

Note that this process didn’t take long. I already had an account with the AA mileage mall. It was a little odd to log-in on a store computer and make the purchase, but whatever—I got over it.

You can earn miles for shopping at your choice of retailers. Often, there are bonuses where you can earn a lot of points. And if you don’t want AA miles, you can earn them from your choice of several other carriers by going through their own shopping portals.

Our new guide, Upgrade Unlocked, includes hundreds of additional tips and strategies that you can put to work right away.

Always be earning!

###

Image: Rick

by Chris Guillebeau at November 24, 2014 07:00 PM

Front Porch Republic

New Managing Editor

I am pleased to announce J. Arthur Bloom will be the new managing editor at FPR. Jordan comes to us with a great deal of experience both as an editor and with blogs, and has demonstrated a deep commitment to the ideas and principles we share at FPR.

If things go as planned, the addition of Jordan will be invaluable as we move to the next project of redesigning the website. Interested readers should email either me or Jordan with ideas you have of how we might improve the layout and functionality of the design.

If you are interested in submitting an essay for publication at FPR, please send to Jordan at bloom.jordan@gmail.com and we will be happy to review it.

The post New Managing Editor appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Jeffrey Polet at November 24, 2014 05:40 PM

Recognizing the Religion of Total Security, and Its Costs

There are relatively few developments in the world’s present socio-economic and cultural moment that gives me much hope–but one of them is the increased frequency in which I see people talking about this:

Insurance underwriters are merely the high priests of what has become our new American religion: the Cult of Kiddie Danger. It is founded on the unshakable belief that our kids are in constant danger from everyone and everything….The Cult’s dogma is taught diligently unto our children who are not allowed to use Chapstick unless it is administered by the school nurse, nor sunscreen, lest they quaff it and die of poisoning, nor, for the same reason, soft soap in pre-k. It doesn’t matter that these fears are wildly at odds with reality. They are religious beliefs, not rational ones….

In a society that believes children are in constant danger, the Good Samaritans are often terrible people. So, recently, when a woman in Austin noticed a 6-year-old playing outside, she asked him where he lived, walked him home (it was just down the hill), and chastised the mom, Kari Anne Roy, for not being careful enough. Then this Samaritan called the Inquisitors. Er…cops. An officer showed up at Roy’s doorstep and despite the fact that the crime rate today is at a 50-year-low, a CPS investigator was also dispatched to interview all three of Roy’s children. She asked Roy’s 8-year-old if her parents had ever shown her movies with people’s private parts. “So my daughter, who didn’t know that things like that exist, does now,” says Roy. “Thank you, CPS.”

Of course, calling out this kind of backyard hysteria for the demeaning, infantilizing, civility-destroying cult that it is doesn’t solve any problems: there is still the reality that whole private industries and dozens of governmental agencies (some federal and state, but most, unfortunately, are local) contribute to preserving the whole infrastructure of paranoia. I’ve written about this before, as have many others, so I suppose the only reason I’m (slightly) hopeful is because in regards to this trend, unlike so many others, there are still actually things individual families can do. Namely, let your children play. Make noise–and enlist other parents in making that noise–at school board and PTSA meetings. I really do believe that there are enough parents out there who still remember fondly the lack of structures and restrictions which characterized their (our!) childhood in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s that, if you’re willing to take a chance, make your voice heard, and be an example, you’ll discover an audience nearly as fed up as you are.

The post Recognizing the Religion of Total Security, and Its Costs appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Russell Arben Fox at November 24, 2014 04:32 PM

Crossway Blog

Christ in All of Scripture – Leviticus 1:4-5

Leviticus 1:4-5

"He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. Then he shall kill the bull before the LORD, and Aaron's sons the priests shall bring the blood and throw the blood against the sides of the altar that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting."


By laying a hand on the head of the blameless sacrifice, the offerer established a relationship with the animal such that it was accepted on the offerer’s behalf. This meant that the offerer received the benefits of the sacrifice, such as atonement.

In general, the word atonement communicates two ideas: (1) ransoming, and (2) purifying. On the one hand, sin or impurity puts people at risk of the Lord’s judgment, from which they need to be ransomed. On the other hand, sin and impurity are defiling, as a result of which people need to be purified. The word atonement has both of these in view: it is a “ransom-purification” taking place by means of the animal’s lifeblood.

Jesus was the ultimate blameless sacrifice presented on our behalf (1 Pet. 1:19), and those who put their trust in him receive all the benefits of his sacrifice, including forgiveness of sin and adoption into God’s family (Rom. 4:25–5:2; Gal. 4:4–5; 1 John 1:7). Because Jesus’ sacrifice is atoning, it is sometimes described as that which ransoms us (Matt. 20:28) and at other times as that which purifies us (Titus 2:14). In either case, we can receive this atonement because Jesus has given his lifeblood in place of our own (Rom. 5:8; 1 Pet. 3:18). This is such a precious gift, given at such a great cost, it fills us with thankful reverence and a desire to live lives worthy of our Savior (1 Cor. 6:18–20; 1 Pet. 1:17–19).


This series of posts pairs a brief passage of Scripture with associated study notes drawn from the Gospel Transformation Bible. For more information about the Gospel Transformation Bible, please visit GospelTransformationBible.org.

by Lizzy Jeffers at November 24, 2014 04:08 PM

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

What Went Wrong with SFF?

If you were wondering why the same community which in 1966 awarded the Hugo for best novel to Frank Herbert’s DUNE, a story about messianic politics, ecology, expanded consciousness, genetic destiny and the role of man in the universe, and for best short story to “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman” by Harlan Ellison, a story about conformity, punctuality, love and betrayal, hypocrisy and jellybeans,  lately in awarded the honors for best novel to ANCILLARY JUSTICE, by Ann Leckie, a story about pronouns and modern feminist piety, utterly unimaginative and bland, and for best short story to “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” by Mary Robinette Kowal, a story about modern feminist piety, utterly unimaginative and bland.

If you are looking at a landscape covered with a thin gruel the hue of oatmeal, gray, tasteless, neither cold nor hot, dripping over telegraph wires, leafless trees, dusty lanes empty of traffic, collapsed houses, and the corpse of a small dog, and seeing a group of deformed pygmies and midgets decreeing immense victories and accomplishments in the fields of civic engineering and architecture, you would assume them to be an enemy of whoever once lived in the now ruined landscape. You would not assume they lived in that landscape and wanted it gray. And your assumption would be wrong.

The pygmies live for ruination. They love the gray weather. There are people who read ‘Harrison Bergeron’ by Kurt Vonnegut — another short story from the same era (have you read it?) — and are not disgusted or repelled, but allured. They want to live in that future.

No one I have read has explained the triumph of the pygmies over the titans as ably and clearly as the fine Sarah Hoyt in this essay, which I gently put firmly insist you read:

http://accordingtohoyt.com/2014/11/23/speaking-truth-to-power/

 

in our own field of science fiction, several people are lionized on the claim of being underprivileged and “excluded”. Mind you, none of them have been excluded in their lifetimes, and in fact maybe one of their grandparents was once addressed rudely. (Maybe, since they’re all a little younger than I. Depending on when their grandparents reproduced.) So, despite the fact that they’re all occupying academic positions for which we have seen no evidence of intellectual prowess, and the fact that the establishment in the field welcomed them with open arms and gave them fawning and attention all out of proportion with achievement, they are considered “victims” and run around twitter (which seems overripe for an application of Idiot be Gone) screaming of the “micro aggressions” performed against them, and telling everyone who opposes them that they should check their “privilege.”

This insanity, something that would make anyone from the outside laugh like an hyena (trust me, I came from the outside and the situation seemed like something out of a crazy fairytale to me) can only perpetuate itself by continuing claims of privilege where none exists and of victimhood applying to those in charge of the establishment. This is why the claims have grown increasingly more divorced from reality, like the screams addressed to Larry and I that we want to keep science fiction white and male (which would be a feat for both of us, unless we intend to get skin bleaching and in my case a rather more intimate operation) or that women didn’t work in the field or get any recognition before our present enlightened times, or that, in FACT none of them are safe at conventions where they might run into people who are paler than they are or – gasp – men with actual penises and all. It also accounts for their insane attacks of gamers because the gamers want to play games “for fun” leading them to the extreme ludicrous claim that there’s something wrong with escapism in entertainment. And we won’t even talk about shirtstorm, where the establishment thought it prudent and in fact eminently necessary to attack a man who, after years of work, landed on a comet, for wearing a cheesy, retro-sf t-shirt while talking about it.

This buffoonery which repels the general public when the general public sees it, is all they have.

And the reason they feel forced to keep up the pretense of being downtrodden and hard done by while basking in all the privilege and material rewards of elites everywhere is that they are a theocracy and the faith they used to climb to power is Marxism, with its extolling of the downtrodden and later (when the downtrodden of the west failed to rise and instead reaped the benefits of capitalism and moved to the middle class) the interesting “other” originating in third world nations. These later are held to be possessors of magical powers which render them capable of seeing with blinding clarity everything that is wrong in our society, capable of creating art that is better than anything we can do, and – very importantly – somehow still in need of the help of our elites to rise to any position of prominence. Which view is in fact racist and the powers attributed to these “minorities” – most often majorities in their own countries – nothing short of the ability that African Americans used to be believed to be born with of dancing or performing well in sports. Both of these are judging people by one broad, racial characteristic, and not as individuals. And let’s not forget the “can’t rise without us” (which is where all the magnified “micro aggressions” and imaginary privilege come from. They need to justify to themselves as well as others why people who, by virtue or color or origin are NATURALLY better fail to rise without their “help.”)

no elite that is as schizophrenic as they are can long stay in power. Their narrative being so anti-reality requires those seeking to join them to abase themselves to such a degree (like some gang members who have to commit a heinous murder to join) that the only the most craven will do so. These are also, for whatever reason, often not the most competent at whatever the field is.

by John C Wright at November 24, 2014 02:48 PM

The Announcement, The Interview, and The Contest

Bitten by Books will be chat interviewing my beautiful and talented wife, who writes under her awesome pen-name of L Jagi Lamplighter, on Tuesday, November 25th from 3pm EST.

Their announcement reads:

Join us on 11/25 with author Linsey Hall for a release party, reader chat and contest.  The event post goes up at 12:00 pm PACIFIC and the official chat runs into the evening. For those visiting from outside of the US, here is the time conversion link, we are in the Seattle time zone: http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/

She will be talking about her newest book release The Raven, the Elf, and Rachel book two in the Books of Unexpected Enlightenment series.

About The Raven, the Elf, and Rachel:

“Before coming to Roanoke Academy, Rachel Griffin had been an obedient girl—but it’s hard to obey the rules when the world is in danger, and no one will listen.

Now, she’s eavesdropping on Wisecraft Agents and breaking a lot of rules. Because if the adults will not believe her, then it is up to Rachel and her friends—crazy, orphan-boy Sigfried the Dragonslayer and Nastasia, the Princess of Magical Australia—to stop the insidious Mortimer Egg from destroying the world.

But first she must survive truth spells, fights with her brother, detention, Alchemy experiments, talking to elves, and conjuring class. As if that were not bad enough, someone has turned the boy she likes into a sheep.

Oh, and the Raven with blood-red eyes continues to watch her. It is said to be an omen of the Doom of Worlds. Will her attempts to save her world bring the Raven’s wrath down upon her?”

Read a 5 star review of The Raven, the Elf, and Rachel by clicking here.

Buy a print copy of  The Raven, the Elf, and Rachel from Amazon by clicking here.

Buy a Kindle copy of  The Raven, the Elf, and Rachel from Amazon by clicking here.

Books in the Books of Unexpected Enlightenment series in the order they should be read:

The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin

The Raven, the Elf, and Rachel

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by John C Wright at November 24, 2014 02:23 PM

Crossway Blog

6 Joys and Perils of Full Time Ministry

This is a guest post by Josh Moody, pastor of College Church in Wheaton, Illinois. He is the author of Journey to Joy: The Psalms of Ascent.


1. The joy and peril of being on the inside track.

I think it was CS Lewis who said that everyone thinks there is an “inner circle” and everyone thinks that someone else is a part of it and they are not. Being in full time Christian ministry allows you the opportunity to peer behind the curtain at the inner workings of other Christian ministries, churches, conferences, and, at times, the personalities of leading Christian figures. This is a joy: you get to see the inner workings. You get to be in the inner circle. You get to meet some godly people and rejoice at how God is using them.

But this is also a peril. You get to see the inner workings of Christian ministries, churches, and meet some Christian leaders who do not always appear to be as godly as their reputation. Cynicism, disillusionment, sarcasm, hardness towards spiritual vitality at a personal level, can all set in from knowing more about the inner workings of something that other people celebrate.

2. The joy and peril of being held to a higher standard.

It is a great joy to have to read your Bible, live reasonably holy lives, avoid pornography, adultery, stealing, curse words, intemperate rage, and other matters that are not only acceptable in certain Wall Street offices but positively expected. This is a joy because you “get to work with Christians,” and there is an expectation that you will be growing in your spiritual life and becoming more like Christ. Iron does sharpen iron.

The peril is hypocrisy. Have I read my Bible this morning? Am I growing in godliness in all the various ways I am expected to do so? Who can I talk to about some area in my life that may leave my job in jeopardy? Inadvertently, the high moral and spiritual standards can easily lead to play acting.

3. The joy and peril of success.

Making money, being effective, being celebrated by other people, and doing well in ministry are all real opportunities for joy. Are we not to rejoice when a sinner is saved? The angels certainly do. Should we not rejoice when a ministry is flourishing? Of course we should.

But such success is also a peril. As Jesus said to his returning disciples, “Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). Why is such a perspective necessary? Because the peril is that your very soul will be damaged otherwise.

At some point, your ministry will be taken from you. You will die. Or you will be fired. Or you will retire. Or you will fail. Or other people will attack and abandon you. A servant is not above his master. It happened to Jesus. It happened to Paul. It will happen to you.

If you are rejoicing primarily in ministry success then, when faced with inevitable failure, you will be miserable—and your very soul will be in danger. The opportunity in the peril is to learn to treat success and failure, praise and criticism, growth and decline, the celebration of your gifts and the rejection of them, all as relatively unimportant compared to the fact that you are in Christ and will certainly spend eternity with him.

4. The joy and peril of doing something that matters.

The great joy of full time, Christian, vocational, ministry of any kind is that it is pretty clear to you—and to anyone else who is a Christian—that what you are doing is important. Gone are the temptations to view your God-given vocation as unimportant. You may listen to Martin Luther King telling street sweepers to sweep the streets as if all heaven were watching (for it is), but you are not tempted to view your vocation as insignificant since it’s directly related to the gospel, which you believe is of primary significance.

The peril is that all the rest of your life gets out of whack. There is the peril of abandoning a sensible work-life balance and burning out. Robert Murray McCheyne, the great Scottish preacher, said on his death bed, “God gave me a message, and a horse on which to deliver it, I have killed the horse and now I can no longer deliver the message.”

It may be better to burn up than rust up, but it is better still to burn for Jesus brightly until old age. Perseverance is the Christian virtue, not burnt out wrecks of brief ministry effectiveness along the highway. But the peril doesn’t just relate to your own soul, but also to the health of your family and your close friends. If it is a rare man to reach his sixties who still has one good friend, it is an even rarer successful Christian worker who does.

5. The joy and peril of money.

I wish it were not so but money in ministry matters. “Follow the money,” they said about the Watergate scandal, and the advice has been good for investigative journalists ever since. This is why Paul handled the Jerusalem Collection so carefully—to ensure that all was administered in a way that was not only right, but also seen to be right.

Avoiding the appearance of evil, avoiding actual evil, not reflecting the American dream with your lifestyle, and neither reflecting the monkish negativity that falsely separates body and soul—it is to this that we’ve been called. Money is a wonderful tool that can be used for great good. But the appearance of evil, as well as actual evil, has brought down more ministries than heaven cares to remember.

6. The joy and peril of familiarity with theology.

Theology is rightly, according to the medieval universities, the queen of the sciences, and is the valuable possession of every Christian. Indeed, it is impossible to do any kind of ministry at all without some sort of theology, whether you like to call it that or “no creed but the Bible” (which is itself a creedal statement). Theology is a joy that can equip you to worship God with more insight, helping you love God with all your heart, soul, and mind.

It is also a great peril. Theology is the study of God. Even that statement has the whiff of, not just hubris, but idiotic impossibility. Can an ant study a man? Obviously, we believe God has revealed himself in creation, Scripture, and ultimately in Christ, and so we study that which he has told us in his Word. So theology is a legitimate study. Indeed it is a necessary study.

But it is also a peril for those who become familiar with the doctrines they profess without experiencing any life change. There will be those, Paul said, who have the appearance of godliness but deny its power (2 Timothy 3:5). Theology without the power of the Spirit is not just dry orthodoxy; it’s the religion of Hell.

The Solution

Six joys that are also six perils. What’s the solution? It’s quite simple, really.

Emphasize the joys and resist the perils.


Josh Moody (PhD, University of Cambridge) is senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, Illinois. He is the author of several books, including The God-Centered Life, No Other Gospel, and Journey to Joy, and blogs at GodCenteredLife.org.

by Nick Rynerson at November 24, 2014 01:38 PM

Inconsolation

matanza: What’s the opposite of ‘pretty from far, far from pretty’?

A second game intended for networked play today, and this time it’s an old-fashioned, no-quarter, duel-to-the-death in space.

2014-11-09-2sjx281-matanza

matanza gets the “quite unusual” moniker from me today, not only for being another networked game that will require a few more players than just your lonely self, but also as a game that tries to incorporate the aa- and bb-style image rendering into its play.

First things first, let’s get the game going. The only source code I could find was, again, in the Debian repositories (yes, yes, all hail Debian, the savior of ancient software :roll: :| ), but wouldn’t compile in Arch.

If you extract the binary that matches your architecture though, the Debian executable will run just fine. Barbaric, yes, but I am not beneath stealing executables to get an ASCII game working. If it bothers your conscience, use deb2targz. Now don’t interrupt. ;)

Start that file, and nothing will happen. And that’s okay. It will provide you with a port number, and you connect through telnet. So if you just want to see what the game looks like, you can use telnet localhost 1234, or whatever port it gave you.

From there, the game title screen should start. Offer up a name, and you are thrown into the fray. Asteroids are a danger to you, and so are other players. You have missiles at your disposal, as well as a projectile gun you can trigger with the spacebar.

Navigate with the cursor keys, and keep in mind that matanza’s physics are simple, but accurate. Your ship will spin or cruise indefinitely until you correct it. And if you want to reverse directions, you better turn hard and blast forward in the opposite direction. Flying alone can be a challenge.

At its best, matanza’s graphical attempts are quite impressive. Asteroids are just asteroids, but up close, your ship’s graphics are distinct as it turns and shifts. The starfield grid flickers as it moves. Missiles and projectiles are a little less detailed, but still faithful.

You can zoom in and out with the plus and minus keys, and that will no doubt help in your battles. Unfortunately, it also means you lose a lot of detail as your ship is reduced in size, and that’s where things start to turn ugly. Zoom too far out, and the only way you’ll know which direction your ship it pointed will be to fire. Zoom too far in, and things will pounce on you from the edges of the screen.

So it’s a tradeoff. You can have a small measure of detail that’s necessary for navigation, and still enjoy some of the graphical effects if you get the zoom level just right. Work at it, it’s worth it.

I’m willing to give matanza bonus points for just about everything I mentioned here, and still having the potential to be a rousing network free-for-all. If I had a friend to challenge, perhaps I could be more convincing in that assessment though. … :roll:


Tagged: game

by K.Mandla at November 24, 2014 01:15 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Recruiting an Army of Allies: Essay for “Making Your Mark”

I’m a big fan of 99U, an offshoot of Behance that exists to help people implement their great ideas instead of just brainstorming more and more ideas. Last week they published have a new book of collected essays, and I contributed one about “Recruiting an Army of Allies.”

You can check out my essay below, or (even better) pick up a copy of the book for essays by much smarter people.

MakeYourMark

Recruiting an Army of Allies
by Chris Guillebeau

***

The blog post asking for donations went up with no preamble. There was no launch campaign and no guilt trip, just a simple description of the need for clean water in Ethiopia. The invitation to participate came at the end, asking readers to join in making a difference. In less than a day, $22,000 came in—all from the one post.

Another time, a launch for a commercial service went out to the same community. In the launch post and mailing, the campaign produced more than $100,000 in immediate income—all for a single product on a single day, from a relatively small audience.

I monitored the first campaign from a hotel room in Anchorage, Alaska, and the second took place in real time while riding an Amtrak train across the Midwest. In each case, I watched with wonder as the numbers on my laptop continued to increase. How did this happen?

You might think that these successes came from unusual circumstances. Maybe the post went viral, bringing in a deluge of out- side visitors from big tech sites. But no—in each case, the donations, sales, and referrals were all driven by a small group of people. The message spread because invitations were widely shared by engaged individual readers.

The moment of trust came not in the arrival of a selected blog post or e-mail message, but in several years of relationship building that led up to each campaign. When the time came to garner funding or sell a product, it was a simple matter of activating that trust and issuing the invitations.

Such is the power of a small group of remarkable people, an army of allies who are eager to support a cause. Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a Eurorail locomotive, and better than any paid advertising, an army of allies is the greatest asset you can cultivate. If you’re just getting started and wondering where you should devote your focus, here’s the answer: devote it to recruiting and serving these people.

STEP 1: INVITE YOUR ARMY TO SERVE

An army does not materialize out of nowhere or assemble on its own. The most important thing you can do to gain allies and attention is to produce good work. Take a stand—do something that matters! Next, make it clear that you welcome people to your mission. Give them something to believe in and a reason to care.

In a traditional army, the foot soldiers serve at the whim of commanders, and a clear hierarchy is maintained. But your charge, as the leader of your all-volunteer army, is essentially to serve. Every day, start by asking yourself two questions:

1. What am I making?
2. Whom am I helping?

Answering these questions—in word and deed—is crucial for the ongoing care and feeding of your army. For the past five years I’ve traveled the world, meeting people who identify with the message of nonconformity and unconventional living. Along the way, I’ve been inspired by hearing many of their stories. It’s a continuous cycle of communication and connection, fueled by the belonging that comes from a common message.

STEP 2: IN TURN, SERVE YOUR ARMY

Years ago I heard someone use a phrase that’s stuck with me ever since: “My marketing plan is strategic giving.” That person, Megan Hunt, meant it in the context of her work as a blogger and fashion designer—her primary strategy for growth was relying on other bloggers to spread the word, and she often sent out free product in hopes of endorsements.

But the lesson goes far beyond packaging up product and not including an invoice. When you make the focus of your work what you can do for people instead of what they can do for you, you’re not only being a good person; you’re also building the loyalty of your small army.

Like relationships, loyalty isn’t created in a single conversation or transaction. Instead, it’s built over time. One of the best ways you can establish loyalty is through a series of touchstones—small things you repeatedly do that create a positive impact in someone’s life. A few examples:

Make your expertise available to the community at regular intervals. Pamela Slim, a coach and author, hosts a monthly “Ask Pam Anything” call-in session. She also does paid coaching calls, but the monthly session allows her to engage with people through a more informal channel. It builds trust in her expertise with the broader community and, no doubt, drives sales of paid sessions. But it’s not just solopreneurs who can do this; businesses small and large have domain expertise that can be shared freely.

Share your paid content with users for free on different channels. Attending the TED Conference, for example, comes at a premium ticket cost (and an invitation to boot), but TED also posts all the talks from the event for free online afterward. Enabling the talks to be freely shared allows brand awareness to grow and, ultimately, drives demand for tickets to the flagship live events.

Look around and be generally helpful wherever you can. When in doubt, just ask what you can do. A year ago I initiated an experiment where I’d frequently go online (to Twitter, usually) and ask, “How can I help you?” Every time I posed this question I received a variety of responses. Some were silly or unreasonable, but I also learned a lot about my audience. It wasn’t an academic exercise; when- ever I conducted the experiment, I tried to do at least a few small things to actually help someone.

Reciprocity is a powerful practice. The more you give away, the stronger the bond you’ll create with your army of allies. Strive to continually increase the percentage of your work that you make available to everyone, even as you block off other areas of your work that are available for sale or hire. Then, when it’s finally time to ask for that sale, send that invoice, or request a higher fee, you’ll have a reservoir of goodwill to draw on.

***

Back in the dark ages when we all used dial-up, communities were explicitly local. If you wanted to connect with someone in another part of the world, your options were limited. These days, there’s no doubt that the world has changed. You can now connect with people regardless of where they live. You can build a community based on mutual interests. You can deploy this community for social good, for profit, or in pursuit of a greater mission that combines the two. The key lies in crafting a consistent message, making a real difference in people’s lives, and serving the people who’ve chosen to join your army.

Nothing is more important than your relationships with them. As with the $22,000 blog post or the $100,000 product launch, success is built on the creation of trust and value. If you make your army the focus of your daily work, rewards will inevitably follow.

###

by Chris Guillebeau at November 24, 2014 01:03 PM

Inconsolation

netships: You’ll need a friend for this one

I hold games that can properly handle networking in high regard. Probably because I don’t have much faith in my networking ability, and so it still seems like black magic when a program manages to connect to another machine across the room, let alone across the planet.

For a two-player console game to connect across a network for me, I am prepared to make grand sacrifices. Such was not necessary with netships.

2014-11-09-6m47421-netships 2014-11-09-jsgqk71-netships

netships is essentially a rendition of the classic Battleships pen-and-paper game, with the necessary network element included. Fire salvos against your opponent, and with a little luck and a little logic, you’ll destroy them before they destroy you. If you need a refresher on how the game works, I’d recommend reinstalling bs and playing a few games.

I can give you a few tips for getting netships started. First, assuming that your network is up and functioning, one person starts netships with no flags. That we’ll call the “server,” and the other person starts netships with the IP address of the server. That person we can call the “client,” but it doesn’t really matter because if all went well, that will be the last networking lingo you’ll need to know.

Both players place their ships, and this part may be a little confusing. You actually have to “draw” the ships on the grid, using the arrow keys and spacebar. You also have to plot out the proper number of ships, and when you think you have it right, you press C.

netships will check to make sure you have the requisite number of each size, and if you’re off, it will tell you how many of each to adjust by. This is probably the most intricate part of netships, but once you have done it correctly, it will never be an issue for you again.

When both players have placed their ships, the battle begins, and follows a very simple turn arrangement. While the other player is selecting, you’ll see a “Wait” prompt in the lower right, and your enemy’s selector will pan across your fleet. If a hit is scored, the attacker gets another turn.

And so it goes, to the obvious conclusion.

netships has a nice interface, straightforward controls and I can hardly complain about its networking ability. I also like the fact that you can see your enemy taking aim at your ships. It adds a sense of … drama. :roll:

There’s no single-player game, which I suppose would be a drawback. But if you’re after a computer opponent, bs is the correct outlet for that.

The ship drawing stage is the only cumbersome moment, but that is quickly overcome and is never a problem after the first time. The game ends rather abruptly, and if either player quits, it’s a smash to black with no more information than the cursor prompt.

Other than that, I can’t find anything wrong with it. Grab a friend and set them down in front of your network, and start dueling. Oh, did I mention that you would need a friend for this one … ?


Tagged: game

by K.Mandla at November 24, 2014 01:00 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Thinking about word counts and chunks

I was talking to Frank Chen about blogging, and he mentioned that he’s experimenting with word count goals. That made me realize that I don’t pay much attention to word count when I write, and that I tend to write shorter posts. I think in terms of chunks of ideas. I write each post so that it covers one idea, either something I want to share or something I want to learn. Sometimes I cover a little more ground, if I can chunk the sub-ideas enough to hold them in my brain at the same time. Sketches help me a lot when it comes to developing thoughts further.

I rarely write larger posts that bring lots of things together. I guess it’s because I tend to write about:

  • things I’ve just learned: publishing small chunks helps me get my notes out faster
  • things I’m figuring out: nibbling away at questions helps me make sense of them
  • answers to specific questions: small chunks and clear titles makes it easier for me to find things and share links later

What are some examples of longer posts and resources I’ve worked on?

  • There’s How to Read Lisp and Tweak Emacs, which I published as a four-part weekly series and also as a single file.
  • There’s the No Excuses Guide to Blogging, which I published as a PDF/EPUB/MOBI. I linked the source blog posts into a series so that people coming across the posts in the archives can still navigate between them.
  • I post presentations like The Shy Connector as slides and a full blog post. That said, I usually try to keep my presentations to about 10-15 minutes anyway, so the resulting posts are not enormous.
  • Interviews or videos with transcripts can get really long because I talk quickly. For example, this Emacs Chat with John Wiegley is pretty long. I’ve experimented with breaking transcripts up into logical segments, but keeping the entire transcript together seems to make more sense to me.

What would it be like to experiment with longer posts that cover more ground? Based on the blogs I like reading, I think it might mean writing more thorough guides like the ones on Mastering Emacs – things that people would bookmark and refer to a few times.

Organized guides help beginners a lot because they don’t get lost trying to figure out the next step. They can keep scrolling down. On the flip side, it might take a bit more work to make long guides friendlier for intermediate and advanced users: a table of contents, links to alternative paths or related content, closer and more coherent discussion…

Hmm. I feel a little odd about drafting a long resource (takes time to write and takes time to read), and deep-linking into part of a blog post can be a little difficult.

I think I like working with short chunks that I can link to or assemble into different pieces. Maybe I’ll spend a little more time planning outlines and series of related posts so that I can link posts together and fill in the gaps. For now, I’ll leave the ultimate-guide-writing to other people who are better at linear organization (or to future Sacha when she writes books).

Onward to better writing and sharing!

The post Thinking about word counts and chunks appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at November 24, 2014 01:00 PM

Front Porch Republic

Monday Morning Brass Spittoon

A special Thanksgiving Edition will be appearing Wednesday.

The post Monday Morning Brass Spittoon appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Jeffrey Polet at November 24, 2014 11:53 AM

The Paganization and Dehumanization of the University

pagan

Radnor Township, PA

This past Friday, I led a lunch discussion with students at the University of Chicago who had read my First Things article  “Majoring in Fear.” They verified that things at Chicago were pretty much as I had described.

One thing that surprised me to hear is that students receive career counseling from the beginning of their first year of study (which as far as I know was not the case when I taught undergrads there in the late 1990s). Not only does this continually reinforce anxiety about the student’s future, but seems also to explicitly communicate the mostly implicit dogma of elite university education: that you will be a failure if you don’t follow as prestigious a career as you can. One first year student told me he thought he would like to major in history and teach high school, but that his counselor had made it clear that this was aiming too low for someone with a Chicago degree. Forget vocation; be a super-achiever.

Students further along the process also recognize that some of this pressure for high-achieving is a way of cultivating their potential as future donors. One has to wonder whether this obvious instrumentalization of students is the best way to cultivate alumni affection. But then it is only the complement to the universities’ instrumentalization of themselves as factories for successful job competitors.

All of this confirmed a realization that had occurred to me when preparing my short remarks for the lunch meeting: Students, when they enter the system of higher education or early in their experience of it, learn to distrust the system that is shaping them. Very likely this distrust has been taking shape during high school, consciously or not. This is a dimension of the appeal of The Hunger Games that had not entered my thoughts when I wrote about it in my article. The young people being trained for meaningless competition don’t know whether they can trust any of the adults mentoring them, whose motives are tainted by the underlying moral squalor of the whole system.

This question of trust entered my mind when I was formulating remarks to the effect that higher education, meeting students when they are in their prime for asking questions, needs to be about helping them to formulate and pursue those questions – and that there is a natural and intelligible order to those questions. The example I used for illustrating an education of ordered questioning was the structure of the medieval university. Medieval university education began with philosophy, teaching students how to question and bringing them to encounter the basic questions that orient comprehensive inquiry. From there, students went on to reflect upon the natural world and the human place within it (Physick or Medicine), the world of human social and political relations (Jurisprudence or Law), and the ultimate orienting principle of human and natural existence, God (Sacred Doctrine or Theology). This education provided an orderly march through the ordering questions of all major areas of knowledge. (In our own way, Villanova’s Humanities Department has replicated this structure.)

But of course this ordering and its rationale arose from a tradition of theological reflection and Christian doctrine. Students, who are never in a good position to judge an education before entering into it and being opened up and transformed by it, had to have trust in the system in order to submit themselves to its orderly program. They generally did have this trust, because they trusted the tradition that provided that order; and they had sufficient acquaintance with the ordering principles of that tradition (through a basic preparatory liberal education, Biblical knowledge and the lives of saints) to have some idea what governed the system they were submitting themselves to.

Students today have no such basic sense of what principles order the education they are planning to submit themselves to – unless they are students entering institutions affiliated with their religious traditions (and often not even then), or at a place like St. John’s College, which is quite explicit about its non-utilitarian educational rationale. The only generally available rationale is the pursuit of power and money; and the humanities and social science disciplines their minds are formed by often teach them that this is what all human pursuits aim at (a message implicit as well in the technologically justified and patent-securing natural sciences and engineering).

It so happened that some of the students had, on the previous evening, attended a talk on campus by William Deresiewicz, author of Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life. I read to the students a short passage in which Deresiewicz admits that, although he is not religious, he finds himself resorting to religious language as the only adequate description of the kind of transformation a real education should bring about:

“We might propose, then, that you should arrive at college as at the beginning of a pilgrimage—a movement toward the truth and toward the self. That you should come to seek conversion, though you know not yet to what belief or way. That you should approach ideas as instruments of salvation, driven by a need to work things through for yourself, so that you won’t be damned to go through life at second hand, thinking other people’s thoughts and dreaming other people’s dreams. … We are born once…. But then if we are granted such grace, we are born again. For what does it profit a man if he gains the world and loses his mortal soul?”

As these adaptations of Biblical and Christian categories indicate, Deresiewicz’s “Way to a Meaningful Life” is the way of Emerson and Thoreau, the vision that animated the New England liberal arts colleges that established the ideal of “finding yourself” and “discovering your own truth” as the alternative in America to traditional religious education or sheer utilitarian pragmatism. This Transcendentalism may be the biggest cultural swindle in history.

Why so? Because the very notion that makes the medieval founding of the university institution possible is the notion of the dignity of the human person as oriented toward God, not only “with all your heart and all your soul,” but also “all your mind.” In other words, as I have discussed in a previous post, the Christian understanding of the human is that of a person capable of communion with the personhood of God, the Creator of the order that the human person can seek to understand. The religious categories Deresiewicz invokes are the categories of personhood articulated by the Christian tradition, categories constitutive of the original understanding of the person served by the university. Transcendentalism is the attempt to preserve this notion of personhood grounded in a vocation to the ultimate, while turning this ultimate into an impersonal Transcendent. By straining with all my might toward this Transcendent I will rise above conformist mediocrity and create myself as a unique self.

In short, this Transcendentalist individualism (the go-to position for American humanists like Deresiewicz and Andrew Delbanco), according to which I only trust myself (and Emerson and his Absolute, or Whitman and Divine Democracy), is a delusional attempt to preserve a sense of communion with something beyond myself while insuring that the demands it makes upon me only come from myself and my aspiration for self-elevation.
This, then, seems to be the civilizational story in which the current crisis of university education must be understood. The university is finally losing decisively its character as an institution designed to serve and cultivate the dignity of the human person, a character inhering in its Christian origins. It is becoming a pagan institution. Paganism does not recognize persons oriented to the Creator, but only a world of powers. Students are being asked to make the bargain of pagan idolatry: Pay obeisance and service to a greater power so as to partake in a share of its power. The university views students in pagan terms, as loci of the concentration and channeling of powers at large in the world. As it drifts in this direction, the university becomes more inhuman and dehumanizing. Finding no home for their personhood in the university, students fabricate a simulacrum of it on their own time through their semi-private virtual world of communication and entertainment technology.

The Transcendentalist fantasy, as Deresiewicz suggests, seeks to provide a sense of vocation. But a vocation is a call, and the Transcendentalist can only hear the call that comes from himself. In the end, Transcendentalism is just a more poetic and bombastic libertarianism, and generally goes against the taste of our more cynical and prosaic youth, who would rather take their libertarianism straight up from Ayn Rand (subsidized by the Koch Foundation). If the university as a place to cultivate the dignity of personhood and discern one’s vocation is to survive, it will have to be preserved by Christian and Jewish institutions who know what they’re up against and have the vision and courage to resist the tide of paganization.

 

The post The Paganization and Dehumanization of the University appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Mark Shiffman at November 24, 2014 11:51 AM

this is sippey.com

where we live now

Where do we live now? Duh, we live in the network.

And Twitter, of course. Still.

November 24, 2014 08:00 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Why Not Same-Sex Marriage

Daniel Heimbach. Why Not Same-Sex Marriage: A Manual for Defending Marriage Against Radical Deconstruction. Sisters, OR: Trusted Books, 2014. 504 pp. $19.99.

At this point in the debate over same-sex marriage, those who recognize the authority of Scripture are largely convinced that same-sex marriage (SSM) is immoral. On the other hand, proponents of SSM are convinced marriage is a social convention that can be redefined to match current theories of psychology and the nature of gender. In the middle a large number have likely tired of hearing arguments about the topic and do not believe either position will make much difference in the long run. In many cases, the emotional force behind arguments for the redefinition of marriage and attacks against those who publicly question the morality of SSM lead the otherwise unconvinced to take the path of least resistance and publicly affirm SSM despite any private concerns. Some on both sides of the debate have been convinced by arguments that are untrue, illogical, or both.

In Why Not Same-Sex Marriage: A Manual for Defending Marriage Against Radical Deconstruction, Daniel Heimbach attempts to break through the barriers to communication by carefully examining arguments for SSM and posing reasoned objections to them. His goal is to “convince the undecided of the social necessity of keeping the nature, meaning, and structure of civil marriage from being radically deconstructed” (xv). In other words, he is aiming both to instruct the “mushy middle” and to equip evangelical Christians facing a hostile culture.

Building on Previous Work

Heimbach’s True Sexual Morality: Recovering Biblical Standards for a Culture in Crisis (Crossway, 2004) was a comprehensive look at the philosophical underpinnings of the sexual revolution, explaining how culture developed opinions on sexual morality and comparing those opinions to a biblical model of sexual morality. Why Not Same-Sex Marriage builds on the foundation of his earlier work and focuses on the particular issue of SSM, which is a logical outworking of the sexual revolution.

The bulk of the book consists of two or three page chapters, each summarizing arguments for SSM, providing a gracious but firm rebuttal, and offering bibliography of sources on both sides of the debate. Instead of building straw men, Heimbach, professor of Christian ethics at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, presents opposing arguments fairly and answers them with careful reasoning in terms accessible to lay people. Each of the arguments and responses is indexed according to both the argument and refutation, making this a helpful resource. At the end of the book, Heimbach includes testimonies of formerly active gay people, two reprinted academic articles on normalizing SSM, and a list of resources for those seeking more information on the topic. 

Refreshing Approach

The 500-page book is a refreshing approach to the debate over normalizing SSM. Much (though certainly not all) of the debate thus far has focused on emotional appeals and personal attacks, often in the form of name-calling. It seems that significantly less energy has been directed toward careful evaluation of arguments from either side. Meaningful deliberation about such a significant change in cultural structures has often been thwarted by vitriol from both sides and retreat to largely unchallenged presuppositions.

For some Christians, the template for a healthy marriage that is evident in Scripture––one male husband wedded to one female wife for life––provides a sufficient foundation for rejecting SSM. However, arguing based on the content of Christian and Jewish Scriptures tends to have a limited appeal since most of the world’s population do not acknowledge the Bible as authoritative. Heimbach presents arguments that don’t depend on accepting the authority of Scripture in order to communicate beyond the ranks of those already convinced of the traditional definition of marriage. In other words, this book fulfills the important task of making the argument for marriage as necessary for the common good in terms acceptable beyond the Christian sphere.

Societal Flourishing

Even among those who hold to a traditional definition marriage, some see SSM as a “live and let live” issue that has few negative consequences for society. Although Heimbach does not make apocalyptic predictions about the immediate demise of Western civilization due to the normalization of SSM, he does present reasoning that shows the superiority of traditional marriage for building a stable society.

The definition of marriage, he observes, is foundational to all of human society. Those who seek to alter the foundation must provide a compelling basis for such a radical change. This book shows that the arguments for the redefinition of civil marriage largely depend on individualism and emotional appeals. Such emphases on personal fulfillment undermine the common good over time. Thus, far from being an attempt to impose a theocracy, support for a traditional definition of marriage is support for the common good. According to this reasoning, defending a traditional definition of marriage is not an attempt to assert political power but a pursuit of societal flourishing.

Optimistic Approach

Heimbach’s arguments are built on ethical reasoning that expects to find a moral order in creation. Since God designed the world to function in a manner consistent with his character, the common good will be enhanced through morality that resonates with biblical norms. Dispassionate reasoning from observable facts, then, should lead toward conclusions consistent with Scripture.

This approach to the debate is helpful because it is optimistic. The arguments of this book engage readers graciously, accurately presenting both sides and allowing readers to weigh the evidence to make a decision. Although many will not be convinced by any arguments because of their previous attachment to a position, others will pursue truth for the common good.

Thorough and Unique

This is a thorough book—the most comprehensive evangelical resource on the topic of same-sex marriage available today. It will not settle the public debate over SSM; that is too much to hope for any book. However, Why Not Same-Sex Marriage does make a compelling case for a traditional definition of marriage. It also provides an invaluable reference manual for proponents of traditional marriage to consult when formulating gracious, informed responses to arguments for the redefinition of marriage.

At the very least, the book brings the light of reason to bear on the best arguments from both sides of the debate, which is a precious virtue because of its rarity in this age.

by Andrew J. Spencer at November 24, 2014 06:01 AM

Spurgeon’s Three R’s: A Useful Method for Evangelism

A few months ago, I led my church in a community evangelism effort. Our outreach was a little old-fashioned: we knocked on doors and talked to people, hoping the Lord would draw some to himself through the gospel.

Executing door-to-door, “cold call” evangelism has many challenges in the modern context. Rejections of the gospel run the gamut from angry to flaky: One man told me that he hated religion, hated religious “zealots” like us, and believed hell was built especially for those of our ilk. Another woman said that she adhered to Jewish religion in which her father taught her that faith in any object, “even a rock,” would punch her ticket to heaven. None of my questions about the monotheism of the Old Testament and the Torah’s prohibition of worshiping idols made a dent in her rejection of Christ. I even told her that the Scripture called Jesus the rock, but she at last politely said goodbye and returned inside the door to her cats.

Still, I am thankful that God’s gospel can subdue the rebellious heart, whether seething or silly. 

Use of Means 

For training purposes, Christian leaders have long sought a good outline to help us recall the gospel when we are witnessing to lost people. Indeed, many thoughtful, careful, and biblical outlines have been used effectively—Two Ways to Live and Evangelism Explosion come immediately to mind, and I know there are others.

But recently, in my regular reading of C. H. Spurgeon’s sermons, I have discovered an excellent and pithy approach to the gospel, one that is fully biblical and establishes both man’s universal dilemma and God’s antidote in Christ: Spurgeon’s “Three R’s”: ruin, redemption, and regeneration. I like Spurgeon's outline for several reasons: it is simple, the alliteration makes it easy to remember, the biblical texts all surround the number three (another aid to memory for the throes of nerve-busting, face-to-face evangelism).

Also, the three R's cover three things a gospel presentation needs to establish: the problem, the solution, and the response. Spurgeon told young students in his pastor's college that these three doctrines must permeate their evangelism and preaching. I agree and thus commend it to modern readers. Spurgeon was a gifted, tireless evangelist whom God used to win untold thousands to Christ. 

Three Core Doctrines of Evangelism 

Spurgeon called them “three doctrines that must be preached above all else,” and he drew as texts for them “three third chapters (of Scripture) which deal with the things in the fullest manner.” Let's consider Spurgeon’s three R’s.

Ruin (Gen. 3:14-15). This is what man has done. “How did man get in this miserable condition?” Spurgeon asks. R. C. Sproul frames it another way, and his question is one I hear often in gospel conversations: “Saved from what?” In our post-postmodern culture, we must begin here with creation and the fall. Biblical illiteracy appears to be spreading, thus many have never considered that there is something desperately wrong in our world. Beginning here establishes the problem into which God has launched his rescue mission: Man has rebelled against his maker, broken his law, and now lives under a curse that will one day incur the white-hot, unmediated wrath of God. But in the second half of verse 15, we hear the faint promise of God’s solution, one that will grow louder as history advances and as the redemption story of the Bible unfolds. The seed of the woman will crush the head of the seed of the serpent. The serpent will bruise the heel of the woman’s offspring, but this promised one will deal the death blow to the snake, killing him as one must a serpent: a smashed head. As Spurgeon pointed out, this background leads quite naturally to the good news of God’s rescue mission.

Redemption (Rom. 3:21-26). This is what God has done. This is the good news that trumps the bad news. In the scope of five verses, Paul articulates what some commentators have called the thesis of Romans or the magna carta of salvation. In these glorious verses, Paul establishes the demands of God’s law, the futility of salvation by works, the law’s definition of sin, the righteousness of God received by faith in Christ, justification by faith through the redemption of Jesus Christ, and his satisfaction of God’s wrath against sin. This paragraph contains the entire matrix of the work of Christ that he accomplished on the cross, work that provided full pardon from the guilt of sin for every sinner who believes. It is perhaps the most glorious paragraph in human history.

Regeneration (John 3:1-8). This is what God must do in sinners to enable them to believe. Spurgeon, along with Reformed evangelicals throughout the ages, taught that regeneration precedes faith. In other words, God changes the sinful human heart, sets it free from bondage to sin, and enables it to believe that Jesus is indeed the way, the truth, and the life. Regeneration, like the entire work of salvation, is a unilateral work of grace. It was a central theme of Spurgeon’s preaching and evangelism, and it must be foundational to ours as well, particularly as we think through issues of “results” in evangelism. The reality of regeneration urges us to call sinners to repentance and faith while resting in the work of God who alone opens blind eyes and unstops deaf ears. It removes the pressure from us and frees us to boldly share the gospel while knowing that the results are in the hands of a sovereign, benevolent God. Out of a biblical understanding of regeneration, we may call on sinners to repent and be reconciled to God while leaving the results to him. Thus, I hold out hope for the lady with the Jewish background and all others whom I have engaged over the years.

Spurgeon’s “Three R’s,” whether you use them or not, should undergird all our evangelism. And like Spurgeon, pastors today should make certain that these three doctrines regularly appear in the diet of biblical exposition they feed to hungry sheep.

by Jeff Robinson at November 24, 2014 06:01 AM

Gratitude Is Hard to Do

Gratitude should fill the Christian’s life (1 Thess. 5:18; Acts 2:46-47), especially with Thanksgiving on the horizon. So why am I so prone to ingratitude? Genuine gratitude seems elusive.

We live in maybe the most prosperous country in certainly the most prosperous era yet of all time. And as people bought back into relationship with God by the merit of Jesus Christ, Christians should be even more thankful than anyone else. Besides, gratitude is fun! As G. K. Chesterton says, “Thanks are the highest form of thought, and gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder." We miss out on so much when we fail to live gratefully.

I think there are three big reasons why gratitude can seem so hard to find.

1. Gratitude requires making more of the good we have than the good we don’t.

If you’re like me, you tend to dwell on what you’d like to have. I’d love to own a house. I’d like to have a permanent job. A book deal, maybe? I’m always looking to the next thing, the bigger or better thing. Wishing isn’t necessarily wrong. But wishing does necessarily preclude gratitude, because by definition I can’t be grateful for something I don’t have. And if wishing is all I do, I’ll never be grateful.

Gratitude requires moving my eyes from the things I don’t have to the things I do have. It means saying there is good, real good, in this car. In this job or this home. I have to say, in one sense, “This is enough.”

Gratitude celebrates blessings received. As long as we’re consumed with blessings we haven’t received, we’ll never possess it.

2. Our society cultivates ingratitude.

As if we couldn’t be ungrateful enough on our own, ingratitude may be the yeast that makes American culture rise. Advertising persuades us that this thing will satisfy that need we didn’t know we had 30 seconds ago. HGTV shows us how beautiful our homes could be if we only had $50,000 and a professional crew. Political radio—doesn’t matter the party—says we cannot rest until this agenda is met and those people are thrown out of Washington.

“If only” is the prayer behind ingratitude, and it’s everywhere.

Let's try a simple thought experiment. Pick an area of your life you talk about with your friends: your job, your salary, your body, your family. Then imagine one of your friends saying something like, “Guys, I want you to know that I’m really happy with the salary at this job.” Or, “I actually love the way my stomach looks right now.”

If you’re like me, you may have thought: Wow, she sounds a little full of herself. Or maybe, Let’s see how long he can whitewash this thing before we hear how he really feels.

Our culture assumes that normal people operate with a consistent level of discontentment. We think that “real” equals “dissatisfied.” We definitely don’t want to live with a Botox spirituality that papers over real problems with a smile. But we don’t want to steer so far from that ditch that we fall into its opposite. Our society’s gravitational pull is already toward ingratitude.

3. Ingratitude elevates desire for a creature over desire for the Creator.

We desire food, shelter, friendship, health, happiness. These appetites may lead us into sin, but God made us with them, and they’re good at root (see Ps. 104:14-15).

However, God also gave us an appetite so unique it has its own category: the desire to see and savor his infinite, eternal presence. Ecclesiastes describes it as God “put[ting] eternity into man’s heart” (3:11); Augustine captures it with the line, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” We all hunger for God.

More often than not, ingratitude comes when we try to satisfy this hunger for God with blatantly sinful desires or too much of our basic needs. Somewhere in our hearts, maybe on a level we’re not consciously aware of, we convince ourselves that whatever created thing we lack—health, popularity, pleasure—will satisfy us if we can get just a little more of it. 

But as Christians, we know that our satisfaction can only be found in God. Our creaturely appetites will be fulfilled in the new creation; but for now, Christ suffices in abundance or need, plenty or want, life or death (Phil. 4:11-13).

Gratitude is elusive because we’re easily duped into thinking that an eternal hunger can be satisfied with temporal things.

Cultivating Gratitude

With these three reasons for ingratitude in mind, here are some thoughts about how to cultivate gratitude this Thanksgiving season.

1. Raise your ingratitude-sensing antennae.

Start sensitizing yourself to ingratitude, in your own heart and around you. Complaints about a job or a spouse or a body part. Fantasies of a bigger house, a bigger bank account, a different political climate. Being aware of ingratitude-messages will help you deal with the root problem.

2. Cultivate contentment in Jesus.

Jesus Christ is the one and only key to human happiness. As God incarnate, he provides our ultimate satisfaction; as our atonement and mediator, he alone makes it possible for us to have the communion with God that brings ultimate satisfaction (Ps. 16:11).

Cultivating that relationship with God through Jesus builds contentment in our hearts. Preaching the gospel to ourselves, meditating on the Word, worshiping God through prayer and song—all these open our hearts to the divine fount where we find satisfaction. Tasting and seeing God’s goodness leads to gratitude.

3. Supplant ingratitude with thanksgiving.

Botox spirituality misses that gratitude grows out from the inside. Ingratitude, like any sin, is a lion that grows when we feed it and shrivels when we don’t.

Once we catch the messages of ingratitude around us and inside us, we can start supplanting ungrateful thoughts with prayers of thanks. Sure, our 2003 Ford Escape isn’t sexy; but it’s given us 150,000 miles of reliable service with barely a repair needed. Yes, my job will end in seven months; but it’s been a wonderful experience and kept our family fed for the last two years.

I don’t practice a Sabbath, but a rhythm of remembrance and worship seems like a great way to cultivate gratitude. Israelite festivals marked major occasions—both yearly rhythms like the harvest and also national turning points—with prayer and the celebration of God’s actions. Building times of identifying and celebrating blessing into our weeks, months, and years could help open our eyes to see and celebrate God’s goodness. Thanksgiving this week is a great time to start.

by Joseph Rhea at November 24, 2014 06:01 AM

Writings on Southern Tradition, Culture, and Bourbon. – J.D. Bentley | Journal

What a 4th Century Archbishop Can Teach Us About 21st Century Work

A man’s work ought to be meaningful, even enjoyable if he’s lucky. That’s why I believe every man should consider working for himself, so he has control over his labor. But that’s not to say the work should be easy. It shouldn’t.

Men thrive on challenge, whether they like it or not. It tears at their muscles, literally and figuratively, so that they grow bigger, thicker, stronger. Work—hard work—is transformative both physically and spiritually. It is necessary for growth, for theosis. This is also why we’re so apt to complain about it. Through the Fall, we are inflicted with a tendency toward comfort, though it cultivates boredom, anxiety, and a lack of purpose. What we truly desire is to sweat through the insurmountable until it is overcome.

John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople in the late-4th and early-5th centuries, is celebrated as the greatest preacher in the early Church, venerated as a saint in both Eastern and Western traditions. He had this to say about work:

“All of us are liable to complain of our work. We grumble at the hardness of our work, at its monotony and dullness, at the lack of time to rest and relax. We moan about how weary we feel. And we wish that we were wealthy enough to be free of work. But just imagine what perpetual leisure actually means. In your mind let me give you a large house in which to live, filled with comfortable furniture. In this house you only need to nod at a servant, and you will be brought dish upon dish of the most delicious food. Outside there is a garden filled with trees and shrubs, which bear sweet-smelling flowers. For a few hours, for a few days perhaps, you would enjoy being in such a place. But soon you would feel bored and restless. Your bones would become still for lack of exercise. Your stomach would swell with all that food. Your head would ache for lack of anything to stimulate the mind. Your mansion in which work was impossible would seem like a prison. God has designed us to labor for our bread; only in toil can our minds and bodies find contentment.”

When I came across this essay in On Living Simply, I found it especially notable that the word used is “toil”. Contentment is found not in work in general, but in extremely hard work specifically. Why? Because it’s the most transformative, it’s the sort that leaves you feeling most accomplished, it’s the sort you’re happiest to have finished.

While work may not always be what we want, it’s always what we need. I believe each of us should strive to own and enjoy that work completely, but in the meantime we can still pull all of the good out of the jobs we have. If we find the work dull, monotonous, frustrating, enraging, we can recognize that it is merely an opportunity for us to become the men we want to be. Do you want to be the man who whines about difficult circumstances or do you want to be the man who approaches tough times with a cool confidence, a conviction that what is happening is supposed to happen and that he’ll come out better on the other end? Because the simple solution to being either of those men is to do what they would do.

In these everyday decisions, we choose the men we’ll be tomorrow. Hard work is the means through which we unearth our ideal selves.

November 24, 2014 05:00 AM

Jon Udell

The Church of One Tree: A civic parable

Juilliard Park is one of the jewels of Santa Rosa. It occupies 8.8 acres downtown, adjacent to the SOFA Arts District where, last weekend, thousands gathered for the 10th annual WinterBlast festival. Here’s how the Press Democrat describes the SOFA district:

Loosely gathered around the intersection of South A Street and Sebastopol Avenue, the neighborhood once had a shady reputation, but about a decade ago it began to change, and over those years it emerged as a destination for cuisine and culture.

And it continues to evolve. Today, you’ll find a picturesque cluster of small, independently owned shops, galleries, restaurants and even a live theater company.

We love the neighborhood and its energy. It was a major factor in our decision to move to Santa Rosa. When a small studio became available next door to the Atlas Coffee Company (labeled 1 on the map), Luann jumped at the opportunity. The timing was perfect. WinterBlast introduced hundreds of people to her work and to the stories that inspire it.

On the other side of the park is a landmark labeled Ripley Museum / Church of One Tree (2 on the map). Here’s the history:

The Church of One Tree was built in 1873 from a single redwood tree milled in Guerneville, California. The tree used to construct the Church stood 275 feet high and was 18 feet in diameter. Robert Ripley, a native of Santa Rosa, wrote about the Church of One Tree — where his mother attended services, — as one of his earliest installments of “Believe It or Not!” In 1970, Ripley repurposed the Church of One Tree as the Ripley Memorial Museum which was stocked with curiosities and “Believe it or Not!” memorabilia for nearly two decades. In 2009, the City of Santa Rosa restored the site adding several modern upgrades so that it could be utilized for every type of occasion.

Although that city web page doesn’t say so, the building was moved to Juilliard Park in 1957. It’s one of several landmarks that the city rents out for private events, so it’s no longer open to the public. The building is oddly sited. During the meeting Mayor Scott Bartley called it “backwards.” The front entrance faces the park, not the street, and is sheltered by a grove of redwood trees. That’s made it a magnet for the homeless who use the park. Private events have been disrupted; prospective renters have been spooked; a martial arts class that regularly rented the space found the situation untenable and bailed out.

To address these issues the city’s recreation and parks department proposed a fence that would enclose both the building and the nearby grove of redwoods. I’m not sure when or how I heard about the proposal (Luann hadn’t), but I attended this week’s city council meeting in part because the fence was on the agenda. I wanted to learn more about the issue, and to see how Santa Rosa would handle it.

Both the process and the outcome made me feel good about our new home town. Here’s the item that appeared on the council’s agenda for November 18:

12.2 REPORT – JUILLIARD PARK MASTER PLAN AMENDMENT CHURCH OF ONE TREE SITE ADDING A FENCE

BACKGROUND: The Recreation and Parks Department desires to increase use of the Church of One Tree and protect the building. The Church of One Tree site abuts Juilliard Park. The Master Plan for Juilliard Park was established in 1932, and was most recently amended on February 11, 2014. The Church of One Tree (Church) was placed on the site adjacent to Juilliard Park in 1957, and the building was used as the Ripley Memorial Museum from 1970 to 1998. The building was designated by City Council as a Landmark in 1998. The building has been restored and also modified to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A motion to recommend approval of the fence was approved by the Board of Community Services on July 23, 2014. A resolution to approve the fence design, with conditions, was approved by the Cultural Heritage Board on November 5, 2014.

RECOMMENDATION: It is recommended by the Department of Recreation and Parks that the Council, by resolution, approve the
Juilliard Park Master Plan Amendment, adding a fence to enclose the Church of One Tree.

When the item came up at the council meeting I thought it might be a done deal. Kelley Magnuson, deputy director of Recreation and Parks, opened her presentation with a slide summarizing the rationale for the fence:

  1. Increase use of the Church of One Tree
  2. Protect the building
  3. Incorporate redwoods within Church of One Tree

Slide 7 showed how the fence would reach into the park to enclose the redwood grove in front of the building. Slide 8 showed the view from Sonoma Avenue. Here, at the back of the building, the fence would block two entrances to the park. The gates (we later learned) would open only to admit guests to private events.

Although two bodies had endorsed the plan — the Cultural Heritage Board and the Board of Community Services — the council immediately began to ask about alternatives.

Councilor Erin Carlstrom:

Instead of building a fence, if we were to engage in more person-to-person contact — enforcement, security, interaction, funding homeless service providers…for example, what would it cost to increase our downtown bicycle patrol? Or adding security for events?

Councilor Ernesto Olivares:

I’m trying to understand how just having a fence solves the problem, it sounds like we have a bigger issue. If the drug use that was on the back porch of the church is now on the other side of the fence, we’re still dealing with an issue. What’s the broad plan to make the park — and the church — safer?

Kelley Magnuson was now in a tough spot. It was becoming clear that the problem she’d been tasked to address had been defined too narrowly. “Our objective today was to get your input on how to increase the use of the building, and protect it,” she said, “but I do agree there’s a larger issue.”

Mayor Scott Bartley, who is an architect, now made a not-entirely-facetious comment:

Why don’t we just pick the building up and turn it around so it faces Sonoma Avenue? Then we can just lock the door, it’ll look like a normal church, and nobody will think anything about it.

He then opened the public comment period.

First up was Ray Killion, who lives three doors down from the Church of One Tree. Here was the opening of his three-minute statement:

I’m against the direction of this fence. Aesthetically, a black iron fence is forbidding, it’s uninviting, it’s put there to say “you’re not welcome here,” and that’s not what I see as a proper message we want to send about our neighborhood.

Ray Killion made the following points, which were echoed by subsequent speakers:

  • Blocking both Sonoma Avenue entrances to the park would deny access to neighbors and visitors, as well as police, fire, and ambulance personnel.
  • The fence wouldn’t solve the crime and nuisance problems in the neighborhood.
  • If the fence must be built, at least keep the gates to the park open.
  • The Juilliard family had given the land to this city on the condition that “the whole of said property shall be forever used for park purposes only and for the use and benefit of the public in general and particularly the citizens of the city of Santa Rosa.” (This quotation from the deed was repeated several times during the evening.)

Referring to the language of the deed, Ray Killion concluded:

I would like to contrast that with what the parks department puts in the agenda tonight: “reserving this part of the park for the use of paid customers.” That’s not the purpose of a public park maintained with public money for the use of the public.

Jack Cabot has lived in the neighborhood for 24 years, owns 8 properties, and was deeply involved in the redevelopment of the SOFA district. In his statement he stressed how “eyes on the street,” which have multiplied thanks to the SOFA renaissance, would again diminish if the paths around the church were blocked.

Bob Wishard, another longtime resident, said that he and his wife had founded Juilliard Park’s original neighborhood watch 23 years ago. He added his voice to the “eyes on the street” chorus.

Floyd Fox reiterated the deed’s stipulation that the whole property was granted for public use. He added this quote: “a breach of any of the foregoing conditions shall cause said premises to revert to the said grantor, his heirs, or assigns.” He also cited resolution 23412 (1998), which established landmark status for the Church of One Tree. Quoting from the resolution — “the proposed Landmark has specific historical, cultural, and architectural value” — he concluded by asking: “Have you weighed the impact the fence would have on those values?”

Jim Macken extolled the park as a resource that should enhance the city’s ability to rent the building. Inappropriate uses of the park are “symptomatic of a larger problem” that the fence won’t fix, he said.

Edward Collins, a neighbor, opposed the fence because it would cut off access to the park and reduce citizen oversight. He also reiterated the deed’s stipulation of full public use. And he closed by referring to this clause in resolution 23412: “the Council found that the proposed Landmark designation is a Class 8 exemption under CEQA.” That exemption from the California Environmental Quality Act would, he argued, be jeopardized by the fence. He cited California Public Resources Code, Section 21084 and CEQA guideline 15300.2 in support of this argument. “If the city wants to proceed with the fence,” he said, “I think it will require a full CEQA review.”

(This was a nice civic moment. I don’t know what the councilors and city attorney were thinking but their faces said: uh oh.)

Next up was Jennifer Collins. “Being closed when not rented excludes the public from a cultural heritage landmark for the benefit of the paying few,” she said. “It punishes the neighborhood, not only by preventing us from using paths we all use regularly without incident, but also by sending a message to everyone that they are not welcome, and that this is a bad neighborhood.” She advocated for better lighting and for surveillance. And she argued that the city’s failure to maximize its revenue from the property is mainly a marketing failure. “There are no signs encouraging visitors to the Luther Burbank Gardens to come on over. Share a docent from there during peak tourist season to show off the church.”

Duane Dewitt, who often appears before the council, spoke next. “I’ve been going to this park since the 1950s,” he said. “When I was a boy we could sit under the redwoods on a hot day, and then go into the Ripley Museum.” He suggested using private security guards during events, and finding ways to open the building to the public at other times.

In her presentation, Lucinda Moore affirmed the historical value of the building, reiterated the importance of open access, and supported the idea of event security as an alternative to a fence.

Matt Martin, who is executive director for Social Advocates for Youth (SAY), was the next speaker. “The best practice for engaging with the homeless community,” he said, “is to do so face to face.” The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors recently allocated $925,000 for that purpose. In Santa Rosa, he said, it will fund outreach teams to engage with the homeless who live along the city’s creeks. He suggested that the city and SAY might be able to collaborate to bring such a team to Juilliard Park.

Next up was Cat Cvengros who is chair of the Board of Community Services. It was her board’s recommendation to build the fence. Now that idea was clearly in trouble. “When this item came before our board back in July,” she said, “we looked at the church as a revenue generator.” The fence does address the revenue problem, she said. “But you’re right, it does not address the larger issue.”

Anne Seeley, chair of Concerned Citizens for Santa Rosa, put her finger on the underlying issue. “We have at war here two different concepts. One is that a previous council directed Recreation and Parks to maximize income (unlike all other departments that aren’t required to) versus all the people who want keep the park open and free.”

That concluded the public comment period. Councilor Julie Combs now made a moving statement, part of which was quoted in the Press Democrat’s story (Santa Rosa council rejects fence at Juilliard Park) the next morning:

We are in some ways defining who we are as a community. We are making a decision about whether we put up fences and increase policing and security, or whether we fund park maintenance and alternatives for homelessness. If we fund park maintenance workers we put eyes on the park, we have a cleaner park, and we encourage people to attend. We have historically put our parks department in an untenable situation. We ask them to provide clean parks without providing them with alternative maintenance funds. I know that this council has turned down increased park maintenance funding on several occasions. So I ask staff to come back with a proposal for park maintenance.

The fence was now dead in the water. But since it was the active agenda item there needed to be a motion not to amend the park’s master plan to allow the fence. Some comments from discussion on that motion:

Councilor Robin Swinth:

As number of the neighbors pointed out, we’re dealing with a larger issue here. It’s an issue of homelessness, and it’s actually a regional issue. We need to get all the stakeholders at the table to resolve this. It’s the neighbors, it’s the homeless advocates, it’s the business owners, it’s the council, there needs to be a broader discussion.

Councilor Carlstrom:

I serve as our representative to the Russian River Watershed Association. One day a very excited woman came to us from the city of Oakland, extolling the virtues of a project they had implemented to install a new water filtration whiz-bang deal, and they’d gone through and cleaned out this big old homeless encampment. I looked at her and said: “Where’d they go?” She looked at me with a blank stare. I get it. You’ve got a siloed job. That’s what we’ve got here. I want to make sure we recognize my appointee to the Board of Community Services, Cat Svengros, as well as our Cultural Heritage Board, for their efforts on this. I know you took a lot of time to discuss this, and it was brought to you in a siloed way, and that’s your job. I want to be clear that I don’t overturn lower boards’ decisions lightly.

Mayor Bartley (echoing citizen comments about marketing the Church of One Tree):

We developed this building as a rental space. It was restored to be an income generator. The big issue — and it’s a different, more global issue — is how we do that. And I think it can be done. When I hear $350 to rent a church for three hours — that’s the bargain of the century. There should be more zeroes. We’re not marketing like we should. If we do that, and fill it with people, it’ll be a success.

Well done, Santa Rosa! Everyone involved was thoughtful, well-spoken, and open to compromise. Homelessness is a major issue here, and there’s plenty of frustration simmering, but the dominant tone wasn’t anger, it was compassion and a determination to work together to do the right things for the community as a whole. That’s part of what I came to see, and I wasn’t disappointed.

I also came to see how well the city’s online services support governance and citizen engagement. On that front there’s room for improvement. The video capture system works impressively well. You can find meetings — including the most recent one I attended on Tuesday — here. The service provider is Granicus, the same company that serves our former home town, Keene, as well as many other cities. It’s wonderful to be able to review council meetings online, anytime and anywhere. Back in 2008, in an interview with Tom Spengler, who was then CEO of Granicus, I was excited about the possibilities it opened up.

Soon after Keene implemented the Granicus service, though, I had to temper my enthusiasm. In Gov2.0 transparency: An enabler for collaborative sense-making I reflected on a key challenge: building accessible context around civic issues. Immediate stakeholders — government officials, citizens directly involved in decisions — create that context in meetings that are open, to be sure, but still often opaque to the uninitiated. Participants share a context that isn’t accessible to more casual observers.

Consider my situation. Our small investment in the SOFA district makes us minor stakeholders in issues affecting Juilliard Park. We’d like to be as well-informed about those issues as I am, now that I’ve plowed through hours of video and dozens of online documents. But that exercise was far too time-consuming to undertake on a regular basis, with respect to Juilliard Park or any other issue that affects us. And in fact, another such issue was on this week’s council agenda. We live in a neighborhood called the West End, near Railroad Square. There’s a train coming to town, and it runs right through our neighborhood. It’s a wonderful thing, and was in fact another factor in our decision to relocate here. But there’s always a tradeoff. In this case, it’s the possible closure of one of the streets in our neighborhood. Here’s a sign I pass every time I walk downtown:

It’s easy to joke about the URL for the draft environmental impact report, which is so long the sign can barely accommodate it. I’d rather my city’s content management system enabled it to form mnemonic URLs, like:

http:/srcity.org/SantaRosaRailroadCrossings

Which, of course, would also make a nice hashtag. In Tags for Democracy I showed how a city can promote a tag, like #SantaRosaRailroadCrossings, as a magnet for conversations that span multiple social networks and institutional websites.

But here I just want to focus on the page behind that formidable URL. It’s an overview of the project, with links to the draft environmental impact report as a whole (600+ pages!) and to the report’s individual sections.

The SMART train will stop at two stations in Santa Rosa, one of which doesn’t yet exist. Construction of the new Guerneville Road station will require a new railroad crossing at Jennings Avenue. Whether it should be an at-grade crossing or an elevated crossing is one key issue under discussion. A related issue is the possible closure of an existing crossing. An at-grade crossing at Jennings Avenue would be the simplest solution, but the California Public Utilities Commission rations the number of these. So adding a new at-grade crossing would require closing a street in our neighborhood. The elevated crossing wouldn’t entail that tradeoff. But as the visualization in the report shows, it’s a monstrosity.

I’ll bet few Santa Rosans have seen that illustration. Yes, the document is online, but it’s daunting. During upcoming conversations about the tradeoffs involved in choosing an at-grade or elevated crossing, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to link directly to that illustration?

Actually you can, and in fact I did just that two paragraphs above. Here’s the link behind the word visualization in that paragraph:

http://ci.santa-rosa.ca.us/doclib/Documents/CDP_Jennings_Avenue_DEIR_Aesthetics.pdf#page=23

It’s a little-known fact that you can form a link to any page within a web-hosted PDF file by appending #page=NUMBER to the URL. It’s challenging to get people onto the same page in open civic discussions; I wish this mechanism were more widely known and used.

Here’s another bit of information that could usefully be highlighted with a link. James Duncan lives near the Jennings site, and has crossed the tracks there for decades. In his statement to the council, he zeroed in on the state requirement to ration the number of crossings:

The pivotal, threshold issue — that isn’t really being discussed — is the position of the Public Utilities Commission to close a crossing in exchange for an at-grade crossing at Jennings.

It’s true there’s a general policy to maintain the status quo. And the interpretation, as I understand it, is that the crossing that exists at Jennings, and has been used all these years, is not [air quote] legal. But there’s no information about what constitutes legal. The federal government maintains an inventory of railroad crossings in the entire nation. But they have a category for what they call uninventoried crossings, and there’s a simple procedure for adding uninventoried crossings to the inventory.

Has James Duncan correctly identified a way out of the painful tradeoff at the heart of this issue? I don’t know, the council doesn’t know, James Duncan doesn’t know, but somebody knows. That person might be a government official or a private citizen (residing in Santa Rosa or elsewhere). A connection between that person and this issue might be brokered by a government official or by a private citizen. But one thing’s for sure. That person won’t want to wade through a 600-page report and hours of video. We’ll want to focus his or her attention on specific parts of documents, and specific parts of video testimony.

The Granicus service enables such linking. That’s how I was able to form the above link to James Duncan’s three-minute statement within the nearly 7 hours of video from Tuesday’s marathon session. But it’s cumbersome to create a link that jumps into the video at specific points. And using those links require a plugin (Flash or Silverlight), which rules out playback on most mobile devices.

If you do create a link, you’ll notice that the URL looks like this:

http://santa-rosa.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?clip_id=552&view_id=5&embed=1&entrytime=18150

In this example, entrytime=18150 denotes the number of seconds from the start of the video. It works out to 5 hours, 2 minutes, and 31 seconds, as you can see in this screenshot of the beginning of James Duncan’s statement:

Here’s what you see when you invoke the tool that helps you form a link:

The player pauses, and the clipping tool opens in a new window overlaid on top of it. Note that the beginning of the proposed clip doesn’t correspond to the 5:02:31 point at which the video is paused. (Click the image to enlarge it and see that more clearly.) You can scroll to that point within the clipping tool, but since the player is paused there’s no audio or video to guide you. To appreciate how clumsy that mechanism is, consider this screenshot from a Santa Rosa city council meeting that’s been posted to YouTube:

Right-clicking the video brings up a menu from which you can select Get video URL at current time. If you’re at the 1:20 mark in that video, the link you can copy and paste looks like this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zH9od5Tvuqg#t=80

That’s how simple and convenient it can be. And YouTube offers a further convenience. People navigate videos in terms of hours, minutes, and seconds. We’re not good at converting between that notation and raw numbers of seconds. But computers are really good at that. So YouTube supports this alternate syntax:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zH9od5Tvuqg#t=1m20s

So really, you don’t even need a special clipping tool to link into a YouTube video at a specific point. You can just add minutes and seconds to the end of any YouTube URL. Their computers will figure out that 1m20s adds up to 80 seconds. Why should referring to a specific point in a city council meeting be any harder than that? It shouldn’t.

The programming to make deep linking in the Granicus player as convenient as deep linking in the YouTube player isn’t rocket science. Why hasn’t it been done? In my experience, these omissions happen because people don’t expect or demand capabilities that software could easily deliver.

Here’s something else that would expand access to archived council videos. Closed captions aren’t part of the service package that Granicus provides to every city, but Santa Rosa’s service includes them. If you turn on the closed captions while watching a Santa Rosa council video, you’ll see that they’re quite good — much better than the auto-generated captions available for YouTube videos. I suspect that’s true because Granicus provides a human transcriber as an optional part of its service.

Transcription quality notwithstanding, text synced to video is a powerful asset. In the Granicus implementation, it enables videos to be searched. For example, you can search the closed captions for Floyd Fox. Here’s the result:

The search returns three items because Mayor Bartley mentioned Floyd Fox three times: twice as an on-deck speaker, and then once as the current speaker. The third link jumps to Floyd Fox’s statement. Although you don’t land in quite the right spot — Floyd’s remarks begin at 3:06:40, the link based on caption search takes you to 3:07:00 — it’s amazing that you can search nearly 7 hours of video and quickly locate Floyd Fox’s statement.

But what if you didn’t know Floyd Fox was speaking? The names of citizens who make public comments don’t appear on the agenda, because they aren’t known in advance. During a meeting, people who wish to speak submit requests written on yellow cards. If the closed caption transcript were available alongside the video, you could scan within it to quickly absorb the sense of various parts of the meeting, and to find things that you didn’t know to look for. The transcript obviously exists. It can be displayed during video playback, and it can be searched. Why isn’t it available as a complete document? Again, it’s trivial for the software to do that. But nobody expects that feature, so nobody asks for it, and it doesn’t happen.

I first wrote about open government technology back in 2006, when Washington DC became the first city to publish data directly from its internal systems. In 2008 I explored a then-new service called Granicus. All along I’ve envisioned a world in which governments run transparently, publishing data that enables citizens and governments to work together. We’ve come a long way. But I am not yet satisfied. Even when meetings and supporting documents are available online, as they often now are, it’s harder than it should be to create the contexts needed for effective collaboration.

Context is, ultimately, a service that we provide to one another. If you’ve read this far, you know more about the fence around the Church of One Tree than anyone who didn’t attend the meeting. I created that context for you. Somebody else could do the same for the railroad crossing issue, and for any other issue in any other town. But it’s so painful to assemble that context that few will try, and fewer will succeed. Better tools aren’t the whole answer. Engaging with online civic proceedings isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But if it were easier to do — fun, even — the motivated few could do powerful good for their communities.


by Jon Udell at November 24, 2014 02:16 AM

CrossFit Naptown

Holiday Hours

Monday’s Workout:

Dead Lift:
4×4
3×3
2×2
*Stay at one weight for each set of 4, then move up and stay at the same weight for each set of 3, and the same for the sets of 2

Workout:
1000 M Row
50 pistols (1/1 x 25) {*Sub 75 Air Squats}
200 Double Unders {*Sub 400 Singles}

 

Happy Thanksgiving Week! 

In honor of Thanksgiving, we want to start by saying how grateful we are to have such an amazing community of members here at CrossFit NapTown. The gym has grown a tremendous amount and in so many ways since opening three years ago and we have you wonderful folks to thank for that! I have been thinking about gratitude quite a lot lately thanks to the lovely reminders from Practice Indie this month and I hope that all of you begin to do the same this week leading up to this special holiday. Remember to be grateful for your health, strength, and community each time that you walk into the gym this week. We are so very lucky to call CFNT home and to be physically capable of crushing WODs and setting PRs day in and day out. My challenge to each of you this week is to use your time at the gym, as a little bit of your “me time”, to be grateful for all that the walls of the box mean to you and all of the amazing things you have gotten and will get through being a part of this special place!

 

1012968_278357469041308_2474041965640400546_n-1

Okay mushiness done, on to the important announcements! We are giving all of you, and ourselves…., Thanksgiving Day off! Enjoy your family, friends, and the good food that comes with the holiday! (sorry for all of the exclamations….) If you are looking for some kind of activity, look into your local Thanksgiving Day running race. Broadripple hosts the wonderful 4.5 mile Drumstick Dash every year raising money for Wheeler Mission and many of our members and coaches have participated in the event in the past. Going out of town? No worries, there are races like these all over the place that are just waiting for you to sign up on the other side of the inter webs (i.e. just use the google machine to find one). We will also be cancelling Wednesday nights Open Gym, so the last available class will on Wednesday will be 7pm CrossFit Class.

The day after Thanksgiving we will be open from 10:00am-1:00pm for Open Gym. There will be a list of Hero Workouts available on the board for you to come in and take on to work off that Thanksgiving gluttony. There will be coaches around to answer questions, however, you will be responsible for your own warm up, setting up and breaking down your equipment, and of course completing your workout! Please give yourself enough time to get everything in as we will be closing up at 1:00pm. Do not hesitate to ask if you have any questions regarding the schedule or the flow of open gym!

 

RECAP:
Wednesday Night: 8pm Open Gym Cancelled
Thursday-THANKSGIVING: CLOSED – Rest or Local Turkey Race (see link below)
Friday: Open Gym from 10am-1pm

DRUMSTICK DASH – http://drumstickdash.org/

by Anna at November 24, 2014 01:42 AM

SWIFT 11.25.14

Workout 11.25.14:

Beep Test
1000 M Time Trial
Head Stand Progression 

by Anna at November 24, 2014 01:29 AM

Doc Searls WeblogDoc Searls Weblog »

The Most Spectacular Place You’ll Never See

Unless you look out the window.

When I did that on 4 November 2007, halfway between London and Denver, I saw this:

baffin Best I could tell at the time, this was Greenland. That’s how I labeled it in this album on Flickr. For years after that, I kept looking at Greenland maps, trying to find where, exactly, these glaciers and mountains…

baffin1…were.

Then, two days ago, I found out.

There, out my dirty and frosty window over the trailing edge of the wing, was the same long deep valley I had seen seven years before. Then my GPS and the plane’s own map answered the question I’d been asking for most of a decade. What I saw below wasn’t Greenland. It was the Cumberland Peninsula of Baffin Island, an Arctic landform almost twice the size of New Zealand.

The valley, I discovered later, is called Akshayuk Pass, and it connects the North and South Pangnirtung Fjords. Imagine a Yosemite Valley with a floor of glaciers draining into Arctic rivers, flanked for seventy miles by dozens of Half Domes and El Capitans — all north of the Arctic Circle, where the last Ice Age still hasn’t ended.

On the west side of the pass is the Penny Ice Cap, a mini-Greenland inside the forbidding and spectacular Auyuittuq National Park. Wikipedia explains, “In Inuktitut (the language of Nunavut‘s aboriginal people, the Inuit), Auyuittuq (current spelling: ᐊᐅᔪᐃᑦᑐᖅ aujuittuq) means ‘the land that never melts.’” Nobody lives there. Hiking across it ranges from difficult to impossible. The only way to fully take it in is from the sky above.

On the first flight over, I became fascinated by a mountain, just south of the Ice Cap, that looked like an old tooth with fillings that had fallen out. It’s in the lower left side of this shot here from the 2007 trip:

asgard So I recognized it instantly when I saw it again. Here’s the same scene two days ago:

agard2 It’s called Mt. Asgard, and named after the realm of Norse gods. From below it looks the part. (That link is to amazing photos by Artur Stanisz, shot from Turner Glacier, which Asgard overlooks in the shot above. Fun fact: one of the great James Bond ski chase stunts was shot here. See this video explaining it. Start at about 1:33.)

So now we have all these albums:

A digression on the subject of aviation…

A bit before I started shooting these scenes, a flight attendant asked me to shade my window, so others on the plane could sleep or watch their movies. Note that this was in the middle of a daytime flight, not a red-eye. When I told her I booked a window seat to look and shoot out the window, she was surprised but supportive. “That is pretty out there,” she said.

Later, when we were over Hudson Bay and the view was all clouds, I got up to visit the loo and count how many other windows had shades raised. There were very few: maybe eight, out of dozens of windows in the economy cabin. Everybody was watching a movie, eating, sleeping or otherwise paying no attention to the scenery outside.

No wonder a cynical term used by airline people to label passengers is “walking freight.” The romance and thrill of flying has given way to rolling passengers on and off, and filling them with bad food and failed movies.

Progress is how the miraculous becomes mundane. Many of our ancestors would have given limbs for the privilege of seeing what’s on the other side of our window shades in the sky. Glad all we need is to give up our cynicism about flying.

by Doc Searls at November 24, 2014 01:21 AM

November 23, 2014

Mr. Money Mustache

If You Think This is About Extreme Frugality, You’re Missing The Point

nymag

A few months back, I joined in fnymagor an episode of a podcast called the Disciplined Investor. The host Andrew Horowitz and I were chatting about money, raising children, stock market crashes and so on, and then this question popped out of the void and really surprised me:

 

So, there must be something you really miss. What’s the thing that it hurt most to give up, to live the way you do so you could retire early?

What happens when your son wants to go to Disneyland, and you have to turn to him and say, ‘Sorry, that’s just not in the budget this year’?”

 

For some reason, the question stirred up so much stern enthusiasm in me that I had to loosen my collar to let some of the steam shoot out. There were so many wrong but telling assumptions behind it. It was asked from such a well-meaning but self-defeating position.  I quietly took a deep breath and did my best to explain that this is exactly where the path of the Sucka Consumer divides from that of the Mustachian.

More recently, this lifestyle you and I share showed up in New York Magazine, which brought us a good amount of new attention. The writer Annie Lowrey seemed to get the idea pretty well, describing Mustachianism as a thing people (even rich people) aspire to by choice, rather than a wacky  thing that some extremely warped people are doing because that’s all they can afford. Economist Ezra Klein mused on Twitter that frugality might now be becoming a status competition that replaces clueless consumption. I sure hope so.

Unfortunately, the article was capped with a flashy but  misleading headline*:  Meet The Blogger Who Wants You To Spend Like You’re Poor.

 Another version of the same article was given the label This Tightwad is Trending“.

Those were probably calculated phrases, because the goal of any headline is to capture attention and draw in readers. The problem is that too many of those readers still aren’t getting it. You end up with comments like,


CindyWhitebread

“Fiscal responsibility is one thing but I haven’t time for cheap people. I am financially careful but I refuse to deprive myself of the few luxuries I prefer to indulge. People like Mustache take it to another level.”

Harveywallbanger 
“So the point of living like you are poor is to have enough money to retire in your 30’s and live like you’re poor… perpetually? No thank you.”

 

So let’s break it down real quick so brand new Mustachians will know what this shit is about, while the old timers can stand in the back and sing along.

This is not about being cheap, minimalist, or extreme.

It’s about using logic and science to design a Slightly Less Ridiculous Than Average Lifestyle in order to live more happily.

The Mustache family does not lead an “extremely frugal” lifestyle by any stretch of the imagination. I mean, holy shit, we are a multimillionaire family living in an expensive house with a stream of luxury goods, services and food shooting at us from all directions.

Not only do we bathe daily in this spectacular river of affluence, but we even walk casually away from it a few times a year in order to ride in Jet Aircraft which allow us to sample other unnecessary parts of the world. The total bill for this nuclear explosion of consumption is an outrageous $25,000 per year, which would be closer to $40,000 if you accounted for mortgage interest or rent on a comparable house. The life we lead in this rich part of a rich country is extreme, but at the other end of the scale than that suggested by the critics.

The only unusual part by American standards is that we could afford to spend many times more, and yet somehow we choose not to do it. This is a lifestyle of choice, not a sacrifice we make just because we don’t want to have to go back to the office. And therein lies the reason this blog is of any use to anyone:

 Learning to separate “happiness” from  “spending money” is the quickest and most reliable way to a better life.

The side-effect of this is that your life will become much less expensive and you will therefore become much wealthier very quickly.

But it’s not about the money, and as long as you think it is about the money, you’re still fucked.

 So I explained to the man in the interview that if we wanted to go to Disneyland, we would go to Disneyland. Hell, we would live inside the park or perhaps one of the Disney-owned cruise ships if we saw fit. We just happen to find that tourist traps like Disney are a pretty pale and distant second place compared to the fine places that Mother Nature has built for us.

We don’t use our bikes for transportation and hauling instead of our cars, even in the dark and even in the middle of winter because it saves us a few dollars of fuel. We do it because it’s an awesome way to connect with your own town, stay in proper condition, adapt naturally to your own climate, and live like a real human instead of a sanitized, flabby car clown.

I don’t swim and and paddle kayaks and canoes all summer because I lack the funds to buy a twin-engine motorboat. I do it because when it comes to recreational pastimes, muscle wins over motor every fucking time.

I’m not expecting my son to earn his own living early in life and pay for his own higher education because I’m a tightass or because it would break the bank to fund a Harvard doctorate. I set out this challenge because pampering your kids only encourages a dependence on Pampers, while giving them the advantage of working for their own rewards is the best possible gift. I will give him unlimited time, guidance, and access to knowledge, and teach him how to amass an embarrassingly large fortune in a short amount of time. It will then be his choice how to put this knowledge to work.

We spend most of our time at home, a place which I built from the ground up with the valuable helping hands of a few friends. We do our own cooking and cleaning and of course maintenance. Entertaining, creating things, stories and music and hosting a neverending stream of fun guests. Even my gym, workshop, and office are right here in the same spot.

None of this is done because this is a cheap way to live, but because it’s a rich and efficient way to get in touch with all the things that make a human happy. We could go out and get faint approximations of these same services by driving around constantly to various cities and manage to spend more, but why the hell would we do this?

Oddly enough, it hasn’t always been this way. At age 21, I had a fairly materialistic life planned for myself: perhaps a 4500 square foot luxury home in the best neighborhood and a reasonably flashy car like an Acura NSX. Maybe a vacation house or two later on, once I made CEO.

But over the years, this has changed. Even after retirement, our costs have continued to drop even as our income has increased. The choices are no longer based on saving money, but rather on doing our best to live a good life. This was a pleasant surprise to me, but it seems to be an incomprehensible incongruity to the average consumer.

I told the man that my family’s lifestyle was not designed from the top down, starting with a restrictive budget and chopping off important activities based on their cost. Instead, it is a work in progress where we learn as much as possible about the entire planet and the various lifeforms therein, and do whatever we feel is most worthwhile given our limited time aboard this fine ship. Nothing is off-limits based on cost, because making money is fairly easy at this point. We do whatever we want, go wherever we want, and buy anything and everything we feel is worthwhile.

And as for that New York Magazine headline, no, I don’t want you to Spend Like You’re Poor. To me, that would imply car loans, processed food, hair salons, restaurants, lawn care companies, housekeepers and all the things that people get when they follow the standard script of a people who are starved for free time and chasing material comforts as a replacement for happiness.

I want you to spend like you are the richest person in the world, a person who has so much happiness and balance in your life that you can’t imagine anything you could buy that would make you any happier.

 

* Annie has since confirmed to me that writers for most magazines don’t get final say on their own headlines. I think you need to fix that, NY Magazine. If you’re going to hire people to write for you, why go in and subsequently mess with their shit? These are artists, and you get a better product if you don’t run in with a can of spray paint to make little adjustments after they finish their creation. Otherwise you’ll find an empty desk waiting for you as soon as they reach financial independence themselves.

 

 Further Reading: New people might enjoy this list of frequently complained questions, which I wrote a couple years back after a similar media incident. Glad you’re here!

by Mr. Money Mustache at November 23, 2014 10:54 PM

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

Interstellar (Short Review)

Best. Science Fiction Movie. Ever.

Go see it.

I hope to write a longer review later, if time permits.

 

by John C Wright at November 23, 2014 10:40 PM

The Frailest Thing

Silencing the Heretics: How the Faithful Respond to Criticism of Technology

I started to write a post about a few unhinged reactions to an essay published by Nicholas Carr in this weekend’s WSJ, “Automation Makes Us Dumb.”  Then I realized that I already wrote that post back in 2010. I’m republishing “A God that Limps” below, with slight revisions, and adding a discussion of the reactions to Carr. 

Our technologies are like our children: we react with reflexive and sometimes intense defensiveness if either is criticized. Several years ago while teaching at a small private high school I forwarded an article to my colleagues that raised some questions about the efficacy of computers in education. This was a mistake. I didn’t think then, nor do I now, that it was at all controversial. In fact, I imagined that given the setting it would be of at least passing interest. The article appeared in a respectable journal, was judicious in its tone, and cautious in its conclusions. However, within a handful of minutes (minutes!)—hardly enough time to skim, much less read, the article—I was receiving rather pointed, even angry replies.

I was mystified, and not a little amused, by the responses. Mostly though, I began to think about why this measured and cautious article evoked such a passionate response. Around the same time I stumbled upon Wendell Berry’s essay titled, somewhat provocatively, “Why I am Not Going to Buy a Computer.” More arresting than the essay itself, however, were the letters that came in to Harper’s. These letters, which now typically appear alongside the essay whenever it is anthologized, were caustic and condescending. In response, Berry wrote,

The foregoing letters surprised me with the intensity of the feelings they expressed. According to the writers’ testimony, there is nothing wrong with their computers; they are utterly satisfied with them and all that they stand for. My correspondents are certain that I am wrong and that I am, moreover, on the losing side, a side already relegated to the dustbin of history. And yet they grow huffy and condescending over my tiny dissent. What are they so anxious about?

Precisely my question. Whence the hostility, defensiveness, agitation, and indignant, self-righteous anxiety?

I’m typing these words on a laptop and they will appear on a blog that exists on the Internet.  Clearly I am not, strictly speaking, a Luddite. (Although, in light of Thomas Pynchon’s analysis of the Luddite as Badass, there may be a certain appeal.) Yet, I do believe an uncritical embrace of technology may prove fateful, if not Faustian.

The stakes are high. We can hardly exaggerate the revolutionary character of certain technologies throughout history:  the wheel, writing, the gun, the printing press, the steam engine, the automobile, the radio, the television, the Internet. And that is a very partial list. Katherine Hayles has gone so far as to suggest that, as a species, we have “codeveloped with technologies; indeed, it is no exaggeration,” she writes in Electronic Literature, “to say modern humans literally would not have come into existence without technology.”

We are, perhaps because of the pace of technological innovation, quite conscious of the place and power of technology in our society and in our own lives. We joke about our technological addictions, but it is sometimes a rather nervous punchline. It makes sense to ask questions. Technology, it has been said, is a god that limps. It dazzles and performs wonders, but it can frustrate and wreak havoc. Good sense seems to suggest that we avoid, as Thoreau put it, becoming tools of our tools. This doesn’t entail burning the machine; it may only require a little moderation. At a minimum, it means creating, as far as we are able, a critical distance from our toys and tools, and that requires searching criticism.

And we are back where we began. We appear to be allergic to just that kind of searching criticism. So here is my question again:  Why do we react so defensively when we hear someone criticize our technologies?

And so ends my earlier post. Now consider a handful of responses to Carr’s article, “Automation Makes Us Dumb.” Better yet, read the article, if you haven’t already, and then come back for the responses.

Let’s start with a couple of tweets by Joshua Gans, a professor of management at the University of Toronto.

Then there was this from entrepreneur, Marc Andreessen:

Even better are some of the replies attached to Andreessen’s tweet. I’ll transcribe a few of those here for your amusement.

“Why does he want to be stuck doing repetitive mind-numbing tasks?”

“‘These automatic jobs are horrible!’ ‘Stop killing these horrible jobs with automation!'”

“by his reasoning the steam engine makes us weaklings, yet we’ve seen the opposite. so maybe the best intel is ahead”

“Let’s forget him, he’s done so much damage to our industry, he is just interested in profiting from his provocations”

“Nick clearly hasn’t understood the true essence of being ‘human’. Tech is an ‘enabler’ and aids to assist in that process.”

“This op-ed is just a Luddite screed dressed in drag. It follows the dystopian view of ‘Wall-E’.”

There you have it. I’ll let you tally up the logical fallacies.

Honestly, I’m stunned by the degree of apparently willful ignorance exhibited by these comments. The best I can say for them is that they are based on nothing more than a glance at the title of Carr’s article and nothing more. It would be much more worrisome if these individuals had actually read the article and still managed to make these comments that betray no awareness of what Carr actually wrote.

More than once, Carr makes clear that he is not opposed to automation in principle. The last several paragraphs of the article describe how we might go forward with automation in a way that avoids some serious pitfalls. In other words, Carr is saying, “Automate, but do it wisely.” What a Luddite!

When I wrote in 2010, I had not yet formulated the idea of a Borg Complex, but this inability to rationally or calmly abide any criticism of technology is surely pure, undistilled Borg Complex, complete with Luddite slurs!

I’ll continue to insist that we are in desperate need of serious thinking about the powers that we are gaining through our technologies. It seems, however, that there is a class of people who are hell-bent on shutting down any and all criticism of technology. If the criticism is misguided or unsubstantiated, then it should be refuted. Dismissing criticism while giving absolutely no evidence of having understood it, on the other hand, helps no one at all.

I come back to David Noble’s description of the religion of technology often, but only because of how useful it is as a way of understanding techno-scientific culture. When technology is a religion, when we embrace it with blind faith, when we anchor our hope in it, when we love it as ourselves–then any criticism of technology will be understood as either heresy or sacrilege. And that seems to be a pretty good way of characterizing the responses to tech criticism I’ve been discussing: the impassioned reactions of the faithful to sacrilegious heresy.


by Michael Sacasas at November 23, 2014 10:20 PM

Caelum Et Terra

Where’s the Benedict?

benedict-cave

St Benedict in the cave at Subiaco, school of Fra Angelico.

 

The biggest problem with the “Benedict Option”, besides the source, is that it lacks a Benedict.

And if there is a Benedict in the world today he would not be recognized. This is not medieval Europe or modern India, where seeking the Absolute in solitude is honored. St Benedict would just be another homeless guy living in the woods.

It is going to be really hard for me to follow Jesus soon. Word is, Rod Dreher is writing a book about the B.O. He is probably going to make a good bit of money from what is in essence regurgitated Caelum et Terra stuff I wrote twenty years ago, dumbed down and made safe for bohemian Republicans.

I wrote about creating an alternative culture in the boonies. He writes about Special Christians playing church and eating kale in the suburbs, safely removed from the corrupt world. Or something.

I no longer believe that creating a counterculture is a good strategy. I am skeptical that modern humans are capable of such a project, based on what I have seen. I have come to see that Vatican II’s call to embrace human experience, to transcend moralism and reaction, to engage the culture without compromising the gospel of mercy, is going to be the blueprint for the next phase of the Church’s evolution. And we have a pope who is ushering in this way of Love.

The other major theme behind the journal is one I completely stand by:  the tragedy of the sundering of grace and nature, of technology obliviating primal human experience, of wonder and reason divided, of the poverty of human experience mediated by artifice. The neocons way back when mocked this as ‘holistic’ and it is indeed.

Humans are growing further and further from engagement with the world that ‘God’ breathes into existence with every moment, of Eternity here and now. Alienation has grown as technopoly has triumphed.

I really wouldn’t mind if someone wrote about that.

With a fountain pen.

 


by Daniel Nichols at November 23, 2014 09:07 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

6 Discoveries from Near and Far: Volume XX

costumesweb

I. Around the World

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


II. On the Blog

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


III. A Blast from the Past

Something from the AONC archives.

###

Image: Jean Jullian

by Chris Guillebeau at November 23, 2014 07:25 PM

Wedgewords

The Law of Faith

Text: Romans 3:27-28

We come to the conclusion of our survey of justification in Romans 3. We’ve talked about the guilt of the law and the propitiation found in Christ, and now we come to the conclusion of it all, that “a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.” But what we need to notice is that this conclusion is itself supported by the observation that boasting is excluded. That means Paul’s argument runs like this: No one can boast because everyone’s guilt was atoned for in the same way and by the same person, by the death of Jesus the messiah. That can only then mean that we are justified by faith alone. In short, penal substitutionary atonement and justification by faith alone are two sides of the same coin. They both imply the other, and they both mean that we must be humble and dependent upon God. The shorthand which Paul comes up with to explain this relationship is what he calls “the law of faith.”

The Law of Faith is Established

Now this expression, “the law of faith,” is a sort of play on words. Paul is using it to trump the other law, the law of works. He’s basically saying, “If you want a law, here’s one for you, the law of faith.” This is the same “law” that he says is “established” in vs. 31. So there are two laws, a law of works and a low of faith, and the law of faith overrules and disproves the law of works. And the law of faith excludes, it prohibits, boasting on the part of any human. So, the law of faith is “Thou shalt not boast.”

Boasting is a problem in the New Testament. Paul attacks boasters here in Romans, and he addresses this problem in chapters two, three, and four, and then he circles around again and warns the Gentiles not to fall into the same trap of boasting in chapter 11, particularly 11:20. This problem of boasting also comes up in Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector:

Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)

This parable is important because it shows that it was possible to exalt yourself, even as you are participating in a religion of penance and sacrifice. Notice what the Pharisee boasts about—fasting and tithes. He’s bragging about how good he is at giving up worldly things! And this is still possible today. We can turn a strict and supposedly humiliating religion into a point of pride. But the law of faith excludes this kind of boasting just as much as it does outright Pelagianism.

I used that word, and so we should talk about it for a moment. Pelagianism is a heresy named after an early church heretic named Pelagius. He denied that man was a sinner by nature, and he denied that man necessarily needed grace in order to overcome sin. There’s much debate over the precise nature of what he taught and how he explained it all, but the idea of Pelagianism is clear enough. It means human self-perfection or self-salvation without any outside assistance.

But you know there have been very few actual Pelagians in history. I wouldn’t be surprised if Pelagius himself turned out to not quite have been the genuine article. No, instead what you usually find are semi-Pelagians. These are people who say, “Oh yes, I need grace. I need help. But once I have that, then it is still up to me what to do with that grace.” Sometimes you hear the parable, “God helps those who help themselves.” That is not a parable from the Bible, you must know. No, it reflects this semi-Pelagian mindset of man working with grace in order to produce his own outcome.

And so what’s the problem with semi-Pelagianism? I’ve heard it argued that probably the majority of Christians in world history have been semi-Pelagian. A lot of famous preachers and theologians over the ages have been as well. Why is this is a big deal? The answer is that semi-Pelagianism still contradicts the law of faith. Remember that Pharisee. If you had asked him if could do good works without divine grace, he would have immediately said “No, way!” But once he had that grace, or at least when he thought he had that grace, he was able to turn it into a new system of works by which he could say that he was doing such a nice job and much better than that other man over there, the sinner. Using a religious system that was all about the need for sacrifice and giving up one’s own possessions, he still found a way to exalt himself. Luke 18:9 says that he trusted in himself. And in doing that he missed the whole point and contradicted the religion which he claimed to hold. Semi-Pelagianism allows you to boast, and so it breaks the law of faith.

What the Law of Faith Proves

The law of faith is “No boasting,” and Paul says that it proves that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. That’s an interesting sort of argument. No one can boast, and so therefore justification is by faith alone. Paul reaches this sort of conclusion by considering the logic behind the law of faith. If we cannot boast, then that must mean something else, something more basic. It must mean that we are accounted righteous in the sight of God by faith and not by works.

Paul goes on to unpack this argument in Romans chapter 4:

What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.

But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:

“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
And whose sins are covered;
Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.”

(Rom. 4:1-8)

You can see the reasoning. If justification came by works, then it would be like wages paid to a worker. It would not be grace but debt. By contrast, the Old Testament itself taught that it was faith which counted as righteousness. Through faith our sins are forgiven, and being forgiven, they are not held against us. We cannot boast because we had the sins, and they were taken away due to nothing that we did but only God’s mercy. And that is what we are supposed to believe.

Now at this point, the contrast is clear in the text. Works, wages, law, and debt are all on the one side, and on the other are God’s grace, forgiveness, and faith. But what keeps faith from being a work? Don’t you “have to believe”? And so, isn’t that something you do, a very small work perhaps but a work nonetheless?

This is a reasonable question, and it is certainly understandable given the current state of teaching on this subject in the church. But the answer is no. Faith is not a work. It’s really like this. You get to heaven and St. Peter asked you to write out your answer to why you should get into heaven. And just like all good school children do before every test, you bow your head in prayer. Only your prayer goes like this, “Dear God, there is no way I am going to get this right. I need you to save me.” We could use a Biblical story to get at the same point. God tells Abraham that he’s going to give him a son. Abraham looks at himself. He’s almost 100 years old. “As good as dead,” Paul puts it (Rom. 4:19). And Abraham looks at his wife Sarah, and she’s long past the time to have kids. But there is God saying that He will give them a son. And so Abraham says, “Um… ok.”

You see faith is trust. It is believing God. God makes His promise through His covenant, and He sends His son to keep that promise. Faith is believing that that works. It’s believing that that’s enough. It’s saying, “Ok, I trust you God.” The content of one’s faith is important, to be sure, but even a weak and confused faith will do the trick. At the bottom of it all, faith is not a work or the right set of ideas or even an articulation of those ideas. It is believing that He will do what He said He will do and not doubting that promise or getting tired of waiting on it or panicking and looking for other solutions. Faith is relying on God and not finding anything in yourself of which you could boast. I don’t think it is wrong at all to say that faith is the sane thing as obeying the law of faith. It’s turning from anything about yourself and trusting only in God’s work in Christ.

Faith Alone

And this is what we mean by justification by faith alone. Faith is opposed to all works, all boasting, and all self-exaltation. In this context, faith must be alone or not there at all, because adding works to faith means that there is some level of doubt which you are attempting to satisfy with additions to God’s promise.

A man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. In the next chapter, those works are compared to wages, and faith is said to be opposite of that. And in Romans chapter 10 Paul says the “the righteousness which is of the law” is found in “doing” while the “righteousness of faith” is in believing. And so “faith alone” is simply a synonym for “faith not works.” Paul explains this in Ephesians 2:8-8 writing, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” And there we see the problem of boasting again. If faith were not a gift of God, then it might be a ground for boasting. But even it is of grace, and so all glory goes to God alone.  Whatever you could possibly boast about, that thing is excluded by the law of faith. And this must mean that we are justified wholly by God. Therefore the law of faith teaches that we are justified by faith alone and not by works.

Conclusion

We have said before the justification by faith alone is not an end in itself. This is true. Justification by faith is a foundational principle which supports a number of other truths which we must proclaim. Justification by faith alone means that God does the saving, not us. Therefore God must get the glory and not us. It also means that we cannot boast, since we are all equal on the most basic level in God’s sight. It means the law of faith.

And the law of faith is what Paul then goes on to build upon in order to explain sanctification or holy living. Holiness of life is not in tension with justification by faith alone, it is founded on it! We can go out and be as rigorously moral and seriously pious as possible and not be self-righteous and not boast about ourselves over others. And this is exactly what Paul says we must do. We must consider ourselves dead and our lives enslaved to the demands of God. We must do what He says and not what we want to do. And yet in this fidelity, we are not legalists at all but rather free and humble men. Justification by faith alone establishes the law.

You see the gospel is about both forgiveness of sins and a new restored holy creation. We are to be both rigorously moral and pious, more holy than we are accustomed to challenging ourselves with, and yet we are also supposed to be humble, liberated, and joyful people. We are to have an extremely high moral standard and yet we do are not to judge others. And the only way that these things hold together consistently is because we are justified by faith alone because of the death of Christ on our behalf. God set all things right through His Son, and so we establish the law, the law of faith. Let us pray.


by Steven Wedgeworth at November 23, 2014 02:30 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

Gratitude and Generosity (II) [Awakening Faith]

If I have seen anyone perishing for lack of clothing, or the needy without garments . . . then let my arm fall from the shoulder, let it be broken off at the joint. (Job 31:19, 22)

Brothers, sisters, and friends, we should not allow ourselves to misuse what has been given to us by God’s gift. If we do, we will hear Saint Peter say, “Be ashamed of yourselves for holding on to what belongs to someone else. Resolve to imitate God’s justice, and no one will be poor.” We should not labor to heap up and hoard riches while others remain in need. If we do, the prophet Amos will speak out against us with sharp and threatening words: “Listen, you that say: When will the new moon be over, so that we may start selling? When will the sabbath be over, so that we may start opening our treasures?” (Amos 8:5).

Let us put into practice the supreme and primary law of God. He sends down rain on just and sinful alike, and causes the sun to rise on everyone without distinction. To all earth’s creatures he has given the broad earth, the springs, the rivers, and the forests. He has given the air to the birds, and the waters to those who live in the water. He has amply given to all creatures the basic needs of life, not as a private possession, not restricted by law, not divided by boundaries, but as common to all and in abundance. His gifts are not deficient in any way, because he wanted to give equal blessings to things equally cherished and to show the abundance of his generosity.

Gregory of Nazianzus

 

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 November 23, 2014 02:05 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

What If We Don’t Improve After a Difficult Experience?

6303589938_e870316f26_z

“One of the unspeakable things that I think might even be the most unspeakable way of carrying on is this idea of not improving from an experience, not becoming a better person, not having a redemption. Our culture is so obsessed with the idea that you’re going to go through a crisis or some difficult event and come out the other side a changed or improved person and I just think that if you’re honest, that often does not happen, and in fact, it shouldn’t happen.

Shouldn’t recovering from a crisis be measured in whether you stayed the same? I mean, I went through a horrible illness, and thank God, I came out the same person. I see that as a triumph. But we’re so unwilling to admit that, and there’s such a stigma in the culture about sort of not growing or not being interested in growing or not going beyond your comfort zone, all these aphorisms that come from self-help culture and 12-step culture. So, to me, I guess being in my 40s has been a process of accepting not self-love, but self-tolerance. Maybe that’s what it is. I’m working on self-tolerance.”

Link: Meghan Daum on Writing What No One Will Say (and here’s the book)

Image: Vic

###

by Chris Guillebeau at November 23, 2014 01:17 PM

Inconsolation

crafty: Still no relief in sight

I was thinking the other day, and I am thinking again now, that it’s partly amazing that after two years of sifting through text-based software titles, I still can’t come up with more than one or two chess games.

Maybe it’s just that gnuchess is that good. Or maybe it’s because proper chess players (and not rank amateurs like myself) demand a graphical environment. Or maybe it’s just that other chess projects haven’t reached maturity yet.

I have found another though — the aptly named crafty.

2014-11-09-2sjx281-crafty

The link above is dead — I probably should have told you that before I let you click on it. But crafty is still in Debian, which means even if the home page is gone and the project has dissipated, crafty lives on. :mrgreen: :roll:

I must admit that I am not so terribly overjoyed at that. From my perspective, as someone looking for interesting and inspiring examples of text-based software, crafty suffers almost all of the same faults as gnuchess, almost to the letter.

You will probably want to know chess notation to work the board. You have to ask to see the board. There is a long list of commands, some of which take additional options, and some that don’t. Animation is really just the scrolling effect, which is marred by crafty’s thought processes and the screen output they create.

Most of these complaints stem from the fact that crafty, again like gnuchess, isn’t really meant to be a terminal program. It too is intended to act as a brain for xboard, and so playing it at the console is a bit like slicing bread with a hammer. You can do it, but you’ll make a mess and you won’t enjoy the final product.

I won’t be too harsh with crafty; after all, I’m a rotten chess player, and I’d be unlikely to play it anyway. So finding a proper, forgiving, attractive, fullscreen chess game for the console would only be a novelty for about 10 minutes, before I quit out of frustration.

Still, it seems with the plethora of board- and card-game remakes in bsd-games, or the plague of locusts that takes the form of Tetris remakes, or the endless stream of rogue knockoffs, shouldn’t there be at least one out there? :(

Don’t answer that. I have an answer, and it’s coming up, soon. Trust me, I’m a professional. … :twisted:


Tagged: game

by K.Mandla at November 23, 2014 01:15 PM

CrossFit Naptown

SWIFT 11.24.14

22-18-14-10-6-2
Burpee to a Plate
Sit Ups
Thrusters

by Anna at November 23, 2014 01:15 PM

The Urbanophile

Las Vegas: The Once and Future Downtown Project

[ To my email subscribers: I’m about to start cutover type activities to my new mailing list system. So if you get some accidental test messages in there, my apologies. I’ll be in touch further as this moves along – Aaron. ]

There’s been a lot in the news lately about the troubles plaguing Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project in Las Vegas. The latest is a longish report in the Guardian, which notes:

Yet by late September of this year, the press – especially the technology press – had begun asking some serious questions, as the Downtown Project suddenly laid off 30 people – 10% of the total it then directly employed. Alongside portentous headlines announcing this “bloodletting” appeared claims that Hsieh had “stepped down” from his position of leadership of the project. A damning open letter from the Downtown Project’s former “director of imagination”, David Gould, called the operation from which he had just resigned “a collage of decadence, greed and missing leadership … There were heroes among us,” he added, “and it is for them that my soul weeps.”

Technology web site Re/code also ran a seven part series on the Downtown Project, some of it unflattering, including a part focused on a spate of suicides there, and other on about a prominent failed startup.

I made the obligatory pilgrimage to the Downtown Project in 2013 and wrote up my observations in a three part series, of which you can read part one, part two and part three.

I noted at the time the audacity of one project trying to completely transform a place like downtown Las Vegas:

Las Vegas has the single most savagely bleak downtown of any major city I’ve ever visited. The Downtown Project is almost literally starting at zero. There are practically no assets. So anything that the Downtown Project accomplishes needs to be seen against that backdrop. Most of these other cities have been at the downtown redevelopment game for 30+ years, have massive architectural and institutional assets, and have already been the recipients of untold billions in investment, much of it public money.

I also mentioned that the accolades the project had received in the press were disproportionate to the actual accomplishments to date:

Honestly, it’s a bit infuriating as a guy who lived in Indy, Louisville, and Providence to see a place where so little has happened garner such massive press and accolades when most other regions the size of Vegas have done more while getting far less attention.

Indeed, it’s hard to think of a single downtown redevelopment effort that received as much glowing coverage as the Downtown Project. Not even Dan Gilbert’s Detroit efforts received such fawning attention. This is an accomplishment I’m not sure most people fully appreciate. Tony Hsieh was very savvy in using his status as a tier one entrepreneurial superstar, along with a bank of free “crash pad” apartments for visitors, to create buzz and publicity. Other cities should definitely stand up and take notice.

However, the very success of the project on the PR front primed it for inevitable blowback when problems arose. As the Guardian piece notes, “The story fairly demands an apocalyptic ending.” The higher a star soars in the celebrity firmament, the more knives get drawn when anything disturbs the pristine image. The Guardian reporter also said, based on a very recent trip, that reports of the project’s demise are premature.

So the Downtown Project has run into turbulence? Film at 11. Startups are hard, risky, trouble fraught endeavors. Tony went through multiple meat grinders in the past, and if you’ve read his book it’s by no means certain that Zappos would even survive. There were many times it could have gone under. Clearly the man has a massive appetite for risk, and the Downtown Project was certainly a risky and ambitious undertaking.

The initial puffery was overblown. Time will tell if the blowback is as well. Success was always going to be difficult. I noted last year that the project was going against the grain of the DNA of Vegas as a city, was very reliant on “best practices” type solutions vs. the innovative cultural approach of Zappos, and that “curating” a city was inherently dubious. Yet I admire the ambition and believe they’ve done a lot of things right.

I doubt that the project will ever realize the full, audacious vision that was laid out at the beginning. The commitment of Zappos to its downtown HQ probably prevents a complete flameout. But it may turn out that Tony was unwise to have so heavily promoted the project up front. That has more or less ensured that anything less than perfection will be judged as a failure. He set the bar so high, it is almost impossible to clear. Had there been more modest ambitions, then probably even incremental progress against the backdrop of the disaster zone that was downtown Las Vegas would have been seen as a win. But perhaps in one example of how the Downtown Project did match perfectly with the Vegas DNA, Tony Hsieh elected to pile all his chips on Red 14.

Full Disclosure: I had previous financial relationships with Downtown Project related entities and stayed for free in one of their crash pads during my stay.


The Urban State of Mind: Meditations on the City is the first Urbanophile e-book, featuring provocative essays on the key issues facing our cities, including innovation, talent attraction and brain drain, global soft power, sustainability, economic development, and localism. Included are 28 carefully curated essays out of nearly 1,200 posts in the first seven years of the Urbanophile, plus 9 original pieces. It's great for anyone who cares about our cities.

by Aaron M. Renn at November 23, 2014 01:12 PM

Inconsolation

cryptoslam: Puzzles, and the tool to solve them

I’m going to lump cryptoslam in the games category, even though that’s a little bit of a stretch.

2014-11-09-2sjx281-cryptoslam

cryptoslam is primarily a tool for solving cryptograms, which are a type of encoded word puzzle. Letters in the string have a one-to-one relationship with their coded letter, and if you’re careful and logical you can decipher a message by probing the likelihood of certain combinations.

Ordinarily this is a pencil-and-paper affair, with the encoded message usually representing some nugget of pop wisdom. You can usually find them in newspapers or supermarket checkout lanes, but online sources are available too.

cryptoslam gives you a more efficient platform for solving puzzles. It can store a string, show the letters remaining yet to solve, diagram your progress and even show you statistical charts that cue you in to combinations.

In that sense, you can also reverse the cryptoslam function and feed it an unencoded string, and let it build a coded version. So you have the “option” to make puzzles too. (Check fortune if you need nuggets of wisdom to encode. ;) )

As far as I can tell, cryptoslam doesn’t solve puzzles for you like nsudoku did. And unless you scramble a puzzle and give it to yourself to solve, cryptoslam isn’t really playing a game with you, so much as helping you play a game through another medium.

On those points though, cryptoslam succeeds without doubling its error rate. It has color, an on-screen menu system and enough basic tools to easily take the place of pens and paper. Alone it won’t keep you particularly entertained, but in lieu of traditional methods, it’s a big plus for solving the daily cryptogram. … ;)


Tagged: game

by K.Mandla at November 23, 2014 01:00 PM

Greg Mankiw's Blog

Hacking Distributed

Time for Better Security for NoSQL

The state of NoSQL security is about as abysmal as the state of security in RDBMS systems. Namely, wholesale databases are vulnerable to the compromise of a single client. By breaking into a single Internet-facing client or by impersonating a client without breaking into one, an attacker can steal all data in the back-end database, turning your company into Target, Jr. Where security measures are used, they are clunky, coarse-grained, and overall entail more of a hassle than the peace-of-mind they actually bring. Anyone who ever had to set up Oracle user credentials has seen the dismal state of the art in database security, and NoSQL is no better.

Someone leaked macaroons into our code

Macaroons: so tasty, so secure.

We are hardly the first people to note this industry trend. In fact, conscientious companies are well-aware of these problems, and have come up with solutions. One of these solutions, a recent proposal from Google called Macaroons, offers some amazing functionality.

Macaroons were introduced to ensure that a security breach on a single GMail front-end server would not allow the attacker to read the whole world's emails. Given that Google is constantly under attack by state-level actors, and given that email compromises can lead to life-or-death situations for dissidents, it is absolutely crucial to contain what data any given client can access. This functionality is also critical in regulated settings that require stringent firewalls and control over users' actions, such as finance, and in other settings where the flow of data needs to be tightly controlled, such as healthcare and intelligence.

A second problem with database security is that of expressing interesting policies. There is a fundamental problem with all security enforcement (aka "authorization", typically built in conjunction with a user identification system, aka "authentication") systems: once you bake the security enforcement into your code, your system has forever bought into a particular security model. Sure, you could spend lots and lots of effort on this component, and try to add mechanisms for every conceivable kind of policy one might want. History tells us that this is a losing battle, as security policies evolve constantly, and every bit of functionality is both a maintenance headache and a potential vulnerability. An alternative is to just build the MVP, probably involving some primitive concept of users and access control lists (hello "CREATE USER"!), and we'll consider ourselves lucky if the authentication module doesn't store the passwords in plaintext. Typically, the auth module, the unwanted child of every database system, is dated within 6 months.

Yet it would be incredibly cool if you could express rich policies that rely on data distributed around a network. For example, there may be data that is only accessible to those people who are current employees in the company LDAP database, and marked as part of, say, the regulatory-compliance team, but only on certain days of the month, and only for certain times during the day. Calendar data should be readable and writable by a particular user, but when GMail wants to render a calendar widget on your GMail page, the server should have only read-only access. Some documents, perhaps containing license-restricted data, may be limited in the number of times they can get accessed. All of these examples involve rich security policies that bring together factoids from several different sources. Consequently, they are very difficult to anticipate in advance. For sure, we know of no system that can express them.

As a result, our colleagues at Google looked into mechanisms for enabling such rich policies, enforced at fine-grain. Their first cut at this was a system known as "Thin Mints", a variant of cookies that relies on public-key cryptography. More recently, they came up with a newer, cooler, lighter-weight approach known as "Macaroons", a new decentralized authorization framework for use in distributed systems.

We recently built the first open-source implementation of Macaroons, which now has become the standard for various different implementations in Java, Haskell, Ocaml, and Go. With the latest release of HyperDex, HyperDex now supports Macaroons as first-class objects.

Macaroons and distributed systems go well together.

Macaroons and distributed systems go well together.

Macaroons are an excellent fit for NoSQL data storage for several reasons. First, they enable an application developer to enforce security policies at very fine granularity, per object. Gone are the clunky security policies based on the IP address of the client, or the per-table access controls of RDBMSs that force you to split up your data across many tables. Second, macaroons ensure that a client compromise does not lead to loss of the entire database. Third, macaroons are very flexible and expressive, able to incorporate information from external systems and third-party databases into authorization decisions. Finally, macaroons scale well and are incredibly efficient, because they avoid public-key cryptography and instead rely solely on fast hash functions.

Let's go through a quick tutorial that demonstrates the use and power of macaroons, using HyperDex, our state-of-the-art NoSQL database that recently added support for macaroons. We'll start slow, show you some familiar operations, and build up to an example towards the end where we implement a rich security policy that can only be expressed using Macaroons.

Setup

As in the previous chapters, the first step is to deploy the cluster and connect a client. The cluster setup below is similar to the previous chapters, so if you have a running cluster, you can skip to the space creation step.

First, we launch and initialize the coordinator:

$ hyperdex coordinator -f -l 127.0.0.1 -p 1982

Next, let's launch a daemon process to store data:

$ hyperdex daemon -f --listen=127.0.0.1 --listen-port=2012 \
                     --coordinator=127.0.0.1 --coordinator-port=1982 --data=/path/to/data

We now have a HyperDex cluster ready to serve our data. Now, we create a space and declare that we will be using macaroons.

$ hyperdex add-space << EOF
space accounts
key account
attributes
   string name,
   int balance
with authorization
EOF

The added statement, "with authorization," indicates to HyperDex that we wish to have Macaroons enabled for this space.

Now that the space is ready, let's create some objects.

Using Macaroons

The core idea behind using Macaroons is that each macaroon is minted from a unique secret key. Think of this key as a shibboleth of sorts -- anyone who can utter it is a member of the secret society that can gain access. Any principal in possession of the secret is able to create a macaroon to access the object, as if they created it. In essence, it acts as a master secret, a capability, that grants total access to the object.

>>> import hyperdex.client
>>> c = hyperdex.client.Client('127.0.0.1', 1982)
>>> SECRET = 'super secret password'
>>> account = 'account number of john smith'
>>> c.put('accounts', account, {'name': 'John Smith', 'balance': 10}, secret=SECRET)
True

Once an object has an associated secret, attempts to retrieve that object will fail unless accompanied by this secret:

>>> c.get('accounts', account)
Traceback (most recent call last):
HyperDexClientException: ... it is unauthorized [HYPERDEX_CLIENT_UNAUTHORIZED]

HyperDex will deny the application access to the object unless the client presents a macaroon that proves the request is authorized. Such a macaroon is called a root macaroon. The root macaroon demonstrates knowledge of the master secret that protects the object.

Root macaroons are created by specifying the secret and converting them into portable tokens. Under the covers, these tokens do not actually carry the secret (for if they did, someone could reverse-engineer a macaroon and obtain unfettered access to the object), but instead carry an irreversible hash of the secret.

Let's create a root macaroon from scratch:

>>> import macaroons
>>> M = macaroons.create('account number', SECRET, '')
>>> token = M.serialize()

In this case, M is the root macaroon, and token is the serialized version of that macaroon that can be passed around easily. This macaroon provides full access to John Smith's account, and may be used to read the account information or update the account balance.

Image credit Kaythryn Wright on flickr CC-ND

Macaroons are easy to stack!

The really cool thing about macaroons is that any code can produce this token. In the best case, John Smith's browser can prompt John Smith for his bank account password, run it through a KDF to obtain a secret, and generate the macaroon from the secret. In effect, John Smith can prove he is authorized to access the account without ever having to pass the password over the network. Someone who breaks into a front-end web server would not get access to the whole database; they would at best gain access to the set of users who used the service during the compromise period, and no more!

Once John Smith's browser passes the token to the bank account web server, the server can use said token gain access to John's account object:

>>> c.get('accounts', account, auth=[token])
{'name': 'John Smith', 'balance': 10}
>>> c.atomic_add('accounts', account, {'balance': 5}, auth=[token])
True
>>> c.get('accounts', account, auth=[token])
{'name': 'John Smith', 'balance': 15}

While this basic example shows how to use macaroons, it doesn't fully exploit their power. The true power of macaroons stems from the ability to embed caveats into macaroons. A caveat is essentially a restriction on what the macaroon authorizes; it turns a full object capability into a restricted capability.

For instance, in our running example, John Smith may be simply reading his bank account balance from his smart phone. The app on the phone knows the request is read-only, so it may embed a caveat into the macaroon that says the macaroon is only authorized for read requests. We can easily create a read-only macaroon to accomplish this:

>>> M = macaroons.create('account number', SECRET, '')
>>> M = M.add_first_party_caveat('op = read')
>>> token = M.serialize()

This new macaroon has the caveat that it is useful solely for read operations. More importantly, this same step can be done entirely within John's end host, so his password never leaves the machine he is using. Should an attacker gain hold of the token, the most that they can do is read John's account balance; attempts to write with the macaroon will fail at the backend data store, as desired:

>>> c.get('accounts', account, auth=[token])
{'name': 'John Smith', 'balance': 15}
>>> c.atomic_add('accounts', account, {'balance': 5}, auth=[token])
Traceback (most recent call last):
HyperDexClientException: ... it is unauthorized [HYPERDEX_CLIENT_UNAUTHORIZED]

Macaroon caveats can be stacked or chained on top of each other, to create arbitrarily restricted capabilities. For instance, we can enhance the security of John's request to his bank by adding an expiry date to our read-only macaroon such that it is only valid for thirty seconds. With this caveat, the token becomes completely useless to an adversary thirty seconds after John's request.

We can accomplish this with the following code:

>>> M = macaroons.create('account number', SECRET, '')
>>> M = M.add_first_party_caveat('op = read')
>>> import time
>>> expiration = int(time.time()) + 30
>>> M = M.add_first_party_caveat('time < %d' % expiration)
>>> token = M.serialize()
>>> c.get('accounts', account, auth=[token])
{'name': 'John Smith', 'balance': 15}
>>> time.sleep(31)
>>> c.get('accounts', account, auth=[token])
Traceback (most recent call last):
HyperDexClientException: ... it is unauthorized [HYPERDEX_CLIENT_UNAUTHORIZED]

Macaroons are extremely efficient to construct and verify, as they rely solely on efficient hash functions and avoid public key cryptography. This means that clients may generate a new macaroon-based token for each request. Each of these tokens may have a unique expiration time very near in the future. Even if the token makes its way into the hands of a malicious user, the token can only be used for a short period of time, and subject to other caveats attached to the macaroon.

Advanced Caveats

Macaroons enable rich security policies to be enforced. Suppose, for example, that you have a really complicated security policy that relies, say, on the phase of the moon. The traditional way to handle these policies is to embed a phase-of-the-moon-calculator into your servers. So from then on, all of your database servers would actually have code in them to calculate the current phase of the moon. Clearly, embedding such code into your servers is a terrible idea -- as security policies grow in complexity, so, too, must your backend code, introducing instability and requiring unnecessary upgrades. (One may think that the phase of the moon does not require updates, but even with this laughable example, one would be wrong: the official phase of the moon in some countries is determined by a moon sighting by the naked eye -- changes in weather and eyesight might demand a software upgrade!). It would be ideal if our security policies could incorporate arbitrarily complex facts, such as the phase of the moon, yet embody no complexity.

The way to achieve this flexibility is to incorporate a universal mechanism by which the servers can delegate the discovery of facts to third parties. Macaroons accomplish this by a lightweight mechanism called third-party caveats, which enable security policies to efficiently consult third-parties for their approval.

Such third-parties may verify any property of an application during their access control decisions. For instance:

  • User authentication: The third party service can authenticate the user against existing user databases (e.g., LDAP, OpenAuth, Facebook, Twitter and the like), and provide a proof that the user is the same user identified in the third party caveat. The database service needs to know absolutely nothing about these authentication measures. One can build arbitrarily complex groups or role-based access control on top of this infrastructure.

  • Auditing and logging: The third party service can log the interaction, and issue a proof that the request was logged securely in a centralized logging location. In essence, the rule for accessing an object can be "this access must be logged," and only those clients that furnish proof of having been appropriately logged can gain access to that data. This is a good fit for any context that requires regulatory compliance, such as HIPAA, SEC or Sarbanes-Oxley regulations.

  • Usage limits: The third party can check to ensure that the user does not perform a given operation more than a desired number of times. Critical metadata, such as decryption keys, may entail strict access controls where they are accessible to a certain class of users only a certain number of times. Macaroons enable such policies to be enforced.

The naive way to implement third-party caveats would be to have the database server perform an RPC out to a third-party server on every access. But this would slow down every access, and HyperDex's lightning speed would be obscured by the network latencies required for the server to consult a third host and check if the client should proceed.

Image credit IFC LCB Macaron on Flickr CC-BY-SA

Let a third party do the heavy lifting, so you can focus on what counts: consuming macaroons.

Macaroons make this process lightweight and efficient by turning the tables around. In essence, instead of placing the onus of checking security criteria on the server, they ask each client to present the reasons why the server should grant access. The academic name for this technique is credentials-based authorization, where the client presents its credentials for access. These credentials are presented in what is known as a discharge macaroon. The client says something like "I am authorized to access the company database because the moon is in the right phase, and here, I acquired this authentic, unexpired statement from the phase-of-the-moon checker that I am telling you the truth."

Behind the scenes, the server needs to simply check the authenticity of the statements against the security policy. Once again, a naive implementation would use public-key cryptography for this (and Google's initial security subsystem, known as Thin Mints, did just that until Macaroons came along), but macaroons achieve the same level of security using only efficient one-way hash functions.

Let's see how this works by implementing a user authentication service for macaroons. This service provides a means of generating third party caveats, and a method for clients to authenticate themselves with macaroons. The service exposes a call to generate caveats, whose implementation looks like this:

>>> keys = {}
>>> def add_caveat_rpc(key, user, password):
...     r = 'a random string' # your implementation should gen a rand string
...     keys[r] = (key, user, password)
...     return r
...

The client can then call this method (over HTTP or some other service-like interface), and retrieve an identifier for the third-party caveat.

>>> key = 'a unique key for this caveat; should be random in the crypto sense'
>>> ident = add_caveat_rpc(key, 'jane.doe@example.org', "jane's password")

The identifier returned from the add_caveat_rpc call can be embedded in a macaroon as a third party caveat:

>>> M = macaroons.create('account number', SECRET, '')
>>> M = M.add_first_party_caveat('op = read')
>>> M = M.add_third_party_caveat('http://auth.service/', key, ident)
>>> token = M.serialize()

Notice that the client constructs the third-party caveat using the key it provided to the third-party, and the identifier returned from the third party. The URL http://auth.service/ is a location-hint as to where the service for the third-party caveat resides.

When the client tries to use our new token, the request will be denied because the macaroon does not carry a full proof authorizing access to the object.

>>> c.get('accounts', account, auth=[token])
Traceback (most recent call last):
HyperDexClientException: ... it is unauthorized [HYPERDEX_CLIENT_UNAUTHORIZED]

To obtain this access, the client must go back to the third party and request the discharge macaroon that proves that the user can authenticate using Jane's email and password. The implementation within the third-party recalls the key, checks the username and password, and returns a discharge macaroon when the user authenticates successfully.

>>> def generate_discharge_rpc(ident, user, password):
...     if ident not in keys:
...         # unknown caveat
...         return None
...     key, exp_user, exp_password = keys[ident]
...     if exp_user != user or exp_password != password:
...         # invalid user/password pair
...         return None
...     D = macaroons.create('', key, ident)
...     expiration = int(time.time()) + 30
...     D = D.add_first_party_caveat('time < %d' % expiration)
...     return D
...

The application may then request a discharge macaroon from this third party service by providing it with the necessary authentication function. For our example authentication service, we can generate a discharge macaroon as follows:

>>> D = generate_discharge_rpc(ident, 'jane.doe@example.org', "jane's password")

With the discharge macaroon in hand, we can provide both our original token, and the token for the new discharge macaroon as the auth parameter to HyperDex. When both tokens are provided together, the request is authorized, just as before:

>>> discharge_M = M.prepare_for_request(D)
>>> discharge_token = discharge_M.serialize()
>>> c.get('accounts', account, auth=[token, discharge_token])
{'name': 'John Smith', 'balance': 15}

One of the nice things about the macaroon structure is that any caveats added to discharge macaroons are also enforced by HyperDex. If we wait until the expiration time of the discharge macaroon has passed, the request will fail, just as it did before when the expiration was on the root macaroon:

>>> time.sleep(31)
>>> c.get('accounts', account, auth=[token, discharge_token])
Traceback (most recent call last):
HyperDexClientException: ... it is unauthorized [HYPERDEX_CLIENT_UNAUTHORIZED]

Contextual Confinement

The beauty of the macaroons construction is that it efficiently enables the principal making a request to impose extremely strict constraints on exactly when and how its credentials may be used by the intermediate services. A principal may constrain both what the request is allowed to access, and who is allowed to make the request. For example, the client-side application may use a user's password to construct a token that cannot possibly be used in any other context, such as: "This request is authorized to read the balance of John Smith's bank account ending in *879 between 8:01 and 8:02am on Friday November 21 when presented by a client using an Android 4.4.5 phone, connected via SSL, from IP 10.148.6.189, but only if the request also includes a discharge macaroon constructed using the 2-factor authentication code sent to John's phone number as the secret." No other authentication system can take such a broad statement, and concisely express and enforce it using computation that is efficient for a cellular phone to construct, and nearly impossible for an adversary to tear apart.

More abstractly, macaroons can be thought to restrict requests to individual cells in prototypical access-control matrix presented in every undergraduate level operating systems course. Each time a caveat is added to a macaroon, the resulting macaroon is authorized for a strict subset of the principals and objects that the input macaroon authorizes.

Efficiency Considerations

http://hackingdistributed.com/images/2014-11-23-macaroons-in-hyperdex/pretty-macaroons-2.jpg

Secure and low overhead.

Macaroons are excellent for use in distributed systems, because they allow applications to enforce complex authorization constraints without requiring server-side modification. Applications can use existing infrastructure to generate discharge macaroons, and provide these macaroons to HyperDex. On the server-side, HyperDex uses local and fast cryptographic operations to verify that the macaroons contain a valid proof that the user is authorized to continue their request. Consequently, it is very easy to perform per-object authorization without expensive operations on the server-side fast path.

Further Reading

by Robert Escriva and Emin Gün Sirer at November 23, 2014 11:25 AM

Reformedish

Two New(er) Atonement Books You Should Read

Atonement theology is one of my passions. The cross of Jesus Christ is at the heart of our faith and the task explaining and displaying it’s ironic beauty the glorious means of our salvation is an unavoidable call for any preacher of the gospel. For that reason, atonement is one of the subjects I spent a good amount of time (and money) reading about in seminary. While I thought I had most of my ducks in a row, I’ve recently dipped back into exploring some recent work in atonement theology that’s been very helpful in sharpening up my thinking in these areas. I wanted to briefly commend two excellent works to you, my readers, for your attention and edification. Hopefully, you read this in time to update your Christmas list!

crucified kingFirst, is Jeremy Treat’s offering The Crucified King: Atonement and Kingdom in Systematic Theology. In one sense, I found it to be a gravely disappointing book. It’s disappointing because Treat has written the book I wanted to write on the subject. Giving equal attention to biblical theology and systematic categories, Treat reunites what never should have been divorced in much modern theology: kingdom and cross as well as Christus Victor and penal substitution accounts of the atonement.

One of the key strengths of his biblical theology section is his ability to go beyond key proof-texts to showing the broader, redemptive-historical framework in which the kingdom and cross fit beginning with Genesis through Torah, the Prophets, the Gospels, the Epistles, and into Revelation. From there he examines the important concept of the threefold office of Christ, and argues that for too long we have failed to recognize the way Christ’s kingly work is central to his cross-work and vice versa. Christ brings the kingdom through the cross; Christ conquers his enemies and saves his people by dying a penal death in their place. Beyond that there are some excellent sections engaging Wright’s conception of the ministry of Jesus, Moltmann’s account of the kingdom, and challenging reflections on the cross-shaped kingdom Christ invites us into.

At this point, I think it’s safe to say that this is the work future theologians and biblical scholars will need to reckon with when writing on the relationship between kingdom and cross. In my opinion, it also definitively puts a nail in the coffin of any attempt to bifurcate or oppose Christus Victor accounts and penal substitution. This can only be done by ignoring both the broader sweep of the biblical narrative, and key texts linking the two firmly together.

For a good preview of what this all looks like, check out this short article by Treat over at the Gospel Coalition. If all this isn’t enough to persuade you, just know two things: this is basically Treat’s dissertation written under Kevin Vanhoozer’s direction. Also, I met him at ETS and he’s a smashing chap.

viduSecond, in a very different register, Adonis Vidu has delivered an important contribution in the ongoing conversation about cross in his sophisticated Atonement, Law, and Justice: The Cross in Historical and Cultural ContextsTheology happens in complex social, intellectual, and philosophical contexts. Oftentimes we fail to appreciate the thrust and shape of historical theological positions because we do not attend the way dominant intellectual frameworks shape the language used and intellectual and moral concerns of the time. This is eminently true of historic and contemporary atonement theology.

Vidu aims to provide an account of the history of atonement theology down into the present that presents theologians against the background of the various legal and political theories dominant at the time. In this way, we can begin to appreciate better the way these theological concepts shaped and were shaped by their native settings. Five judicious, careful, and lucid chapters are devoted to the descriptive task, focusing on Patristic, Medieval, Reformation, modern, and contemporary periods. (All of the chapters are well worth the time, but he chapter on contemporary atonement theologies is very helpful for navigating the complicated and less accessible literature.) What’s more, along the way, he corrects a number of common misunderstandings and caricatures of historic positions.

For instance, in the first chapter, Vidu corrects the oft asserted charge that the newness Christian theology was its assertion of the gratuity of forgiveness as the mere release of debt without the need for repayment. On the contrary, given Hellenic conceptions of justice as order, positive law, and the maintenance of relations, there was no “cold legality” being overturned here. Indeed, he shows the way these ideas influence patristic accounts for understanding the nature of God’s law and their tendency to attribute the retributive function of the law to the accuser, instead of considering it a necessary expression of his just will. In this, then, certain Christus Victor accounts rest on common, Hellenic intuitions about justice.

At the heart of the book lies the contention that all the shifting paradigms for relating law, justice, and atonement are, at bottom, debates about God’s nature and agency in the death of Jesus. For this reason, Vidu’s last chapter argues for the importance of not neglecting the doctrine of God’s simplicity in our account of God’s atoning action in Christ. Though there are currently some heavy objections being lodged against it, Vidu forcefully makes the case that abandoning simplicity will have serious, deleterious effects for our ability to understand the unified, non-conflicted, saving activity of God through Christ’s cross. Instead, he delivers a nuanced, modified account that is able to preserve penal atonement accounts from the sort of mistakes and caricatures it is often saddled with by both detractors and proponents. While I’m reticent about a couple of the moves Vidu makes with respect to relating the agency of Father and Son on the cross, this is an overall salutary contribution on the subject.

I have not even begun to do either of these works any justice. I do hope that some of this whets your appetite and inspires you to check out either one or both of these timely and edifying works. For more, you can check out my larger post on 19 Objections to Penal Substitutionary Atonement, in which I tackle related issues and point you to more resources.

Soli Deo Gloria

P.S. If you’re interested in atonement, check out the line-up for the January 2015 LA Theology Conference all about atonement: Ben Myers, Elenore Stumpe, Michael Horton,  Bruce McCormack, and a whole lot more. Sign-ups are still going here.


by Derek Rishmawy at November 23, 2014 01:51 AM

One Big Fluke

And here's even more detail on Facebook's datacenter networking (previously). This is what it takes to compete in infrastructure. I'd rather write code that runs in these environments than build them.

by Brett Slatkin (noreply@blogger.com) at November 23, 2014 01:02 AM

512 Pixels

Ecamm releases Call Recorder for FaceTime →

Ecamm is a familiar name to most podcasters. The company's $29 Call Recorder for Skype allows for easy capture of both local and remote sides of a Skype call, making it easy to get a show out the door quickly.

Late this week, the company released a similar tool for FaceTime.

The app allows you to convert a call to an .mp3 and will capture HD video if you're on a FaceTime call that's more than just audio.

Call Recorder will also record regular phone calls that have been handed off to a Yosemite-running Mac, which is a feature well worth its own application in my opinion.

While FaceTime still isn't a Skype killer for podcasts like mine with more than two people — and Apple's audio compression still sounds weird to my ear — Ecamm just gave two-host shows an alternative to the beast that is Skype.

null

Permalink

by Stephen Hackett at November 23, 2014 12:50 AM

CrossFit Naptown

Open Gym Sunday

Sunday’s Workout:

Open Gym 11:00-12:00 and 12:00-1:00
*Come in to make up a workout you missed earlier in the week or to work on skills or mobility!

 

Congratulations to Eleiko Max Out Athletes!

Congratulations to all of those who participated in yesterday’s mock Olympic Weightlifting meet hosted by Eleiko and organized by Kevin Murrary. The event was a lot of fun with many athletes posting personal records. It was a great atmosphere to be in and we are so grateful to all of the athletes who participated and other friends, family, and CFNT members that came out to cheer people on and create the positive environment! Keep tuning back in to the blog this week for more information and recaps of the event!

by Anna at November 23, 2014 12:38 AM

SWIFT 11.23.14

Push Press 5-10-15-20-25-30
Back Squat 30-25-20-15-10-5

by Anna at November 23, 2014 12:33 AM

November 22, 2014

Doc Searls WeblogDoc Searls Weblog »

On “native” advertising

gaudifaceIn an email today I was asked by a PR person if I wanted to talk with somebody at a major newspaper about its foray into “native” advertising — a euphemism for ads made to look like editorial matter. Among other things they asked if native advertising would “signify the death of credible journalism.” Here was my response:

I think tricking up advertising to look like journalism crosses a line I wish (name of paper) would keep up as a thick wall.

In publishing, editorial is church and advertising is state. The difference should be clear, and the latter should not be confused with the former. For nearly all its history, this was the case with (name of paper), and all serious publications.

While native ads don’t signify the death of credible journalism, they do signify a sell-out by publishers using them.

If (person at the paper) wants to try convincing me otherwise, I’m game. But be warned that the likelihood that I’ll give native ads a positive spin — for any pub — is close to nil.

Bonus link — Andrew Sullivan on Native Ads: Journalism has surrendered. Great interview.

by Doc Searls at November 22, 2014 11:57 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

“Do You Want Something to Drink?” — Lessons from My Grandmother

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On my recent book tour, I usually began each night’s talk with a story about playing Super Mario Brothers with my grandma. Her name was Regina but we all called her Nana, and she’s been one of the most important people in my life for as long as I can remember.

My grandpa died when I was five or six, and I spent a lot of time with Nana over the next few years. I lived in the Philippines for some of that time, and Nana came to visit. We played basketball and tetherball. Then I lived in Montana, and once again Nana came to visit.

I had a difficult time for much of my childhood, some of which I’ve talked about publicly and some I haven’t. I was a juvenile delinquent and confined in different treatment centers off and on for several years. During those years, the adults in my life all said nice things about how they wanted me to be okay. I’m not sure they always knew how to handle the situation or what they should say, but they meant well.

What I remember, though, is that Nana was always consistent in her love for me. She never bothered or hassled me about anything. I’d go over to her house and she’d make Kraft macaroni and cheese, just the way I liked it. We’d play Monopoly or Skip-Bo and talk about whatever I was interested in.

We also spent a lot of time working in her garden.

One time, when I was maybe six years old, I did something bad while we were gardening. I don’t remember exactly what it was, but it was something that upset her. Nana rarely got upset, and she almost never corrected me. But that day, I had either told a lie or said something mean that was over the line.

In that one instance, the only one I can recall, she got mad at me and I immediately felt terrible. Thirty years later I can still remember the feeling of shame, for something I’d done that caused her to be disappointed. But even though she was mad that day in her garden, she didn’t hold it against me for long. She just said something like, “That’s not good, you shouldn’t do that” and then moved on.

I felt happy and safe with her in a way that I didn’t always feel around other adults. We played card games and board games and video games. We’d go to the mall and to Toys R’ Us. I wasn’t always the most reliable grandchild, with all the moving around and everything associated with coming-of-age in all the treatment centers and homes. But she was always there for me, as a kid, as a troubled adolescent, and as a young adult. I could always count on the Kraft mac and cheese, and I could always count on Nana.

***

Nana outlived two husbands and also one of her sons, who died from a brain tumor when he was young. When she turned 71 she told everyone she felt like she was 17. She continued driving even after she probably should have stopped. With her second husband, a kind and generous man from Michigan, she would “visit the old people” to deliver meals as part of a church program. As the years went on, she was in her mid-seventies and some of the people she cared for were a decade younger. But that was Nana’s way, jumping in the car to visit the old people who didn’t always have the same vibrancy of life that she’d held onto.

As she lost other friends and relatives yet still remained strong, I honestly thought she would outlive our entire family. I imagined losing other people and being able to talk about it with her. Over the past couple of years, though, her mind began to slip a little. She would repeat things a lot, sometimes in a funny way.

When my brother and I visited, we’d make a game of it. She was always (always, always, over and over) asking visitors if they wanted something to drink. She had a refrigerator that was used entirely for soda, which she called pop, and candy bars.

As soon as Ken and I walked in, she’d offer us a pop. If we didn’t want pop, she’d offer us milk. No milk? How about some filtered water? It went on and on.

If she hadn’t offered us anything to drink in a few minutes, I’d look at my brother.

“Hey Ken, do you want something to drink? Do you want a pop?”

That would set her off and she’d start telling us about all the different sodas she had in stock. Finally, after we had all declined numerous offers of several beverages, we’d move on to something else. But every ten minutes we’d return to the same subject and it would be as if we’d never discussed it before.

“Do you want something? There’s pop in the fridge.”

I’d start to decline but then Ken would speak up.

“Well, I’m okay, Nana … but is there any milk? I think Chris wants some milk.”

The rest of the family would give us the evil eye for playing this game. But we weren’t making fun of her—in some ways it felt like we were sharing an inside joke even as everyone else looked on. As sharp as she was, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was in on it somehow. We were still doing it as we left her house and went out to dinner on our own. “Hey Ken, do you want some beer? There’s beer in the fridge.”

Despite the onset of dementia, she was doing amazingly well when she turned the young age of 88 this summer. I visited twice in the past two months, something I hadn’t done very often before. On our last visit, we played one more board game. She hadn’t played for a long time and was increasingly confused about a lot of things, but she remembered the rules and made the right choices as she moved her pieces around the board. And then she beat us! We didn’t let her win—the victory was hers, fair and square.

When I left that night, I gave her a hug and said I loved her. It was the best possible visit. I didn’t drink any sodas from the fridge and I lost at the game, but it was great to see her looking relatively healthy.

This is my nana (grandmother), who is 89 years young. When she turned 71 she told everyone she felt like she was 17. She may feel a little older now but is still going strong. I was glad to see her this morning before heading on to tonight's book tour stop in Nashville. Happy Monday to all ... and if you have any youthful elderly relatives, maybe you should pay them a visit. #ontheroad #findthequest #family

Strong as she was at the young age of 88, sometimes an incident can trigger a health crisis that has lasting consequences. Last Saturday, she was admitted to the emergency room with acute pain. Upon diagnosis, the doctor said she’d need immediate surgery, which he didn’t recommend at her age and in her condition. She declined the surgery in favor of palliative care.

Hard as it was, I was glad she made that choice. She had often talked about wanting to die with as little prolonged pain as possible. She even used a phrase all of her own in making the decision: “No thanks, I’m ready to check out.” When I heard she’d said that, I smiled even as I was sad.

She was given a high dose of morphine. After she fell asleep, we thought she might wake up again at some point in the next day or two, but she never did. The following night, around 1:40am, she died.

***

I wasn’t there that night, having just made it off book tour to my home 2,500 miles across the country, but I didn’t need to be. She was unconscious after going on the morphine, and I was content with the other memories I have of working in her garden, walking around the mall, playing tetherball and video games, and all those bowls of mac and cheese in her kitchen.

I’m not always good at maintaining strong relationships with people I love. I know I should be in touch more often, but I just don’t do it. Sometimes I’ve caused harm or been selfish or just haven’t followed-up well.

Once in a while, someone at an event asks about family and relationships, and I usually say something like, “Well, I write about starting a business for $100. See the family section for advice on relationships.”

I don’t mean to be disingenuous. I just don’t want to be hypocritical. There are some things I’m good at, and others that I struggle with.

But I did learn from Nana that it’s possible to always love. She cared for me for as long as I can recall, and I know I’ll continue to remember her always.

###

Image: Dave

by Chris Guillebeau at November 22, 2014 10:16 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Weekly review: Week ending November 21, 2014

Wow, did I ever get a lot of sleep last week. Fortunately, I’ve been able to turn over all my responsibilities, and I’ve given myself permission to take it easy. I’m rarely under the weather like this, and it’s an interesting learning opportunity for dealing with variable energy and short attention spans. The blog has been coasting thanks to the posts that I wrote a week or two ago, but since I still do manage to learn something here and there, I’ll see how many posts I can squeeze in to remind me of stuff that I may want to think about later or that other people might find useful. =)

I still managed to do a little bit of consulting here and there, thanks to the wonders of working from home. =) This week, I discovered that recursive queries in PostgreSQL (WITH RECURSIVE) are actually a pretty fast way of traversing an organizational chart described as an adjacency list. I also wireframed a prototype so that one of the other developers can work on it, but she’ll probably need a little more help before she’s ready to take that on. I’m getting better at asking people to do things instead of giving into the temptation to have all the fun myself!

We’ll keep things loose. I’ll try to take notes along the way. =)

Blog posts

Link round-up

Focus areas and time review

  • Business (14.4h – 8%)
    • E1: Plan how I can work from home for the next few weeks
    • Read AngularJS documentation
    • Review bookkeeper feedback for tax return
    • Earn: E1: 1-2 days of consulting
    • Earn (6.8h – 46% of Business)
    • Build (7.6h – 53% of Business)
      • Drawing (2.3h)
      • Delegation (0.0h)
      • Packaging (0.0h)
      • Paperwork (2.4h)
    • Connect (0.0h – 0% of Business)
  • Relationships (20.2h – 12%)
    • Work on E
    • Follow up on insurance paperwork
    • Work on E
  • Discretionary – Productive (2.6h – 1%)
    • Emacs (0.0h – 0% of all)
    • Writing (0.0h)
  • Discretionary – Play (15.6h – 9%)
  • Personal routines (26.8h – 15%)
  • Unpaid work (4.8h – 2%)
  • Sleep (83.6h – 50% – average of 11.9 per day)

The post Weekly review: Week ending November 21, 2014 appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at November 22, 2014 10:13 PM

Front Porch Republic

You Wanna Know What Ticks Me Off?

This does.

The post You Wanna Know What Ticks Me Off? appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Jeffrey Polet at November 22, 2014 05:01 PM

Inconsolation

robohack: The only legitimate use of a computer

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, supposedly. If that’s the case with robohack, the flattery is well earned.

The name might be a hint, but if you don’t know about Robotron: 2084, it might not work to know what game robohack hopes to imitate. If you remember the golden age of arcade games, then you won’t need to click on this link as a reminder. ;)

From personal experience, I can tell you two things about Robotron that stick out in my memory, and after that I’ll tell you the most amazing thing I know about it.

First, Robotron was an out-and-out action slugfest, and it worked because of the dual joystick model. It took a little while (or a few dollars, I guess I should say) to get used to the idea of moving and shooting in different directions, but once you got the hang of it, everything else seemed primitive.

Second, Robotron’s sound effects were fantastic, not just in technical terms, but because they fit the mood of the game as well. You can find fault in the cutoffs or splits between effects (only one audio channel to work with in 1982), but from an atmospheric perspective, those noises and zings were perfect.

And the amazing thing? The whole business ran on a 1Mhz Motorola CPU. :???: And what have you accomplished today, with your quad-core system with 12Gb of RAM and 4Tb of storage? I didn’t think so.

robohack pays homage to the original in a text-only environment, and does a pretty good job, if I may say so.

2014-11-10-jsgqk71-robohack-01 2014-11-10-jsgqk71-robohack-02

A lot of the action is lost in those static shots, but I’m sure whatever computer you’re viewing this page on is plenty powerful to put together a live version. You’re operating with thousands of times more power than the original game had, and it’s working only on an 80×24 screen. ;)

Movement is with the E-S-F-D keys in four directions, and firing is with I-J-K-L-Y-U-B-N in eight. That more or less mimics the original Robotron layout, but I would prefer a tighter set of keys for the eight-direction set.

You could conceivably adjust the source code to accept different keystrokes, then recompile, but I’m not going to count that as any degree of “customization.” :roll:

Your goal is to collect as many members of the last Human family, designated by capital M characters. Your pursuers are Grunt robots marked by the letter G, and Hulks as letter H, the latter of which cannot be destroyed. Collect a family member and win points, but you’ll be destroyed if robots collide with you, or if you touch glowing Electrodes.

And that is the formula for a pretty darned good action console game.

High points: Awesome title screen. Excellent explosion animations and firing effects. Great use of color, speedy action and a tough challenge. Grunts will throng after you quite quickly, and sidestepping them and the Electrodes can be tough.

The playing field is a good size even if it doesn’t draw out to the ends of your screen. And the Humans are sufficiently stupid to make you tapdance to collect them, which only further frustrates your quest. And yes, that’s a good thing.

Low points: You might do well to focus on either moving or shooting while you learn the controls. Unless you’re a pianist, it might take a while to get the hang of the needing both hands. But again, that’s part of the game.

Occasionally robohack stutters while it collects movement or firing instructions, meaning you can’t just hold down one key to move while firing in another direction. It doesn’t seem to read the keys that way, and until you get used to that, it’s going to be frustrating.

The original game had a Hulk “stagger effect,” where firing into a Hulk caused them to stagger back a half step before continuing their pursuit. That is somewhat mimicked here, where firing at a Hulk causes it to pause for a moment before continuing. I suppose that’s the best that could be expected under the circumstances.

The necessity of the animation and collision effects means there’s a possibility you’ll get killed by a Grunt seemingly out of nowhere. The original game drew a straight line to your character, and each Grunt moved one step in that line. With only a 72×20 (or so) map to work with, their “lines” of travel might catch you off-step when they get very close. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

And I’m at a loss as to why I can fire in eight directions but only move in four … ?

No sound. :(

But I’m quite pleased with robohack as a game that has reached its first decade and still shows potential. It’s fast, it’s tough to learn, and it’s got great visual effects for a console adaptation.

So this is an easy decision … one super-valuable and highly rare K.Mandla gold star for robohack: :star: ;) Enjoy … because as one of the creators of the original game once said, “The only legitimate use of a computer is to play games.” 8-)


Tagged: game

by K.Mandla at November 22, 2014 01:15 PM

ctris and seatris: A homophonic puzzle pair

You might find this hard to believe, but I have another week’s worth — at least — of games prepped for discussion. I know we just finished a huge 10-day block of games last month, but it seems that if you mention a console game, people are quite eager to suggest another.

And so my last round of 20 or so games netted another 20, at least a dozen of which work fine and will grace these pages in coming days. My only fear is that this might become a self-perpetuating reaction, and I’ll never see the end of this blog. … :’(

I’m going to pluck out the easy ones today, just because two of the crop are both Tetris remakes. I hold no ill will toward Tetris clones, but it’s a common programming exercise and (without being rude) neither of these rises to the level of the best Tetrises I’ve seen.

Over the past two years I’ve probably tried a dozen more of these in varying quality, and there are probably still dozens more out there. :shock: So let’s crank through this homophonic puzzle pair, in the manner of some other grouped games. …

ctris

2014-11-09-jsgqk71-ctris

Pros: Good clean colors, easy shapes, straightforward controls. Clean display arrangement, tucks into 80×24. Pause key. Keeps a high score list. Cons: Moves quickly from the start. Does not resize to terminal. No on-screen cues aside from score, level and next piece. Only one-way rotation. No drop indicator. Overall: ctris manages to nail the core elements of Tetris without missing any critical component, but also doesn’t add any embellishments whatsoever. Your flag options are scant and don’t add much to gameplay, but the pure Tetris experience is here. That much puts ctris dead square in the middle of the pack for Tetris clones, with plenty worse than ctris, and plenty better.

seatris

2014-11-10-jsgqk71-seatris

Pros: Strict ASCII characters, but with bolded colors. Cumulative block stats and plenty of other on-screen info, but somewhat jumbled. Optional key arrangements. Very basic display that nestles into 80×24. Keeps high score chart. Good pacing, and level advance controls. Cons: Game trough is somewhat narrow, and pieces are slim, making the play field hard to read as blocks are broken apart. Does not resize to terminal. Optional, but not customizable, key arrangements. Everything is bold, as opposed to using accents for visibility. One rotational direction. Overall: seatris has shortcomings that could be easily corrected, but until then it rides much the same rail as ctris. seatris may offer a few more options for controls and a few more on-screen cues and stats, but certainly doesn’t leapfrog ctris on those grounds. I give it more slack since its source code dates back to 1999 though. :|

Neither ctris nor seatris strikes me as much innovation, but that doesn’t discount the fact that they both work fine. There are better tetris options available to you that will only cost a sliver more in system resources though, so I can’t see picking one of these over yetris or vitetris, unless you’re just fond of one.

For what it’s worth, I have considered closing the doors on Tetris clones, much like I have for revision control systems or one-codec playback tools or firewall tools. Writing a Tetris clone is probably a hush-hush rite of passage for CS degrees somewhere, and I’m probably lucky I don’t have more to sift through.

For the time being though, I don’t mind including them. It will have to be a game of immense technical prowess to impress me though. Stay tuned. … :|


Tagged: game

by K.Mandla at November 22, 2014 01:00 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

Extracurricular Activities 11.22.15 —Evangelistic Paralysis, Young Scholars & the Internet, and Sabbath

Scot McKnight Shares The Biggest Mistake in Kingdom Talk

The most common mistake I hear when people are talking about kingdom is comparison talk. It goes like this or this or this or this:

“So you think kingdom and church are the same (but not identical), then you need to come to my church because that will show you the difference.”
“Kingdom is the ideal, church is the reality.”
“Kingdom is justice, but church is injustice.”
“The church is but an approximation of the kingdom, a manifestation of the kingdom, but it is not the kingdom because the kingdom will be a utopian, perfect, just, reconciled, loving society.”
“The church is now but the kingdom is not yet.”

Each of these fails on a fundamental element of how the NT talks about kingdom.

Jonathan Edwards on Mentoring

I heard a leading American evangelist preach a sermon recently in which Jonathan Edwards was never named but his signature theology was everywhere. Edwards’s views on creation as an overflow of the life of God, and his understanding of the Christian life involving the gift of a new sense of God’s beauty are now commonplace in evangelical circles. Unfortunately, his influence has not yet washed through to the way we describe and practice mentoring. I often hear the basic argument, which doesn’t engage great theological themes, that just as Paul mentored Timothy and Titus, so should we find younger believers to invest in. Edwards has so much to teach beyond this.

Trevin Wax Interviews Jonathan Dodson About Overcoming Evangelistic Paralysis & His New Book

Dodson casts a vision for evangelism that goes beyond formulaic recitation of biblical facts, re-centers it within the grand narrative of Scripture, and refocuses our attention on the particular needs of the person who needs good news. This is a biblically faithful and contextually sensitive approach to evangelism that systematically demolishes the most common obstacles to proclaiming Jesus as Lord.

Jonathan is the lead pastor of City Life Church and a leader in PlantR and Gospel Centered Discipleship.com. I invited him to the blog today to discuss his new book.

Peter Enns Reflects on Young Scholars Growing Up on the Internet

The lesson I learned there, and have tried to live out ever since, is that in reviewing the work of another, imagine him or her sitting right there next to you as you type. I recall Bruce Waltke (one of my professors at WTS) saying that reviewing the work of another is a “pastoral exercise” and the author has to feel “safe” in the reviewer’s hands. That is great advice…

Which brings me to the internet.

The War Against Rest: Sabbath Piety and Sabbath Politics

“A battle against leisure is unfolding,” Ryan Jacob claims in a Pacific Standard article called, provocatively enough, “Are Sundays Dying?” Citing Canadian survey data, Jacob found that even in this last citadel of repose, religious observances, socializing, eating at home, and, yes, sleep had all declined on Sundays between 1981 and 2005. During the same period, time spent working increased dramatically.

Churches have, in a manner of speaking, taken notice…

________________________

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 November 22, 2014 12:14 PM

Greg Mankiw's Blog

Mike Ashley

22nov2014

What's New in GnuPG 2.1
GnuPG 2.1 is out. Support for elliptic curve cryptography and improved local key management infrastructure.
ISPs Removing Their Customers' Email Encryption
STARTTLS downgrade attacks primarily against server-to-server email communication. A good example of complexity in the whole application infrastructure that makes it hard to guarantee privacy at any layer. The user is the last backstop; use your own encryption like GnuPG if privacy is important.
IAB Statement on Internet Confidentiality
Meanwhile, the IAB encourages designers to take a "you can't trust anybody else and you have to to trust everybody else" position, which is no help at all.
Let's Encrypt
At least the EFF, Mozilla, Cisco, and a few others are trying to make transport-layer security ubiquitous by supporting a no-charge certificate authority.
Slack
Lef'Jab, commercialized.

November 22, 2014 09:30 AM

Writings on Southern Tradition, Culture, and Bourbon. – J.D. Bentley | Journal

5 Reasons You Should Work For Yourself

In 1996, an older woman with a massive puff of late-80s teased hair and glam band makeup addressed my fourth grade class. She wore a white blouse and a green jacket with a matching skirt. She carried with her a box full of businesses.

I don’t remember what she told us, or why she told us what she told us, but I do remember that I walked out of school that day carrying photocopied books detailing how I could start and run a lawncare business and a dog training service. This was the first time it occurred to me that businesses weren’t magical institutions that “just existed”. They were things that normal people started and I, even at 10 years old, could start one, too.

I’ve spent most of my adult life as a freelance writer and web designer, experiencing various degrees of success and failure in an effort to unearth the details of my true calling, to figure out not just what I can do for money, but what gives me purpose while earning money.

This decision to work freelance was very deliberate. Just out of high school, I worked as a hospital janitor and a Starbucks barista at the same time. From 6:30am to 3pm at the hospital, then 3:30pm to 10pm at Starbucks. That arrangement lasted about a month before I was fired from Starbucks due to scheduling conflicts. I remained a janitor for another five miserable months before I put in my notice.

I learned two important lessons while holding down those jobs: (1). selling my time is only worthwhile if I want to work hard, earn little, and go nowhere, and (2). working for (rather than with) someone absolutely sucks.

Back then, my desire to work for myself wasn’t intellectual, it was a feeling. I felt called to it, but I didn’t know exactly why I needed it or why employment wasn’t working out for me. Through the years, the reasons for my attraction to entrepreneurship became more evident.

Perhaps you’re in a similar place, fed up with a boss or a job or mindless, meaningless work, but it’s all you know and all you’ve ever known. Maybe you’re feeling the tug of self-employment, but you’re scared of the risks, of the unknown.

Let me assure you that if you’re anything like me, the best day on the best job still isn’t as rewarding as the worst day running your own business.

Here are 5 reasons you should consider working for yourself:

1. You want purposeful work

Of all the reasons to work for yourself, this, I believe, is the most appealing. You probably hate mindless work or being part of an assembly line that has you doing such a small part you never understand the bigger picture or see the result. The best part of working for yourself is knowing that everything you will accomplish today matters and that you’ll get to follow the process from beginning to end.

You will work with people who you are truly invested in seeing succeed. Besides that, all effort you put in contributes to the success and health of your own business, which in turn contributes to you living the life you want to live. Nothing is better than having your personality, your desired lifestyle, and the work you do line up.

2. You hate wasting your time

You’re given a task that you know you can finish in thirty minutes. But you’re not paid by the task, you’re paid by the hour. Do you finish it in 30 minutes and risk looking lazy or do you drag it out to fill your day?

That shouldn’t be a choice you have to make. Your time is worth more than that. Working for yourself allows you to choose your priorities and to get things done as you see fit. Everything you do matters.

3. You like owning the result of what you do

When you work for someone else, it might be tough to see the bigger picture or to know what the clients or customers are saying about your work. You’re just a small cog in a big machine. You don’t have a clear picture of where the organization is going, you may not even really understand its purpose, you may never see the result.

If you work for yourself, you define your business’s vision, you set its priorities, and you put out work you’re proud of. You can’t afford to be ignorant about any step because the whole thing depends on you to operate, and you wouldn’t have it any other way.

4. You want to become more Stoic and self-disciplined

You will fail, especially as you’re starting out. When you have an infinite number of possibilities, it’s hard to know exactly where to start, but you’ll start. And you’ll inevitably get it wrong. So you fail, readjust, fail, readjust. Eventually you’ll start seeing the outline of a ghost of what your business should be, but you’ll make lots of mistakes and disappoint plenty of people on the way.

This results in you getting a thicker skin. You learn to see the difference between valid criticism and invalid criticism, and you learn to take it well. You learn to turn it into a better business. In order to succeed working for yourself, you need to rely less on how you feel at any particular moment and instead focus on what you know the next step is to moving forward. You’ll also cultivate the discipline necessary to do what you have to do, on time and under budget.

5. You want to fully express yourself

I don’t mean you can say and do whatever you want. Not expressing yourself as in free speech, but rather to express the essence of who you are. If your business represents the things you love and the things you are good at, you will enjoy it more. You will be able to build it into your life. I’ve always despised the idea of a “work-life balance” because what I want is for them to be the same, not for work to be so hated I want to push it to the side so I only really exist after 5pm and on weekends. I don’t want who I am to be defined by the work I do, but I want the work I do to reveal a lot about who I am. You should, too.

If you’ve been on the fence about working for yourself, I would recommend that you do it. It will be an edifying and worthwhile experience regardless of the outcome. If you’re inclined to read an article like this, then you’re probably already sold on the idea of working for yourself, so stop wasting time. Start thinking about what you want to do, start moonlighting, start finding clients. If you’re anything like me, it will be the greatest professional move you ever make.

November 22, 2014 05:00 AM

Cal Newport » Blog

Deep Habits: Spend Three Months On Important Projects

king-480

A Productive King

In 2013, during a period of only three months, Stephen King published two full-length novels: Joyland and Doctor Sleep. This is unusually productive, even for a writer whose published fifty-five novels in his career (and sold over 350 million copies along the way).

Perhaps to celebrate this pinnacle of systematic wordsmithing, the Barnes & Noble book blog published a list of twenty tips extracted from King’s 2000 professional memoir, On Writing.

Nestled half way through this list was a piece of advice that caught my attention:

“The first draft of a book—even a long one—should take no more than three months, the length of a season.”

This tip resonates with my experience well beyond just book writing. Things worth doing take time, but if they take too much time your intensity might begin to wane to unproductive levels.

A period of three months seems just about right to hit that sweet spot where you’re accumulating enough deep work to produce something remarkable, but not so much time that your attention begins to diffuse.

(You might be wondering, of course, whether this advice conflicts with my veneration of the multi-year, Steve Martin-style diligent pursuit of becoming too good to be ignored. The expository difference here is that King is talking about a specific project, such as finishing a draft of a book manuscript, whereas my above-mentioned veneration refers to the honing of a craft over many different projects, like Martin’s quest to revolutionize comedy.)

To conclude, there’s nothing magic about three months — some important projects take more time and others take less. But the sentiment driving this advice is crucial.

Focus on things that take enough time to matter, but don’t let their importance dilute your obsessive drive to get something done.

by Study Hacks at November 22, 2014 01:36 AM

November 21, 2014

CrossFit Naptown

Olympic Total

Saturday’s Workout:

Olympic Total:
Establish 1 Rep Max Snatch
Establish 1 Rep Max Clean & Jerk

In honor of the CFNT Olympic Weightlifting Meet brought to you by Eleiko, we will be running the Olympic total in classes to give everyone a feel of participating in a meet and gauging his and her 1 rep maxes. For those of you who do not have a passion for weightlifting, we are allowing members to take the day to head over to NapTown Fitness on Capitol Avenue for a SWIFT class at 10:45am.

SWIFT 11.22.14:

20:00 AMRAP Partner WOD
20 Partner Push Ups
20 Partner Get-Up-Get-Downs
20 Partner Wall Ball Sit Ups
20m Partner Carry -or- Partner Farmer Carry

 

CFNT Olympic Weightlifting Meet

From 12:00-3:00pm, CFNT will be hosting an in-house traditional Olympic Weightlifting meet featuring about 30 CFNT members. We are very excited to be running this event and welcome any members not participating to stop in to watch the action! See what a traditional meet is like and help cheer your fellow members on to new PRs! Participants be prepared to weigh-in at 11:30am to be ready to go at 12:00pm.

by Anna at November 21, 2014 10:29 PM

SWIFT 11.22.14

Workout Of the Day:

20:00 AMRAP
20 Partner Push Ups
20 Partner Get-Up-Get-Downs
20 Partner Wall Ball Sit Ups
20m Partner Carry -OR- Partner Farmer Carry

by Anna at November 21, 2014 10:18 PM

The Frailest Thing

Data-Driven Regimes of Truth

Below are excerpts from three items that came across my browser this past week. I thought it useful to juxtapose them here.

The first is Andrea Turpin’s review in The Hedgehog Review of Science, Democracy, and the American University: From the Civil War to the Cold War, a new book by Andrew Jewett about the role of science as a unifying principle in American politics and public policy.

“Jewett calls the champions of that forgotten understanding ‘scientific democrats.’ They first articulated their ideas in the late nineteenth century out of distress at the apparent impotence of culturally dominant Protestant Christianity to prevent growing divisions in American politics—most violently in the Civil War, then in the nation’s widening class fissure. Scientific democrats anticipated educating the public on the principles and attitudes of scientific practice, looking to succeed in fostering social consensus where a fissiparous Protestantism had failed. They hoped that widely cultivating the habit of seeking empirical truth outside oneself would produce both the information and the broader sympathies needed to structure a fairer society than one dominated by Gilded Age individualism.

Questions soon arose: What should be the role of scientific experts versus ordinary citizens in building the ideal society? Was it possible for either scientists or citizens to be truly disinterested when developing policies with implications for their own economic and social standing? Jewett skillfully teases out the subtleties of the resulting variety of approaches in order to ‘reveal many of the insights and blind spots that can result from a view of science as a cultural foundation for democratic politics.’”

The second piece, “When Fitbit is the Expert,” appeared in The Atlantic. In it, Kate Crawford discusses how data gathered by wearable devices can be used for and against its users in court.

“Self-tracking using a wearable device can be fascinating. It can drive you to exercise more, make you reflect on how much (or little) you sleep, and help you detect patterns in your mood over time. But something else is happening when you use a wearable device, something that is less immediately apparent: You are no longer the only source of data about yourself. The data you unconsciously produce by going about your day is being stored up over time by one or several entities. And now it could be used against you in court.”

[….]

“Ultimately, the Fitbit case may be just one step in a much bigger shift toward a data-driven regime of ‘truth.’ Prioritizing data—irregular, unreliable data—over human reporting, means putting power in the hands of an algorithm. These systems are imperfect—just as human judgments can be—and it will be increasingly important for people to be able to see behind the curtain rather than accept device data as irrefutable courtroom evidence. In the meantime, users should think of wearables as partial witnesses, ones that carry their own affordances and biases.”

The final excerpt comes from an interview with Mathias Döpfner in the Columbia Journalism Review. Döfner is the CEO of the largest publishing company in Europe and has been outspoken in his criticisms of American technology firms such as Google and Facebook.

“It’s interesting to see the difference between the US debate on data protection, data security, transparency and how this issue is handled in Europe. In the US, the perception is, ‘What’s the problem? If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. We can share everything with everybody, and being able to take advantage of data is great.’ In Europe it’s totally different. There is a huge concern about what institutions—commercial institutions and political institutions—can do with your data. The US representatives tend to say, ‘Those are the back-looking Europeans; they have an outdated view. The tech economy is based on data.’”

Döpfner goes out of his way to indicate that he is a regulatory minimalist and that he deeply admires American-style tech-entrepreneurship. But ….

“In Europe there is more sensitivity because of the history. The Europeans know that total transparency and total control of data leads to totalitarian societies. The Nazi system and the socialist system were based on total transparency. The Holocaust happened because the Nazis knew exactly who was a Jew, where a Jew was living, how and at what time they could get him; every Jew got a number as a tattoo on his arm before they were gassed in the concentration camps.”

Perhaps that’s a tad alarmist, I don’t know. The thing about alarmism is that only in hindsight can it be definitively identified.

Here’s the thread that united these pieces in my mind. Jewett’s book, assuming the reliability of Turpin’s review, is about an earlier attempt to find a new frame of reference for American political culture. Deliberative democracy works best when citizens share a moral framework from which their arguments and counter-arguments derive their meaning. Absent such a broadly shared moral framework, competing claims can never really be meaningfully argued for or against, they can only be asserted or denounced. What Jewett describes, it seems, is just the particular American case of a pattern that is characteristic of secular modernity writ large. The eclipse of traditional religious belief leads to a search for new sources of unity and moral authority.

For a variety of reasons, the project to ground American political culture in publicly accessible science did not succeed. (It appears, by the way, that Jewett’s book is an attempt to revive the effort.) It failed, in part, because it became apparent that science itself was not exactly value free, at least not as it was practice by actual human beings. Additionally, it seems to me, the success of the project assumed that all political problems, that is all problems that arise when human beings try to live together, were subject to scientific analysis and resolution. This strikes me as an unwarranted assumption.

In any case, it would seem that proponents of a certain strand Big Data ideology now want to offer Big Data as the framework that unifies society and resolves political and ethical issues related to public policy. This is part of what I read into Crawford’s suggestion that we are moving into “a data-driven regime of ‘truth.'” “Science says” replaced “God says”; and now “Science says” is being replaced by “Big Data says.”

To put it another way, Big Data offers to fill the cultural role that was vacated by religious belief. It was a role that, in their turn, Reason, Art, and Science have all tried to fill. In short, certain advocates of Big Data need to read Nietzsche’s Twilight of the Idols. Big Data may just be another God-term, an idol that needs to be sounded with a hammer and found hollow.

Finally, Döfner’s comments are just a reminder of the darker uses to which data can and has been put, particularly when thoughtfulness and judgement have been marginalized.


by Michael Sacasas at November 21, 2014 10:04 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Writing depends on the superficiality of one’s days

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Graham Green on writing a book:

“I was trying to write a book that simply would not come. I did my daily five hundred words, but the characters never began to live. So much in writing depends on the superficiality of one’s days. One may be preoccupied with shopping and income tax returns and chance conversations, but the stream of the unconscious continues to flow, undisturbed, solving problems, planning ahead: one sits down sterile and dispirited at the desk, and suddenly the words come as though from the air: the situations that seemed blocked in a hopeless impasse move forward: the work has been done while one slept or shopped or talked with friends.”

Link: The Habits of Highly Effective Writers

Image: Magnus

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by Chris Guillebeau at November 21, 2014 08:06 PM

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

Gossip of the Day

A yahoo who does not give his name but calls himself Vunderguy is asking a Houyhnhnm named John C Wright what is my emotional reaction to a man who calls himself Vox Day but whose real name is Theodore Beale.

Speaking of flights and fancy, what’s your take on your publisher, Vox Day?

Despite the bouncing gaiety of the question, I answered it soberly, saying this: I think he has too high an opinion of me and my work, frankly. This is based on private communications with him, where he grants me more praise than I think just. While it is right and proper, as a matter of professional courtesy, for an editor to flatter a writer he publishes, I am afraid in this case he overestimates my talent, albeit I am grateful for the flattery, because I am quite vain.

Vunderguy answers with this indirect comment:

While that insight is a bit humanizing of him, I meant in regards to his more… ‘fringe’ views.

I was not aware that Mr. Beale needed ‘humanizing’ whatever that word means. As a Houyhnhnm, the process sounds painful and dangerous and much to be avoided.

Growing mildly impatient, in my unemotional way, I remarked: “Fringe views? Is this a guessing game where you act like a coy schoolgirl and do not say what you mean, while I act like a man and speak in complete sentences?” And I mentioned some of Mr Beale’s unusual views, for example on drug legalization and other libertarian issues, which are not mainstream.

After that, Mr. Guy (as I shall hereafter call the anonymous accuser) finally agreed to speak plainly and ask his question, or, rather, his accusation disguised as a question.

I say ‘his’ because in English, when the sex of the antecedent is unknown or undetermined, this is the proper pronoun. The delicate indirectness with which Mr. Guy asks his questions, however, is more typically seen in women, or was, back in the day when women practiced feminine delicacy.

Since it is an accusation and not a question, in a properly lawyerly fashion, let me answer point by point:

Alright, I’ll just up and say it then.

I raise a supercilious eyebrow at the introductory sentence,  as if the accuser has to brace himself before he tells his true opinion. I am, like all Houyhnhnms, unsympathetic to the concept of having to brace yourself before telling the truth.

To me, it is not only unexceptional, a default setting, so to speak. The opposite, which is to gossip, to backbite, to say the thing which is not is the unusual thing, nay, the unheard-of thing.

However, to be clear, this introductory preamble is neither here nor there. It is not an apology for the previous hemming and hawing, nor an explanation of it, merely a statement that henceforth, the language will be direct.

He seems to me to be something of a white supremacist, even though he’s about as white as I am, or at least, draw those kinds of people towards him.

This language, unfortunately, is less than direct.

The sentence is the core accusation. It is in two parts (1) It seems to Mr. Guy, for reasons not stated, the Mr. Beale is something of a white supremacist.

I take this to mean that the counsel for the prosecution does not in fact accuse Mr. Beale of being a white supremacist, merely something akin, nearby, approximate. However, the language is ambiguous, since the phrase ‘something like’ might also mean that Mr. Beale is very much a white supremacist, here meant as a wry understatement.

The second part of the accusation is (2) it seems to Mr. Guy, for reasons not stated, that Mr. Beale draws those kinds of people to him. Again, the statement is mildly ambiguous, albeit from context, I conclude the proper construction is that Mr Beale finds that white supremacists are drawn to him, not that people as white as Mr. Guy are drawn to him.

Since the statement is in the alternative, the two options are that (1) it seems for reasons not stated to some random stranger on the internet that Mr. Beale is not a white supremacist, but is something akin or approximate to being a white supremacist (2) or, in the alternate, it seems for reasons not stated to some random stranger on the internet that Mr. Beale is not a white supremacist, nor something akin or approximate to being a white supremacist, but that people who are of the ‘kind’ or ‘species’ of white supremacist are drawn to him.

At this point, I can begin to answer Mr. Guy’s question: my ‘take’ — by which I assume he is asking for an emotional reaction — to this accusation is that the accusation should be reformulated to be more specific.

In its present form, it is not actionable, since it neither states the evidences to support the accusation, nor gives testimony to support the expertise of the accuser to come to his conclusion. Whether he meant this merely as an ornament of language or not, the fact is that Mr. Guy did not say Mr. Beale ‘is’ a white supremacist, nor that I nor any man should conclude Mr. Beale is a white supremacist, but only that Mr. Beale ‘seems’ or ‘appears’ to be a white supremacist.

Now, again, I draw the reader’s attention to the feminine delicacy and indirectness of the approach. When women gossip, it is customary, for the sake of the social harmony of which the gentle distaff sex are the traditional custodians, never directly to accuse nor challenge another woman’s opinion. The tradition is for one women to make a statement of subjective opinion, and fish to see of the other women in the social circle share the opinion. This is the primary objective of gossip: to establish a feminine form of dominance by aligning oneself with the consensus, and by forming an unformed consensus.

Rarely is there anything like an argument or a trial, where one party states an accusation as an accusation, another party issues defiance and mounts a defense, and there is one winner and one loser. The shame of having a winner and a loser is a price womenfolk traditionally find unendurable to shoulder, as it cuts against future mutual amity and harmony within the social circle.

Lest any feminist take umbrage that I utter a truth about her sex, allow me to state that I am not advocating for or against this tradition, I merely note it.

I do not, however, follow it, since I am not only a man, but I am one who advocates that, in order to please our womenfolk (who become understandably nervous when they see their men acting unmanfully) we men should conduct ourselves in a masculine fashion, that is, to be as honest and direct as courtesy permits, and unconcerned with gossip and emotion.

Now, I like Vox in a lot of ways. He’s even more non-PC than Matt Stone, Trey Parker’s, Larry Correra’s, and Andrew Klavan’s gay managa-whatever-the-frenchy-word-for-four-is’ love child and the ways he can get under the enemy’s skin is admirable…

This is not accusation, but gossip. Mr. Guy is telling me his emotional reaction to Mr. Beale, which is information I did not solicit and which (since I have no evidence one way or the other on which to base an assessment of the competence of Mr. Guy, random stranger on the internet, to make a sound judgment concerning Mr. Beale’s character)  I cannot possibly have any reason to heed, neither to agree nor disagree.

So the information about the random internet stranger’s emotional reactions to Mr. Beale not only unwelcome and uninformative, it is also useless.

As far as my own reaction, I give less than a tinker’s damn about whether Mr. Guy likes Mr. Beale or not, and I feel the same reaction of disquiet as if an unkempt, unwashed and overweight stranger on the street walked up and put his hand in my trouser pocket. While it does me no harm in either case, the familiarity is one I resent.

I have no idea who Matt Stone nor Trey Parker are. My memory for names is almost comically poor, however, so I apologize to them if these are men from the science fiction field I have worked with, or writers I have read.

I am a great admirer of Andrew Klavan. The reference to gay managa [sic] love child seems to be an attempt at a smirking jest, but, if so it, fails to amuse, or make sense, and so is left to stumble over itself and pratfall into an incoherent stream of words.

I am unclear as to the point of comparing Mr. Beale to these men. It is of no interest whatsoever to me.

.. but he [Mr. Beale, not Andrew Klavan] seems to have trouble separating the culture a people group has from the people group themselves and seems to equate the genetics of that people group too closely with the behaviors of that people group… [ellipsis in the original] even though, as an admitted minority, he’s one pretty smart cookie.

The sentence is incoherent. I routinely give alms to the dazed and drunk men I find wandering the streets of the place near where I work, out of a Christian sense of duty, obeying a commandment I confess I do not understand. Mr. Guy in this sentence has fallen into the habitual wording of such street people.

Mr. Guy perhaps is saying that Mr. Beale conflates the culture of a ‘people group’ (he means a race) with the ‘people group’ itself. However, what the distinction is between a culture, that is, the behavior of a race, and the race itself, is not here said. Since the races can interbreed, the culture is, of course, the only basis on which to judge the group, that is, it is what defines membership, for, if not, Sephardic Jews would be a different race from Ashkenazim, which is absurd, therefore QED.

On the other hand, Mr Guy is perhaps saying that the genetics of a group should be distinguished from the behaviors of the group. I admit I am baffled. If Mr. Guy is asking me to rule on Mr. Beale’s theory of the age old controversy of nature versus nurture, Mr. Guy would have to recite or at least summarize the points for and against the argument.

For those who are curious, my own position on the nature versus nurture controversy is clear: I am a Catholic. Catholics believe men and angels have free will, and that we freely chose either life or death, obedience or rebellion, reason or madness, good or evil. As sons of Adam, we have an innate or original inclination toward sin which baptism does not cure in and of itself. Catholic anathematize and regard as heretics, those, such as Calvin, who deny the freedom of the will. Whether you deny free will because you blame the stars and planets of your birth for your fate, or because you blame the crooked spiral molecules of your genetics for you fate, makes no difference. We also anathematize Pelagians, who deny original sin.

I have, myself, spent many tedious hours arguing with a dyed-in-the-wool Leftist who attempted to put across the incoherent argument that all human thought is conditioned by, nay, caused by and only by, the molecular conditions of the brain, in turn based on genetics, in turn based on atomic forces in motion. Marx thought human thought was conditioned by the physical circumstance of the means of production in an economy. It is not only commonplace for Leftists to assert that human thought is conditioned by nature, it is the dominant theory.

What I find distasteful in the extreme is that Mr. Guy is conflating being a white supremacist with being someone who thinks behaviors are conditioned more by nature than by nurture. That is simply grotesque.

I should say, with all due caution, that I am not sure if that is what Mr. Guy meant. His sentence was unclear, and I am not sufficiently curious to ask for a clarification.

I mean, you’d have to be to be able to be such an isolationist that you give up on America and move to Italy with a family to support… [ellipsis in the original] even though that’s even closer to where the first bangs of destruction will begin, but whatever.

I have no idea to what this sentence refers. The word isolationist means someone who wishes the United States not to become involved in European Wars. Isolationism does not mean moving to Italy. Whose family is meant is unclear, whether Mr. Beale’s family or my family or any family in general. What bangs of destruction are being referred to here are unclear. Mr. Beale lives overseas, but I assumed it was in the country where he is incorporated. It is not a matter about which I have any curiosity.

Naturally, I have no opinion on the advisability of moving overseas, since various causes might impel an emigrant. I am really, really puzzled, bordering on disgust, that a random stranger on the internet would write to me to ask about my publisher’s wisdom in moving to Italy. There is no reason for me to have an opinion on that matter, and even if I did, it is an effrontery to solicit that opinion from me.

Usually, when I speak with drunks on the street, I can get them to promise me to stop drinking if I give them money for food, and I can tell them about Christ’s love for all mankind. But I do not listen to them ramble on about unrelated nonsense in disconnected sentences.

To top it all off, like I said, a lot of the people that tend to comment on his site are nowhere near as awesome as the people that comment on yours, and by that I mean that a lot of the commenters on his site seem to be what Alfonzo Rachel would call, ‘Noe-Confederate Libertarians’ and/or the kind of people who believe we had no good reasons to intervene in Vietnam, Iraq, and probably WW II (I.E., the kind of absolutist pacifists that find no use for Just War Theory).

I am not sure to what the phrase, to top it all off refers. Usually this phrase means that the writer had made a list of points or accusations, and that a particularly damning accusation or clear point follows. Instead is a disjointed eructation of material unrelated to Mr. Beale.

Unless we are to hold a man responsible for the views of random strangers leaving comments on his internet weblog, this is not only not a damning accusation, it is not an accusation at all. It seems neither to be related to the previous accusations of isolationism, moving to Italy, believing that nature rather than nurture is predominant in determining character, nor being or attracting white supremacists, nor seeming to.

Furthermore, Vox supported Ted Cruz’s plan to get a bill passed that would enable congress to strip the citizenship of people who went to go join ISIS…

I am an attorney, and so I am unduly impatient when know-nothing blithermouths attempt to explain legal matters to me where I am an expert and they are an ignoramuses. I would at least like the courtesy done me that the blithermouth read up on the issue before holding forth his ignorant layman’s blither.

As a matter of fact, striping the legal protections of citizenship of men who serve in the enemy military service in time of war is routine, and not a matter of controversy at all.

See, for one example of many, the Nationality Act of 1940, Public Law 76-853, 54 Stat. 1137, holds that service in a foreign military when coupled with citizenship (and this is not even a military of an enemy nation at war) is sufficient grounds for citizenship to be revoked. See also Ex Parte Quirin, 317 U.S. 1 (1942) were normal constitutional rights to trial and so on were denied enemy combatants despite their being US citizens.

The upshot of this is that revoking citizenship for enemy combatants is already the law of the land and always has been, in this and every nation covered by Common or Civic Law.

It would be controversial to oppose such a plan, or, rather, utterly unheard-of, or, rather, totally and utterly bat-guano insane. No prince and no parliament in the history of the world has ever extending citizenship rights to soldiers of an enemy in time of war. So, like moving to Italy, this is not a controversial nor fringe opinion.

Sen. Cruz’s proposal — if I understand it — was not legislation to strip citizenship from men who join the military of the Islamic State – as I said above, that is routine, and requires no additional actions from Congress – the legislation was merely to beef up security border processes to prevent such men from sneaking back into the country.

However, Mr. Guy was not asking me my opinion of the laws concerning loss of citizenship for those swearing fealty to a foreign sovereign in time of war; he was asking my opinion about Mr. Beale’s alleged support for Mr. Cruz’s proposal. Since I have not read what Mr. Cruz specifically said, nor what Mr. Beale said, I have no opinion, and, frankly, not much curiosity.

Allow me a moment to put this in perspective.

My editor at Tor Books is the accomplished Mr. David G. Hartwell, whose name is well known and well respected in science fiction field. I do not know his opinion of the senator from Texas, nor, more to the point, of the senator from New York where Mr. Hartwell lives. It has no bearing on our professional relationship and it would be odd indeed if it did. Mr. Hartwell has been ably assisted by Mr. Palmieri, whose name I hope will become more well known and respected in the future.

Again, Mr. Glen Yeffeth of Benbella Books edited and published a number of my essays in his ‘Smart Pop’ series. I have also worked with editors such as Gordon van Gelder, George R.R. Martin, David Brin, Gardner Dozois, whose names are giants in the field, as well as with less well known editors such as Mike McPhail, Andy W. Robertson, and the brilliant Jonathan Strahan.

It has also been my great pleasure to work with Mike Allen, whose anthology, CLOCKWORK PHOENIX is a work of unparalleled innovation and eerie brilliance.

No one has ever asked me my opinion of the political opinions of any of these men, nor, for that matter, has anyone ever asked me about their offtrack betting habits, drinking habits, religious faith, taste in neckties, nor their terpsichorean acuity on the dancefloor.

Anyone who believes David Brin and I share the same taste in neckties or political loyalties is unfamiliar with the two of us. He and I have worked together in the past without friction or undue intrusion of nonprofessional matters in our shared work, and I would happily work together with him in the future if asked, since he is a man I respect and honor.

You see, I am not a Leftist, therefore to me politics are a secondary matter, a matter that concerns only my opinions about law and public policy. It is not my religion and not my whole life. I am willing and able to work with heretics and heathens without inquiring into their religious faith, because I can tolerate to dwell in the world without being of the world. That is the only rational and professional attitude to have for anyone living in an extended society, that is to say, anyone not living in an isolationist and tribal society, or one with an established national church where dissent is illegal.

Mr. Guy’s question is based on the opposite premise, that one should be tribal and isolationist and adhere to an established national church, in this case, the church of Political Correctness (his alleged amusement at being not politically correct notwithstanding). Mr. Guy’s question, in sum, is inviting me to be irrational and unprofessional by departing my Church and joining his cult. I respectfully decline.

Where were we?

Ah, yes. The bill of accusations against Mr. Beale. Mr. Guy gets distracted of his main purpose, and goes rambling on:

… even though anyone with any knowledge of history, like he’s SUPPOSED TO BE, would know that such a bill would just erode our republic faster like the laws put in place by ‘that RINO Neo-Con George W’ that every self-professed Libertarian likes to bash, and enhanced by Obama.

At this point, it is safe to conclude that Mr. Guy, or whatever his real name is, is a raving lunatic who has supped too deeply from the wine of politics.

However, he did not solicit my opinion on his lunatic theory that failing to strip the citizenship from fighting-men serving in enemy military service in time of war will erode the republic more swiftly than neocon (?) George W. Bush (A neocon is a neoconservative, that is, a leftist who crossed the aisle to be a supporter of a strong military and foreign wars who previously had opposed such things), so I will pass by this spasm of lunacy without further comment.

It is unrelated to our purpose, except that I will say I have not heard anything from Mr. Beale as controversial as this, except, perhaps, for Mr. Beale’s outrageous claim to be both a libertarian and an opponent of free trade, or the absurdity of referring to the South as occupied and conquered territory. As a Virginian, not only do I resent the claim, I’ll point out the number of presidents who had been governors of Southern states is too high for the occupation by you Yankees to continue successfully.

Furthermore, Vox supports #NotYourShield for the whole gamergate thing, and that hashtag is pretty darned racist, and I mean LEGITIMATELY racist, and not in the faux-racism that Vox’s ‘Magic Negro’ statements about Obama and Ben Carson were.

Ah, here we have an open accusation that a hashtag is racist. I myself am not sure what a hashtag is, or how it can be used, or what it is for. How it can be racist, much less pretty darned racist, is not clear from the rambling mess of words. However, as an unsupported statement, it can be dismissed.

I am not familiar with Gamergate except that I know that the accusations leveled against the Gamergaters are the routine falsehoods used by Leftists to shout down opposition, in this case, opposition to a legitimate request to eschew corruption in journalism.

You see, I don’t know gamers, but I know journalists, since I am one.

So there is no doubt in my mind, not even the smallest scintilla, that the Anti-GG folk are liars and vermin and sucklings of asps and scorpions, who fill their mouths with poison.

I am actually offended that anyone thinks me naive enough to fall for so transparent a deception. Next time, try to sell me the Brooklyn Bridge. I will be more willing to hear your sales pitch on that topic than on this. Next time, wipe the chocolate off your mouth before telling Mommy that a monster climbed up on the kitchen counter and broke the cookie jar.

Let me explain the reason for my unwillingness to heed accusations of racism.

I was once called a racist for making the statement that Leftists, when debating a scientific issue, such as the alleged differences in brain structure between men and women, or the alleged difference in median IQ between races, rather than debate the issue scientifically, merely call their opponents racists. For saying that Leftist call people racists rather than arguing the science of a scientific study, a Leftist called me a racist.

(For those of you who care, I do not think ‘race’ can be measured nor determined scientifically, nor do I think I.Q. tests measure anything except how well one does on I.Q. tests. I do not believe that general intelligence exists, only intelligence as it applies to specific tasks, which is how I can be a genius when it comes to linguistic skills such as reasoning, but find myself unable to use a payphone or dress myself in the morning without my wife’s help.)

My wife was called a racist by a Leftist for saying that men should be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. She is a Jewess.

My best friend was called a racist by a Leftist for protesting high taxes. He married a Japanese woman.

My roommate was called racist by a Leftist for opposing big government. He is a Negro.

Everyone I know, every single Son of Adam and Daughter of Eve, has either been called racist or is a member of a group, such as the Tea Party, the male sex, the Christian faith, or the Science Fiction profession, that has been called racist.

The boy has cried wolf too often, and cried it against me and my beloved family and beloved friends, whom honor demands I protect, and cried it with such malice, and with such contemptuous disregard for logic, fairness, or truth as to put the little boys who cry such cries forever beyond the pale of civil discourse. Such wolf-cries are intolerable to me, and leave me wishing for the wolf to tear the boy to bits, that the sheepfold no longer be disturbed by his lies.

Since that day, and a thousand days like it, as a matter of policy, I assume anyone who accuses another of racism is like a witchhunter who accuses an innocent old beggar woman of being a witch.

The witchhunters make the accusation so that the mob will feel a sense of panic, of malice, of sadism, of satisfaction, of deflected blame for their own sins, and of relief not to be accused.

The accusation removes all responsibility in the breast of each man in the mob for his own sins and it tightens the invisible fetters of conformity that give the mob its unity of malevolence.

The joy of attacking the weak is central to the process.

Hence the witchhunter never addresses the accused directly, never confronts the witch, but instead nudges his neighbor, nods at the old beggar woman, sees she is unarmed, and mutters the disjointed accusations, such as if she owns a black cat or once walked near a sick cow.

The real meaning, of course, of accusing the old woman is that it relieve one of the onerous duty of charity, of giving her alms.

Since most witchhunters also perform black masses and pray to the devil, I am grossly skeptical of their finger-pointing. I assume as a matter of policy that the man who accuses his neighbor of racism is himself the racist whose ghostly image he sees in all other faces.

So far, I have never had any reason nor seen any evidence to question my policy. So far, no one I have heard accusing another man of racism has been honest.

Not one. Never. No exceptions.

None of them have even been clever enough to fake up evidence or to present a convincing nor circumstantial, not even a prima face, case. No one has bothered. Not one.

Like the witchhunter, the racisthunter always offers his accusation is if it were the evidence, the trial, the condemnation, and the execution all at once. So here.

He [Mr Beale] also thinks that the west started the current crises in the Middle-East, even though he admits that it was Muslim aggression that started started the crises on a more macrocosmic scale in the middle-ages, which strikes me as double-think despite any empty rhetoric of, ‘War is Peace,’ that might be hurled at me.

I am unable to parse this sentence. Many Libertarians of my acquaintance routinely accuse the United States of starting or aggravating overseas conflicts. The word macrocosmic here is misplaced, unless it is meant as a comic exaggeration.

While there may be a paradox involving in blaming the United States for her adventures in the Middle East while acknowledging the current conflicts to have Medieval roots for which only the Muslims take the blame, there is not necessarily a paradox, depending on what line of reasoning leads to the two conclusions. I do not see a conflict in logic if someone blames America for contributing to situation springing from remote historical causes: no historical event has one and one cause only to the exclusion of all others.

In any case, I have no reason to believe this is Mr. Beale’s opinion being here presented accurately and fully. No evidence, no quote, no link is offered in support.

The final sentence contradicts what comes before, perhaps due to a typo. I assume Mr. Guy does not mean blaming both Modern America and Medieval Muslims for the current conflict is doublethink despite empty rhetoric of war is peace; he means it is doublethink because it the empty rhetoric of war is peace. However, it is not my place to clarify his comments, or wipe the drool from his chin, and I am not sufficiently curious to solicit clarification.

In any case, I have no opinion about a matter where no evidence is presented nor even adumbrated. I did not read the allegedly paradoxical comment by Mr. Beale about the cause of the Middle Eastern wars. Hence I cannot venture even a speculation on whether the paradox was real or semantic, or even if it existed in the first place. If the paradox did exist, the proper response would be politely to ask Mr Beale to distinguish the cases, not come gossiping to me.

If Mr. Beale has closely studied history, I will pay more heed to his conclusions, whatever they are, than to a man who has not studied, or who, as Leftists and Libertarians routinely do, bases conclusions on abstract cogitations from first principles: but this is true of any man I read, no matter my professional relationship with him. So that cannot be what Mr. Guy is asked me about.

And there, abruptly, the bill of accusations stumbles to a jarring end.

So, that is it? The man is both a bloodthirsty racist like Hitler, and he supported Ted Cruz, Gamergate, and he made an error in formal logic by assigning multiple causes to recent wars and tumults in the Middle East?

Aha. I understand Mao both slaughtered more innocent human beings by a factor of ten than any man in history, and also he cheated on his wife. While both things are errors, one seems to outweigh the other.

The lack of proportionality between the accusations gives the whole list the unreal air of a witch-hunter listing every possible charge, from the felonious to the trivial. When one is charged with clearing the kingdom of witches, such zeal is perhaps commendable. But what is the reason for the zeal here?

It is the infatuation of hatred.

When one is in love, every virtue, real or imagined, that can be attributed to the beloved, great and small, from her faithfulness to her remembering to pack a napkin adorned with a pencil sketch of a heart pierced by an arrow in your lunchpail, is a cause for praising and glorifying her, much to the skeptical amusement of your lunchroom mates. Since they are not infatuated with her, seeing you dance around the cafeteria tables kissing the scrap of napkin is a matter of quaint amusement for them.

Likewise, when one is consumed with hate, every vice, real or imagined, that can be attributed to the object of one’s obsessive contumely, great or small, is cause for dispraising and demeaning him. To those of us not infatuated, it is a matter of disgust to see you carrying on in such an unsightly fashion.

Civilized men are not amused to see you dancing around the cafeteria in the fury of Rumpelstiltskin, tearing your hair for spite, spitting at a well worn photograph of hoodoo doll of your foe, or stabbing it with your fork.

Let us close by commenting on the weightier accusation.

What Mr. Guy means by a ‘white supremacist’ is unclear, albeit, in political circles, this phrase as a specific meaning: it means someone who supports laws and customs and policies which grant members the Teutonic race, that is, German and English Protestants, special legal privileges or customary dignities denied to Irishmen, Spaniards, Italians and other Catholic or Orthodox races, Slavs, Greeks, Russians, Nestorians, Copts, and non-Europeans.

Since Mr. Guy offers not even the slightest scintilla of evidence to support the accusation that Mr. Beale is a white supremacist. Instead he offers that Mr. Beale is himself not Teutonic, or, rather, that he is about as white as Mr. Guy, which would seem to indicate that if Mr. Beale is a white supremacist, he comes by it honestly, since it is what we lawyer call a statement against interest.

Of course, without the Ahnenpass so beloved of the Leftists (it is a document ever in the forefront of their thoughts) of Mr Guy and Mr Beale open for my inspection, and without either a scientific or legal definition of the degrees of whiteness, I cannot assess which of the two is more white, nor why this would give Mr. Beale more authority to be a supremacist or less. If you do not know what an Ahnenpass is, dear reader, count yourself fortunate.

Mr Guy further says that Mr Beale, as an admitted minority is one pretty smart cookie. I assume this means Mr Beale is a member of a minority of some sort, and that either it is smart for him to admit it first before the truth comes out, or that it is a minority that is generally known for not being smart, and that Mr Beale is an exception. I am not aware of what minority Mr Beale claims to be, though I believe he once said his uncle was Mexican, which would make him Spanish, which would make him Caucasian, which are not the minority in Italy, but are in Japan. Whether or not Mr Guy is implying Mexicans are stupid I leave for the candid reader to determine. The matter does not interest me.

For those who are curious about my own opinion on race, I would say that the Jews are a superior race, both because of their native intelligence and because they were selected by God Almighty to be His chosen people, and to suffering the wrath and contumely of this world at the hands of the servants of the Prince of the Middle Air who, for now, rules here. I have seen the antisemitic comments of the Left (where most secular Jews, ironically if not suicidally align themselves) grow some a small fringe to a large current in the mainstream to be disquieting in the extreme, and I foresee nothing but horror and bloodshed in the offing.

After them, the Japanese self-assurance, imitative enthusiasm, artistic sensibility, and general intelligence seems to indicate that they are also a superior race, perhaps even the children of the Sun Goddess as they claim.

Nevertheless it cannot be denied that the many blessings, material and spiritual, poured out by the hand of the Providence have gushed abundantly onto the undeserving European peoples, included unparalleled advances in jurisprudence, mechanics, mathematics, music, architecture, art, the glorification of women and the equalization of the races, which are not merely impossible, but unimaginable, outside Christendom.

Those benefits diminish or vanish in areas, once Christian, such as the Middle East, Asia Minor, and Northern Africa, conquered by the heretic Saracens. I hold this to be due to religion, however, not to race.

Mr. Beale on many occasions has publicly advocating preserving these benefits and blessings we in the West have inherited from Christendom, albeit he does not use that term, as he prefers limp and fuzzy modern language to the force and clarity of antique words. To denounce this loyalty to the ashes of one’s fathers and the altar’s of one’s gods as an advocacy toward white supremacy is risible.

In any case, Mr. Guy’s unsupported statement that Mr. Beale is a racist and a white supremacist, when he does not even define the term, carries no weight with me one way or the other, but provokes my deepest suspicion, revulsion, and antipathy.

As per my policy aforementioned, and for the reasons aforementioned, I shall hereafter assume that Mr. Vunderguy, whoever or whatever he is, is a witchhunter, that is, a racist. As such, his bigotry is unsightly and unwelcome, and I hope he never again befouls my comments box with his litter.

I must hasten to add, to those readers to whom my reaction seems harsh, is that my reaction is balanced and fair-minded, once we take into account two things

(1) My lifelong experience with such accusations, all of which turned out to be not only false, but glaringly hypocritical. Not just innocent people were being accused, but the most shining examples of innocence, and they were accused not merely recklessly, but maliciously, and by folks who were themselves racists.

(2) The utter unreality of the accusation, and the false pretense under which it is being offered. Mr. Guy is not curious about my relationships with my editors, or else he would have asked about the others. Anyone in the science fiction field should be provoked to curiosity as to what it was like to work with George R.R. Martin for example.

(It was a great pleasure. He is a perfect gentleman, a wise and skilled editor, and he allowed me to go over the word limit for my humble story. He jovially threatened to wrestle with me should I try to snatch it back from him. This is one of the more handsome compliments I have ever been paid, considering that Neil Gaiman and Robert Silverberg were also under this editorial direction at the time.)

So Mr. Vunderguy is not actually asking me anything, nor soliciting my opinion, he is using my blog as a forum and an excuse to vomit his unsupported, false, foul, and unconvincing slanders onto a man who is not here to defend himself, and pretending merely to be asking me an innocent question.

My answer is necessarily harsh and insulting, since to fail to condemn a man who abuses my hospitality under false pretenses in unfair to any man who respects my hospitality, and plays straight with me.

Men traditionally play straight with each other, or should. Women traditionally are not as straightforward, since their role is to attend to longterm social harmony.

Pajama Boys are not straightforward because they are weak-brained, craven and crooked, limp in their male members, and gormless. Their role is to unravel the social harmony, and so they must be upbraided in no uncertain terms whenever they poke their snouts from their ratholes.

I call the whole exercise unreal because, no one is actually soliciting my opinion on the alleged ideas of one of my several editors and publishers of my yarns about space heroes rescuing space princesses from space pirates concerning nuances of Congressmen from Texas nor American military deployments in Persia.

No one can solicit my opinion on these things because I have none, no more than I have opinions about square circles or circular squares. No one can have an opinion about a nonexistent topic. I do not police my editors or fellow science fiction writers for their ideological purity. Hence the set of the editors who fall under my political condemnation for thoughtcrimes is a null set.

When SFWA, the writer’s guild, under John Scalzi’s leadership, decided to adopt the role of ideological policeman, I resigned in disdain, unwilling to soil my white plume of honor by contagion with such loathsome company.

When I talk with my editors, we do not discuss each others’ ideology, politics, religion, or theories of war, genetics, or history.

Very rarely, when we professionals are discussing, for example, how much cleavage the metallic brassier of Space Princess Voluptua of Venus should reveal as she is seen tied to the mizzenmast of the space-rocket in the cover art of BUCCANEERS OF BETELGEUSE or as she is seen kneeling and clutching the leg of Space Captain Tomorrow as he poses in his torn space-shirt, blasters blazing in either hairy fist, on the cover of FREEBOOTERS OF FORNAX, does the topic of current congressional action regarding naturalization procedures and policy come up.

Indeed, the one and only time I can recall that any political consideration intruded into a professional discussion of this kind is when my editor asked me, in the year immediately following the 9/11 massacre by Muslims of innocent American citizens, not to portray the American military in an unflattering light in my novel MISTS OF EVERNESS, a request with which I was happy to accede.

That was not Theodore Beale, it was David G Hartwell, and even in that discussion, he did not venture, nor did I inquire, his opinion about the American Military: his concern, and rightly so, was that my writing should not alienate nor offend potential readers unwittingly, and ergo he and I discussed the readership’s opinions, not our own.

Professionals do not discuss these things, at least not in their professional capacity.

Upon occasion, I have exchanged mail with Mr. Beale in a more private and friendly capacity, since I find him to have a loyal spirit and an acute insight. But those discussions are private, and meant for friends, not random internet trolls and busybodies and gossips.

I will make no comment on accusations that are unsupported, except to dismiss them as slanders until proven otherwise.

But I will say that there are worse things than being a racist, since, absent a law and an army to support them, marginal crackpot opinions harm no man.

Gossip, however, is a vice condemned in sacred scripture, and the universal experience of mankind demonstrates how much harm a poisoned tongue can do, not just to the absent victim behind whose back the slanders are being whispered.

Gossip does both to him who hears the venom and to him who speaks it.

Gentlemen avoid both.

I should be offended that any man would think me to be so weak as to participate in such base and petty venture, but we live in an uncivil and uncivilized age, which is declining rapidly.

by John C Wright at November 21, 2014 07:43 PM

Englewood Christian Church: We Blog! » ERB

ERB Weekly Digest – Worst Christian Book Covers, Kindle Ebook Deals, Thanksgiving – November 21, 2014

 
 

Just Released…
Our list of the Worst Christian Book Covers of 2014!
Don’t miss it!!!

 

Super Kindle ebook Bargains for $3.99 or less:

 
*** NOTE: Next week’s digest will be sent on Wednesday, due to the Thanksgiving holiday…
 


 

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

  • Philip Freeman – The World of St. Patrick [Feature Review]
    New Eyes to see the Marvels in our own Time and Place A Feature Review of The World of St. Patrick Philip Freeman Hardback: Oxford University Press, 2014 Buy now: [ ] [ ] Reviewed by Alden Lee Bass   “I am Patrick, a sinner and a very ignorant man.” With these words Patrick begins […]
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  • Gratitude – Five Classic Poems
    Gratitude should guide our daily lives, and indeed it is at the heart of a different way of being, and as John Pattison and I have argued in SLOW CHURCH, it is at the heart of a different sort of economy. Here are five classic poems that express gratitude for the abundant life of creation. […]
  •  

  • Dennis Okholm – Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins [Review]
    An Antidote to Sin? A Review of Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins: Learning from the Psychology of Ancient Monks Dennis Okholm Paperback: Brazos Press, 2014 Buy now: [ ] [ ] Reviewed by Julie Lane-Gay   Despite constant occurrences of politician’s sexting employees, NFL players assaulting women and Wall Street tycoons cheating investors, sin remains fascinating, […]
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  • Worst Christian Book Covers of 2014!
    Here is our list of the worst Christian book covers of 2014… It’s that time of year again, a tradition almost as familiar as the Thanksgiving turkey or trimming the Christmas tree… It’s time to honor the worst Christian book covers of the year!!! (Numbers 12-15 on this list are ebooks, the rest are print […]
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  • The Big Deal Kindle Ebook Sale [Nov. 2014]
    Amazon is currently running The Big Deal ebook sale again. We pick the best ebooks from this sale that are available for $3.99 or less!!! CLICK HERE to browse the full The Big Deal sale of over 400 titles… Prices good through Nov 23… *** $3.99 *** $1.99 By Jeffrey Krames *** $1.99 *** $1.99 […]
  •  

  • A Space for Peace in the Holy Land – Alex Joyner [Excerpt]
    We are proud to announce the release of the new ebook: A Space for Peace in the Holy Land: Listening to Modern Israel and Palestine Alex Joyner Ebook: Englewood Review of Books, 2014. Buy now:  [  ] “In A Space for Peace in the Holy Land, Alex challenges Christians to bear witness to the space […]
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  • New Book Releases – Week of 17 November 2014
    Here are a few new book releases from this week that are worth checking out: (Where possible, we have also tried to include a review/interview related to the book…) > > > > Next Book By Rowan Williams
  •  

  • Book Giveaway – 5 copies of Fierce Convictions by Karen Swallow Prior
    Our Latest Book Giveaway… We’re giving away FIVE copies of the new book Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More—Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist Karen Swallow Prior Hardback: Thomas Nelson, 2014   Read an excerpt of Fierce Convictions here…   Enter to win a copy of this book! Enter now to win (It’s as easy as […]
  •  

Digest powered by RSS Digest

by csmith at November 21, 2014 06:08 PM

512 Pixels

Our favorite deliveries tracker →

Bradley Chambers, over on The Sweet Setup:

Just this week, I’ve received packages from UPS, USPS, Fedex, and DHL from 3 different retailers. Each of these carriers use tracking numbers, but their websites are all annoying to use, especially on the go. On iOS and OS X, instead of having to check multiple carriers multiple times, you can have one app that manages it all.

What are we looking for in an app to track packages?

Spoiler alert: it's Delivery Status, which just got a really nice update earlier today.

Permalink

by Stephen Hackett at November 21, 2014 05:27 PM

CrossFit 204: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

204 Lecture Series: Live It UP 4 Life

Paige Zaporzan of Live It UP 4 Life.

Paige Zaporzan of Live It UP 4 Life.

Time: Noon, Saturday, Nov. 22 (please note the date was posted incorrectly earlier today)

Location: CrossFit 204

Cost: Free for all, including CrossFit 204 members and members of the community.

Presenter: Paige Zaporzan of Live It UP 4 Life.

As part of our educational program, we’ll be bringing in some guest speakers over the next months. The goal is to help you learn more about fitness and living a fit lifestyle. The first presenter is Paige Zaporzan, the daughter of Mike Z., who sweats with us every day at CrossFit 204. Paige Runs Live It UP 4 Life, a company dedicated to helping people live a healthy life by addressing nutrition and fitness, as well as the lifestyle factors that have a significant effect on nutrition and fitness.

Many people struggle with nutrition for reasons somewhat unrelated to food itself. Why do you crave bad food when you’re having a tough day? Why can stress at the office cause you to skip the gym? Paige will discuss the issues that support nutrition and fitness–relationships, career, spirituality, personal goals–and explain how addressing these issues can help set you up for success in the kitchen or in the gym.

The goal is to create a lifestyle in which healthy eating and smart training are supported by a sense of balance, control and happiness in all aspects of your life.

As Paige says, “It’s about a lifestyle, not a diet.”

Her philosophy is very much in line with that of CrossFit 204. We know we can get you fit through training, and now we want to help you optimize your fitness. We get you for an hour a day, so we’re going to educate you so you can use the other 23 hours to maximize the gains you make during workouts. We very much believe that a fit lifestyle is one of the keys to leading a fulfilling life packed with energy and vitality.

Paige Zaporzan Biography

Paige Zaporzan believes in the importance of achieving a life full of health and happiness through a positive mindset and innovative yet practical and simple tips in nutrition and fitness.

A 2013 University of Manitoba graduate with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, Paige is a Certified Holistic Health Coach, the founder of Live It UP! 4 Life, a certified fitness instructor through Canfitpro, and a performance advisor for various sports teams and individual athletes. Through nutrition, fitness and a positive lifestyle, Paige hopes to create overall health, well-being and performance.

Paige has had the privilege of being mentored by renowned sport psychologists Cal Botterill and Adrienne Leslie-Toogood. Paige has worked with several high-performing sport teams and individual athletes over the past few years, including the Canada Games Diving Team, Curling Manitoba and Special Olympics Manitoba.

 

by Mike at November 21, 2014 04:53 PM

Feed: » stratechery by Ben Thompson

Podcast: Exponent 026 – GROW GROW GROW FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT

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

We briefly discuss my belief in the Internet opportunity for content creators, and then dive in to the recent Uber controversy.

Links

Listen to the episode here

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

The post Podcast: Exponent 026 – GROW GROW GROW FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT appeared first on stratechery by Ben Thompson.

by Ben Thompson at November 21, 2014 04:30 PM

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

Impeach

It is time to impeach our lawless President.

He is not to be impeached because he is a liar, a narcissist, a bully, and an ideologue. Those things, while immoral and detestable, are not impeachable offenses. Abrogating the rule of law and violating the public trust is an impeachable offense. To be specific, the impeachment clause is the curative for the misconduct of public men, the abuse or violation of some public trust.

Here is the Federalist #65, in its entirety:

To the People of the State of New York:

THE remaining powers which the plan of the convention allots to the Senate, in a distinct capacity, are comprised in their participation with the executive in the appointment to offices, and in their judicial character as a court for the trial of impeachments. As in the business of appointments the executive will be the principal agent, the provisions relating to it will most properly be discussed in the examination of that department. We will, therefore, conclude this head with a view of the judicial character of the Senate.

A well-constituted court for the trial of impeachments is an object not more to be desired than difficult to be obtained in a government wholly elective. The subjects of its jurisdiction are those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself. The prosecution of them, for this reason, will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community, and to divide it into parties more or less friendly or inimical to the accused. In many cases it will connect itself with the pre-existing factions, and will enlist all their animosities, partialities, influence, and interest on one side or on the other; and in such cases there will always be the greatest danger that the decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.

The delicacy and magnitude of a trust which so deeply concerns the political reputation and existence of every man engaged in the administration of public affairs, speak for themselves. The difficulty of placing it rightly, in a government resting entirely on the basis of periodical elections, will as readily be perceived, when it is considered that the most conspicuous characters in it will, from that circumstance, be too often the leaders or the tools of the most cunning or the most numerous faction, and on this account, can hardly be expected to possess the requisite neutrality towards those whose conduct may be the subject of scrutiny.

The convention, it appears, thought the Senate the most fit depositary of this important trust. Those who can best discern the intrinsic difficulty of the thing, will be least hasty in condemning that opinion, and will be most inclined to allow due weight to the arguments which may be supposed to have produced it.

What, it may be asked, is the true spirit of the institution itself? Is it not designed as a method of NATIONAL INQUEST into the conduct of public men? If this be the design of it, who can so properly be the inquisitors for the nation as the representatives of the nation themselves? It is not disputed that the power of originating the inquiry, or, in other words, of preferring the impeachment, ought to be lodged in the hands of one branch of the legislative body. Will not the reasons which indicate the propriety of this arrangement strongly plead for an admission of the other branch of that body to a share of the inquiry? The model from which the idea of this institution has been borrowed, pointed out that course to the convention. In Great Britain it is the province of the House of Commons to prefer the impeachment, and of the House of Lords to decide upon it. Several of the State constitutions have followed the example. As well the latter, as the former, seem to have regarded the practice of impeachments as a bridle in the hands of the legislative body upon the executive servants of the government. Is not this the true light in which it ought to be regarded?

Where else than in the Senate could have been found a tribunal sufficiently dignified, or sufficiently independent? What other body would be likely to feel CONFIDENCE ENOUGH IN ITS OWN SITUATION, to preserve, unawed and uninfluenced, the necessary impartiality between an INDIVIDUAL accused, and the REPRESENTATIVES OF THE PEOPLE, HIS ACCUSERS?

Could the Supreme Court have been relied upon as answering this description? It is much to be doubted, whether the members of that tribunal would at all times be endowed with so eminent a portion of fortitude, as would be called for in the execution of so difficult a task; and it is still more to be doubted, whether they would possess the degree of credit and authority, which might, on certain occasions, be indispensable towards reconciling the people to a decision that should happen to clash with an accusation brought by their immediate representatives. A deficiency in the first, would be fatal to the accused; in the last, dangerous to the public tranquility. The hazard in both these respects, could only be avoided, if at all, by rendering that tribunal more numerous than would consist with a reasonable attention to economy. The necessity of a numerous court for the trial of impeachments, is equally dictated by the nature of the proceeding. This can never be tied down by such strict rules, either in the delineation of the offense by the prosecutors, or in the construction of it by the judges, as in common cases serve to limit the discretion of courts in favor of personal security. There will be no jury to stand between the judges who are to pronounce the sentence of the law, and the party who is to receive or suffer it. The awful discretion which a court of impeachments must necessarily have, to doom to honor or to infamy the most confidential and the most distinguished characters of the community, forbids the commitment of the trust to a small number of persons.

These considerations seem alone sufficient to authorize a conclusion, that the Supreme Court would have been an improper substitute for the Senate, as a court of impeachments. There remains a further consideration, which will not a little strengthen this conclusion. It is this: The punishment which may be the consequence of conviction upon impeachment, is not to terminate the chastisement of the offender. After having been sentenced to a perpetual ostracism from the esteem and confidence, and honors and emoluments of his country, he will still be liable to prosecution and punishment in the ordinary course of law. Would it be proper that the persons who had disposed of his fame, and his most valuable rights as a citizen in one trial, should, in another trial, for the same offense, be also the disposers of his life and his fortune? Would there not be the greatest reason to apprehend, that error, in the first sentence, would be the parent of error in the second sentence? That the strong bias of one decision would be apt to overrule the influence of any new lights which might be brought to vary the complexion of another decision? Those who know anything of human nature, will not hesitate to answer these questions in the affirmative; and will be at no loss to perceive, that by making the same persons judges in both cases, those who might happen to be the objects of prosecution would, in a great measure, be deprived of the double security intended them by a double trial. The loss of life and estate would often be virtually included in a sentence which, in its terms, imported nothing more than dismission from a present, and disqualification for a future, office. It may be said, that the intervention of a jury, in the second instance, would obviate the danger. But juries are frequently influenced by the opinions of judges. They are sometimes induced to find special verdicts, which refer the main question to the decision of the court. Who would be willing to stake his life and his estate upon the verdict of a jury acting under the auspices of judges who had predetermined his guilt?

Would it have been an improvement of the plan, to have united the Supreme Court with the Senate, in the formation of the court of impeachments? This union would certainly have been attended with several advantages; but would they not have been overbalanced by the signal disadvantage, already stated, arising from the agency of the same judges in the double prosecution to which the offender would be liable? To a certain extent, the benefits of that union will be obtained from making the chief justice of the Supreme Court the president of the court of impeachments, as is proposed to be done in the plan of the convention; while the inconveniences of an entire incorporation of the former into the latter will be substantially avoided. This was perhaps the prudent mean. I forbear to remark upon the additional pretext for clamor against the judiciary, which so considerable an augmentation of its authority would have afforded.

Would it have been desirable to have composed the court for the trial of impeachments, of persons wholly distinct from the other departments of the government? There are weighty arguments, as well against, as in favor of, such a plan. To some minds it will not appear a trivial objection, that it could tend to increase the complexity of the political machine, and to add a new spring to the government, the utility of which would at best be questionable. But an objection which will not be thought by any unworthy of attention, is this: a court formed upon such a plan, would either be attended with a heavy expense, or might in practice be subject to a variety of casualties and inconveniences. It must either consist of permanent officers, stationary at the seat of government, and of course entitled to fixed and regular stipends, or of certain officers of the State governments to be called upon whenever an impeachment was actually depending. It will not be easy to imagine any third mode materially different, which could rationally be proposed. As the court, for reasons already given, ought to be numerous, the first scheme will be reprobated by every man who can compare the extent of the public wants with the means of supplying them. The second will be espoused with caution by those who will seriously consider the difficulty of collecting men dispersed over the whole Union; the injury to the innocent, from the procrastinated determination of the charges which might be brought against them; the advantage to the guilty, from the opportunities which delay would afford to intrigue and corruption; and in some cases the detriment to the State, from the prolonged inaction of men whose firm and faithful execution of their duty might have exposed them to the persecution of an intemperate or designing majority in the House of Representatives. Though this latter supposition may seem harsh, and might not be likely often to be verified, yet it ought not to be forgotten that the demon of faction will, at certain seasons, extend his sceptre over all numerous bodies of men.

But though one or the other of the substitutes which have been examined, or some other that might be devised, should be thought preferable to the plan in this respect, reported by the convention, it will not follow that the Constitution ought for this reason to be rejected. If mankind were to resolve to agree in no institution of government, until every part of it had been adjusted to the most exact standard of perfection, society would soon become a general scene of anarchy, and the world a desert. Where is the standard of perfection to be found? Who will undertake to unite the discordant opinions of a whole commuity, in the same judgment of it; and to prevail upon one conceited projector to renounce his INFALLIBLE criterion for the FALLIBLE criterion of his more CONCEITED NEIGHBOR? To answer the purpose of the adversaries of the Constitution, they ought to prove, not merely that particular provisions in it are not the best which might have been imagined, but that the plan upon the whole is bad and pernicious.

PUBLIUS.

by John C Wright at November 21, 2014 02:20 PM

BetterMess.com

Capacity is Not a Myth

Andrew Carroll recently shared an old post on capacity in which he wrote the following:

Capacity. You hear the term in business a lot:

“We are making mistakes because we are above capacity”
“We are having cash flow issues because we are below capacity"
“We are investing in building out our capacity so we can grow”

The secret is capacity is a myth. The only really limit to your business’ capacity is the limit of your ability to think, dream, and work.

Capacity is far from a myth. Individuals, teams and businesses alike have limits. We all do, even you. Regardless of the context, not acknowledging and not respecting these limits will be just as harmful to your effectiveness as succumbing to them.

Ignoring capacity leads us to take on more than we can manage. It leads us to burn ourselves out. And when working with a team, it often leads us to push others beyond what is reasonable.

Capacity is a Friend

Not only is capacity a reality, it can be a tool. Sure, we can push through and “expand capacity” by working ourselves to death in the service of achieving a potentially unreasonable goal—it might even work out once or twice—but continually ignoring capacity will negatively impact relationships, health and, more than likely, sanity.

Capacity, when used correctly, can be a guide. It can force us to consider all of our various goals against available time and resources. When used as a filter, it helps us to make better choices. We just have to make sure we see things clearly.

A Clear Sense Of Capacity

The true myth isn’t that capacity doesn’t exist. It’s that there are two versions: what we believe our capacity to be and what capacity actually is. What we refer to as our capacity is often a combination of realities and challenges. It balances the (likely) excessive number of goals we’ve taken on with a (typically) flawed approach to accomplishing these goals. It traditionally only factors in some of our ambitions, rather than forcing us to consider a holistic view of our goals.

You have to discover where you currently stand in order to move past the myth. Don’t ignore it, consider it. Pretending capacity doesn’t exist will only lead you astray. Learn your limits, then consider ways to improve in order to push against them.

So how do you know? How can you tell perceived capacity from true capacity? Start by understanding your current capacity, regardless of its truth. Then begin to push against what you believe to be possible. Unless you’ve consciously tested the limits of your capacity, unless you’ve taken the time to learn how you go about doing your best work, and unless your team has a process that allows for effective collaboration, it’s unlikely you’re there.

You also have to be careful as the desire to push can be a double-edged sword. There’s pushing beyond what you believe to be possible and then there’s pushing beyond what’s reasonable.

Working vs. Wanting To Expand Capacity

As Andrew points out:

Capacity is a myth. If you think you can’t or won’t, it is not because you don’t have the capacity. It’s because you don’t want it bad enough to stretch beyond your current capacity.

In case it isn’t clear, the point of this piece isn’t to say you can’t push beyond what you believe to be possible in service of achieving your goals. In fact–regardless if it is personal or professional–if what you are doing is even remotely ambitious, you’ll likely have to push against your current limitations.

When it comes to stretching, Andrew has a point: What we believe to be our capacity, almost always isn’t. But ignoring the fact that capacity itself is indeed a reality . . . well . . . it might help you push through some barriers in the short run, but ultimately it will cause you to break.

Understand your current capacity. Then continually question it to see just how far you can push your boundries. Just be sure to understand that, at some point, even the best of us have our limits. And respecting those limits can do just as much to help you to push past them.

by Michael Schechter at November 21, 2014 02:19 PM

Crossway Blog

November's New & Notable Books

Imagination Redeemed: Glorifying God with a Neglected Part of Your Mind

Gene Edward Veith Jr. & Matthew P. Ristuccia

In Imagination Redeemed, Gene Veith and Matthew Ristuccia uncover the imagination’s importance for Christians, helping us understand who God is, what his Word teaches, and how we should live in the world today. Here is a call to embrace this forgotten part of the mind as a gift from God designed to bolster faith, hope, and love in his people.

"Veith and Ristuccia have teamed up to give us a mind-stretching introduction to imagination from a biblical perspective. As I read this book, I learned things I had never thought about before and was often made to stop, think, and pray.”
—Ajith Fernando, Teaching Director, Youth for Christ, Sri Lanka

Free Excerpt: Chapter 1 - Imagination: The Mind’s Eye

Learn More / Buy Now

Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment

Gregg R. Allison

In this balanced volume, Gregg Allison—an evangelical theologian and church historian—helps readers understand the nuances of Roman Catholic teaching. Walking through the official Catechism of the Catholic Church, Allison summarizes and assesses Catholic doctrine from the perspective of both Scripture and evangelical theology.

“If you are looking for a few bullet-points and caricatures, this book will disappoint. But if you are looking for a serious survey drawn from the Catholic Catechism and other primary sources, along with an evangelical assessment of each point, Professor Allison’s labors will pay rich dividends.”
—Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics, Westminster Seminary California; author, Calvin on the Christian Life

Free Excerpt: Preface, Introduction, & Table of Contents

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The Presence of God: Its Place in the Storyline of Scripture and the Story of Our Lives

J. Ryan Lister

Exploring both the Old and New Testaments, Professor J. Ryan Lister seeks to recover the centrality of the presence of God in the whole storyline of Scripture,a theme that is too often neglected and therefore misunderstood. In a world that longs for—yet struggles to find—intimacy with the Almighty, this book will help you discover the truth about God’s presence with his people and what his drawing near means for the Christian life.

“Lister’s book is a great antidote to the temptation to see God only as a concept, doctrine, or formula, or to regard him only as a force in the world outside ourselves. The book shows that God is our friend and Father, and that in him we live and move and have our being.”
—John M. Frame, J. D. Trimble Chair of Systematic Theology and Philosophy, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando

Free Excerpt: Chapter 2 - Of Storyboards and Location Scouts

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Salvation Applied by the Spirit: Union with Christ

Robert A. Peterson

Drawing on his extensive teaching and research experience, theologian Robert Peterson has written one of the most comprehensive theological treatments of union with Christ to date, highlighting the Spirit’s crucial role in uniting God to his people.

“Robert Peterson applies a lifetime of mature and loving scholarship to the ‘simultaneously wonderful and bewildering’ realities of our union with Christ by the work of the Spirit.”
—Bryan Chapell, President Emeritus, Covenant Theological Seminary; Senior Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Peoria, Illinois

Free Excerpt: Chapters 1 & 5 - Foundations in the Old Testament & Union with Christ in Romans

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Psychology: A Student's Guide

Stanton L. Jones

In this accessible student’s guide, an experienced professor examines the study of psychology from a distinctly Christian perspective, introducing readers to key issues such as the origins of morality, nature vs. nurture, the relationship between the mind and the brain, and the concept of personal identity.

“An insightful account of contemporary psychology and its relation to the Christian faith.”
—Stephen Evans, Professor of Philosophy and Humanities, Baylor University; author, God and Moral Obligation

Free Excerpt: Chapter 1 - Psychology in its Intellectual Context

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by Nick Rynerson at November 21, 2014 02:14 PM

Inconsolation

Bonus: A dozen more remainders

It’s that time again: It’s time for another dozen titles that — either through age, or my thick-headedness, or just gremlins — couldn’t, didn’t or wouldn’t perform as expected. As always, this may not be the case if you try them out.

  • bashttpd: I found bashttpd after my discovery of ngincat; a vanilla search for “tiny http server” turned up this bash server script, and of course, the one-line built-in python server command. bashttpd will work with netcat too, or socat, but in my case performed only sporadically, and only with socat. I say that, but in truth it only gave me one page, then quit out of the server and the “site” was dead. I used the commands listed on the home page, so I’m not sure what I did wrong. …
  • burncdda: I had links for three CD-oriented tools, and all three sputtered for one reason or another. burncdda is not in any recent version of Debian, and my attempts to build it in Arch were stymied by very out-of-date dependencies, a lot of which were unknown to me. mp3_check was one of those, which dates back to 2000 and just didn’t build. That was the final nail in the coffin.
  • burncenter: The second CD-related utility to collapse on me. The home page is available, but the source link is dead. There was a Debian package on that page, but that link is dead too. There is a link to a Freecode page, but that page is gone. And the svn repo linked there is gone too. So … that’s that.
  • lastbash: A last.fm player for the console. I could swear I have heard of people using this, but the version I had wouldn’t connect to anything, and just gave its help message over and over … even when I was using example stations off the man page.
  • nwm: Another ncurses window manager selector, along the lines of cdm or ncdm. This also entered a gray area for me, since it’s rather dated and I don’t know what would be the proper way to insert it into systemd. Not that it matters, since every attempt to run it left me with “tokenizer errors,” and never made a jump to X. The menu and selection bar worked fine, if that’s any consolation. :roll:
  • ratox: Theodore mentioned this a couple of months ago, but the AUR version crumples when trying to build tox-git, and just sits there for hours and hours without moving. I’m going to come back and visit this one again though, because the description on the home page sells it well.
  • slice: This was a recommendation from a regular anonymous contributor, as a tool that wrangles with text files and sifts out selected strings. I spent a lot of time with it but there isn’t much documentation and I couldn’t grasp how to work it to get the results I wanted. The man page was little help, since it mostly described the search features in mathematical terms. Perhaps it is just a little too abstract for someone of my experience level. In Debian, not in Arch.
  • subdb-cli: This was a wild swing on my part, as a possible downloader for movie subtitles. Every movie title or file name I gave it was unfindable though. Perhaps I was feeding it the wrong information. …
  • tcdr: My third CD-type utility to fail in this dozen, and a ripper this time. It’s in AUR, but exploded all over my screen when I tried to use it. It also was still pining after /dev/dsp, and wanted root access to build a nest of directories at /mnt. I … don’t know if I’m comfortable with that. …
  • terminal-screensaver: This is a very old PKGBUILD in AUR that was submitted in 2008 and hasn’t been updated in a year. The link to the homepage is a 404-style message, and I saw no signs that the source or the description had been relocated so … I assume it’s gone. The link to the source from the AUR page yields a 550 error. This is not the same terminal-screensaver as we saw a few months ago, either. And yes, there needs to be a little weeding done in AUR again; I find broken, outdated or zero-byte PKGBUILDs all the time. :|
  • transfer.sh: I got quite a few notes about this a month or so ago, and it seems like a useful service. If I understand it correctly though, there’s nothing to install or run here, it’s just accessible through curl, and therefore usable from the command line.
  • xtermcontrol: If you’re an xterm user, this might be your will-to-power moment. xtermcontrol isn’t a control panel for xterm; instead, it’s a tool for changing xterm settings on the fly. This is great stuff if you prefer that particular emulator, but sort of ho-hum if you use something else. Either way, it’s not really a console application per se.

That’s it. The standard disclaimer applies: Just because I was too dense to figure them out, or just because they crashed when I tried to compile them doesn’t mean they won’t work for you either. If you meet with success, please tell me about it. ;)

by K.Mandla at November 21, 2014 01:15 PM

pup: Playing fetch with HTML

Every month I export the posts from this site, grind away at the XML file, pluck out titles and links, and rearrange them to form an index page. Don’t say thank you; I do it for me as much as anyone else. I can’t remember everything I’ve covered in the past two years, and that index has saved me more than once. :\

Point being, it takes a small measure of grep, plus some rather tedious vim footwork to get everything arranged in the proper order and working.

You know what would be nice? If some tool could skim through that XML file, extract just the link and title fields, and prettify them to make my task a bit easier.

pup can do that.

2014-11-08-2sjx281-pup-01

Oh, that is so wonderful. … :roll:

In that very rudimentary example, pup took the file, the field I wanted, and sifted through for all the matching tags before dumping it into the index file.

pup will also colorize and format HTML for the sake of easy viewing, and the effect is again, oh-so wonderful.

2014-11-08-2sjx281-pup-02

That might remind you of tidyhtml, the savior of sloppy HTML coders everywhere, and you could conceivably use it that way. pup can do a lot more than that, though.

You can parse for multiple tags with pup, filter out specific IDs nestled in <span> tags, print from selected nodes and pluck out selectors. And a lot more that I don’t quite understand fully. :oops:

It is possible that you could do some of what pup does with a crafty combination of things like sed or grep. Then again, pup seems confident in its HTML expertise, and the way it is designed is easy to figure out.

And for those of you who won’t deal with software more than a few months old, I can see that at the time of this writing, pup had been updated within the week. So it’s quite fresh. Try pup without fear of poisoning your system with year-old programs. ;)


Tagged: color, file, filter, html, page, parse, xml

by K.Mandla at November 21, 2014 01:00 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Keeping a process journal

I post a lot of notes on my blog, and I keep more snippets in my personal files so that I can learn from them and turn them into blog posts later. There’s something still missing here, though, something I can tweak. Reading Louise DeSalvo’s The Art of Slow Writing (2014), I recognized part of what was missing in her description of process journals. Here’s a relevant excerpt:

p82. In Steinbeck’s April 9, 1951, entry, written as he composed East of Eden, he evaluates his desk’s new surface, determines how to keep his pencil drafts from smudging, figures when it’s best to do his laundry, plans his week’s work, determines to try to write somewhat more, assesses his energy level, discusses his fear of interruptions derailing his work, pledges maintaining his focus to complete the work by managing his work in his journal.

… Here we see Steinbeck deliberately managing his work before he begins the labor of writing. He evaluates his tools–his desk and pencils–shapes his day, sketches the new scene, deals with his emotions, summarizes and evaluates his progress, and figures how to move his work forward. And Steinbeck engaged in this process each day.

(Oh! I love writers Have Thought About Stuff. It’s like the way programmers also tend to apply tools and systems to more than just programming… Come to think of it, I wonder how geeks of other persuasions end up applying their geekdoms to the rest of life!)

Anyway: a place to clear your thoughts, a deliberate reflection on processes and practices, and perhaps a way to browse through those entries in chronological order or based on context… My blog is a little like that, but there’s so much more stuff than I publish on it and it will continue to be like that if I insist on keeping to my mostly-one-post-a-day limit and scheduling things in advance.

I’ve been keeping a small journal–just a few keywords per day, scribbled into a paper notebook shortly before going to bed–for the past three months. It’s amazing how that’s enough to help me get back to those days, remembering more details than I could without them.

Org Mode for Emacs has built-in support for quickly capturing notes and organizing them in an outline by date. I think I’ll use that for at least quick memories, since those make sense in a timeline, and then I’ll keep the larger notes in a topic-focused outline. Technically, I’m using a computer, so I should be able to organize things both ways: using tags and links to connect items by topic, and using Org’s log view to view things by date.

It would be good to start with this kind of deliberate, constant improvement in a few areas of my life:

  • Web development: I’d like to learn more about design, and also developing better code
  • Writing: I can pay more attention to the questions I formulate and how I explore them
  • Cooking: Hmm, more notes on how we make the recipes and what the cooking process is like?

If I make Fridays the days I focus on harvesting my notes from the previous week and plan some ideas for the next one, that would fit in nicely with reviewing this process journal and seeing what I can build on the next week. (I’m still going to post random snippets during the week, probably… =) )

The post Keeping a process journal appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at November 21, 2014 01:00 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

What Was the City and Church of Corinth Like? — An Excerpt from Ralph Martin’s “2 Corinthians (WBC)”

9781418507732One of the disadvantages we have as 21st century Christians is how removed we are from the original context of Scripture. This disadvantage is compounded for preachers and teachers who are tasked with connecting that world and their problems to our world and our problems.

Ralph Martin expertly and diligently bridges that gap in his newly revised 2 Corinthians (Word Biblical Commentary). In his generous introduction he provides a birds-eye view of the historical context and conditions that drove Paul to write his letter, some of which we covered on Tuesday.

In our excerpt today we travel to the city itself and the church Paul planted there. Martin’s travelogue covers Corinth’s various facets, including commercial, political, and ecclesial.

Read and share it with colleagues to better understand why Martin calls Corinth “the ‘Vanity Fair’ of the Roman Empire.” Then add his important commentary to your library to better connect Corinth’s world to your peoples’ world.

First-century Corinth was the leading commercial center of southern Greece. Its favorable geographical situation contributed to this, for it was located on the isthmus connecting northern Greece with the Peloponnesus, and it boasted two harbors, Lechaeum to the west and Cenchreae to the east. It thus became an emporium for seaborne merchandise passing in either direction, and a considerable number of roads converged on it. Sailors were able to avoid the dangerous route around the Peloponnesus, and a more northerly trip across the Aegean Sea, away from storms, was made possible. Tribute to Corinth’s topographical position, which made unnecessary the voyage around Cape Malea, is given in Strabo: “To land their cargoes here was a welcome alternative to the voyage to Malea for merchants from both Italy and Asia.”

Like most seaports throughout history, Corinth took on an international reputation. Of this fact Cicero’s treatise De republica is cognizant: “Maritime cities also suggest a certain corruption and degeneration of morals; for they receive a mixture of strange languages and customs, and import foreign ways as well as foreign merchandise, so that none of their ancestral institutions can possibly remain unchanged.” There must have been considerable intermixing of races in its population, and this resulted in a variety of religious cults. Corinth’s chief shrine was the temple of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and life. In Corinth her cult appeared in a debased form, because of the admixture of certain oriental influences. This meant a low moral tone and sexual perversion in a possibly attested cult of sacred prostitution…

In such a place, by the grace of God and the ministry of his servant Paul, a church was formed. A large proportion of its members must have been drawn from the pagan world, with its heterogeneous standards of life and conduct. Yet they would be familiar with Jewish teaching as converts to the faith of the synagogue (Acts 18:4). Not surprisingly, issues of Christian morality and behavior dominate the first epistle to the Corinthians; and in 2 Cor 6:14–18 a strong warning is issued against association with unbelievers. “Also, the tendencies to factiousness and instability have a real psychological basis in both the blend and the clash of racial character to be found in such a cosmopolitan city.”

A section of the church belonged to the Jewish colony, the so-called Dispersion, that was naturally represented in such a commercial center. Jewish exiles from Sicyon (to the northwest of Corinth) may have fled when their city was destroyed in 146 b.c. There were common trade links to draw them. Murphy-O’Connor remarks that after a.d. 67, when Vespasian sent six thousand young men to work on the Corinth canal, the nucleus of Jewish communities in Corinth would have been augmented. Jewish legal rights in such situations include the right to assembly, permission to send the temple tax to Jerusalem, and exemption from any civic activity that would violate their Sabbath observance. Smallwood suggests that by Paul’s time the Jewish presence at Corinth would be considered a politeuma, i.e., a corporation of resident aliens with permanent rights of domicile and empowered to manage its own affairs through self-appointed officials. Hence we read of a synagogue ruler (Acts 18:8, 17), and a debated inscription [SYN]AGŌGĒ HEBR[AIŌN], “Synagogue of the Hebrews,” may testify to the site of their meeting place.

Acts 18:1–11 tells us that the church was formed as a result of Paul’s preaching in the local synagogue. Nonetheless, it is probably correct to assume that the preponderance of the church members were Gentile, converted to Christ from a pagan milieu. These were called to be God’s people in the “Vanity Fair” of the Roman Empire. Murphy-O’Connor writes of Corinth in Paul’s day as “a wide-open boomtown,” comparing it with San Francisco of the gold rush days…

In the first century the city was heavily populated, and its place as a political and commercial center can be gauged from the Romans’ having made it, in 27 b.c., the capital city of the senatorial province of Achaia in southern Greece. Strabo gives the account of Caesar Augustus’s determination to create two kinds of Roman province in 27 b.c.: “provinces of Caesar,” or imperial provinces, and “provinces of the people,” or senatorial provinces, governed by a proconsul. Achaia fell into the latter category until a.d. 15, when “it was decided to relieve them [Achaia, Macedonia] of their proconsular government for the time being and transfer them to the emperor.” And while its reputation for moral corruption made the “Corinthian life” synonymous with luxury and licentiousness, its pretensions to philosophy and literary culture made the phrase “Corinthian words” a token of polished and cultivated speech; but this tribute is much later than Paul’s day.

In this great and busy center Paul spent a year and a half or more in the course of his second missionary journey (Acts 18:11, 18), having arrived in the city probably in the winter of a.d. 50/51.27 Paul found hospitality in the home of Aquila and Priscilla, a Jewish couple, eminent for their devotion, who had come from Rome following the decree of Claudius in a.d. 49. With them Paul carried on his trade of tent making.

Beginning his ministry in the synagogue, Paul was soon compelled by the opposition of the Jews to seek another place of meeting, which he found in the house of Justus, a converted proselyte. There he preached the gospel, encouraged by a vision from God. Divine blessing was manifest in the conversion of his hearers and in the establishment of a Christian community, despite the Jews’ attempt to invoke the civil power against him (Acts 18:4–18). The converts seem to have been drawn from the lower classes (1 Cor 1:26–29), but not exclusively so (cf. 1 Cor 4:10; 10:27; 11:17–34; 12:24–25). They were not free from the prevailing tendency to intellectual pride (cf. 1 Cor 1:18–20; 3:18, 19; 8:1). Added to this was a proneness to sensual sin, equally characteristic of their native city (1 Cor 5:1–11; 6:15–18; 11:21), though there is probably a theological reason for these symptoms.

Internal evidence from the first canonical letter suggests that several features marred the life of this church. There was a factious spirit that divided the church into rival groups and showed itself in bickering that drew them to civil courts to settle their disputes (chap. 6). This party rivalry destroyed the unity of Christ’s body (chap. 12) and was seen even at the Lord’s table meal (11:17–34). Also, the Corinthians boasted of their “knowledge” (8:1) and “freedom” (6:12; 8:9; 10:23). These two terms have suggested to some scholars that a species of Judeo-gnostic thought and practice had penetrated the church and influenced the thinking and conduct of some of the members. But arguing against this is R. McL. Wilson.33 Much turns on the precise definition of gnosticism, a slippery term.

Numerous signs of this “heretical theology in Corinth” (Schmithals’s expression) have been identified: the value placed on esoteric “knowledge” (γνῶσις); and “freedom” (ἐλευθερία, ἐλεύθερος) claimed and used in many ways. To these Corinthian catchwords must be added “spiritual” (πνευματικός), which is found fourteen times in 1 Corinthians as against four times in the other undisputed Pauline letters. Individual Corinthians evidently set themselves above the constraints of community order and control, and each church member became a law to himself or herself (1 Cor 8:9; 10:23; 14:32–40). Other signs were a denial of a future resurrection (chap. 15; cf. 2 Tim 2:18); a high value placed on sacramental efficacy as conferring “protection” (chap. 10), with a devaluating of ethical seriousness; an importance attached to demonstrations of the Spirit (τὰ πνευματικά; chap. 14); the setting up of a clique of Spirit-endowed persons (14:37); strange marriage practices (chap. 7; cf. 1 Tim 4:3); and possibly a disavowal of interest in the earthly Jesus, with a resulting concentration on the heavenly eon Christ (12:3), and a consequent passing over of the kerygma centered in the cross (1:18–19, 23). In 1 Cor 2:8 the christological title “Lord of glory” is probably borrowed from Paul’s Corinthian opponents and turned against them, as it is anchored in the cross, namely, by insisting that Jesus became Lord only by first submitting to humiliation and death…

When we turn to 2 Corinthians we find that the data available to us to attempt a description of the Corinthians’ “theology” are not the same. Whereas in 1 Corinthians the church leaders and members have written to consult Paul, and whereas he had received rumored reports (1 Cor 1:11; 11:18) of the problems there, in the Second Letter the sources of information are more indirect. We have to infer from the texts the nature of the debate between Paul and his congregation, some of whom at least seemed to be under the influence of intruding teachers, especially emissaries referred to in chaps. 10–13. Already in 2 Cor 2:17; 3:1–18; 4:2–6, in the canonical sequence of the letter, Paul is confronting those whose teaching is at odds with his version of the kerygma, and we will have to discuss the most likely reason for the way these texts set the ground of the debate. Part of the reason is personal: Paul is accused of vacillation and insincerity. But there is a theological difference between his message and the “gospel” brought to Corinth (11:4). Its “alien” character is in part christological (5:16), in part eschatological (5:1–10), in part related to the presence and power of “spirit” (πνεῦμα; 11:4) that conferred presumed authority on these teachers. At its heart was evidently an exegesis of the Old Testament and in particular an understanding of the role of Moses. The latter gave them an assurance that they were superior to Paul, who looked distinctly “inferior” by comparison (see 11:5, 6; 12:11). The point at issue has to do with rhetorical prowess and a commanding presence, two features that Paul’s ministry lacked. On the negative side, as Jervell and Holmberg have suggested, was the undeniable fact that, although Paul was known as a remarkable leader in the churches (12:12), he was a weak person physically (10:10) and could not heal himself (12:7; cf. Gal 4:13–14). The Corinthian adversaries may well have reasoned that he was no demonstration of God’s power since his claim to be an apostle and his experience of weakness contradicted each other. For them “a sick charismatic and wonderworker [would be] astonishing” as being a contradictio in adjecto, a contradiction in terms. They insinuated, there- fore, that he was no true apostle since they took as their criterion the picture of the itinerant “holy man” preacher, whose credentials were the possession of the spirit (πνεῦμα) and the right to claim the Corinthian province as their jurisdiction (10:13–18), evidently in the name of the Überapostel, the “super-apostles,” in Jerusalem (11:5; 12:11). The question is posed to the interpreter at this point: Can we identify, however tentatively, the type of “charismatic” ministry brought by these teachers that stands at odds with Paul’s self-conscious defense of his apostleship? In a later section we will try to set this question in a broader framework. Here we may pause to reflect on J. M. Robinson’s conclusion: “Paul was primarily confronted with a distorting transmission of traditions about Jesus as a glorious miracle worker, and he replied, with an ironic presentation of himself within that succession, to document the invalidity of such a scope for the traditions; and by repudiating such knowledge of Jesus.”

2 Corinthians

By Ralph Martin

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by Jeremy Bouma at November 21, 2014 12:50 PM

Front Porch Republic

Anarchism, Global Citites, and a Confucian Cosmopolitan Education

connections[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]

I recently attended a conference in Nanjing, China, hosted by the Hopkins-Nanjing Center and organized our fellow Porcher, Adam Webb. You can read a short summary of the conference here; for my part, in the midst of meeting new people and seeing new sites, I found it a wonderful opportunity to reflect on cities on a very different–and far more cosmopolitan–scale than has been the case in most of my work on urban communities so far. Specifically, it made me thing about “global cities”–and whether there might be a sense in which a world dominated by connections between them, rather than by state governments, might open up some genuine anarchic possibilities of the sort any localist ought to be attentive to. I am including a parsed down version of my presentation at that conference here:

Numerous scholars from a variety of different perspectives in political theory, urban studies, and international relations have, over the past several years, surprisingly come to rather similar conclusions, whether implicitly or explicitly. First, they argue that the classic Westphalian nation-state, with its attendant notions of territoriality and sovereignty, simply cannot adequately respond to the challenges which contemporary developments in globalization pose. Sovereign states, these scholars claim, inevitably frame problems which are transnational in scope–such as climate change, economic inequality, ideologically motivated terrorism, and more–in terms of state bureaucratic interests which the speed and multidimensionality of contemporary technology, trade, and communication have rendered at best inefficient, at worst irrelevant. Presumably therefore, a new system or basis for global governance must be conceived. Second, they argue that the basic elements for this new system are already in place, and have been in place for a long time: cities. Globalization has enabled commercial and informational transactions–as well as the flow of peoples and goods–to proceed along lines which are increasingly distinct from sovereign borders, and cities are the social and economic hubs through which all these transactions and flows are made manifest. Hence, the coming post-sovereign world order will necessarily be city-centric, which will to a degree be a return to the roots of Western political thought–with its emphasis upon the polis, or the classic city-state. These cities will, of course, not resemble those idealized republican communities; the global cities of today and the foreseeable future will be, for the most part, sprawling megacities with huge populations and massive wealth, containing within them the headquarters of multinational corporations, government agencies, and major financial institutions, and providing jobs for millions of people employed in finance, insurance, real estate, banking, accountancy, marketing, and all their supporting industries. It is cities of this sort, if the aforementioned scholars are correct, which will form the nodes of the cosmopolitan order of the 21st century and beyond.

There is a great deal which this evolution of globalization forces us to reflect upon, both theoretically and practically. Here, I ask only two inter-related questions. The first is what a move away from global assumptions which prioritize the history and capacities of territorial states, and towards one which prioritizes an interlocked networks of commercial cities, will mean for how we think about freedom and order. The second is the how to find, in that different sense of order, the sort of civic resources which notions of popular government have long depended, and whether classic Confucian ideas about education might suggest an answer.

First, regarding the nature of freedom in such a potential future, one frequently repeated theme in the literature on this topic is that a post-sovereign, city-centric perspective will be more open to the many overlapping and inconsistent ways in which social and economic order are realized in the life of cities. Of course, that assumes that “post-sovereignty” and “order” are, in fact, compatible, which is debatable; it has long been assumed by many observers that outside of very small and very homogeneous communities, claims of sovereign power–that is, in the Weberian sense, the successful centralization of the legitimate use of force in rationally determined hands–is inseparable from any kind of social ordering. I dissent from this assumption, but rather than explaining my dissent at length, I will simply note the work of Michael Taylor who, in his analysis of the Weberian state, makes it clear that sovereignty cannot really mean an actual monopoly on the use of all physical force, thus underlining the importance of Weber’s qualifiers “successful” and “legitimate.” After all, no sovereign state, no matter how totalitarian, has ever been able to effectively regulate and harness all the possible forms of physical discipline, intimidation, rough-housing, or boundary-maintenance that human beings can conceive–and as much as we may fear criminal violence, very likely every citizen of modern democratic states is grateful for that fact. Taylor thus concludes that sovereignty, in the classic state sense, is in practice tied up with the concentration of force and the attempt by those in whose hands it is concentrated to specialize in its use.

If we adjust our thinking about to fit this perspective–one in which sovereignty is recognized as involving primarily the rather narrow delegation of coercive power into the hands of a specialized group of individuals–then we can all recognize the real world of cities today, in which numerous non-sovereign authorities and bodies contest each other over numerous overlapping jurisdictions and agendas. City life is, in this sense, profoundly anarchic, often frustrating ambiguous and changeable, with systems of ordered regulation and practice emerging and disappearing both officially and organically, all of which are regularly dependent upon individual initiatives (whether formal or informal) or small factional coordination. For some, the prospect of such inconsistent urbanity characterizing the global order of passports, airports, and shipping containers is terrifying. For others, however, it captures an important element of freedom. In Western political thought, classical republican thinkers are in the former camp, seeing in the complexity, unpredictableness, and pace of cities something which ultimately invites invasive regulation, dependency, and the loss of civic virtue. Though they would express it differently, more than a few anarchist authors have put forward similar concerns about the “mass man” which modern urbanity has introduced. But many liberal thinkers have long taken a contrary position, depicting the opportunities of city life as that which liberates individuals from poverty and social oppression. Steven Schneck captures this individualistic attitude well:

[C]onsider a line between “city” and “village.” The line is drawn well by that apocryphal 15th century peasant who claims that “Die Stadtluft macht frei!” Consider the tension revealed here between the qualities perceived in village life and those anticipated in the city. Village represents a smothering community. An homogeneity of tastes, styles and desires is inscribed on each villager’s soul by an intrusive familiarity that begins in the cradle. The village represents a life lived with intimate, ubiquitous authorities wherein all is public. City, for our peasant, offers the heterogeneity of anonymity and the possibility of private spaces resistant to intrusive, public scrutiny found in village life. In the peasant’s ideal of the city there is room for private space and authority is formal, not intimate or personal….Consider Athens on the eve of Alexander’s empire; note the distance between the experiences of its occupants and the polis of Aristotle’s Politics. For the 75,000 people who left their villages and communities for the Stadtluft of Athens’s Piraeus the appeal of city life was not corporate hierarchy and communal place. The city was not sought for its public space so much as for its private space. They saw city life as desirable for the space it offered that was relatively free from the suffocating presence of community as experienced in their village living.

The urban writings of scholars such as Jane Jacobs and Richard Sennett have explored this idea or a “heterogeneity of anonymity” at length, arguing that city life makes possible a kind of “disordered order.” For the purposes, this observation leads then to the question of what kind of civic resources can be found in the midst of such a heterogeneous, city-centric context. Assuming that some kind of non-sovereign, non-specialized social order in regards to governmental and public concerns will still be needed, we as citizens–or, as many of these scholars prefer, “residents”–will need some means of being socialized to those requirements. Throughout the history of Westphalian order, civic education played that role; here, I wonder if classical Confucian education might not provide one.

The Confucian tradition is, of course, strongly associated with moral education. But that education in particular ritual practices and social understandings, while obviously deeply rooted in a particular kind of ethical conception, is also profoundly civil. That is, it instructs people in a kind of belonging, in being part of a civil order. This is not, to be sure, the same as the civic ideal, which was to inculcate into citizens a specific affection for and attachment to the state which granted them citizenship, and from that affection and attachment make it possible for the civic virtues necessary for responsible popular government–including social trust, a sense of service, and a devotion to the common good–to arise. One cannot simply translate this tradition into a context where state citizenship has either disappeared or at least has taken a back seat to a networked governmental system of numerous cities around the globe. It is true that some scholars, like Martha Nussbaum, argue that civic virtues of the Western tradition are in fact cosmopolitan in character, but this is not a persuasive claim. The prophets of a more anarchic, more interdependent, postmodern world of cities need to present an argument for attachment that would be not at all connected to sovereign civic constructions, but rather to a kind of abiding civil constructivity, one that could be collectively realized in the diverse circumstances of an overlapping and world-wide urban order.

Words like “anarchy,” “interdependent,” and “postmodern” probably do not strike most non-specialists as at all relatable to Confucianism, which has been long assumed to be traditional, hierarchical, and indeed, in many ways, perfectly amendable to ideas of sovereign domination. But while there are many historical reasons to support this assumption, the philosophical reasons to do so are not nearly so conclusive. The scholarship on Confucian thought and practice is far less conservative than many would at first believe. Rather than attempting to summarize it, let me briefly explain how these Confucian ideals, contained in its particular educational tradition, can relate to the needs of a non-state-based, non-civic, broadly civil context, by way of quoting a passage from the Confucian classic, The Great Learning:

The ancients who wished to manifest their clear character to the world would first bring order to their states. Those who wished to bring order to their states would first regulate their families. Those who wished to regulate their families would first cultivate their personal lives. Those who wished to cultivate their personal lives would first rectify their minds. Those who wished to rectify their minds first make their wills sincere. Those who wished to make their wills sincere would first extend their knowledge. The extension of knowledge consists in the investigation of things. When things are investigated, knowledge is extended; when knowledge is extended, the will becomes sincere; when the will is sincere, the mind is rectified; when the mind is rectified, the personal life is cultivated; when the personal life is cultivated, the family will be regulated; when the family is regulated, the state will be in order; and when the state is in order, there will be peace throughout the world. From the Son of Heaven down to the common people, all must regard cultivation of the personal life as the root or foundation.

Now all of these steps are hierarchical; that is undeniable. But they are also more than merely hierarchical. L.H.M. Ling argues that the best interpretation of these steps in connection to the larger civil order is to analyze them along two axes: a “vertical-moral” one, reflecting the authority of the cultural-linguistic core embodied in those who become educated as to the virtuous performance of their place within a given community (as a parent, child, friend, minister, etc., reflecting here the Confucian doctrine of the Five Bonds), as well as a “horizontal-geographic” one, reflecting the physical space, and its relation to other spaces, that a given community literally occupies. Looking at the history of Chinese political relations with other states throughout the centuries where Confucian teachings defined the official policies of the empire, Ling sees multiple layers of sociality (“vassals,” “neighbors,” etc.), leading her to the conclusion that, within the Confucian tradition, “territorial borders” were in fact “instantiations of social borders.”

Membership in a state–identifying oneself as a citizen of a particular state, in other words–would therefore, as incorporated into this kind of education and “civilizing” scheme, be an incidental byproduct of the more primary task of coming to a knowledge of and properly naming one’s own social relations; the consequences of such an educated realization and performance of one’s nature would then extend both upwards and downwards (implying, to borrow the terms of political science, a solidifying of legitimacy betwixt the government and the governed, whether in a family, an office, an association, or an empire), as well as outwards (implying solidarity and mutual collective identification with ones fellow members). These are virtues wholly relevant to the maintenance of any particular civic body, though they are, in this case, substantively “civil” in nature, and do not make state citizenship a necessary prerequisite to their expression.

Moreover, to continue with ideas that draw upon the study of politics, one might argue that the dimensions which such ritually informed relationships and communities involve all educated individuals in–a moralistic, and therefore vertical or hierarchical, one, as well as a spatial, and therefore horizontal or social, one as well–invoke a “constitutionalist dimension” along with an “educative” one. The discipline of a Confucian education, when fully and linguistically performed, takes the form of “institutional mechanisms” which both establish a disciplined relationship between the governed and the government, and educated a people into a proper regard for (and expectation of) the restraint and reach of that government. This is all highly speculative, of course. But it does suggest, for those who may be concerned about such things, that the eclipse of a state-based sovereign order, and its gradual replacement with a more anarchic and interdependent city-based one, need not mean the end of constitutionalism or even most civic virtues. Assuming we can find a way to slowly, haphazardly accept an ethic of civil order, a world of cities might not only be more free in an individualistic sense than our current one, but it might not be lacking in the blessings of membership and mutuality as well.

The post Anarchism, Global Citites, and a Confucian Cosmopolitan Education appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Russell Arben Fox at November 21, 2014 12:41 PM

CrossFit Naptown

Eleiko Max Out Day Saturday

Friday’s Workout:

Mobility:
20:00 of Thoracic Spine Mobility and Couch Stretch

Workout of the Day:
21-15-9
Burpees
Toes-to-Bar
*100 Double Unders after each number set is finished
**scale to :90 of DU practice or 300 Single

Barbell-Logo

Eleiko Max Out Day!

TOMORROW, Saturday November 22nd, CFNT will be hosting an in-house Olympic Lifting meet. In honor of this event, the regularly scheduled 9:30 and 10:30 classes at CFNT will be the Olympic total, establishing a 1 rep max snatch and clean & jerk. Weightlifting isn’t your thing? Then check out the NapTown Fitness on Capitol Ave for the morning yoga class and SWIFT workout. (9am Yoga & 10:45am SWIFT Class)

Come out to watch fellow members taking on this new and exciting challenge and moving around big weight! The event will begin at Noon and will run until about 3:00pm and all are welcome to come to cheer everyone on.

Any participants that have not yet emailed k.o.murray21@gmail.com with your starting weight, please do so ASAP. Remember that weigh ins will begin at 11:30am so we are ready to kick off at Noon.

 

Other Announcments:

HOLIDAY PARTY

The CrossFit NapTown holiday party will be December 20th at Comedy Sports on Mass Ave or NapTown Fitness on Capitol, depending on the number of tickets sold to members and family and friends. Tickets are $20, please email eric@crossfitnaptown.com to place get yours saved!

 

HOODIES and LONG SLEEVES ARE IN!

The CrossFit NapTown hoodies and three-quarter shirts are in! The pre-ordered shirts are available on the kitchen counter, please see a coach to have them sign you off and take your shirt. Missed out on pre-ordering? Have no fear! Extra shirts will be available for purchase soon, just in time for the holidays.

by Anna at November 21, 2014 11:23 AM

SWIFT 11.21.14

SWIFT 11.21.14

Warmup:
Tabata Core Work
Gymnastics Skills Review

Workout:
10 Ring Row/Pull Ups/Bar Muscle Ups
50 Double Unders
8 Ring Rows/Pull Ups/Bar Muscle Ups
40 Double Unders
6 Ring Rows/Pull Ups/Bar Muscles Ups
30 Double Unders
*scale 2:1 single unders for DUs

Post Workout:
Running Shuttles

by Anna at November 21, 2014 11:15 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

TGC Spotlight 11.21.14

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. 

Around the Web

President Obama to Unveil Plan for Unilateral Action on Immigration

What is President Obama’s immigration plan?

Last night, in a national televised address, the President provided details about his plan to take unilateral executive action on immigration Obama’s decision is an expansion of his 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA, created by executive action after Congress failed in its attempt to pass the similar-themed DREAM Act, allowed 600,000 qualified immigrants ages 5 to 31 to remain and work in this country without fear of deportation.

What will the new plan do?

This new executive action will give temporary visas to undocumented immigrants whose children were born in the U.S. It is expected to protect an additional 4 million and 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation for at least the remainder of Obama’s presidency. Obama will also expand a program that gives work permits for up to 29 months to foreign graduates of U.S. universities with degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math. The president is also expanding the pool of young undocumented immigrants eligible for DACA. Currently, only people who can apply are those who have lived in the U.S. since June 15, 2007.

Will this action provide a path to U.S. citizenship?

Not directly. The action will not grant citizenship or legal permanent residence (i.e., a "green card"). People will be required to register with the federal government and, if they clear a series of background checks and other requirements, will be shielded from deportation proceedings. They will be given work permits and assigned Social Security numbers, so they can legally work and pay taxes.

Can Obama do these things unilaterally?

That’s a key point of contention.

The executive branch, through the Department of Homeland Security, is required to enforce immigration laws and deport people who have violated such laws. However, the Homeland Security has some discretion in determining the best way to implement and enforce the law. The White House's argument is they since they are not stopping deportations completely (they’ll still deport about 400,000 people a year) that they are complying with their requirements.

Critics disagree and say the discretion function of the executive branch was always intended to allow for prudent actions on a case-by-case basis and not used as a blanket policy that circumvents the will of Congress and the American people (a recent poll found that 46 percent of Americans say the president should wait for Congress to take action on the issue). Even some supporters of the administration and its pro-immigration stance say that the action is violating the law and, as the editorial board of the Washington Post said, is equivalent to “tearing up the Constitution.” Many also fear that President Obama, who previously renounced such unilateral acts by previous presidents, is setting a dangerous precedent for future executive action. For example, a future president could say that the IRS is not going to focus on collecting specific taxes on favored interest groups.

For more on TGC's coverage of the immigration issue, see: 

Romans 13 and the Immigration Crisis (July 11, 2014) 

Immigration Policy and Ministry (May 8, 2012) 

Evangelical Leaders Call for Immigration Reform (June 14, 2012) 

The Gospel and Immigration (May 1, 2012) 

 

Quick Takes

• "Gospel-centered" has become a popular buzzword in Reformed evangelical circles. John Piper explains three things it means in this brief video.

• A 100-second animated explanation of Edmund Burke's difference between the beautiful and the sublime.

• Four rabbis were recently murdered while praying in a Jerusalem synagogue. Jewish writer David Goldman explained the Har Nof massacre to his Christian friends by saying, "this is roughly comparable to terrorists invading a cathedral and killing a Cardinal among other clergy. Rabbi Moshe Twersky H"YD . . . was one of our sages. Our grief and outrage are past description." Here is a brief explainer on this most recent terrorist attack.

What is reparative therapy? Heath Lambert explains, and says that "in spite of some positive elements, RT is an unbiblical and ultimately unhelpful approach to change for same-sex attraction."

(For even more links, see the "Remainder Bin" at the end of this post.)

Featured TGC Articles

Mothering In The Internet Age | Betsy Childs

Contrary to what online voices communicate, you’re not really in control of your child’s life—God is. And that is good news.

 

Man, Woman, And The Mystery Of Christ: An Evangelical Protestant Perspective | Russell Moore

The sexual revolution cannot keep its promises. People are looking for a cosmic mystery, for a love that is stronger than death. They cannot articulate it, and perhaps would be horrified to know it, but they are looking for God.

 

Is Open Theism Still A Factor 10 Years After Ets Vote? | Jeff Robinson

Open theism is no longer debated within ETS, but its adherents now spread the openness view of God through more popular channels.

 

Trip Lee Brags On The King | Matt Smethurst

There aren’t many musicians more successful right now than rapper Trip Lee. But the man off the stage might surprise you a bit.

 

Featured TGC Contributor Articles

A New Film on Selma, Alabama (1965), and the Best Thing to Read | Justin Taylor

I am really looking forward to this new film, Selma, coming out in January 2015.

 

Who Do You Say That I Am? | Kevin DeYoung

The greatness of God is most clearly displayed in his Son. And the glory of the gospel is only made evident in his Son. That’s why Jesus’ question to his disciples is so important: “Who do you say that I am?”

 

Overcoming Evangelistic Paralysis with an Unbelievably Good Gospel | Trevin Wax

Earlier this year, I read Jonathan Dodson’s book, The Unbelievable Gospel: Say Something Worth Believing (Zondervan), and found it to be a solid resource that gives careful attention to the message we proclaim as well as the person with whom we are speaking.

 

Will Ferguson Be Our Transformative Moment? | Thabiti Anyabwile

We’ve felt this feeling before, that sitting on the edge of your seat, stomach in knots, hoping to win but not hoping to offend feeling. We waited this way in 1992 to see what the jury would do when four officers were caught on tape beating Rodney King.

 

This is that mystery | Ray Ortlund

“This is that mystery which is rich in divine grace to sinners: wherein by a wonderful exchange our sins are no longer ours but Christ’s, and the righteousness of Christ not Christ’s but ours."

 

A Prayer for Those of Us with Loved Ones Impacted by Memory Loss | Scotty Smith

Dear heavenly Father, though Isaiah used the image somewhat metaphorically, mothers and fathers do forget the children they have brought into the world. I know this quite well, having lived through the journey of watching my dad forgetting my name, then my face, then everything about me. The process was very painful, yet you met us time and again, with your mercy and grace.

 

Coming Next Week at TGC

How the Normalization of Pornography Fuels the Rape Culture | Jacob and Joseph Phillips

Why does society all too often objectify female bodies while devaluing or ignoring female consciousness and experiences?

 

When Dad Doesn’t Disciple the Kids | Jen Wilkin

Moms dealing with spiritually absent dads rightly feel anxiety for their children and confusion in their role—but what should they do?

 

The Role of Singing in the Life of the Church | Rob Smith

Congregational singing is a gift to treasure dearly, engage in regularly, use wisely, and protect carefully.

 

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

Bioethics

India's dark history of sterilisation Soutik Biswas, BBC

The death of 15 women at two state-run sterilisation camps in Chhattisgarh has put a spotlight on India's dark history of botched sterilisations.

Down syndrome mom: the “death with dignity” debate insults my son’s life Anne Penniston Grunsted, Quartz

Earlier this month, Brittany Maynard made the much publicized decision to end her life rather than wait for her Stage IV cancer to inevitably kill her instead. Like many people around the world, I felt great sadness and sympathy for the choice she made, a choice I believe she had the right to make.

J.S. Mill and the Pro-Life Cause Christopher O. Tollefsen, Public Discourse

In spite of its many problematic aspects, the political thought of J.S. Mill provides a low but solid foundation for the essential convictions of the pro-life movement: that the unborn, in virtue of their common humanity, deserve the full protection of the law.


Christianity and Culture

5 Ways Christian Relationships Look Different Corrie Mitchell, OnFaith

Much of what culture teaches us about relationships is pretty off base from a Christian perspective.

10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About the Black Church Nicole Symmonds, OnFaith

There’s more to the story than soulful music and whooping preachers. Way more.

10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Evangelicals Warren Cole Smith, OnFaith

A reporter offers his insights on a religious movement everyone talks about but few understand.

A Theolgoy of Sport: On the Rebound Lincoln Harvey, First Things

As I argue in my book, sport is a regulated form of physical play that is specifically designed to produce both winners and losers. Of course, some sporting contests do end up in frustrating ties or sterile dead-heats, but this outcome is never the aim of the game.

Church of England Approves Plan Allowing Female Bishops Katrin Benhold, New York Times

The Church of England overturned centuries of tradition on Monday with a final vote allowing women to become bishops, with the first appointments possible by Christmas.

Drugs and Alcohol

How Marijuana Really Affects the Brain Laura Tedesco, Yahoo Health

Clearing the air: New science reveals that toking up may be more addictive than previously thought.

Colorado panel makes no progress on edible marijuana Kristen Wyatt, Associated Press

A Colorado task force wrapped up a final task force meeting on Monday with no consensus on what marijuana-infused foods and drinks should look like.

Hello ladies, goodbye Communion? The Economist

If this week is remembered as an important one by church historians, it may be for a different reason: it was the moment when the archbishop of Canterbury finally acknowledged that the Anglican Communion, the global family of churches numbering about 80m of which he is head, may be impossible to hold together.


Family Issues

Is There a Link between Childhood Homelessness and Single Parenthood? Leslie Ford, The Daily Signal

A new report from The National Center on Family Homelessness concludes that “the challenges of single parenting” is one of the serious causes of homelessness. This conclusion makes sense. Single-parenthood drastically increases the likelihood of poverty and the risks of negative outcomes for children.



Health Issues

Drowning: 'Hidden childhood killer' Smitha Mundasad, BBC

Drowning is one of the 10 leading causes of death for children and young people across the world, a World Health Organization (WHO) report reveals.

Ebola patient Dr. Martin Salia dies in Omaha Mike Dubose, CBS News

A surgeon who contracted Ebola while treating patients in Sierra Leone has passed away in a hospital in Nebraska, where he had been flown for treatment, officials announced Monday.

 

International Issues

Deaths Linked to Terrorism Are Up 60 Percent, Study Finds Alan Cowell, New York Times

As Western governments grapple with heightened apprehension about the spread of Islamic militancy, an independent study on Tuesday offered little solace, saying the number of fatalities related to terrorism soared 60 percent last year.

Israel Shaken by 5 Deaths in Synagogue Assault Jodi Rudoren and Isabel Kershner, New York Times

The Orthodox Jewish men were facing east, to honor the Old City site where the ancient temples once stood, when two Palestinians armed with a gun, knives and axes burst into their synagogue Tuesday morning, shouting “God is great!” in Arabic.


Marriage Issues

Pope Francis stands firm on marriage at Humanum Colloquium Phillip Bethancourt, ERLC

Pope Francis began the Humanum Colloquium on the complementarity of man and woman in marriage by stating that "this complementarity is at the root of marriage and family." Throughout the message, he was clear about the necessity and value of marriage despite progressive "ideological notions" on the family in our day.

Same-Self Marriage Timothy George, First Things

It’s only a trickle, not yet a trend, but it is out there, and it has a name: sologamy. Sologamy is the marriage of someone to one’s own self—the his- or herness of it is not relevant, although it seems to be mostly women who are doing it.

British Rabbi Tells Vatican Conference We Must Defend the Family of "Man, Woman and Child" Aleteia

Rabbi Lord Sacks blames the breakdown of the traditional family for society's ills.

How the War on Poverty Has Hurt American Marriage Rates Robert Rector, The Daily Signal

It is no accident that the collapse of marriage in America largely began with the War on Poverty and the proliferation of means-tested welfare programs that it fostered.

Gay Marriage Could Happen in Mississippi Very Soon David Knowles, Bloomberg

A federal judge appointed by President Obama could decide this week whether to issue an injunction blocking the state's ban on same-sex unions.


Military

Fearing Bombs That Can Pick Whom to Kill John Markoff, New York Times

As these weapons become smarter and nimbler, critics fear they will become increasingly difficult for humans to control — or to defend against. And while pinpoint accuracy could save civilian lives, critics fear weapons without human oversight could make war more likely, as easy as flipping a switch.

Why Air Force Cadets Need to Study Philosophy Alexandra Ossola, The Atlantic

Greater emphasis on humanities means more well-rounded decision making.


Other Faiths

10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Sikhism Simran Jeet Singh, OnFaith

Despite being the fifth largest world religion, Sikhism is one of the least understood traditions.



Religious Liberty

Air Force Amends Instruction On Religious Freedom and Accommodation Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

Last week, the U.S. Air Force announced that Air Force Instruction 1-1 on Air Force Culture has been updated as of Nov. 7 to clarify standards on free exercise of religion and religious accommodation. The amended Instruction (full text) strengthens free exercise and religious accommodation rights of military personnel, and weakens restrictions on proselytizing.

Sexuality Issues

First magazine aimed at gay teenagers is launched Theo Merz, The Telegraph

The publishers of one of the UK’s top gay magazines have launched a digital offering for the youth market.

by Joe Carter at November 21, 2014 08:01 AM

Table Titans

Tales: It’s Hard Out Here for a Rogue

News

We were a four man party: Elven Ranger, Human Wizard, Dwarf Cleric/Fighter, and a Halfling Rogue. While questing down in the depths of some dungeon we woke up a Black Dragon and the battle commenced. We were getting nowhere. My arrows couldn’t penetrate his armor the Wizard rolled horribly, the…

Read more

November 21, 2014 07:00 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

The Many Altars of Modernity

Peter Berger. The Many Altars of Modernity: Toward a Paradigm for Religion in a Pluralist Age. Berlin, Germany: De Gruyter Mouton, 2014. 147 pp. $49.95

In his 1967 book The Sacred Canopy, Peter Berger more or less invented sociology of religion as we know it. It revolutionized the field not only because it was profound, but because it was short and did not assume much prior knowledge. It was not beach reading, but laypeople willing to make the effort could grasp the extraordinary vision Berger laid out for how we can understand the central role of religion in the structure of society.

Berger, professor emeritus of sociology at Boston University, has done it again. The Many Altars of Modernity is even shorter (93 pages) and more accessible to the layperson than The Sacred Canopy. Yet it has the potential to re-revolutionize the sociology of religion.

Like The Sacred Canopy, this book speaks to the huge paradox of modern times. We have overcome so many bigotries and unlocked so many doors to human flourishing, yet we find it harder to know the meaning of it all. Even as we grow to new heights and accomplishments, the basic structures of society—from family to economics to democracy to international affairs—seem to be endangered.

The Many Altars of Modernity shows how, to a large degree, all these good and bad things spring from a common source. We have not yet solved the central puzzle of modernity. How can people of diverse beliefs share social space without undermining their own beliefs?

Fate Becomes Choice

The book's first extraordinary service is to make complex phenomena clear. The coexistence of many religious and moral systems in a shared social space—pluralism—irrevocably changes the nature of religion and morality. Things unconsciously taken for granted before pluralism now become things we must consciously choose whether to believe. The character of God, the nature of sin, the permanence of marriage, the occurrence of miracles—one by one, slowly but surely, everything that was once simply "given" becomes a subject of momentous deliberation. Fate becomes choice.

This change has beneficial effects, but also costs. At the individual level, people are more aware of their beliefs and must be intentional about sorting out truth from falsehood. They find it easier to live in peace with neighbors they disagree with. On the other hand, most people have great difficulty shouldering the burden of choice. I don't choose whether to believe 2 + 2 = 4, but in a pluralistic environment I do need to choose whether to believe Jesus is God. For most people, this seems to create a feeling that the latter belief must somehow be less certain than the former. Choice makes it harder to overcome doubt.

At the social level, religious organizations gain greater freedom to act, and learn to live in peace with other religions. It becomes possible to enjoy fully the great blessings—spiritual as well as material—of religious freedom, the rule of law, an entrepreneurial economy, and modern technology. On the other hand, all institutions become socially weaker and less able to play a role in people's formation. And the coexistence of multiple moralities produces an unending stream of political crises.

The existence of a large social space shared by many religions makes it possible for people to construct ways of thinking and living that commit to no religion. Berger points to examples like surgeons and airplane pilots, who must strictly conform to procedures that do not change for Christians, Muslims, and atheists. Religious people seem to have little difficulty participating in these shared ways of life without undermining their own belief. So the decline of religious belief anticipated by so many sociologists (including Berger in The Sacred Canopy) has not occurred. However, because the secular methods are shared by everyone while religion is not, the secular methods inevitably begin to claim supreme authority in the public square. This creates conflict, especially as some people begin to embrace what Berger calls "the secular discourse" as a substitute for religion itself. Once this secularism arises, it inevitably conflicts with religion.

Modern life thus raises two closely related problems, both of which involve finding a "formula of peace" between conflicting modes of belief and practice. How can people of different religious beliefs share a society without being consumed—either by a conflict between religions, or by the persistent sense of doubt that pluralism creates? And how can religion itself share a society with "the secular discourse"?

There are many possible ways of mediating these tensions, Berger argues. Thus, the sociology of religion must abandon the long-held expectation (generated in part by The Sacred Canopy) that modernity will inevitably move in only one direction. Berger reviews five major strategies that various societies have used for dealing with these problems, and argues that religious freedom is the one with by far the best prospects of success.

No Avoiding the Issue

The book's second extraordinary service is to debunk the many tricks we have invented for trying to avoid confronting the challenge of pluralism. Fundamentalists and relativists, who seem so unlike one another, are twins under the skin; both seek to escape the dilemma of doubt instead of confronting it. As Berger shows, both drive their followers toward a tyrannical desire to seize more and more control over their social environment, in order to hold the trauma of doubt at bay.

But Berger's deeper confrontation is with the huge intellectual class of traditionalists and conservatives who hold, in various ways, that the crises of modernity stem from bad ideas. This implies the crises can be avoided or rectified if we replace the bad ideas with better ideas. Berger names Charles Taylor, but in fact this view is almost totally dominant on the Christian intellectual scene in the English-speaking world. As Berger shows, this view is wrong, and dangerously so.

Against Taylor and the dominant traditionalism of the Christian intellectual world, Berger argues that the real origins of modernity—and hence of the crises of modernity—are in the religions themselves, and the sociology of their encounter with one another. Once the world's great civilizations made the transition from primordial mythology to mature religions, capable both of making truth claims and of accommodating economic and technological advances, it was inevitable that we would someday face the challenge of pluralism. We can denounce "modern ideas" until we are blue in the face, but once adherents of the world's religions start interacting with each other on a daily basis, we cannot avoid the trauma of choice and doubt. The great historic encounter cannot be undone.

Berger also opposes those who think we can address the dilemmas of modernity entirely outside of politics. As he shows, modern people find it easier to get along with those of other beliefs at the personal level; but at the political level conflict becomes worse. Yes, we can and must mitigate the political conflict by building stronger bonds of peace at the personal level. But there is no serious way to address the problem without a renewal of religious freedom as the foundation of the political and constitutional order. To avoid politics altogether and work exclusively in the personal realm is like looking for your car keys under the lamppost instead of where you dropped them, because the light is better under the lamppost.

As If God Did Not Exist?

Berger doesn’t get everything right, of course, and one of his errors is critical. He thinks that when we participate in those shared, wholly natural social spaces defined by practices that commit to no religion, we are behaving "as if God did not exist." He would have done better to draw a distinction between "natural" and "supernatural" activities rather than "secular" and "sacred."

Berger gives the game away when he says that even a 16th-century Spanish nun was behaving "as if God did not exist" when she reformed the convent's accounting to bring it into line with sound principles of financial management. If she read Berger’s book, she could easily reply that she was behaving as if God did exist—and was going to hold her responsible to manage the convent's finances well! Berger argues that the same accounting principles work just as well for atheists. But the financially savvy nun could reply that it is really the atheists who are double-minded; they say there is no God, but they manage their finances as if they lived in a stable, logical universe, which the human mind is capable of understanding and within which the human will is capable of acting meaningfully.

The error has practical consequences. In discussing religious freedom as a way of coping with the dilemmas of modernity, Berger notes the American and French models but neglects the critical difference between them. Where Americans want a shared space that neither requires nor resists faith, the French believe a shared space must intentionally push faith away. Berger should not have lumped the American and French models together; in the years ahead, the most important conflict will take place between these two competing ways of understanding religious freedom.

I am disappointed that the publisher of The Many Altars of Modernity has set its price at a high level that would be more suitable to an obscure, scholastic book. This is a profoundly important work, the fruit of a lifetime of scholarship from easily the most important sociologist of religion in the past half-century, if not the past century. It deserves a wide and highly engaged readership. 

by Greg Forster at November 21, 2014 06:01 AM

Slaying the Green-Eyed Monster of Envy

Dear Envy, we just can’t quit you.

We all agree envy plagues the soul and harms our relationships, but it’s a common struggle. Our battles with envy range from sporadic scuffles to full-out, crippling war. Where can we find respite and rescue? This three-part reflection on 1 Corinthians 3:21–23 was birthed out of an ongoing conversation among three friends about mortifying envy.


Autoimmune Disease and Christ’s Body (Beverly Chao Berrus)

Autoimmune disorders and diseases are strange things. The immune system confuses some part of the body as an antigen, and makes war on healthy tissue, joints, and organs. The physical effects range from merely annoying to debilitating and deadly.

In 1 Corinthians 3, we see God diagnose the Corinthian Christians with spiritual autoimmunity. The division concerning fellow servants was so bad that Paul begins this way:

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. (3:1)

For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? (3:3)

As our churches are filled with nothing but fully redeemed and rehabilitating sinners, we will inevitably experience jealousy and strife in the church. But Paul’s point is that we must deal with it.

Jealousy is hard to admit. Some sins are easy to paint as more acceptable. But jealousy feels petty and infantile. It can’t be disowned from its root of self-centeredness, especially when we are jealous of others’ spiritual gifts, Christian service, or godly relationships. We inspect others in order to justify our unsubstantiated angst and dislike.

Paul calls those who revert to this self-centered thinking fleshly, infantile, and merely human (3:3). It highlights a failure to live in the reality that we’ve been saved by Christ’s wrath-absorbing death and resurrection. It denies our corporate transformation into the palatial and glorious temple of God, with each individual indwelt by God’s Spirit (3:16–17),

Jealousy and strife in the local church is spiritual autoimmunity because it tears down Christ’s body of which each believer is a member and which Christ himself nourishes (Eph. 5:29; Col. 2:19).

God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose,” gifted and fit together for the purpose of bringing him glory (12:18; cf. vv. 4–11).

There is a heinous grievousness to committing spiritual autoimmunity on Christ’s body. He loves the church and died for her. But we deny Christ’s perfect arrangement of the members of his body when we say to another, out of bitter jealousy, “I have no need of you.” We foolishly presume we know better and would do differently.

Instead, let us take in the immense panorama of beauty found in the body of Christ, fashioned and formed throughout the entire course of human history.

If you struggle, as I do, with making peace toward fellow members of the body in your heart and actions, repent of malice and jealousy by identifying and killing it with the sword of the Spirit. Fulfill the royal law of love and claim this truth:

So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God’s. (3:21–23)

Don’t we usually leave a doctor’s office glad for a good report of health? We’re happy for the parts of our bodies to be working as they should. As it is with Christ’s washed and justified body, let us rejoice that we lack nothing in him. All are ours, and we are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s! May this sweet truth eradicate the spiritual autoimmunity among us and cause the healing to begin.


Considering the Silliness of Envy (Gloria Furman)

I hate that I’m envious of others. I know that in God’s kingdom, envy doesn’t make any sense. So why the disconnect? In his book Glorious Freedom, Richard Sibbes shoots straight about envy:

In spiritual things there is no basis for envy, for everyone may partake of everything. In the things of this life there is envy, because the more one has, the less another has. But for more to partake of spiritual things is a matter of glory and excellency.

In other words, envy shows up when what we seek is worldly, so we’re envious when others have what we want. But if what we seek is spiritual, then we glorify God when others have what we, too, desire.

Envy doesn’t become those who’ve been given everything in Christ to enjoy. We don’t boast in who we are or what we can do or buy or wear or eat or birth or whatever. We don’t boast in any of these things because we don’t need to. “So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours" (1 Cor. 3:21).

Jesus is both able and right to secure all things for us because he is the Lamb who was slain. The Father has given all things into the Son’s hand (John 3:35), and everything exists for God, and all things are his servants (Ps. 119:89–91). All of these things—the world and everything in it, your inevitable physical death, your present circumstances (good and bad), your future (uncertain as it may seem)—in the hands of almighty God are your midwives, by your side helping to bring forth life and renewal of spirit in this age before the Son returns.

We need to be reminded that no competitors stand in the way of the gospel good that God has for us in Christ. No circumstance or person can rob us of the spiritual blessings God has promised us. Envy has no place. But sin steers our minds into irrational thought patterns, and the world confirms it: we ought to cut off our nose to spite our face. And indeed this is what we’re doing when we envy or diminish a brother or sister in Christ who is our joint member in Christ’s body. God’s gifts to others are his gifts to us. Why wouldn’t we long for our brothers and sisters to flourish more and more? After all, no one ever hated his own body, but nourishes it and cherishes it.

The God whom you love has freely given his grace to others—so look for evidence of this grace and glorify God for it. As Sibbes observed, “For those who can see so far into the life of another man as to love it and honor the grace of God there, it is a sign that some work of glory is begun in them.”


Give Us This Day Our Daily Scorpion? (Lindsey Carlson)

All things are yours, all.

How do we hold this verse in our minds while we also hold a list of things that, here on earth, are not ours? What about when the spouse, the baby, the dream job, the new home, are clearly not ours?

Paul may not have been familiar with the object of our personal jealousy, but he understood the human heart and its tendency to long for what it does not have—or thinks it does not have. Paul recognizes the Corinthians have not yet grasped what’s clearly theirs in Christ.

To understand and embrace the reality that “all things are yours,” begin with the promise Paul offered the Philippians: "And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:19).

We can trust that our God is a faithful provider. We can rest in the fact that he created us, called us, saved us, and is redeeming us. Will he not also give us all we need? Maybe the problem is our definition of “need.” The Lord knows we don't really a new car or an impressive position, but to be conformed to Christlikeness. He will faithfully provide all we need—the people, the places, the experiences, the things—in order to produce the greatest and most eternally significant fruit in our souls, for his glory.

We can trust that God is a loving provider. In Luke 11:11–12, Jesus asks, “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?” The point here isn’t that fish tastes better than serpent, or that eggs fry up better than scorpions. The point is, if a child needs to eat, his father doesn’t harm or poison him—he feeds him. If we don’t have something we want, God isn’t withholding—he’s feeding us with what will sustain us. We ask our Father to give us our daily bread, and he is faithful to provide.

We have been given all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence (2 Pet. 1:3). We have no need to jealously yearn for the things we do not have because we have been given all we need freely through Christ. All things are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

by Beverly Chao Berrus and Gloria Furman and Lindsey Carlson at November 21, 2014 06:01 AM

Lincoln Before the Legend

In most cases, historical icons do not develop before our eyes; the simply appear, fully formed, carrying their mythology with them. We do not meet George Washington as a struggling general; we meet him as America’s first President, as a war hero, as a man who could not, from boyhood, tell a lie, and who might have been king had he not chosen a different path for the greater good of the nation.

Like Washington, Lincoln appears as an icon. He’s enshrined in one of our capital's great monuments, appears on two forms of our currency, and occupies a central space in our national sense of identity: Honest Abe, who freed the slaves and held together a fraying Union, all while speaking in a steady stream of folk wisdom.

Many films have attempted to give us a picture of Abe Lincoln, most recently, Steven Spielberg’s epic Lincoln, starring Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln and Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln. Lincoln, in Spielberg’s hands, was as most of us have come to know him, navigating wisely between the nation’s tensions, the interests of abolitionists and industrialists, and the pressures and needs of his family. We saw Lincoln making hard decisions and acting in almost every instance as the sage. The film encapsulated the legend, even as it gave us a wonderfully human portrayal of Lincoln from Day-Lewis.

The problem with legends, though, is that they obscure as well as they reveal. They are shorthand for a story that is much more layered and complex. Lincoln became Lincoln after innumerable challenges and errors, after suffering and failing and learning along the way.

Boy Before the Legend

The recently released film The Better Angels explores the unseen corners of this icon’s life. “Wanna know what kinda boy he was?” the narrator asks at the film’s opening, after we see a few images of the Lincoln Monument.

Shot in black and white, The Better Angels explores a narrow window of Lincoln’s boyhood in Indiana, starting in 1817 and extending through sometime after 1819. The film was written and directed by A. J. Edwards, whose other film credits—a handful of writing, editing, and other duties—all belong to Terrence Mallick films. Mallick himself is an executive producer on the project, and one can’t help but make comparisons between the two filmmakers.

Like Tree of Life, The Better Angels hardly traffics in words; it traffics in images. The dialogue is rarely necessary to the storytelling, which happens at a slow, gentle pace, as Edwards’s camera lingers over the mists that form over grassy fields and the sun rising behind trees. We relish the wilderness with Nancy Lincoln (Brit Marling), and we feel its weight and hostility with young Abe (Braydon Denney). The camera rarely shows us Tom Lincoln (Jason Clarke) head-on; we see him looming over us, moving quickly in and out of the shot. Tom is a good man, but a hard man, and young Abe, who is naturally introverted and gentle, can’t help but be intimidated by his father.

His cousin says, “Them were drinkin’, cussin’, quarrelsome days.” The elements are hostile, and so are the wanderers who pass through. Suffering is never far from the Lincolns.

At the opening credits, a quote appears that reads, “All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother. – Abraham Lincoln” (Interestingly, we don’t hear his name again.) Here again, we have—at least in concept—something that might feel familiar to viewers of Tree of Life. We see, in Abe’s life, a contrast between the way of nature and the way of grace, the hostility of the wilderness and the nurture and care of his mother and—especially—his step-mother, Sarah (Diane Kruger). The film’s most compelling scenes take place between Abe and Sarah, as her playfulness and love draw Abe out of his shell. Her arrival in the Lincoln family can only be described as the arrival of civility in the wilderness. She insists on love and gentleness, and Edwards paints her in glowing light, making her appear all the more angelic.

Mother's Virtue

The Better Angels doesn’t handle religious themes directly. There is only occasional mention of anything directly related to Christianity—a mention of the Bible, a hymn sung while working in a field, and occasional images that suggest religious iconography. Many have written on the link between Lincoln's parents' Calvinism and his sense of history. But Edwards’s film seems to intentionally head in a different direction. If anything, you can’t help but sense the frailty of Lincoln’s life and future. He wasn’t born with a chinstrap beard, a stovepipe hat, and an ironclad sense of conviction. His life might have been otherwise. The frontier might have crushed him. Suffering and loss might have turned him inward and made him bitter. But Sarah Lincoln's arrival in the family not only drew him out, it also drew him and his father toward one another, allowing Tom Lincoln to impart hard-earned courage and strength to his son. In this sense, rather than a theological reflection of the origins and meaning of Lincoln’s life or Calvinistic reflections on the meaning of history, Edwards’s film shows how Lincoln’s future came about as the result of his mother’s character and virtue. It is love and grace that shape great men.

The Better Angels may not be a blockbuster, and it’s certainly not (in tone and themes) a Steven Spielberg film, but it is beautiful and compelling. It invites us into a different pace, to reflect along the way, to watch the flow of the river and the swaying grasses. It’s a meditation on suffering, survival, love, and beauty. It takes Lincoln’s quote seriously, imagining how Sarah’s loving presence could not only turn a homestead into a home, but also turn a wounded and introverted young boy into someone with the strength and courage to become one of America’s greatest presidents.

by Mike Cosper at November 21, 2014 06:01 AM

The Urbanophile

Lessons On Spending Responsibly

My latest column is now available in the November issue of Governing magazine. It’s called “Lessons from Kokomo on How to Spend Responsibly” and takes another look, obviously, at Kokomo. But my focus here is the intersection of fiscal responsibility and investment. I highlight not just Kokomo, where getting a handle on the budget enabled investment, but also Los Angeles, where losing control of it has resulted in serious infrastructure problems. Here’s an excerpt:

Kokomo can spend money on these items because it took care of fiscal business. Not all debt is bad, but in this case, by mostly resisting the urge to borrow, Kokomo will retain the ability to invest well into the future by not encumbering future cash flow. As a small industrial city, Kokomo still has challenges to be sure, but it appears to be on the right track.

Other cities are in different stages of this process. Consider Los Angeles, which is also making national news, this time for its crumbling infrastructure. The New York Times reported that it faces more than $8 billion in needed repairs just to bring its worst roads, sidewalks and water lines up to par.

Why can’t Los Angeles afford to invest in infrastructure? Because it allowed its budget to get out of control. Some blame this on the city’s fear of raising taxes, but L.A. is hardly a low-tax haven. Instead, as a report issued earlier by City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana notes, while revenues are anticipated to grow 4.4 percent — faster than national GDP — expenditures have been growing at an even faster rate.

Read the whole thing.


The Urban State of Mind: Meditations on the City is the first Urbanophile e-book, featuring provocative essays on the key issues facing our cities, including innovation, talent attraction and brain drain, global soft power, sustainability, economic development, and localism. Included are 28 carefully curated essays out of nearly 1,200 posts in the first seven years of the Urbanophile, plus 9 original pieces. It's great for anyone who cares about our cities.

by Aaron M. Renn at November 21, 2014 04:43 AM

Doc Searls WeblogDoc Searls Weblog »

Some thoughts on App Based Car Services (ABCS)

I started using Uber in April. According to my Uber page on the Web, I’ve had fifteen rides so far. But, given all the bad news that’s going down, my patronage of the company is at least suspended. As an overdue hedge, I just signed up with Lyft. I’m also looking at BlaBlaCar here in the U.K. (where I am at the moment), plus other alternatives, including plain old taxis and car services again.

But here are a few learnings I’ve gained in the meantime.

First Uber isn’t about “ride sharing.” That’s just marketing gloss at this point. Instead Uber is what’s coming to be called an “app-based car service.” Let’s call it ABCS. I mean hey, if that’s what the New York Attorney General calls it, that’s what it is. At least for now.

ABCS is a new category, growing within and alongside two existing categories: taxis and livery. These are both old, established and highly regulated (in New York City for example, by the Taxi and Livery Commission).

My first few Uber drivers were dudes picking up some extra bucks, or so it seemed. The rest, including all the recent ones, have been livery drivers taking advantage of one more way to get a fare. Some had as many as three dedicated cell phones on their front seat: one for Uber, one for Lyft, and one for whatever car (livery) service they otherwise work for. Here are their names, in reverse chronological order: Jeffrey (whose real name was Afghanistani), Heriberto, Malik, Abdisalam, Fernando, Jourabek, Maleche, Namgyal, Mohammad, Rafael, Maged, Shahin, Imtiaz, Shaafi and Conrad. That last one was my first, in Santa Barbara.

Rather than being a new way to “share rides,” ABCS is a great hack on dispatch — a function of taxis and car services that has long been stuck in the walkie-talkie age — and payment ease.

But ABCS also hacks the whole car category as well. Why spend $300/month on a lease, or $30k for a car, plus the cost of gas, tolls, insurance and upkeep, when you’ll spend less just calling up rides from an app — and when every ride is friction-free and fully accountable? (Even to the extent that every charge is easy to post in an expense account.)

Cars are already becoming generic. (If you rent cars often, you know what I mean. A Toyota is a Nissan is a Chevy is a Hyundai.) And now we have a generation coming up that gives a much smaller damn about driving than did previous ones — at least in the U.S. All that aspirational stuff about independence and style doesn’t matter as much as it used to. How long before GM, Ford and Toyota start making special models just for Uber and Lyft drivers? (In a way Ford did that for livery with Lincoln Town Cars. Not coincidentally, several of my Uber drivers in New York and New Jersey have been in black Town Cars. Another fave: Toyota Avalons.

Anyway, I think we are amidst of many disruptions that caused by app-based ways to shrink the distance between supply and demand. Changes within ABCS are happening rapidly and in real time. Example: SheRides. Here’s one story about it.

Whatever else ABCS does, driving still won’t be a way to get rich. At best it will be a stepping stone to jobs that pay better and involve more marketable skills. So to me one question is, What are the next stones? And, Does the emergence of ABCS give workers on the supply side — other than those running the companies — a lift?

by Doc Searls at November 21, 2014 12:18 AM

November 20, 2014

CrossFit 204: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Workout: Nov. 23, 2014

Burpee box jumps: the only thing worse than burpees?

Box-over burpees: the only thing worse than burpees?

8 rounds of:

4 4-mat shuttles (there and back is 1 rep)

10 deadlifts

8 box-over burpees

Skills

5 rounds of:

10 chest-to-bar pull-ups

6 handstand push-ups

Rest as needed

Max L-sit

Max handstand hold

2 max sets of double-unders (a miss ends your set)

by Mike at November 20, 2014 11:31 PM

Workout: Nov. 22, 2014

The jerk is all about aggression. Find your inner gorilla.

Slam your feet into the rubber and push up hard until you have control of the load.

Clean and jerk 2-2-2-2-2

Back squat 8-8-8

2 rounds of:

25 weighted sit-ups

25 hollow rocks

by Mike at November 20, 2014 11:16 PM

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

Worse than Mere Madness

One example of countless:

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/392994/university-bans-word-freshman-because-its-sexist-and-promotes-rape-katherine-timpf

Elon University in North Carolina banned the word “freshman” from its website and student orientation, claiming it’s sexist and suggests that the young women might make good rape victims.

It’s replacing the term with “first-year.”

“The term has often been felt to refer to the vulnerableness of young women in college for the first time,” Leigh-Anne Royster, the school’s “Inclusive Community Wellbeing Director” told the College Fix.

“Given the rates of sexual violence perpetrated against women on college campuses, it is useful to examine any use of a term that suggests that a group of people just entering college might be targets for such violence in any way,” she added.

In fact, the word is apparently so dangerous that any orientation leader who dared to use it was immediately corrected.

“They engrained over and over in our brains that it was supposed to be ‘first-year,’ not ‘freshman,’” sophomore orientation leader Alaina Schukraft told the Fix. “They were very adamant . . . and stressed the importance of using language that would make the new students feel comfortable.”

Ironically, Schukraft said that multiple students approached her and said they were actually more comfortable with the word “freshman.”

But no matter. Greg Zaiser, vice president of admissions and financial planning, insists that it will make the school a better place for women — telling the Fix that people consider “freshman” to be a “sexist” word.

“As an inclusive community, Elon strives to incorporate language that is current and reflective of our student body,” Zaiser said in an e-mail to the Fix.

Please note how, step by step, Leftists go from a perfectly reasonable major premise (such as, for example, that every man in a free society should have license to speak freely, publish in the press freely, think as he likes and do as he likes,  provided no one else is harmed) through a very dubious minor premise (such as, for example, that certain words influence the psychology as subtly as astrological conjunctions of malign stars, including words that use the word ‘men’ to refer to the race, not the sex; and this influence, in turn, leads or tends to lead to an environment where some real harm, such as rape or murder, takes place) to reach an utterly and screamingly bounce-off-the-rubber-walls insane (such as, for example, that no man in a free society has license to say or speak the word ‘freshmen’ lest the word curse him by bad magic).

To support the minor premise, all that is needed is a disbelief in human free will and moral agency, and a belief in elves, or other subtle and aery sprites that influence the souls of otherwise innocent boys and turn them into frogs, or, as the case may be, rapists. Knock wood. If we all agree not to say ‘freshmen’ or ‘manhole-cover’ or ‘fireman’ or ‘actress’ or ‘bully’ or ‘shrill’ then the subtle and invisible frogs that cause rape will vanish back into the soot and smoke of svartalfheim, where the bad sprites come from.

Since the minor premise is only doubtful — for it is possible, under the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis of Linguistic Relativity, that vocabulary does effect cognitive content indirectly — anyone scoffing at the gibbering bounce-off-walls copulation-bat-guano insanity of the conclusion can be directed to boring and inconclusive make-believe scientific studies garbed in arglebargle and jabberwocky that supports the minor premise. This will cow the meek, and those who are not weak can be denounced as obscurantists, luddites, and anti-science bigots.

The debate is over. The science is settled.

For topics where science has no authority to offer, any other authority can be proposed as a substitute in the minor premise. Instead of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis of Linguistic Relativity, make up anything, and pretend it is a consensus of right-thinking people. It does not matter who are what your pretend authority is, since no one ever actually checks the minor premise anyway, but rely on peer pressure, on social cues, to tell him which way the cloud of mob-opinion is moving, or is said to be moving.

So, once more: (1) start with a reasonable and obvious good, say, the moral good of charity to the poor, or equality between the races, as a major premise. (2) Without drawing attention to it, slip in a doubtful but not insane minor premise, say, the economists think inflating the currency will create demand which in turn creates meatpies falling from clouds, or that concerned and thoughtful people have concluded a strong central government armed with the power to read men’s hearts will abolish race hatred. (3) Derive an utterly Lovecraftian noneuclidean shrieking horror of insanity conclusion from it, such as that the you must surrender your liberty and dignity to achieve this obvious good in the first case, or, in the second case, that you must surrender your liberty and dignity to achieve this obvious good. I

n fact, in all cases, the conclusion is always the same: you are being asked to surrender your liberty and dignity, to adopt absurdities of speech and behavior, and invite halfwitted bureaucrats or perverted or crapulent politicians to pester, belittle, and rob you, in order to achieve some obvious good which has no possible cause and effect relationship to the liberties and dignities you are surrendering.

And when the obvious good allegedly being pursued is farther away than before, instead of re-examining the minor premise to see whether the cause and effect relationship alleged actually exists, one redoubles his efforts, and demands twice as many concessions from your life and liberty and happiness as before.

You would think so simple a trick would not work. Think again. No trick has ever worked so well and so entirely defrauded so many people into throwing away their minds, their liberties and the their self respect, yea, with both hands.

Leftism is not a mental disease. It is not merely madness. Madness is wholesome compared to this.

It is a mental act of blanking out reality so that one can say and do things as if one has a mental disease. It is playacting a mental disease; it is a make-believe mental disease.

The Leftists are addicts: they are addicted to unreality.

Reality makes them feel bad and bad about themselves. Reality wounds their self esteem. Unreality make them feel good and good about themselves. This addiction has its fishhooks deeply deeply wedged into the scrotums of their self esteem. They can no more unhook the addiction than they could drop their trousers in public to detach a cruel groin barb.

And to attempt to pull out the addiction would cause so much pain to their self esteem, they cannot attempt it; they cannot discuss attempting it; they cannot think about attempting it. They not only deny that they have a problem, they accuse all those around them of having the problem, of being oppressors, of lusting for power, of being greedy, or being misogynists, of being racists. This is merely a litany of their own crimes and failings.

And when they act and speak so as to prove that they are guilty of all they accuse the innocent of — that fact also is swallowed up on the make believe. It is blanked out. Something happens in their brain cells, and suddenly it never had happened. They don’t argue the point, they don’t even see the point, they just change the subject and launch another round of accusations, and accuse a bystander of the flaws they practice, but he does not.

Like a crack addict, they will do anything, anything, to feed their unreality addiction, sell their clothing, turn tricks, commit crimes, adore and worship Jihadists, protect and adore Communists, wear images of Che and Mao — anything.

Death or threats of death do not shock them back to reality, since reality is the one thing this whole elaborate addiction-behavior is attempting to avoid. They welcome death. They would like to die, but they would like you to die first.

The purpose of the make believe madness is to avoid real problems in life by inventing make believe problems (such as assuming badthink words have magic powers) that can be solved by nagging and petty tyranny, and, in extreme cases of Leftism, real tyranny.

Normal madness caused by normal chemical imbalances in the brain are wholesome compared to this.

by John C Wright at November 20, 2014 10:49 PM

Practically Efficient

All data go to hell

Forbes describes how Fitbit data are being used in a personal injury case:

The young woman in question was injured in an accident four years ago. Back then, Fitbits weren’t even on the market, but given that she was a personal trainer, her lawyers at McLeod Law believe they can say with confidence that she led an active lifestyle. A week from now, they will start processing data from her Fitbit to show that her activity levels are now under a baseline for someone of her age and profession.

In this case, the data are being used in a way that's beneficial to the individual on which the data were collected. But that's just this case.

This is such a perfect example of something that I preach to anyone who doesn't seem to care about data privacy. The mindset goes something like this: "I don't care if the government or Big Company X has my data. I haven't done anything wrong."

It's fine if you don't care about privacy, but if you use the innocent-today-therefore-innocent-forever logic to arrive at your apathy, you've gone way astray. You can't possibly anticipate how today's data will be used to implicate you in the future.

You can't possibly foresee how the fact that you went to lunch at a cafe on Broad Street at 11:43 AM on a Wednesday morning in July will become relevant and subpoenaed in a court case involving people you don't even know. You can't possibly be certain that a pattern of perfectly innocuous web searches you did in 2009 will raise suspicion in light of an accusation someone makes in 2021. You can't be sure that future laws will err more on maintaining civil liberties than ensnaring enemies of the state.

In his 1954 book How to Lie With Statistics, Darrell Huff famously said "If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything." I would offer a 21st century version: We're all guilty given enough database unions.

via FlowingData

by Eddie Smith at November 20, 2014 10:00 PM

Natural Running Center

JFK 50-Miler: Finding Peace on the Trail

In preparation for my return to the JFK 50-mile run this weekend, I’d like to share my race report from the 2008 run. This top photo was taken at mile 48 and made the front page of the Hagerstown Herald Mail in Maryland. It captures the spirit of ultra running. I wanted to relive this [Read more...]

by BillK at November 20, 2014 08:24 PM

512 Pixels

Evernote 6.0 ships with Yosemite redesign →

After a little bit of a misfire on the Mac App Store earlier today, Evernote 6.0 for Mac is out, with a new look for Yosemite. There are no major new features; just a new, flatter, more transparent UI that looks a lot more at home on OS X Yosemite.

Permalink

by Stephen Hackett at November 20, 2014 07:52 PM

The Brooks Review

∞ Read Receipts

Are really, really nice and you should have them enabled.

Here’s why, in short, you should stop being paranoid and turn on read receipts:

  1. It’s kind. I bet you love it when your buddies have it turned on, why not do the same? You love it because then you know they got, and saw your message. You also know when you pester them for an answer, and when they just haven’t checked their phones.1
  2. It can save you time when you are talking with someone. You know that I loathe the ‘thanks’ emails, this is a similar situation. “Ok, see you in ten.” That’s one of those statements where a needed response is vague. Typically I would say “Yep”. But with read receipts I can just read the message and know that the other person knows I saw the message, and now I don’t have to type anything and that person got instant feedback — if I didn’t agree I would respond.

The only reason you don’t have them on is because you want to delay your response, or “hide”. Get over it. Or just unlock your phone and pull down notification center — that will allow you to read messages without sending the read receipt.

So, go enable them.

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  1. Thanks Alex for reminding me of this. 

by Ben Brooks at November 20, 2014 07:46 PM

Podcasters: You’re In The Entertainment Industry! [YouTube]

This is a great rant:

…hand puppets would be better podcast hosts than half the tech podcasts…

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by Ben Brooks at November 20, 2014 07:42 PM

512 Pixels

The Wirecutter picks the best minivan →

John Neff:

The Honda Odyssey is the best minivan now, as it has been for many years. The EX model is the best configuration when both price and features are weighted equally, while the EX-L is also a good choice if you wants its extra features and can afford the higher cost. The Odyssey beats its rivals on paper as well in practice, from safety to efficiency to usability, and though it’s been criticised for being expensive, it’s really the best value in the long run. The future of the minivan segment may always be in question, but a family shopping for its next truckster will never second-guess buying an Odyssey.

My wife drives a 2006 Odyssey, and it really is just about the perfect family car.

Permalink

by Stephen Hackett at November 20, 2014 07:39 PM

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

Tarot is Ours

Whoops. This was notes on a future column, which got published by mistake. Since two readers have already commented on it, I cannot in fairness put it back into draft status.

So, instead, it is now a ‘posting a link’ post. Time to take Tarot cards back from the occultists. They are ours. The symbolism is ours.

Posts in this series:

 

Divination is gravely evil and strictly forbidden. I don’t support it, suggest it, take it lightly, or play around with it. Here’s why:

2115 God can reveal the future to his prophets or to other saints. Still, a sound Christian attitude consists in putting oneself confidently into the hands of Providence for whatever concerns the future, and giving up all unhealthy curiosity about it. Improvidence, however, can constitute a lack of responsibility.

2116 All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to “unveil” the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.

2117 All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one’s service and have a supernatural power over others – even if this were for the sake of restoring their health – are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another’s credulity.

Divination is one of two things: a fraud, or trafficking with dark forces. In any case, it is unbefitting a Christian and could be a gateway to a direct encounter with grave evil. This includes the use of Tarot cards for divination.

 

by John C Wright at November 20, 2014 07:29 PM

Quote of the Day

From the Pen of Theodore Dalrymple:

Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small. In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.   

by John C Wright at November 20, 2014 07:06 PM

Front Porch Republic

Localist Roundup: Stop Black Thursday

This piece offers some criticism of trends in the local food movement. Meanwhile, this article condemns excess and waste in the use of food.

This article contends that current American political problems were fundamentally unaccounted for in the writing of the Constitution.

Lastly, this piece explains how people are trying to combat the transformation of Thanksgiving into a shopping day.

The post Localist Roundup: Stop Black Thursday appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Josiah Duran at November 20, 2014 06:33 PM

The Brooks Review

Flare App Updated Effects

One thing I didn’t know about Flare 2 is that the effects are updated automatically whenever they add new ones. Two new ones “Analog Gallery” and “Vintage Galore” were added.

Once again, they are nice. Vintage Galore is particularly nice if you remove the “paper” effect from it. I love this app more and more.

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by Ben Brooks at November 20, 2014 05:57 PM

Quick Tip: Manage Apple Pay defaults

I hadn’t thought to look in Settings to change this. Glad I read this.

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

by Ben Brooks at November 20, 2014 05:34 PM

Front Porch Republic

Text Neck

Yep, there is such a thing.

The post Text Neck appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Jeffrey Polet at November 20, 2014 05:25 PM

Caring for Elderly Parents

The ever-reliable, always-interesting Bill Schambra has a very good piece over at NPQ on the difficulties of caring for one’s parents in a managerial age. Schambra highlights the ways in which the professional management of care has a tendency to fracture not only the nature of the care, but the person receiving it.

The frantic juggling act by which we try to hold the stream of services together around just one person like my mother is simply an outward sign of this larger complexity, for which professionalism itself has no response—although it tries. Care coordination meetings, one-stop social service centers, block grants, collaborative coalitions…all these are clumsy institutional devices to try to put back together the person previously subdivided into serviceable parts. But sooner or later, the systems show up with these problems on the doorstep of the nonprofit sector—on your doorstep.

Schambra highlights the ways in which non-profits are better at maintaining the integrity and dignity of the person than are public agencies, with their specialization, regulations (read: restrictions), and siloing of care. The latter tend to look at social needs, at the elderly as a problem to be solved, and care about measurable outcomes more than the person. (What parent has ever evaluated the way they raise their children with reference to “measurable outcomes?”)

One thought that occurred to me while reading Schambra’s excellent essay with its Tocquevillian overtones: his ability to participate in his mother’s care is in part accomplished by having the means available to make the flight from DC to MI. But what of those whose children, spread around the country, have no such means? Placed into the eldercare-complex, these individuals are going to experience tremendous fracturing and dehumanization, at high costs, both social and financial. In a world where children no longer can nor will reciprocate dependent care with their parents, the professionalization of care is a troubling second option. Detailed discussions concerning public programs, often offered as an alternative to civil society in an age of hypermobility, ought to consider class distinctions.

Highly recommended.

The post Caring for Elderly Parents appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Jeffrey Polet at November 20, 2014 04:52 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Re: “Let’s talk when you’re free”

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Productive people are never “free.” They don’t have 15 minutes on their lunch break to “have a quick call.”

They don’t “kill time”—a terrible phrase. You can always put a window of time to good use if you work for it.

Productive people schedule their priorities—not always their time, but always their priorities. When they don’t have something to do, they find something to do.

By the way, it’s not that productive people don’t make time for friends, family, recovery, and play time. They do. But because they do, and because they have plenty of other things to consider… they’re rarely “free.”

###

Image: Taaalia

by Chris Guillebeau at November 20, 2014 04:41 PM

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

THE WRIGHT PERSPECTIVE: Talking Past Each Other

The latest of my ongoing weekly columns at mancave-site EveryJoe.

Why are political discussions between Left and Right futile?

The short answer is that the Right bases their conclusions on facts, evidence, discriminating judgment, and seeks to discover, through debate, the least painful of the various imperfect options reality offers.

The Left, on the other hand, bases their conclusions on an oddly reckless flight from fact, a distaste for reality that can only be called hatred, and a suspension of discrimination, and that mental act which is the opposite of discovery, namely, the attempt to blank out or unlearn or reject facts of the world and of human nature known to all since prehistory.

As for debate, that is Leftist kryptonite. The Left are immune to facts. Why?

Let us not here address the question of whether Leftists are immune to facts during political debates and discussions. The examples are too numerous to list in a column this size. Instead, let us here seek only to account for it. This column is meant only for those aware of this absurdly common phenomenon. Those who are unaware, or who make themselves unaware, need read no farther, but are directed to the nearest history book.

We have a whole generation of people who seek the kind of thing people naturally seek from God (love, meaning, a moral compass, communion and companionship, self-worth) they are now seeking from politics.

That is why these modern Postchristian people — so overwhelmingly Leftist that in this column I use the terms interchangeably — are immune to facts during normal political discussions and debates: to them it is not a political discussion.

Rather, it is a religious discussion.

Let us distinguish: A political discussion is how best to arrange the laws to achieve peace and freedom. A religious discussion is always about what one must do to be saved.

How best to arrange the laws to achieve peace and freedom is partly a discussion of philosophical priorities, partly a discussion of jurisprudence, of economics, and partly a discussion of practical mass-psychology, that is, identifying correctly the expected results of human beings to various rewards or punishments. These are matters where reasonable people can differ in their judgments regarding the credibility to be granted certain evidence, or can differ in their priorities, but despite those differences, theoretical matters can be discussed rationally via investigating their logical coherence, and factual matters can be discussed rationally via investigating the facts. Therefore some basis for reasonable discussion always exists when the matters concern politics.

On the other hand, the different religions have different answers to the question of how to be saved.

The Christians say to be saved, you must be baptized, renounce the devil, rely not on your own good deed, but accept the generous offer of Christ to justify your sins.

The Postchristians say to be saved you must recycle, be tolerant, fight racism, and distribute the wealth, stop global warming by abolishing fossil fuels.

Read the whole thing, leave a comment, mock the troll, and drive up my clickthrough numbers.

http://www.everyjoe.com/2014/11/19/politics/political-discussions-left-right-futile/

by John C Wright at November 20, 2014 04:09 PM

Our First Hardcover

From my publisher. The words below are his:

 A number of people have been asking when we’re going to be offering print edition of our books, and believe it or not, we’ve actually been doing so for two months. However, there was a glitch at Amazon that prevented the cover image from being displayed on the listing, and we didn’t want to send people there until the issue had been resolved. It was finally resolved yesterday, and so we’re pleased to be able to say that the hardcover edition of AWAKE IN THE NIGHT LAND is now available from Amazon for the retail price of $24.99. It’s discounted somewhat from that, of course, but I only see the converted US pricing, so I don’t know exactly what price Amazon is offering it for in the USA. We switched from the red of the Kindle version to the blue of the Kindle novella cover because the author preferred it, and I have to say, I think it was the right choice. It is 342 pages and it will make a handsome addition to the library of any discerning reader.

Now that we’ve got the process worked out and LL is helping with the layouts, we will gradually be adding more print editions to our catalog. VICTORIA: A Novel of 4th Generation War will be next in trade paperback, since we have an obligation to publish it in that format, and after that, well, it would be helpful to hear suggestions from the people who are seriously interested in buying hardcovers. AWAKE IN THE NIGHT LAND comes with a dust jacket, but we’re subsequently going to be switching to casebound since people expressed a fairly strong preference for that and the books will last longer.

 

by John C Wright at November 20, 2014 02:52 PM

Crossway Blog

What’s The Deal With Footwashing?

Footwashing?

Footwashing was a common practice in Jesus’s day. Roads were just dirt, and people would have worn sandals of rope and leather. Combine the sweat-inducing heat with nearly bare feet, and dusty roads, and you can imagine the result. When you entered someone’s home, you came with filthy, sweaty feet, and it was common courtesy to have a servant wash them when you entered the home. Old Testament scholar Andreas Köstenberger notes: “The practice of footwashing, which has a long Old Testament tradition, usually was performed by slaves.”

Some rabbis taught that this task was so lowly and demeaning that it was unacceptable to have a Jew do it—even if he was a slave. Even today in the Middle East, feet are considered filthy and undignified. You may have seen scenes from political protests where angry mobs pound statues or billboards with shoes, or you might recall the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at a visiting president. It’s considered a profound insult. There’s a deep sense, culturally speaking, of disgust about feet.

The Most Humiliating Task of the Evening

When Jesus washes the disciples’ feet (recorded in John 13:1-17), it appears that something of a faux pas has taken place. Jesus was an important figure, a well-enough known teacher, that a crowd gathered and made quite a scene on his entry to Jerusalem. And yet, here he is, the guest of honor in someone’s home, and no one has washed his feet. Not even his disciples considered their master’s dignity and comfort at the meal. So as they bicker about their roles in the coming kingdom, he gets up, disrobes, assumes the role of a slave, and begins washing the disciples’ feet. Songwriter and author Michael Card describes the moment beautifully:

This is a pivotal moment . . . in that Jesus finally gives up on words. He has told them numerous parables about slaves, now he will portray the most humiliating of slave roles, the washing of feet. Even after three long years of his often bizarre and indescribable behavior, the disciples are befuddled by the inappropriate behavior that leaves them speechless.

Only someone with nothing to prove could take such a posture. It’s nearly impossible to imagine a Kardashian, an NFL star, or a head of state doing any such thing; it would be too disruptive to their image of power and prestige.

Yet Jesus, who has power and authority over everything on earth, is free to be radically sacrificial and to act like a slave, crawling on his hands and knees among a bunch of filthy feet. Only someone with the ultimate sense of affirmation, a sense that only the opinion of One mattered, could have such humility.

“You’ll Never Wash My Feet, Jesus!”

As Jesus passes among the disciples, washing their feet, they are bewildered. Peter objects to the indignity of it all. “You shall never wash my feet,” he says. His first response to Jesus is to say that Jesus is too good to wash his feet. Jesus replies, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me” (John 13:8).

The disciples had just been arguing about who would sit where in the coming kingdom, and Jesus is telling them, “In my kingdom, the King is a slave. If you can’t handle that, then you don’t want my kingdom.”

The Way Up Is Down

Peter then swings the pendulum in the other direction. “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” (v. 9). There’s more than a hint of religiosity in there. Not content to merely receive what Jesus has offered, Peter one-ups him, asking for a greater cleansing, demonstrating (as Peter often does) a desire to stand out from the crowd, to be exceedingly good at his religion.

But this moment isn’t about Peter; it’s about Jesus, demonstrating to the disciples (and to all of history) that the greatest among us is the one who serves out of deep and abiding love, out of a love that overflows from the love-filled community of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, pouring out from them into the community of people made new by the power of the gospel. He says, “What I’m doing for you is enough.” We need only to receive what Jesus has done—nothing more. No need for outdoing, one-upping, or adding on.

“The way down is the way up,” Jesus essentially says, getting on his hands and knees to scrub their filthy feet.

This excerpt was adapted from Faithmapping: A Gospel Atlas for Your Spiritual Journey by Daniel Montgomery and Mike Cosper.


Daniel Montgomery (MDiv, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the founder and lead pastor of Sojourn Community Church and founder of Sojourn Network.

Mike Cosper is one of the founding pastors of Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky, where he serves as the pastor of worship and arts. He is the founder of Sojourn Music and contributes regularly to the Gospel Coalition blog, where he writes about worship and culture. He is the author of Rhythms of Grace and The Stories We Tell and coauthor of Faithmapping.

by Nick Rynerson at November 20, 2014 02:10 PM

Hacking Distributed

HyperDex 1.5.0: Authorization

HyperDex Logo

We are proud to announce HyperDex 1.5.0 This release brings the following changes and improvements:

  • Per object authorization: HyperDex uses macaroons for authorization. Macaroons are a new authorization framework from Google that enables per-object authorization, and enables decentralized authorization across an entire cluster.

    Read more about macaroons in the new documentation chapter: http://hyperdex.org/doc/latest/Authorization

HyperDex runs on 64-bit Linux (Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, Centos) and OS X. Binary packages for Debian 7, Ubuntu 12.04,14.04, Fedora 20, and CentOS 6,7 are available, as well as source tarballs for other Linux platforms.

This release provides bindings for C, C++, Python, Node.js, Java, Ruby, and Go.

An evaluation version of Warp, and Warp bindings for Python, Java, and Ruby are available in the HyperDex repository. Install the "hyperdex-warp" package in your package manager to switch from HyperDex to Warp and test out the evaluation version.

by Robert Escriva at November 20, 2014 01:40 PM

Front Porch Republic

The Market Made Me Do It (Part II)

markets

Malibu, CA

Where does Catholic Social Thought come down on this question? Not surprisingly, Catholic thought often emphasizes solutions taken at the level of the economic and political system: government-provided safety nets, support for unions, regulation of the labor market. The idea of social justice takes for granted a need to act at a system-wide level to address social problems.

You may be surprised, though, to find that Catholic Social Thought places expectations on the business owner, as well as the government official, for social justice. If actual markets leave as little room for businesses to act toward any goal but the maximization of profit by any legal means, then what shall we make of John Paul II’s exhortations in Centesimus Annus?

Profit is a regulator of the life of a business, but it is not the only one; other human and moral factors must also be considered which, in the long term, are at least equally important for the life of a business (para. 35).

If the maximization of profit is only one of the goals of a business, which exists as a “community of persons,” there must be some room for the pursuit of goals other than profits in markets.

In Centesimus Annus, John Paul II, after affirming the need for government to oversee the “the exercise of human rights in the economic sector.” However, he goes on to say that 

primary responsibility in this area [the area of human rights] belongs not to the State but to individuals and to the various groups and associations which make up society (para. 48). 

It makes no sense to place primary responsibility on individuals and groups if they have no practical scope, if they cannot act other than market pressures dictate.

John Paul II was not alone in expecting more from business owners. In Caritas in Veritate, Benedict XVI criticized ways of thinking in which the business sector was morally neutral, in which for profit-businesses focused on efficiency, the government sector ensured distributive justice, and the non-profit sector charity. Instead, Benedict encouraged us to create space for the operation of justice and charity in the for-profit sector. Again, it makes no sense to expect charity to operate in the private sector if business owners have no practical space in which to allow love and care for workers to operate.

According to Lumen Gentium, from Vatican II, lay Catholics are supposed to be leaven in the world. 

They are called there to the secular order] by God that by exercising their proper function and led by the spirit of the Gospel they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven. 

Think about what his means.  Leaven does not work to raise the bread according to some master plan, executed from the national Department of Leaven. The leaven is not a voting bloc; it is instead a sort of local catalyst. Each bit of leaven works where it is, and the dough rises.

Catholic social teaching, while assigning a crucial role to government in the promotion of rights, demands that businesses play their appropriate subsidiary role. Is it possible for them to do so, and remain viable in competitive markets?  Or is Catholic Social Teaching demanding something impossible?

I worry that economic theory contributes to the Market Made Me Do It attitude, by making it seem that there is no room for moral agency in business, by the way it presents the concept of competitive markets. In the economic account of competitive markets, the business owner is a price taker: he has no control over the price, which is revealed in some mysterious way in market transactions.  His only choice is over output, which is chosen to maximize his profits.  In both labor and capital markets the business owner is also a price taker.  In the long run, competitive pressures from entry and exit will drive his economic profits down to zero: he will earn the same rate of return on his investment that he could have earned in other industries.

There is not much room for moral agency in this model.  If the business owner thinks the market wage is too low, and decides to pay his workers more, or if he resists cutting his workforce when demand is slack, or if the business contributes to the community out of profits in a truly disinterested way, his profits will fall below the market rate of return, and he will risk being driven out of business or bought out by a less scrupulous employer who will act to maximize profits.  What’s a moral person to do?  “The market made me do it.”

If the Market makes us do it, then we can’t expect much to be accomplished when we try to make businesses more human. The only way to exercise solidarity is to try to make systemic changes, to change the rules under which we must operate. It is impossible if all markets fit the perfectly competitive model of economic theory.  

Most real markets, however (even competitive markets), are full of niches: geographic, brand, service niches.  Long-term relationships with customers and suppliers, barriers to entry, and the unique skills and talents of workers and employers create ‘economic rents’—that is, profits that are not easily competed away.  They can provide a space—sometimes only a little space—to give fuller rein to an employer’s desire to more fully include the interests of employees and other stakeholders in his business decisions.

Mainstream economics can easily miss the room for moral agency in economics, because it often ignores the reality of imperfect competition, and lacks an analytical language to describe the challenges and contributions of entrepreneurs.  

There is a larger point here. The analytical models that we use to understand the economy, and to run a business, are not enough to fully understand the economy, and are not enough to act in it.  For example, the competitive model of supply and demand doesn’t tell us how buyers and sellers find each other, figure out what prices to pay, or set up and staff production operations. These things happen without being described in an economic model. Economists don’t know how new products come about.  A couple of nights ago Matthew Brach told me about newly minted finance college grads who cling to their spreadsheet models of valuation, reluctant to make the rule of thumb adjustments and to add in things that don’t fit the model—is the company losing long-term clients, for example. Although the spreadsheets and valuation formulas are necessary to sound valuation, they are not sufficient. Valuation must always make use of the framework, but must always go beyond it.

What I’m trying to say is: there will always be a big gap between economic descriptions of the economy, and of how people act in the economy, and what it is like to make a real decision. And what fills the gaps in the theory—what Catholic Social Thought calls practical wisdom, practical judgment—is crucial to the operation of the economy, even though we cannot describe it precisely. 

What fills the gaps?  People making decisions, entrepreneurs developing new products, making things happen that we economists can’t predict or explain fully. An entrepreneur specializes in making things happen in the messy, uncertain environments in which businesses operate. There is little room for the entrepreneur in economics, since the messy, uncertain details of business have been assumed away—we assume that everyone knows what the demand curves and cost curves look like, and new products, technologies, and business organizations come into being magically, without any entrepreneurial enterprise.  

Many of our students already are entrepreneurs, or soon will be; they are often attracted to the challenge of making something new happen in environments where no one expected it could be done, of finding a way.  The challenges facing the entrepreneur are similar to the challenges facing the moral business owner: how to create value where none was before, how to create an organization that generates benefits not just for the entrepreneur but for customers.  The challenge of creating a business that has aspects of a good community of capital owners, customers, and workers is the same sort of challenge.  There are remarkable people out there trying to make these sorts of businesses work, and succeeding.  Sometimes it will not be possible, but sometimes it will—it is a challenge worthy of, and big enough for, a morally serious entrepreneur.

The work of the morally serious entrepreneur will not be visible in economic models, because entrepreneurial activity is invisible to economic models. So there is space for this work.

There will of course be times when market pressures will force a business to make difficult choices with real human costs: to let people go who need the work, for example.  In preparation for this talk I wanted to read case studies of firms which are trying to do things differently—to make products which are good for people and to provide for good work: to pay more, to avoid layoffs, for example. Mike Naughton and David Specht have done us all a real service with this collection of case studies, Leading Wisely in Difficult Times

We need more books like this, stories about how it is possible to live your faith in business without minimizing the difficulties.  And what I love about this book is that the “Difficult Times” are distressingly real: all of these companies face severe competitive pressures, demands for cost cuts from customers, and being true to stated values is difficult and discouraging work.

What practical advice can be gleaned from this book, and from the talks we’ve heard at this conference?  I have three pieces of advice.

First, watch your language. How we speak affects how we think, and how we think can constrain us and close us off to the possibilities. The challenge to work in business and to lead differently is a social challenge. Sean Fieler in his talk on finance noted that the way we talk about business and finance matters—are investments ‘plays’, are managers ‘jockeys’, are people ‘seats’, are customers just competitors in the game?  Bob Kennedy resists saying that people work for him, instead reminding himself that he is working with them, and that his job is to help arrange things so that they can contribute to the common project. Mission statements don’t matter if they are ignored, of course, but they can be an important source of concepts and language, to help a company to frame its challenges, to hold it accountable to its principles, particularly when times are tough. 

A second piece of advice is to embody your principles in a set of practices. Don’t leave them in the mission statement. Families that want to maintain their unity adopt practices like “eat dinner together,” “say the rosary together,” “have a game night at least every other week.” In the same way, a company that is serious about its values must make them real in practices. Practices help to develop habits.  One of my favorite stories from this book is that of a new manager who was told of an unusual practice at his new firm: when someone was fired, the manager who fired him would contact the fired employee and meet with him in person at least two times in the following year. When he had to do this, very soon after being hired, it was excruciatingly difficult—the first time. After his experience of reaching out to fired employees as a human being, this manager says he will continue this practice even if he moves to another company. It affects the way he fires workers, but it also affects the way he hires and manages his workers. Embody your principles in practices.

The third piece of advice is that this challenge is social.  Find a community of business executives who are struggling to do things differently, and meet with them, be accountable to them. Support and challenge one another. Find out who is doing what you are trying to do, and take them to lunch. Encourage young mentees to seek out work with companies which are trying to be good, and to work under those bosses who embody these values and bear the scars of these struggles. 

One final point: Sometimes change must come at the level of government, at a high level. But if you think of society purely from the perspective of a government regulator, or if you see the economy purely from the perspective of an abstract model, you will also miss how changes can emerge from the initiatives and struggles of those at local levels.  No one in the homeschooling movement was trying to change the education system, but they have made a difference. The government did not bring about workplace innovations of flex time, the franchises of McDonalds and ChikFilA. Important institutional changes emerge from the social order; they do not always have to be imposed from above. They are the results of entrepreneurial adjustment to changing circumstances, changing views of what is and is not important.

We should not minimize the reality of competitive pressures, and the difficult choices facing the business owner.  Neither ought we to maximize the reality of competitive markets, either: many markets are less than perfectly competitive, and firm owners are not helpless in the face of competitive pressure.  Sometimes “the market made me do it” will be a copout.

We need to encourage our students not to be overly intimidated by the market.  Those of them who are entrepreneurial should be encouraged to add one more thing to their desire to start a business and make it a success; to make it a good, caring place for everyone involved.  The business world is a great place to let their desires to create run free, to the benefit of them, their workers, and their communities.

The post The Market Made Me Do It (Part II) appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Andrew Yuengert at November 20, 2014 01:35 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

Evangelicals and Bible Translations 50 Years After the NIV

Next year the Committee on Bible Translation, Zondervan, and Biblica are celebrating the 50th year anniversary of the commissioning of the New International Version Bible.

At a special event celebrating this anniversary at the 66th annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, Doug Moo, current chair of the CBT, gave an impassioned presentation and reflection on not only the impact of the NIV, but also the relationship between evangelicals and Bible translations. He also gave some interesting insights into the CBT’s specific translation philosophy and Bible translating more broadly.

You can go here to see the whole live-blog, but below we’ve highlighted some of Moo’s insights:

One of Moo’s more insightful comments was in regards to principles of modern linguistics: A major principle is that “meaning is found not in individual words, as vital as they are, but in larger clusters (phrases, clauses, sentences, discourses)… Words themselves are not the final arbiters of meaning.”

“Translation is not, as many people assume, a matter of word substitution…Translators must first determine the meaning that the clustering of words in the biblical languages convey — and then select a cluster of English words that accurately communicates that meaning to modern listeners and readers.”

Which impacts how we view and understand the doctrine of inspiration: “The fact that translations transfer meaning, not words, makes clear that the doctrine of inspiration does not entail a ‘word-for-word’ translation approach.”

Moo asked the question, “Why do we still find ourselves speaking and writing about the ‘literal’ meaning of words?” He listed 3 reasons:

  • First is what I call “homiletical expediency.”  We want to show off our knowledge.
  • A second reason for using the word “literal” is simplicity.
  • Third, it is the way we were taught.

He followed this with some important questions for educators: “Do we effectively teach our students the realities of language? Or do we continue to require our second-year language students to translate ‘word for word,’ perpetuating a simplistic and ultimately quite false view of language?”

During the Q&A session one person asked, “Does the Septuagint offer us any guidance for English translation?” Moo responded, “It’s a very fascinating field of study to combine their practices and philosophy with those of modern translation. One of the things that strikes us is that we don’t have the original Septuagint. What we do have is evidence of an evolution over many years.”

Again, you can read the entire fascinating discussion at the BibleGateway live-blog.

The cherished NIV Bible read by millions today was more than five decades in the making! Join with us in celebrating its legacy, because as Dr. Moo said, “Fifty years of the NIV is cause for celebration.”

by Jeremy Bouma at November 20, 2014 01:16 PM

Inconsolation

realpath: It’s the real thing

I am apparently still suffering the unintentional side effects of my long-ago decision to dump everything from coreutils, bsd-games and util-linux back into my list. Because yesterday I realized I still had a zero-byte file for realpath hiding in my vimwiki folder. >:(

These things are like rabbits. Turn your back and they’ve multiplied. O_o

realpath belongs to the coreutils family, and I am not being kind by suggesting it has no real function or can’t solve an issue. Remember when I prattled endlessly about basename and dirname? realpath solves some of the issues that I mentioned with those programs.

Here’s what it looks like in action:

kmandla@6m47421: ~/temp$ realpath test.txt 
/home/kmandla/temp/test.txt

kmandla@6m47421: ~/temp$ realpath .
/home/kmandla/temp

Oh, K.Mandla. Thank you sooo much for showing that. Thank you sooo much for solving my existential crisis with realpath. K.Mandla, your grimy little blog is a fount of wisdom.

Hey, my little blog may be grimy, but at least it’s legit, original content. Can’t say that about a lot of Linux “news” sites. :evil:

Back to business: realpath, as you can see above, returns the path of the target you specify, or as the man page so verbosely explains, “prints the resolved path.” :\

Before you close this tab, here’s one more example:

kmandla@6m47421: ~$ realpath sdb1
/media/sdb1

O-ho. What’s this? Well, I keep a symlink in my home directory that targets a mount point — with that, I can abbreviate mount /media/sdb1 to just mount sdb1, no difference.

realpath returns the real path :roll: of the symlink, rather than just its location in my home folder. Now we’re cooking.

realpath will accept a few flags, but they strike me as particularly discrete cases for links, and tune realpath‘s output more than I would ever need. Double-check them if you feel you may want them.

So there it is. And unless I’m mistaken — again — this really is the last title from coreutils.

I think. :/


Tagged: file, folder, path

by K.Mandla at November 20, 2014 01:15 PM

mdp: A new challenger appears

You’ve probably known about tpp, a text-based presentation tool, for a long time. I know I’ve mentioned it here, and did a long time ago on another dumb site.

tpp never really has much competition, probably because text-based presentation tools represent an extremely narrow niche market. Extremely narrow — like, hair’s-breadth narrow. :shock:

mdp is a challenger for the throne though, and judging by its flair, it may be enough to drive a wedge into that extremely narrow niche market.

From the console, mdp has a very straitlaced look about it.

2014-11-08-2sjx281-mdp-01

Everything centered, clean arrangement, page counter in the lower right and authorship tag on the lower left. Arrow keys for control, space to advance and q to quit.

But, as might be anticipated, in a terminal emulator things get a little more intense.

2014-11-08-2sjx281-mdp-02

Wow. Underlining? UTF-8 characters? Wide character support? 256 colors? Madness. And what you can’t see are the fade effects between frames, courtesy in my case of rxvt-unicode.

Needless to say, that kind of wildness isn’t really available in my strict framebuffer environment (I didn’t try a framebuffer emulator. You try and tell me what happens), but I won’t hold it against you if you decide to join mdp’s team and work it from Xorg.

The second volley in mdp’s one-two punch on tpp is its compatibility with markdown. If you’ve ever edited a wiki page, or put together some blog posts with certain applications, or kept a journal of sorts, you probably already know some markdown.

Which means drafting an mdp presentation will be second nature for you. tpp’s “code” was never difficult to learn (the examples could teach you everything you needed to know in a matter of seconds), but using markdown as a background format is a natural choice.

And probably means you can easily convert some of your other markdown-ed projects into slides, in a jiffy.

To be sure, mdp still has a few hurdles to jump, before it catches up with some of tpp’s most basic features. For example, for what I’ve seen, mdp only does one transition. tpp has a little more variety in its presentation styles. And you can inject everyone’s favorite fatty text generator straight into tpp.

I don’t see that in mdp.

And tpp can drop into the shell, issue commands, and redirect the output into its presentation.

And mdp … ? Hmm. … :???:

Okay, so tpp still has some life in its old limbs. The newcomer may have a little more flash and dash, and may show more color and do a fancy fadeout between frames. But I’m afraid I might have to side with the incumbent this time.

Come back when you’ve learned a few more tricks, and we shall hold a battle royale for the crown of heavyweight text-based presentation tools. Tune in next time. … ;)


Tagged: powerpoint, presentation, text

by K.Mandla at November 20, 2014 01:00 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Beginner web dev tip: Use Inspect Element to learn more about HTML and CSS on a page

One of the neat things about learning web development is that the Web is full of examples you can learn from. You can use your browser’s View Page Source or View Source command (available from the right-click menu in Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Internet Explorer). An even better way to explore, though, is to use the Inspect Element action from the right-click menu in those browsers. If you right-click on the item you want to learn more about, you’ll be able to see the HTML and the current CSS applied to the page.

I use Google Chrome most of the time, so I’ll show you Inspect Element screen in that browser. Here we’re looking at the button on CSS-Tricks.com:

2014-11-10 15_37_06-CSS-Tricks.png

You’ll see the HTML on the left side and the CSS on the right. You can check or uncheck different CSS rules, and you can double-click on things to edit them. Check out the right-click menus for even more options.

Sometimes you may need to click on a different element in order to see the CSS rules that are relevant to what you’re curious about. As you hover over different elements, you’ll see them highlighted on the page.

If you click on the Console tab, you can experiment with Javascript too. If you want to view both the inspect element information and the Javascript console at the same time, click on the icon that looks like a > on the right side. This is particularly handy if you have a large screen.

Hope that helps!

The post Beginner web dev tip: Use Inspect Element to learn more about HTML and CSS on a page appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at November 20, 2014 01:00 PM

Practically Efficient

RegexOne

I've always known I'd be better off if I knew how to write regular expressions, but for some reason I never had the patience to teach myself through web searches and online manuals.

Thankfully I just came across RegexOne, a site with interactive tutorials and practical examples using regular expressions. Now I finally know how to write simple regular expressions and know enough to figure out more complex regular expressions when the need arises.

I really like sites that teach with real-time feedback. RegexOne's teaching model is great.

by Eddie Smith at November 20, 2014 01:00 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

[Common Places] The Promise and Prospects of Retrieval: Recent Developments in Dogmatics

When I was a graduate student in Cambridge in the late 1970s, dogmatics was a minority discipline, and the word itself almost never mentioned unless with reference to Barth’s magnum opus. It still enjoyed prestige in the German faculties, but was rarely a component of theological curricula in England (in Scotland the picture was, and remains, somewhat different). Interest in the inner content and overall structure of Christian teaching was edged out by other preoccupations: theological method, the dialogue of the religions, critical doctrinal history, analytical philosophy, the social science of religion. Exceptions to the prevailing lack of interest in systematic theological work, such as John Macquarrie’s Principles of Christian Theology, were just that: exceptions.

Moving to North America in the mid-80s, I found myself in a theological setting where dogmatics counted for more and attracted able practitioners. In part this was because of a well-established tradition of church theology and of church theological institutions outside the universities, Lutheran, Reformed, and Roman Catholic. Yet, a few exceptions aside, this culture did not generate an enduring dogmatic literature, largely restricting itself to textbooks and to translations of works such as Weber’s Foundations of Dogmatics or Thielicke’s The Evangelical Faith. Alongside this was another approach, often located in university divinity schools, which articulated doctrinal themes in negotiation with dominant philosophical or cultural norms; Hodgson’s Winds of the Spirit or Kaufman’s In Face of Mystery are among the most distinguished examples.

Returning to the UK a decade later, the theological culture of at least some faculties had shifted somewhat, and systematicians appeared guardedly optimistic. There were prolific writers in the field: Colin Gunton, then at the height of his powers, and T. F. Torrance, who produced a steady flow of doctrinal works in his retirement. Barth and other dogmaticians were read with respect and written about with intelligence; doctoral programmes in dogmatics attracted gifted candidates. Over the last twenty years, those elements have continued to establish themselves, and systematic theology enjoys better circumstances than it has for some time. A substantial systematic theology is beginning to appear from the Cambridge theologian Sarah Coakley, the first volume of which, God, Sexuality and the Self, sets out a fresh approach to the doctrine of the Trinity, and others are planned; there are successful monograph series in the field, and a widely respected journal, the International Journal of Systematic Theology. In North America, similarly, the period has seen much serious doctrinal writing, whether on the grand scale of Jenson’s Systematic Theology or in monographs from Kathryn Tanner, Michael Horton, Thomas Weinandy, Kevin Vanhoozer, and many others.

Why the change? Interest in dogmatics is an element in the presence of an intelligent, articulate ecclesially-minded culture which draws extensively on the church’s internal resources—biblical, theological, spiritual—in order to nourish its life and witness. This, in turn, prompts theologians to living conversation with the church’s heritage, looking to it for instruction, absorbing and inhabiting it as a complex body of texts, ideas and habits of mind which can relativize and sometimes subvert seemingly hegemonic modern conventions. In this connection, one thinks not only of those associated with Radical Orthodoxy, but of quieter trends in theological work, such as the recovery of the dogmatics and spirituality of Reformed orthodoxy in the work of Richard Muller and a host of other American and Dutch scholars, or loving attention to the speculative and exegetical works of the mediaeval schoolmen paid by interpreters such as Jean-Pierre Torrell or Gilles Emery. Again, shifts in the practice of other fields of theology have encouraged dogmatics to pursue its tasks. In biblical and early Christian studies, the historical-naturalist assumptions on which much inquiry is often predicated no longer command universal assent, and “theological” reading of Scripture and the fathers of the church is no longer self-evidently eccentric or complacent: students can now turn to a number of distinguished series of biblical commentaries which draw out the theological and spiritual import of the text, and to revisionist patristic scholarship such as that of Lewis Ayres or Michel Rene Barnes. In philosophical and moral theology, similarly, unease about the religiously generic leads to greater attentiveness to doctrinal specificity. One thinks of the work of the Roman Catholic philosopher Robert Sokolowski, or of moral theologians like Gerald McKenny and Oliver O’Donovan.

For these and other reasons, the prospects look more secure than they did a quarter-century ago. One would do well to temper confidence with caution: much energy is still directed to fields of theology where dogmatics has little honour, such as public theology or historical-literary examination of the biblical writings. Moreover, the flourishing of dogmatics depends in some measure on an understanding of theology as a unified science embracing exegetical, historical, practical, and speculative arts, and such an understanding of theology is still rare. But, such cautions aside, late-career systematicians may still look with some hope to the work of a future generation of intellectually acute, historically and ecumenically generous, and spiritually alert dogmatic theologians. May their tribe increase.

***

John Webster is Professor of Divinity at the University of St. Andrews and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He is author of several books, including The Domain of the Word: Scripture and Theological Reason and Holy Scripture: A Dogmatic Sketch, and a founding editor of the International Journal of Systematic Theology

***

Common Places is a regular column on the Zondervan Academic blog with a focus on systematic theology. The loci communes or “common places” of Christian theology, drawn out of the Scriptures and organized in a manner suitable to their exposition in the church and the academy, have functioned historically as common points of reference for theological discussion and debate. This column will focus upon the classical loci of systematic theology, not as occasions for revision, but as opportunities for entering into the ongoing conversation that is Christian systematic theology. We invite you to join and dialog with us on the first and third Thursdays of every month. For more about Common Places, read column introduction here.

Our first series, The Promise and Prospects of Retrieval, explores positive developments in theology over the past twenty-five or so years, considering some of the ways in which the recovery of theological tradition has proven to be a stimulating resource for constructive systematic theology.

Michael Allen and Scott Swain, editors of Common Places

(Image: Christ Church Hall, By chensiyuan (chensiyuan); GFDL or CC-BY-SA-4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

by John Webster at November 20, 2014 12:43 PM

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

Reviewer Praise for UNEXPECTED UNLIGHTENMENT OF RACHEL GRIFFIN

The reviewer here, Peirce Oka of the delightfully named Dogma & Dragons,  had the good taste to like my wife’s book:

The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin is not a book to be read at funerals. Within the first chapter or two you will begin cracking up, holding back tears of laughter, and all your relatives will turn to look and see you reading a YA novel when you should be paying attention to the moving eulogy on your Great Uncle Stanley’s love affairs with golf and sharkboxing, the latter of which got us all here in the first place, but at least he died doing what he loved. They will then proceed to passively-aggressively deny you the best desserts at the funeral reception. For similar reasons, you should avoid reading this book at weddings, baptisms, confirmations, bar mitzvahs, ordinations, inauguration ceremonies, and circumcisions.

The aforementioned cracking up will be chiefly creditable to one Siegfried Smith, dragonslayer and destined to be a fan favorite. A few other characters bring some mirth to the proceedings, such as Valerie Foxx, plucky girl reporter, and her dog, Payback; and Nastasia Romanov, Princess of Magical Australia, but by and large Siggy carries the comic weight of the work, like Atlas hefting a magnificent globe of silly putty with googly eyes stuck all over it. Thankfully, authoress L. Jagi Lamplighter delivers Siegfriend in just the right doses to her readers to keep them laughing throughout the story but without overwhelming the main narrative and its heroine, the eponymous Rachel Griffin.

Myself, I think the review would have been better if it had spoken more about those wonderful, wonderful illustrations.

http://dogmaanddragons.wordpress.com/2013/12/11/book-review-the-unexpected-englightenment-of-rachel-griffin/

by John C Wright at November 20, 2014 11:00 AM

Light Blue Touchpaper

WEIS 2015 call for papers

The 2015 Workshop on the Economics of Information Security will be held at Delft, the Netherlands, on 22-23 June 2015. Paper submissions are due by 27 February 2015. Selected papers will be invited for publication in a special issue of the Journal of Cybersecurity, a new, interdisciplinary, open-source journal published by Oxford University Press.

We hope to see lots of you in Delft!

by Ross Anderson at November 20, 2014 10:11 AM

trenchant.org daily

Dot Files All The Way Down

Is it too late to start keeping a .plan file as my canonical web expression?

November 20, 2014 08:00 AM

Table Titans

Tales: Allbutt Root

News

While I have been playing D&D since 5th grade, the best group of players I've ever gamed with was back in college. As a freshman, I hooked up with a circle of gamers (including my future wife) DM’d by a senior creative writing major. This guy was a master storyteller that spun grand, sprawling,…

Read more

November 20, 2014 07:00 AM

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

The Moral of Lovecraft

Part of an ongoing discussion on the topic of whether horror is by its nature moralistic:

Zaklog the Great opines:

I would second the idea that horror is commonly (but not always) a moral genre. Fairly simple analysis of many popular horror stories and movies show that often the victims are, after a sense, punished for various sins. The punishment is usually what most of us would call disproportionate, but it is directly related to their own moral failings.

I suspect most of Lovecraft’s stories fall outside of this. But I can’t think off the top of my head of other horror fiction that generally does. (And good Lord, that man could not write a surprise ending to save his life. Not that they’re not enjoyable stories, by any means, but you always see it coming so far away even when it’s obvious he’s trying for a shocker.)

Ah, that is an interesting topic! I venture that Lovecraft did have a moral point to most of his stories, and most especially to DREAMQUEST OF UNKNOWN KADATH, his last one published. It is merely not a moral a Christian or pagan would recognized, but it is one any man made uneasy about scientific progress of the trouser-wearing apes, alone in the vast and deadly void of an incomprehensible and noneuclidean cosmos would immediately recognize.

Know thyself that that thou art small.
Keep your head down.
There are some things man was not meant to know.

The universe is a horror, and life is pain, and death is oblivion in which no dreams relieve. Therefore the only pleasure, the only sanity, are in the small and utterly arbitrary and ultimately meaningless things, the simple pleasures, of a civilized man in his small and safe surroundings: the small cobbled streets of colonial towns, moss-grown thatched-roof village cottages and crofts, cats lapping cream.

The moral of all Lovecraft’s stories is as clear as an Aesop fable. It is spoken my King Kuranes of the short story “Celephaïs” (1922) when he makes his appearance as a special guest star in Dream-Quest:

“The old chief of the cats also told Carter where to find his friend King Kuranes, who in Carter’s latter dreams had reigned alternately in the rose-crystal Palace of the Seventy Delights at Celephais and in the turreted cloud-castle of sky-floating Serannian. It seemed that he could no more find content in those places, but had formed a mighty longing for the English cliffs and downlands of his boyhood; where in little dreaming villages England’s old songs hover at evening behind lattice windows, and where grey church towers peep lovely through the verdure of distant valleys. He could not go back to these things in the waking world because his body was dead; but he had done the next best thing and dreamed a small tract of such countryside in the region east of
the city where meadows roll gracefully up from the sea-cliffs to the foot of the Tanarian Hills. There he dwelt in a grey Gothic manor-house of stone looking on the sea, and tried to think it was ancient Trevor Towers, where he was born and where thirteen generations of his forefathers had first seen the light. And on the coast nearby he had built a little Cornish fishing village with
steep cobbled ways, settling therein such people as had the most English faces, and seeking ever to teach them the dear remembered accents of old Cornwall fishers. And in a valley not far off he had reared a great Norman Abbey whose tower he could see from his window, placing around it in the churchyard grey stones with the names of his ancestors carved thereon, and with a moss somewhat like Old England’s moss. For though Kuranes was a monarch in the land of dream, with all imagined pomps and marvels, splendours and beauties, ecstasies and delights, novelties and excitements at his command, he would gladly have resigned forever the whole of his power and luxury and freedom for one blessed day as a simple boy in that pure and quiet England, that ancient, beloved England which had moulded his being and of which he must always be immutably a part.”

And, after Carter explains his quest to find his fabulous sunset city:

“Kuranes furthermore doubted whether his guest would profit aught by coming to the city even were he to gain it. He himself had dreamed and yearned long years for lovely Celephais and the land of Ooth-Nargai, and for the freedom and colour and high experience of life devoid of its chains, and conventions, and stupidities. But now that he was come into that city and that land,
and was the king thereof, he found the freedom and the vividness all too soon worn out, and monotonous for want of linkage with anything firm in his feelings and memories. He was a king in Ooth-Nargai, but found no meaning therein, and drooped always for the old familiar things of England that had shaped his youth. All his kingdom would he give for the sound of Cornish
church bells over the downs, and all the thousand minarets of Celephais for the steep homely roofs of the village near his home. So he told his guest that the unknown sunset city might not hold quite that content he sought, and that perhaps it had better remain a glorious and half-remembered dream. For he had visited Carter often in the old waking days, and knew well the lovely
New England slopes that had given him birth.

At the last, he was very certain, the seeker would long only for the early remembered scenes; the glow of Beacon Hill at evening, the tall steeples and winding hill streets of quaint Kingsport, the hoary gambrel roofs of ancient and witch-haunted Arkham, and the blessed meads and valleys where stone walls rambled and white farmhouse gables peeped out from bowers of verdure. “

I have not read much of the work of the Edwardian fantasist and cynic James Branch Cabell, but I have been told that his themes preach a similar tale. I have read nearly everything ever written by Lord Dunsany, and you will find the same melancholy vision there: the vision of these men, and the moral of all their Aesopic fables, is the same: that life is spend chasing alluring illusions, which always turn to dust or madness upon embrace, but that life without illusions is intolerable.

They are tales told by mean who have surrendered all hope, and who will not travel to the country of joy, on the sour and cynical adage that whatever sounds too good to be true is not true.

Whether or not Poe has a similar theme hidden behind his works, I must leave to someone more versed in Poe than I to say. My passing impression from having read Poe in school is that Poe is far less sentimental than these men.

by John C Wright at November 20, 2014 06:45 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

We Show Grace Because We Have Been Shown Grace

The following is an excerpt of a letter from John Newton to Mrs. John Thornton in November 1775. Although it was written almost 240 years ago, it is remarkably relevant to our modern experience, especially as we seek to live out our callings to love our neighbors in a pluralistic culture.


Too much of that impatience which you speak of, towards those who differ from us in some religious sentiments, is observable on all sides. I do not consider it as the fault of a few individuals, or of this or that party, so much as the effect of that inherent imperfection which is common to our whole race. Anger and scorn are equally unbecoming in those who profess to be followers of the meek and lowly Jesus, and who acknowledge themselves to be both sinful and fallible; but too often something of this leaven will be found cleaving to the best characters, and mixed with honest endeavors to serve the best cause.

But thus it was from the beginning; and we have reason to confess that we are no better than the apostles were, who, though they meant well, manifested once and again a wrong spirit in their zeal. Luke 9:54. Observation and experience contribute, by the grace of God, gradually to soften and sweeten our spirits; but then there will always be ground for mutual forbearance and mutual forgiveness on this head. However, so far as I may judge myself, I think this hastiness is not my most easily besetting sin.

Those Who Differ from Us

I am not indeed an advocate for that indifference and lukewarmness to the truths of God, which seem to constitute the candor many plead for in the present day. But while I desire to hold fast the sound doctrines of the gospel towards the persons of my fellow-creatures, I wish to exercise all moderation and benevolence: Protestants or Papists, Sicilians or Deists, Jews, Samaritans, or Mohammedans, all are my neighbors, they have all a claim upon me for the common offices of humanity. As to religion, they cannot all be right; nor may I compliment them by allowing that the differences between us are but trivial, when I believe and know they are important; but I am not to expect them to see with my eyes.

I am deeply convinced of the truth of John Baptist’s aphorism, John 3:27, “A man can receive nothing except it be given him from heaven.” I well know, that the little measure of knowledge I have obtained in the things of God has not been owing to my own wisdom and docility, but to his goodness. Nor did I get it all at once: he has been pleased to exercise much patience and long-suffering towards me, for about 27 years past, since he first gave me a desire of learning from himself. He has graciously accommodated himself to my weakness, borne with my mistakes, and helped me through innumerable prejudices, which, but for his mercy, would have been insuperable hindrances: I have therefore no right to be angry, impatient, or censorious, especially as I have still much to learn, and am so poorly influenced by what I seem to know.

I am weary of controversies and disputes, and desire to choose for myself, and to point out to others Mary’s part, to sit at Jesus’s feet, and to hear his words. And, blessed be his name, so far as I have learned from him, I am favored with a comfortable certainty. I know whom I have believed, and am no longer tossed about by the various winds and tides of opinions, by which I see many are dashed one against the other. But I cannot, I must not, I dare not contend; only, as a witness for God, I am ready to bear my simple testimony to what I have known of his truth whenever I am properly called to it. . . . 

All Is Owing to Grace

Scripture, and even reason, assures me there is but one God, whose name alone is Jehovah. Scripture likewise assures me, that Christ is God, that Jesus is Jehovah. I cannot say that reason assents with equal readiness to this proposition as to the former. But admitting what the Scripture teaches concerning the evil of sin, the depravity of human nature, the method of salvation, and the offices of the Savior; admitting that God has purposed to glorify, not his mercy only, but his justice, in the work of redemption; that the blood shed upon the cross, is a proper, adequate satisfaction for sin; and that the Redeemer is at present the Shepherd of those who believe in him, and will hereafter be the Judge of the world; that, in order to give the effectual help which we need, it is necessary that he be always intimately with those who depend on him, in every age, in every place; must know the thoughts and intents of every heart; must have his eye always upon them, his ear always open to them; his arm ever stretched out for their relief; that they can receive nothing but what he bestows, can do nothing but as he enables them, nor stand a moment but as he upholds them; admitting these and the like promises, with which the word of God abounds, reason must allow, whatever difficulties may attend the thought, that only he who is God over all, blessed for ever, is able or worthy to execute this complicated plan, every part of which requires the exertion of infinite wisdom and almighty power; nor am I able to form any clear, satisfactory, comfortable thoughts of God, suited to awaken my love or engage my trust, but as he has been pleased to reveal himself in the person of Jesus Christ.

I believe, with the apostle, that God was once manifested in the flesh upon earth; and that he is now manifested in the flesh in heaven; and that the worship, not only of redeemed sinners, but of the holy angels, is addressed to the Lamb that was slain, and who, in that nature in which he suffered, now exercises universal dominion, and has the government of heaven, earth, and hell upon his shoulders. This truth is the foundation upon which my hope is built, the fountain whence I derive all my strength and consolation, and my only encouragement for venturing to the throne of grace, for grace to help in time of need. . . . 


This excerpt is adapted from: John Newton, ed., Letters of John Newton (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2007), p. 273. www.banneroftruth.org


Editors' note: TBT (Throwback Thursday) with Every Square Inch: Reading the Classics is a weekly column that publishes some of the best writings on vocation from the past. Our hope is to introduce you to thoughtful literature that you may not have discovered yet and, as always, to encourage you to know and love Christ more in all spheres of your life.

by Bethany Jenkins at November 20, 2014 06:01 AM

Trip Lee Brags on the King

There aren’t many musicians more successful right now than Trip Lee. The Reach Records rapper’s fifth studio album, Rise, hit #1 on the iTunes chart shortly after its October 27 release and has been selling quickly ever since.

Lee [Twitter | blog], who has also completed a forthcoming companion book Rise: Get Up and Live in God’s Great Story (Thomas Nelson, January 2015), recently sat down with TGC Arizona leaders Josh Vincent and Vermon Pierre to discuss life, ministry, and the future.

The man off the stage might surprise you a bit.

Though Lee certainly enjoys performing for crowds at concerts, he’s most committed to pastoring the saints in his church. (He is an elder and pastoral assistant at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.) Furthermore, the dynamic hip-hop artist has battled Chronic Fatigue Syndrome since 2007. “It makes it hard to figure out what life as a pastor looks like for me,” Lee admits. “I’ve had to learn that no one must their ministry in exactly the same way as someone else. How do I honor God best with my particular circumstances? That’s the question I have to keep asking.”

What about those who question the legitimacy of hip-hop as a vehicle to communicate majestic doctrines? Anything humans employ is a “weak, handicapped vehicle” to communicate the majesty of God, Lee observes. “The problem is not the medium or culture itself; it’s the sin inside our hearts.” Moreover, he adds, “We should be very careful about implying that entire cultures—musical forms included—cannot glorify God. I think that says something we don’t mean to say about the gospel.”

Watch the full 23-minute video to hear Lee discuss how he started rhyming, the album he listened to daily for six months straight, songs versus sermons, and more. Then register to see Lee speak at our 2015 National Conference, April 13 to 15, in Orlando. 

Trip Lee Interview from The Gospel Coalition AZ on Vimeo.

by Matt Smethurst at November 20, 2014 06:01 AM

Stephen Nichols Writes History for the Church

Stephen J. Nichols is a firm believer that every Christian should read church history, and he writes books toward that end. Works such as The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World (Crossway), Jonathan Edwards: A Guided Tour of His Life and Thought (P&R), The Church History ABCs: Augustine and Twenty-Five Other Heroes of the Faith (Crossway) are aimed at delivering church history to the person in the pew.

Nichols is using his significant research and writing gifts for the sake of the church. After spending several years as church history professor at Lancaster Bible College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Nichols took on a new role earlier this year when he was elected president of Reformation Bible College and chief academic officer for Ligonier Ministries, both in Orlando, Florida, where he works directly with author, theologian, and pastor R. C. Sproul, founder of Ligonier.  

I asked Nichols about the future of church history, his work with R. C. Sproul, and the necessity of all believers studying the rich heritage of evangelical Christianity.


You write church history so that the average person in the pew can understand and engage it. Why is it important that ordinary Christians understand something about our past?

Church history really belongs to the church, to the laity. I’m thankful for fellow church historians who write for church historians; there is certainly a place for that. But my passion is to write church history for the church. These [heroes from church history] become for us a model of how to live out our discipleship as followers of Christ, to help show us how the Bible is worked out in our own lives.

How would you encourage pastors to study church history and to incorporate it into their own teaching and preaching ministries?

One of the best entry points into church history is through sermons. For one thing, they are shorter, so pastors can read sermons easily, and there are many sermons that are readily available, even back to the church fathers. So, rather than try to tackle some great treatise like Edwards’s Religious Affections or Luther’s Bondage of the Will, which are going to require some time commitment on your part, give up a half hour to work through a sermon. We forget sometimes that a lot of these great figures from church history were pastors; Calvin was a pastor, Edwards was a pastor. We tend to think of them as these great theologians, but they were pastors. Their main job was studying for and preaching sermons. Their big ideas come out of sermons. 

If the Lord tarries and history books are written about our generation, do you think it will remember men like John Piper and your boss, R. C. Sproul, as giants on the landscape of this present church age? How might history remember our generation in terms of men and movements?

I think it will remember these men in this way. I think in terms of Dr. Sproul and some of the other modern leaders that is certainly true. I think one of the key moments that will be remembered is the development of the Chicago Statement (on Biblical Inerrancy) of 1978. That statement really sustained a generation at a time when biblical inspiration and authority was being seriously compromised.

There has been revitalization of interest in church history and a revitalization of interest in historical figures such as Jonathan Edwards. When I travel and speak on Edwards in churches, I realize about five minutes into a lot of conversations that the entry point of interest in Edwards was John Piper. So I think we are among some great men who will be remembered as having a massive influence on the church.

A few years ago, Time magazine referred to the rising interest in Reformed theology among young evangelicals as one of the most influential movements in our country. Do you think we are in the midst of a new time of reformation among younger evangelicals in America?

I do. This is very encouraging. You could say that every generation of the church needs a reformation. A few years back there were voices calling for a recovery of the doctrines of grace in the church, but I think largely because of this young, restless, reformed, new Calvinism generation, it’s no longer a wasteland. I see it in the students we have at Reformation Bible College, I see it in students at Boyce College in Louisville and other colleges and seminaries where thousands of students are being trained in sound doctrine. I am very hopeful, very optimistic.

How do we work carefully so that this new reformation has a deep and lasting effect on the church and doesn’t wind up being merely some kind of trendy, faddish movement in the church like some we’ve seen before? How can models from church history speak into our lives?

We have great models from the past, but also from the present. Look at the folks who are the leaders, the fathers and grandfathers of the movement, if you will, the John Pipers, the R. C. Sprouls, they are all devout churchmen who believe in the centrality of consistent preaching of the Word and sitting under the means of grace. We think of them as skilled authors and great conference speakers, and they are, but they are most fundamentally devoted churchmen. The same thing is true from those great figures from the past. The one institution God promises to bless is the church. It is the agency that emerges out of the New Testament. So the church and pulpit are going to sustain it, faithfulness in both over a long period of time.

R. C. Sproul is a personal hero to many of us and a towering figure among Reformed evangelicals. What has it been like to work daily with Dr. Sproul?

Very intimidating! I understand what Paul meant when he said, “I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling.” I think of that every day as I go to work. It’s a remarkable time to be around him as he has had such a huge influence on the previous generation and is thinking about influencing the next generation with the gospel in founding a college. It’s very much like John Calvin, who founded a college. . . . He is kind of a 21st-century Luther, swashbuckling his way through life. It is a tremendous pleasure to get to work with him and learn from him.

Are you going to write the Sproul biography?

That’s off the record! (laughs)

What are a handful of books or authors from history that every Christian should read?

I’m a big fan of Pilgrim’s Progress. There was a time when every Christian home had a Bible and a copy of Pilgrim’s Progress. A Christian of any age should read Pilgrim’s Progress. I mentioned earlier that I think a good entry point into the leading figures of church history is through sermons. I would recommend one of Jonathan Edwards’s sermons from early on in his ministry, "A Divine and Supernatural Light," to acquaint one with him. A great and profitable document is the Heidelberg Catechism, The Confessions of St. Augustine is another that I would recommend. It is one of those books that I dip into consistently. One book that is I think is as important in our day as it was when it was first published in the early 20th century (1923) is Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen. I read that book and think of some issues going on in our own day—the challenges to the doctrine of justification, the challenges to the doctrine of God, the challenges to the role of the church, challenges to scriptural authority—were issues facing that era, and Machen spoke forcefully to all of those issues.

by Jeff Robinson at November 20, 2014 06:01 AM

Quarantine in the Age of Ebola

A physician I know recently returned from Africa after caring for patients with Ebola. One evening his patient of 18 years tearfully told him that her two grown daughters warned her that, if she kept her appointment with him, she would not be able to see her grandchildren for three weeks. The hospital where he delivers babies also barred him from coming for the same time. Elsewhere, a teacher in Kentucky who had traveled to Kenya resigned rather than submit to a three-week ban from her school, even though she was 3,000 miles away from anyone with Ebola. 

Separation of individuals—proven, presumed, or potentially contagious—has been a common response to reduce the spread of disease for centuries. During the epidemics of the Middle Ages, one of which killed 25 percent of the European population, no microbial science yet existed that could identify agents of causation, define incubation periods, or discern modes of transmission. Is it clothes? Skin? Water? An odor in the air? Isolating individuals for 40 days, a quarantina of time, was based less on fact and more on the religious significance of 40 days in Judeo-Christian theology as a time of cleansing and purification.

In the Middle Ages, when so little was known about contagious disease, coupled with high likelihood of death, uninformed fear contributed to whole towns being forcibly walled off. Though the rich could often fled to safer climates, the poor carried the heaviest burden of disease, and were often blamed for its spread because of their “unclean” habits. “Plague doctors” were usually young physicians and surgeons with no established practices of their own. Forced to display a cross that labelled them “unclean,” they were unable to mingle with others and were distrusted by the population.

The current Ebola crisis is the most recent iteration of contagious disease, following SARS in 2003 and swine flu in 2009. It is uncanny how the same themes return as we deal with the largest outbreak of Ebola since it first emerged in 1976. Facing the fear of fatal disease, it is not surprising that our base reactions remain the same. But each time our collective souls are bared by these moments of vulnerability, we have the opportunity to respond with truth and compassion. What are we doing with what we know—which is quite a bit, thanks to the understanding of current science—combined with a significant truth about life revealed to us by God?

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matt. 16:25)

Let me offer three considerations.

Recognize the danger (but at the appropriate level). Ebola is a highly dangerous disease. Although it is not as easily spread as viruses airborne or in food and water, it only requires minimal contact—unlike HIV, which needs intimate contact—and remains alive in body fluids and on inanimate surfaces for a significant period of time. It is also highly virulent, with death rates averaging 70 percent. Though there is no cure, supportive care does increase survival rates. We know its incubation period does not exceed 21 days, and we know people are contagious only when they are symptomatic—and mostly when they have many symptoms, not just a small fever.

So what does this mean practically? That we have ways to identify true danger, especially recognizing that those who have travelled to and from the hot zones of Africa, but do not have symptoms, are not contagious. That the risk of disease in a country like the United States is extremely small, unlike our friends living with plague in the past, and quite unlike our global neighbors living in Africa who have such limited resources for preventing spread. Though Ebola threatens our sense of invulnerability and impenetrability as a modern nation, on the range of scale of what could hurt us, we should not be running scared of it.

Reveal the lie. The basic lie is that we can reduce our risk to zero. There are numerous negative consequences of believing this lie, producing both over-confidence and paralyzing fear. And when cases arise, which they will, we are prone to a harsh and wrong application of blame. The Liberian man who died in Texas was infected in his country, likely at the time when he gave aid to a sick pregnant woman. He came to see his son graduate from high school. Though he was unaware he was ill until five days after arriving in the United States, he was demonized for being the first case of Ebola in our country and falsely accused of having hidden his condition so that he could get on the plane.

Someone who responds compassionately to the pains and perils of another, and dies for his actions, would normally be a hero. But instead we blamed the victim, just like in the 1500s. And we likely will again, whenever we falsely believe we can separate ourselves from the dangers of life and use “quarantine” as a weapon of control, keeping everyone who might be dangerous confined to another space in another place. The approach of some would be to wall off entire countries, as if that were possible. Despite great suffering for the people there, they reason, at least it will be there and not here—and after a defined number of deaths, surely no more than the populations of these countries, the epidemic will end. Until the next one! But then what kind of people will we be, alive and safe in our risk-free world? 

Remember the truth. We were made for caring, but we cannot care without risk. Control comes through separation, but caring love always strives to bring back together the things separated by the efficiency of control. We strive for careful care, between not going near and assuming no risk, and directly touching and assuming great risk. Nurses and doctors in Texas struggled to express love to a dying man through their layers of protection. All followed careful protocols of prevention, yet two nurses became infected. Thankfully both have survived. Five hundred health care workers in Africa have been infected, and more than three hundred have died. Some from this country are considering going to Africa to care. They need all the protections available. So do African health care workers.

We live in a global community. Both for our own safety and for the sake of compassion, we cannot turn away from the problems of poverty and poor health in other parts of the world. If we truly want to stop Ebola here, we must fight it there. Yet after it is all done, the cost must be counted—some will be infected and some may die. May it be so very few, and may this epidemic end so very soon—but never at the cost of losing our humanity. For if we truly want to live, we must be willing to die (Matt. 16:25).

by Robert Cutillo at November 20, 2014 06:01 AM

Writings on Southern Tradition, Culture, and Bourbon. – J.D. Bentley | Journal

Restoration vs Revolution

“There is no revolution,” Chesterton wrote, “that is not a restoration… All the men in history who have really done anything with the future have had their eyes fixed upon the past.”

And Chesterton was correct. The only things worth believing and worth doing are those things which are in agreement with and support the unchangeable first principles, what I (and many smarter men before me) often refer to as the Permanent Things. But these first principles aren’t rightly considered by our culture, one that values novelty and the mythical “Progress” over all else.

So I should hardly be surprised when, for the hundredth time in the last week, I read about a technology company that is either “revolutionizing” a solution to a non-problem (“Kevin Rose is building an app for sharing tiny disappearing photos”) or a field that’s so uninteresting nothing that comes out of it could actually be called revolutionary (“The Jolla Tablet wants your help to revolutionize multitasking”).

Silicon Valley strives to “revolutionize” and “disrupt”, but are their many “revolutions” and “disruptions” actually all that significant? Were they absolutely inevitable? Were they necessary? And are people happy to perpetually accomodate these new technologies?

I’d say no on all counts. And I certainly wouldn’t consider a vast majority of technological innovations revolutionary. If Chesterton is correct–and I absolutely believe he is–then the most valuable companies out there are not the ones aiming to perpetually revolutionize every aspect of our lives. They are the ones which help restore the Permanent Things.

They are traditional, locally-minded, purposely small. They encourage quality: quality products, quality processes, quality workers, quality experiences. They are tightly woven into their communities, into the well-being of those communities, and into their professional heritages. They exist not only as for-profit businesses, but as ambassadors for their cultures.

They would encourage their workers and customers to embrace the virtues, to live out first principles.

This is why Silicon Valley is such an uninteresting place. Its culture is one of future worship without purpose, ever driven by the idea of the next development without any regard for whether or not it’s worth being developed. Silicon Valley is in the business of validating delusions while earning as much money as possible, even if its product is detrimental to the various communities who use it. (Detrimental in the sense that it blinds them to the Permanent Things.)

However, as the speed and demands of technology increase, so does the number of its detractors. We are seeing now an incredible wave of entrepreneurs and customers who are opting out of fast-paced novelty worship. Small businesses who use traditional methods and local resources, who want to make quality products from the best materials.

That’s the silver lining on all this, that as we are interrupted and bombarded by a thousand companies purporting to have kickstarted revolutions, a thousand more show up hoping to restore what actually works, to practice the Permanent Things.

November 20, 2014 05:00 AM

512 Pixels

The Old Mac Paladin →

This week, on Connected:

Myke escaped. Federico and Stephen talk about Twitter and WatchKit, then debate productivity for a while before realizing the irony of it.

This episode was made possible by:

Permalink

by Stephen Hackett at November 20, 2014 02:14 AM

November 19, 2014

Caelum Et Terra

Real True Stories I

nichols2

My grandfather, Earl Nichols, around 1950.

 

Saginaw County, Michigan, 1955

 

My first memory was a dream.

I was very small. We lived in the flat farmland of Saginaw County, two houses from my Grandma, my father’s mother. My cousins and I called her ‘Ma’ because that is what our daddies called her.

The land was not exactly treeless, but the virgin white pine forest that covered most of Michigan when the French Jesuits had arrived in the 17th century had been wiped out fifty years earlier, and all that broke the monotony was second growth poplar and birch. Great for brambles and berries, but all that flat land looks a lot prettier today, now that the hardwood saplings of my childhood have grown tall.

Most of the land was cropland, though, as this is deep black soil, among the best in the country. My Grandfather and Grandma had moved south to Saginaw County from the Ogemaw Hills fifty miles north, after The War. None of Grandpa’s sons were interested in farming, and from what I have been told, neither was he without his sons to do the hard work. For some years he ran a pool hall in town, while my father, the eldest, ‘stared at a mule’s ass all day’, as he later put it.

No wonder Dad was mystified years later when I lived on a communal farm that used horse power, the real kind. And no wonder my dad, a WWII vet who had to carry heavy packs through rough terrain (10th Mountain), thought I was insane for wanting to spend weeks hiking in the wilderness.

Grandpa had died when I was a baby, in his early 50s, so Dad’s mom had not been long a widow.

I liked to go see Ma, and one of my earliest memories was of the sweet and yeasty smell of her house when she was baking bread. It was white bread, but if those words evoke dead food, all air and chemical vitamins, you have never tasted real home baked white bread. Slathered in butter, before food was ever anything but local.

This was probably 1955, when I was two, and it was a different world, a world only a few years removed from the primitive life my parents had lived as children in clear cut northern Michigan, life without electricity or indoor plumbing, without cars, frigid for much of the year.

To get to my grandmother’s I had to walk through the neighbors’ land. They were Germans, and their son Hansy and I played together. It was only much later, of course, that I realized how strange that was. My father, only a few years earlier, was fighting Germans. I mean, I have a brother in law, a Vietnam vet, who cannot stand to be in the presence of a southeast Asian, even if he knows that they fled the same people he was trying to kill.

But of course maybe winning a war makes you more amicable.

But I remember Hansy’s parents’ rooster.

He was bigger than me, aggressive and frightening.

And those eyes, otherworldly and enraged, circles of malevolence, scared me like nothing else in my small world.

In the dream I was walking to Ma’s, wary as always. I did not see the rooster and was almost across the yard when He suddenly appeared, fierce, fire in his scary eyes, talons, which seemed as big as my daddy’s hands, flying at my face.

And then, out of nowhere, was my father. He had a hoe in his hand and he struck the attacker until he was dead.

And I was delivered.


by Daniel Nichols at November 19, 2014 11:58 PM

CrossFit Naptown

SWIFT 11.20.14

Warm Up: Push Up Program -OR- Handstand Box Drill Workout: 100 V Ups For Time *every time you break (for 5 seconds or more) 10 jumping lunges

by Anna at November 19, 2014 11:54 PM

American Ninja Warrior

Thursday’s Workout:

Obstacle Course Fun!

WOD:
Run 400 meters
50 pull-ups
Run 400 meters
50 push-ups
Run 400 meters
50 sit-ups
Run 400 meters
50 squats

 

Become an American Ninja Warrior!

American Ninja Warrior is a competition where contestants compete in an intense obstacle course filled with different physical challenges throughout. The fastest athletes to complete the course move on the the next stage of the competition where the course gets even more challenging! The show runs on NBC and the network is currently casting season 7.

Here is a video of an athlete competing in the final in one region of the competition:

 

Now is your chance to show off your fitness skills and have some fun in the process! Take a look at the flyer below for all of the information on how to tryout for season 7 of American Ninja Warrior.

 

ANWS7_FINAL

 

 

Do not miss the first ever Olympic Weightlifting meet at CrossFit NapTown this Saturday! On November 22nd from 12:00-3:00pm, athletes from CFNT will be competing against one another in the snatch and clean & jerk in official weightlifting meet style. All are welcome to come out and cheer them on to new PRs.

Participating athletes please email coach Kevin at k.o.murray21@gmail.com with your starting weights and be ready for the weigh in at 11:30am.

by Anna at November 19, 2014 11:47 PM

The Brooks Review

Bittorrent Sync: Security Is Our Highest Priority

A few people sent me links to a recent security analysis of BTSync, knowung that I use and love it. This is the official response, and I feel fine with continuing my use of the tool.

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

by Ben Brooks at November 19, 2014 10:20 PM

CrossFit 204: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Workout: Nov. 19, 2014

Girls' night out.

Girls’ night out.

Press 3-3-3

Push press or jerk 2-2-2

Gymnasty – Now updated!

Or

3 rounds of:

2 strict muscle-ups

4 kipping muscle-ups

6 handstand push-ups

Skills

Core War

Part 1

2 rounds of: max side plank (left), max side plank (right)

Rest as needed between sets and rounds.

Part 2

4 sets of 10-20 controlled hip and back extensions

Rest 60 seconds between sets.

Part 3

Max L-sit (parallettes, rings, boxes, etc.)

Part 4

3 sets of max slow hanging leg raises

Rest 60 seconds between sets.

While hanging, bring the toes above the belt without using momentum. Lower slowly. Try to maintain your lumbar curve at all times.

Part 5

Tabata hollow rocks

by Mike at November 19, 2014 09:56 PM

Practically Efficient

Snapback Actions in ScreenFlow 5

ScreenFlow gets better with each release. One of my favorite new features in ScreenFlow 5 is the "Snapback Action," which lets you quickly revert your scale and picture position to their previous settings following a video action. I made a short video to illustrate.

by Eddie Smith at November 19, 2014 08:50 PM

512 Pixels

Get →

I thought the App Store was broken. Jason Snell explains it's just dumber than it used to be.

Permalink

by Stephen Hackett at November 19, 2014 08:38 PM

Follow-up: Backwards compatibility in show notes

On episode 12 of our podcast, Federico told people to use Netscape Navigator to view the show notes.

A listener named Malik came through, sharing some screenshots of Relay.fm in the ancient browser.

This week, I got an email from a listener named Simon, who has looked at our site in several old browsers:

Classilla on Mac OS 9
Classilla on Mac OS 9 Internet Explorer on Mac OS X 10.0
Internet Explorer on Mac OS X 10.0 iCab on Mac OS X 10.1
iCab on Mac OS X 10.1 Camino on Mac OS X 10.2
Camino on Mac OS X 10.2

Update: Dr. Drang has taken this to its logical conclusion:

Update 2: Simon's back and has taken us further back again:

null

by Stephen Hackett at November 19, 2014 08:31 PM

Roads from Emmaus

Why celebrate Christian holidays that aren’t in the Bible?

A quick perusal of the major feast days on Orthodox Church’s liturgical calendar will show that many of those great feasts are not mentioned in the Scriptures. The Nativity of the Theotokos (Sept. 8), the Entrance of the Theotokos (Nov. 21) and the Dormition of the Theotokos (Aug. 15) are all not based on events […]

The post Why celebrate Christian holidays that aren’t in the Bible? appeared first on Roads from Emmaus.

by Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick at November 19, 2014 07:39 PM

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

Microaggression

Had to share this.
http://www.truthrevolt.org/videos/andrew-klavan-newest-threat-college-campuses-microaggression

I suspect that the Truth Revolt videos, taken as a whole, enjoys has more viewers than MSNBC.

TRANSCRIPT:

OUR MICRO-AGGRESSIVE UNIVERSITIES

I’m Andrew Klavan and this is the Revolting Truth.

Well, it’s back to school time and all across our country, college students are suffering from an insidious form of oppression called microaggressions. These are defined as commonplace verbal or, behavioral indignities… that communicate racist or sexist slights or insults…”

Microaggressions take place when, for instance, a woman sees a black male and clutches her purse more tightly making it too damn hard for him to snatch the thing away from her… or when two men hear a woman speaking and look at one another like this [makes a face] the universal sign language for “irrational woman.” So don’t let them see you do that because you know women. [makes the face]

To combat the tragedy of microagression, we here at the Revolting Truth have collected some real life MA experiences and submitted them to experts for commentary and advice. Trigger warning: these are genuine examples of microaggression and may cause you to experience some of the terrifying injustice of being a minority or female college student in today’s America.

All right, here’s one from the website, The MicroAgressions Project: [quote] “I wanted to get my nephew a My Little Pony coloring book since I like MLP… My brother, however, objected… I ended up getting my nephew a Batman one, but I don’t like Batman. It made me feel angry and sad that my brother is so entrenched in stereotypical gender roles.”

Wow. We submitted this sad story to Aran, an Iraqi Yazidi women, who sent this reply:

“Dear American College student. I am very sorry to hear of your My Little Pony incident. I perhaps can identify with some of your suffering as I was forced to watch while Islamists murdered my beloved husband and children before selling me into sexual slavery. Like you, I too felt forced into stereotypical gender roles. I hope your nephew enjoys his Batman.”

Here’s another tragic tale of micro-aggressive woe from a powerful performance piece called I Too Am Harvard: [quote] “I am a Harvard university student of mixed race, and people sometimes come right up to me and ask, ‘What are you?’”

We sent this description to our friend Lisa in the Central African Republic. Lisa gave this helpful reply:

“Dear Harvard student. How rude to be asked what race you are. It reminds me of the time I was hunted down by Muslim Seleka Rebels, dragged into the jungle and raped for hours before being set on fire. Even though I know how difficult it is there, I too sometimes dream of going to Harvard.”

Well, thanks to Lisa for that sympathetic reply. Here’s one more true life atrocity from an American female pre-med student. [quote] “My MCAT instructor keeps referring to the unnamed writers of certain passages with male pronouns. It made me feel stupid and unvalued…”

Our correspondent Fairly in Afghanistan responds… “Dear American pre-med student. How terrible to have to overcome such difficulty as male pronouns in getting to go to school. I too have suffered difficulties getting to school when men rode by on motorbikes and threw acid in my face. Of course this is nothing compared to male pronouns, but I do sort of miss my face sometimes. I used to be very pretty.”

Well, I hope this advice has been helpful to all those American college students suffering from microaggression. We here at the Revolting Truth understand that this sort of savage oppression can really harsh your buzz, especially if you already have a hangover and crabs.

I’m Andrew Klavan with the Revolting Truth.

by John C Wright at November 19, 2014 06:57 PM

Feed: » stratechery by Ben Thompson

Differentiation and Value Capture in the Internet Age

It’s hard to have a conversation with anyone in tech without the word “scale” entering the conversation; “Internet scale” is a particularly popular variation of the term. Scale is a concept that is at the root of most venture investing: because software has zero marginal cost – one copy costs just as much as 100, or one million – there are massive profits to be gained from reaching huge numbers of customers on a uniform product or service.

The idea of scale, though, isn’t something unique to the 21st century; in fact, it was the key driver of the 20th, and it all started with Henry Ford and the assembly line.1


Henry Ford didn’t invent the car; before the Model T there were all kinds of automakers producing cars that were mostly custom-built and only available to the very wealthy. However, they were notoriously unreliable and very difficult to repair. Ford changed all that by building one model in one color with interchangeable parts at scale: this allowed Ford to charge a shockingly low price of $825 upon the Model T’s introduction in 1909 ($21,650 in today’s dollars). What was even more impressive was that, over the following years, Ford continued to decrease the price: a Model T in 1925 cost a mere $260 ($3,500 today). This had a massive impact on the adoption of the automobile, and the entire world began to adapt, paving roads, building gas stations, establishing diners and garages, etc.

Over time, though, the Model T was very much a victim of its own success: by massively expanding the market for cars and triggering the development of car-friendly infrastructure, Ford created openings for other car manufacturers that previously didn’t exist. A company like General Motors didn’t need to compete with Ford by building a Model T clone; instead they could develop multiple brands at different price points to capture particular segments of the market. The market was so big that scale could be brought to bear in a much more finely-grained way.

Today, few if any of us drive the exact same car with the exact same color with the exact same interchangeable parts. In the United States you can buy the Nissan Versa for $12,800 or a Lamborghini Veneno Roadster for $4.5 million. Admittedly, the latter isn’t produced at scale (there will be only 9 built in 2014), but the Mercedes-Benz CL-Class is, and it costs over $100,000. A huge percentage of people have a car that fits their preferences and lifestyle, and while they all do the same thing in a technical sense, you can pay for exactly the type of experience that you prefer.


A few weeks ago I wrote about the smiling curve and how value would increasingly flow from publishers to aggregators operating at scale:

The Smiling Curve for publishing

The Smiling Curve for publishing

However, I didn’t spend much time on the left side of this graph, beyond noting that readers will often be loyal to a specific writer, or to a focused publication. That writer or publication has one unique superpower: they are the only one of their kind. To use the strategic term, they are differentiated, and differentiated people – or products – can charge far more than their marginal cost. And no one is more differentiated than Taylor Swift.


A few weeks ago, in a widely discussed move, Taylor Swift pulled her music off of Spotify, and then proceeded to become the first artist in history to sell more than 1 million records in a week three albums in a row.2 In an interview with Yahoo Music, Swift argued that Spotify devalued music:

Music is changing so quickly, and the landscape of the music industry itself is changing so quickly, that everything new, like Spotify, all feels to me a bit like a grand experiment. And I’m not willing to contribute my life’s work to an experiment that I don’t feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists, and creators of this music. And I just don’t agree with perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free.

The thing is, though, given that music has a marginal cost of zero – to create one more copy doesn’t cost a cent – its natural price is, well $0. Free by a different name. And, when you look at the industry from this perspective, Spotify is the positive force for music that its CEO, Daniel Ek, believes it is:

Our whole reason for existence is to help fans find music and help artists connect with fans through a platform that protects them from piracy and pays them for their amazing work. Quincy Jones posted on Facebook that “Spotify is not the enemy; piracy is the enemy”. You know why? Two numbers: Zero and Two Billion. Piracy doesn’t pay artists a penny – nothing, zilch, zero. Spotify has paid more than two billion dollars to labels, publishers and collecting societies for distribution to songwriters and recording artists.

It’s a compelling argument, and Ek is justified in making it. In fact, I’d go so far as to say he is completely correct when it comes to any random song. But here’s the thing: Swift is completely correct too, especially when it comes to her music in particular. Swift herself explained why earlier this year in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal:

In mentioning album sales, I’d like to point out that people are still buying albums, but now they’re buying just a few of them. They are buying only the ones that hit them like an arrow through the heart or have made them feel strong or allowed them to feel like they really aren’t alone in feeling so alone…There are always going to be those artists who break through on an emotional level and end up in people’s lives forever. The way I see it, fans view music the way they view their relationships. Some music is just for fun, a passing fling (the ones they dance to at clubs and parties for a month while the song is a huge radio hit, that they will soon forget they ever danced to). Some songs and albums represent seasons of our lives, like relationships that we hold dear in our memories but had their time and place in the past.

However, some artists will be like finding “the one.” We will cherish every album they put out until they retire and we will play their music for our children and grandchildren. As an artist, this is the dream bond we hope to establish with our fans. I think the future still holds the possibility for this kind of bond, the one my father has with the Beach Boys and the one my mother has with Carly Simon.

By all accounts, Swift is describing the relationship she herself has with her fans. Her deeply personal and well-written songs speak to adolescent girls in particular in a way few artists ever have; for her (many) fans, Swift is “the one.” She is, to put it in economic terms, highly differentiated.

That’s why I loved her decision to pull out of Spotify.3 Taylor Swift is not some sort of Luddite futilely standing against the forces of modernity; rather, she is a highly differentiated content creator capturing the immense value she is creating instead of ceding it to an aggregator that treats every piece of content the same.


There are other examples of content creators realizing and capturing their value. When it comes to publications, the Wall Street Journal has long led the way in putting much of its content behind a paywall, betting that its focus on finance and business would make its content worth paying for. Other examples are the Financial Times and more recently, the New York Times. To be fair, the results have been mixed, in part because all of the paywalls have varying degrees of leakiness. This, though, gets at one of the most important tradeoffs any content creator has to make: when it comes to capturing the value created through differentiation, reach and profit are inversely correlated.

In fact, this is the exact dynamic that explains how Apple captures such a huge percentage of the profit in the markets they compete in, even as they have a relatively small market share. iPhones, Macs, etc. are differentiated by Apple’s software and ecosystem, and the company charges accordingly. Those higher prices, though, preclude Apple from ever being the majority player.4

There are examples in software too. Developers have decried the App Store “race to the bottom”, when in reality the market is behaving exactly as you would expect: software, like music, has zero marginal cost, which means that absent differentiation the fair price of an app is $0. Omni Group, though, sells iOS apps for a whole lot more: OmniFocus for iPhone, for example, is $19.99; the iPad version is $29.99, and, according to founder and CEO Ken Case, Omni is more than satisfied with the company’s foray onto iOS.

The math is obvious: one customer buying both versions of OmniFocus is worth 50 customers buying one copy at $0.99, and worth an order of magnitude more customers were the app free with ads. Moreover, fewer customers mean lower support costs on one hand, and more ardent evangelists on the other. Customers who are willing to pay for a superior product are valuable in all sorts of ways, and Omni is spot-on in pricing their highly-differentiated apps in such a way that they capture a good part of the value they create.

It’s easy to wonder why more developers don’t take the same route as Omni – or singers like Swift, or publications like the Wall Street Journal – but the truth is creating differentiation is hard. Case told me:

Not every app becomes profitable just because it’s priced reasonably with respect to its value. With OmniGraphSketcher, for example, we didn’t find as large a market as we were hoping to, and though its simplicity was great, as a simple app it didn’t offer enough value to justify raising its price to sustain development in its small market. So we stopped selling it (and released it to the public for free as open source, where it also hasn’t found much traction). The lesson I’ve drawn is that it’s important for us to build higher-value apps

It’s a tough standard, to be sure, but as a consumer, it’s actually pretty great news. Only the best will succeed.


It’s easy to think that the Internet Age is well-established, but the truth is we’re only getting started. Remember, it took nearly two decades for the Model T to develop the car ecosystem to the point where new opportunities emerged to offer differentiated vehicles at much higher prices and much greater per-unit profit (Mercedes-Benz, for example, wasn’t founded until 1926, right about the time that the Model T reached its lowest price). I strongly believe that we are at a similar turning point when it comes to Internet-enabled businesses.

The thing about Internet scale is it doesn’t just have to mean you strive to serve the most possible people at the lowest possible price; individuals and focused publications or companies can go the other way and charge relatively high prices but with far better products or services than were possible previously. It’s working for Apple, it’s working for Taylor Swift, it’s working for Omni Software, and I can’t wait to see the sort of companies and products it will work for in the future.5

  1. I previously used Henry Ford and the Model T as an analogy here; I hope you’ll excuse the recycling as 1) I didn’t have any readers then and 2) The focus and takeaway here is totally different
  2. I discussed Swift vs Spotify at length in this Daily Update (members-only)
  3. According to the New Yorker, Swift would have stayed had Spotify been willing to limit her songs to the paid tier
  4. Which, contra conventional wisdom, is ok, because absolute numbers matter more than percentages
  5. I’m burying this in a footnote because I’m sheepish, but I’m hopeful that it’s working for me as well

The post Differentiation and Value Capture in the Internet Age appeared first on stratechery by Ben Thompson.

by Ben Thompson at November 19, 2014 06:54 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Don’t Forget to Register for Free Money Next Saturday

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Link: Register for $30 AmEx Credits

If you’re in the U.S., don’t forget to register for free money “Small Business Saturday.”

A few years ago, American Express created a new fake holiday to honor small business owners. As fake holidays go, it sure beats President’s Day—I like supporting small businesses, and whenever Small Business Saturday rolls around in late November, you have the chance to earn an instant rebate for every AmEx card you have.

The instant rebate varies year by year, and this year it’s pretty good: when shopping at a local small business, you’ll earn up to three $10 credits per registered card.

Naturally, I have … a lot … of AmEx cards. In years past I’ve had as many as nine, but this year I think I’m down to five active ones. Still, five cards x 3 $10 credits each = $150 in free money.

There’s no catch, except that you have to use your AmEx (duh) to receive the credit. You can find participating merchants from your city on this handy map. Oh, and you need to make sure that each card’s charges are split into three transactions of at least $10 or more.

Enjoy!

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Image: Adam

by Chris Guillebeau at November 19, 2014 06:08 PM

The Brooks Review

YosemiteSanFranciscoFont

I’ve been using San Francisco as my default font since it came out, replacing a short run of Avenir. This is a dead simple way to install it — have fun.

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

by Ben Brooks at November 19, 2014 05:51 PM

CrossFit 204: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Workout: Nov. 21, 2014

Leading the league in rebounding since always.

Leading the league in rebounding since always.

Fight Gone CKP

5 rounds of:

Wall-ball shots

Kettlebell swings (55/35 lb.)

Row for calories

Burpees to target

Box jumps or step-ups (24/20 inches)

Rest 1 minute

No transition time between movements inside each round.

Skills

Review the movements used in Circuit 2 and Circuit 3 here: http://www.dieselcrew.com/how-to-shoulder-rehab

2 rounds of Circuit 2 (12-15 reps of each movement in each round)

2 rounds of Circuit 3 (12-15 reps of each movement in each round)

Do not use momentum. Move slowly and deliberately.

Loading should not compromise form; use lighter weight.

This is not for time. Rest as needed.

by Mike at November 19, 2014 05:08 PM

Workout: Nov. 20, 2014

The yin and yang of Joel and Geoff.

The yin and yang of Joel and Geoff.

5 sets of 1 2-position snatch

Hang, floor (with a 1-second stop just below the knee)

Snatch pulls 3-3-3

by Mike at November 19, 2014 04:52 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Notes from Traveling Millennials: On the Road with Bud and Eva Simpson

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

When you’re young, it feels easy to appease your inner wanderlust by saying, “I’ll travel later in life.” Twenty-somethings Bud and Eva Simpson decided they didn’t want to live this way—and have spent the last year helping young adults learn to travel smart.

Tell us about yourselves.  

We’re Bud & Eva and we just married in March 2014. For us, the perfect moment is waking up to adventure on a crisp morning, sipping a cup of black coffee in a thick mug and asking, “Where will we go today? Who will we meet today, and what is their story?

We’ve discovered that at the heart of these questions lies the essence of fulfilling travel. And it’s what we’ve chosen to dedicate our lives to find and share with others. So to do just that, we became travel bloggers and started Shoestring Explorers – a travel blog for ‘twenty-somethings’ on a budget.

Why did you want to focus on twenty-somethings?

From the beginning we knew we wanted to flip the traditional model of travel blogging on its head. Where the traditional blog might focus on the blogger, we wanted to focus solely on the reader. “What’s keeping the young professional ‘twenty-something’ from making travel a priority and how can they overcome it?”

We are convinced that by understanding the obstacles that Millennials face, we can identify and test travel strategies that help them realize their dream of frequent and fulfilling travel.

DCIM100GOPRO

What inspired you to leave home and travel?

Travel was just always kind of there, and the urge to travel became stronger over time, especially once we started doing it together. It’s funny how so many people say they love the thought of travel, but they never make the commitment to actually do it, and put it off until “later.”

But we realized early on that “later” doesn’t always work out. People age, get sick, have kids, take on tons of responsibilities. And let’s be honest, you never know when today is your last day. Ultimately, that thought is what pushed us out the door.

Can you tell us a story from your time on the road?

We fell in love with ‘getting lost’ in the summer of 2011. With no guidebook or even a map, just our backpacks and a smile, we backpacked across Western Europe. We took our time popping into sleepy ‘one-pub’ towns in the English countryside, worked a farm in a pastoral village in Bretagne, stumbled upon monastery-turned hostels in Nice with nightclubs overlooking the Mediterranean, tasted Chianti poured by the vintner herself, and spent entire afternoons mesmerized by the craftsmanship of artisans handcrafting fine leather handbags, belts, and shoes.

It remains one of our favorite trips, because we literally had nothing—there was nothing glamorous about it from an outsider’s point of view. But it was wonderful for us because we learned how little we needed to be happy.

There was one night in Avignon where we literally debated whether or not we should sleep under a bridge—which pretty much tells you how novice we were. We were stuck in a city we’d never been before, our phones were dead, and we couldn’t speak more than a few words of French.

The sun began to set as we ambled through the streets of Calais looking for a place to stay. “Un hotel? Un hostel? Je ne comprends pas… Non, non we are l’Americain.” Every place was either booked or way out of our price range.

Our only two options for lodging were the train station, or under a lovely bridge a few blocks east. In our last act of desperation we reached out to a local barkeep at a charming, rundown wine shop and told him we were looking for a room. “Of course! I will call Phillipe—he’ll give you the best room he has! Tell him Gerard sent you!”

We thanked Gerard, bought a bottle of wine, a block of cheese and trekked over cobblestone streets to the most beautiful little boutique hotel. Turns out we had the honeymoon suite waiting for us, for a fraction of the price! Moral of the story? It can pay off to connect with locals. We can’t guarantee the same results, but its definitely worth a shot.

No amount of books or blogs can prepare you for the real thing. Travel is all too intriguing, beautiful and unexpected. You’ve got to hop in and just go for it.

Eva3

How do you save for your trips?

We use a little technique that we developed called the “Splurge Savings Approach,” wherein we 1) open a savings account, 2) direct deposit small amounts into the account each paycheck, and 3) supplement the fund with additional sources of income, like baby-sitting money and tax returns. So we effectively have a constant travel fund that grows while we sleep. And it’s great because it gives us the freedom to travel whenever we want without breaking the bank.

We use our “Splurge Savings” every time we travel and we accumulate enough money for one international flight every 30-45 days. Now that we use this technique, money is never an obstacle that keeps us from traveling. For most ‘twenty-somethings’ including us, cost is the #1 obstacle for frequent and fulfilling travel. But by committing to a system that does the work for us, paying for travel is a breeze.

Do you use travel hacking techniques?

When coupled with miles bonuses earned from credit cards, the “Splurge Savings” really does become a wad of cash that we can use for splurging on the things we love like fine wine, nice restaurants, bottle service and first class upgrades. Because who doesn’t love those things?

Also, we’re both members of the Travel Hacking Cartel and have opened a number of credit cards while building our miles balances. We came up with a word-for-word script that we could use to cash in on great sign-up bonuses with cards we already had. We tested it on our cards, and after a few times we started getting some positive results.

With about a 50% success rate, we were getting $400 in travel with a 5-minute phone call, just by being good customers who threatened to leave. Those are crazy-awesome odds, and you really have nothing to lose.

Eva4

The great debate: aisle or window?

Eva and I always fight over the window seat. (We always imagine the pilot saying, “Don’t make me turn this plane around, kids!”)

Best travel tips. Go:

1. Keep a travel journal; write in it daily.

You don’t have to write a five-page journal entry, use bullet points if you’d like. The important thing is that you keep a record of where you went, what you did and who you met along the way. This is one of our favorite ways to relive our travels again—it’s almost like reading a book!

2. Throw away the guidebook and meet the ‘serendipitous traveler’ in you!

Let the locals be your guide. Strike up conversations; find out where people go to explore and unwind.

3. Bring your travels home with you.

Whenever you return from a trip, find fun and creative ways to share your travel experiences with friends and family. Imagine you just got back from the Chianti region of Italy; host a wine-tasting party featuring some of your favorite wines and local cuisine. Your friends will love you for it and it’s a great way to inspire others to seek fulfilling travel as well.

Where are you headed next?

We’re headed to Portland, Oregon this December. We’re writing a segment for the blog on West Coast travel by train and we’re taking the Coast Starlight from Portland to Los Angeles (and of course, stopping for some wine along the way)

Follow Bud and Eva’s journey on their site, Shoestring Explorers, or via Twitter @shoestringexp.  
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by Chris Guillebeau at November 19, 2014 04:38 PM

The Brooks Review

∞ The New Way to Edit Photos

When I left my company at the beginning of this month, I had to cancel the Adobe Creative Cloud subscription that I had, and I did so with a little too much glee — because the next day I remembered that my copy of Lightroom was tied to it.

Oops.

It wasn’t for a few days that I found out Lightroom really never fully expires, but I was right fully worried — Lightroom was where I edited every photo I took.

I briefly thought about buying or subscribing just for Lightroom, but that seemed silly. So I kept thinking and I came across a new app in my Reading List: Flare 2.

I never gave Flare a go, it looked gimmicky to me when it came out — like Instagram for the Mac — but in truth it is exactly what I want. And probably just about what every normal photographer needs: a quick way to get your photos ready to share.

It’s dead simple.

That’s not the end of the story though, because stock Flare 2 isn’t anything close to what I need. But add in Flare effects for the iPad and about 30 minutes of my time — now I don’t need any other apps to edit my photos.

That’s not me dramatizing the statement either — I do all my photo editing inside the Photo app on my iPad, with Flare Effects, and the stock set of cropping tools.

How To Let Go

The hardest part for people to grasp when I tell them I’ve ditched Lightroom, or any other “advanced” editor is that they see it as basically turning my photography workflow into Instagram.

Sure, I’m using filters, but I have a spoiler for you: most “serious” Lightroom users are just using filters to begin with — except in Lightroom they are called “presets”. So you know, not filters, clearly.

What finally pushed me over the edge was a long look at how I actually use photos. My primary goal is not to make art, but to capture moments and in that, when I do capture a great moment, I want to share that image quickly and widely. I don’t want to share the unedited image, I want to make the image look great still, but sharing is really what photography is all about.

And so, with that in mind I looked at my Lightroom workflow:

  • Wait a long time to import images from my camera. (Usually weeks after I took the photos.)
  • Never import iPhone shots, where a lot of images reside.
  • Once imported, rate images.
  • After I rate them I edit them by choosing one of 12 “presets” that I have created.
  • Apply cropping to select images.
  • Share on Flickr, Studiobrooks.com, or other means like Dropbox, email, etc.
  • Close my computer.

Even if I am just editing a handful of pictures, I still will take about 30 minutes to do all of this, between Lightroom being slow with RAW files, or me obsessing over minor tweaks.

What I realized in looking at all of that: it is a big pain in the ass.

I don’t like it, I don’t enjoy it at all.

Further, I don’t have the images in the most important place: my iPhone. What kind of bullshit is that? Not my kind of bullshit. This was at the moment I decided I had to figure out how to do this all faster on my iPad.

Note about iPhone: don’t bother.

How to Get Started Fast

The fastest way to get started is to download Flare 2, and Flare Effects. Then open Flare 2, add any picture. From there apply any of the filters you like, and click the edit button in the bottom left corner and remove the borders, then click My effects to save it to your effects. That will now sync to Flare Effects on your iPad.

Repeat that process for all the filters you like.

The filters themselves are decent, but the photo borders are really ugly if you ask me. This is the fastest way to get going.

Make the Filters Your Own

Now, I showed you how to get up and running by just killing the border effects, but you can also tweak all those filters however you like — or create new ones entirely. I’ve had a lot of success creating new filters. To do this I took a simple, but colorful, image and opened it in a great many apps that have filters I like, such as VSCO, and Lightroom for starters.

I then get a bunch of copies of that image and try to recreate the effects in Flare 2. That’s not nearly as tedious as you might imagine. To recreate the C3 VSCO Cam filter: it took me about 2 minutes. Does it look exact? No, but that’s not the point. I don’t need or want exact reproduction, I just want my take on it.

Doing that lends to a lot of filters fast. And gets you up and running with a good set of tools quickly.

Note about VSCO on iPad: It’s a great tool, but for me the hassle of moving images in and out of VSCO’s library is too tedious to bother with.

On the iPad

Now grab your iPad. I’ll let you in on a secret: don’t bother opening any apps, the photo app and the SD card reader is all you need. Get your images imported, and hit edit on the ones you want to edit.

Apple’s cropping tool is quite good, and if you took the photo on an iOS device, the photo will self-level/straighten when you hit the crop button — a really superb touch.

The power in editing on the iPad is just how quick it is to flick through your photos — this was always something that my Mac was surprisingly slow at doing. With the iPad here’s my entire workflow:

  • Swipe through imported photos
  • Edit ones that I like
    • Tap edit
    • Crop
    • Apply filters from Flare, using the oddest icon in iOS.
    • Mark as a favorite if it is one I really like
    • Repeat
  • Once I am done editing I select all the photos I want to share and either AirDrop to my Mac, or share with a shared iCloud album for my entire family to see.

On the off chance I am working on an image for this site, I can post directly with Safari to upload. However, most of the time I do this all from my Mac, as that is where my ‘to-be-published’ words reside.

Image Noise

The one downside to all of this is noise reduction. There are simply no iOS apps which reduce noise in an image the same way Lightroom can. Lightroom is the best way to reduce image noise.

I often shoot at ISO 6400, so noise is a concern for me, but because of the excellent Fujifilm sensor there is very little noise to begin with. I’ve switched to shooting RAW+JPG (more on this in a bit) and therefore I allow the camera to reduce the noise in the body.

Again, 95% of the time this works really, really well.

What If?

The biggest question I am likely to run into is: “what if XYZ?” What if I need to edit for this use case, or that use case. What if I need more resolution than JPG can offer?

All good questions.

What I have found is that these edge cases happen so infrequently it’s not hard to account for them. Let’s take image detail as an example.

Fujifilm sensors are capable of producing astounding image detail, so let’s say I take an award winning landscape shot that I need to process to perfection. Well, it’s not Lightroom I would do that in anyway — Lightroom does a particularly bad job with image detail as I have noted here.

So my system is still the same: if and when I want to milk more out of the photo, Iridient Developer is the best choice. I can even have presets there too.

And that’s why I am shooting RAW+JPG, all I have to do is remember to dump my memory card once a month and I get all the RAW images (using Hazel to sort and file them). I always have the RAW as backup.

The Biggest Annoyances

There are two major annoyances I have:

  1. I cannot preview the images on an SD card for newest to oldest. So when I import a card with a lot of images it can take a long time to load all the previews. This is actually a pretty shitty experience.
  2. Apps like VSCO and SKWRT don’t have extensions setup in Photos.app, so I can’t use advanced editors without dropping out of Photos.app.

For many, the first one will drive you nuts. It does me. My solution thus far has been to keep less images on the SD card, which means more backing up to my Mac. Not ideal, but I hold out hope there are improvements made on that front.

Conclusion

I’ve spent considerable time, more time that one should, thinking about and strategizing about this system and workflow. It won’t be complete until Apple releases the Photos app for the Mac, but until then editing on my iPad is:

  • Substantially easier
  • Substantially better
  • More shareable
  • Way more fun

And I lose very little overall. As time progresses, what I lose, will become less and less. I could not be happier editing outside of the clunky Lightroom workflow. Editing photos should be fun, not slow and painful — the iPad achieves all of that and then some.

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

by Ben Brooks at November 19, 2014 04:27 PM