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August 01, 2014

The Outlaw Way


WOD 140801:


1) Power Clean: 2RM – 2X1@95%, 2X1@90%

2) Power Jerk from blocks: 2RM – 2X1@95%, 2X1@90%


1a) 3X8 Bench Press – heaviest possible reps with maximal speed, rest 90 sec.

1b) 3XME Strict C2B Pull-ups – rest 90 sec.


Alternating EMOM for 20 minutes:

Sprint 100m
10 6″ Target Burpees (as fast as possible)

The post 140801 appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by at August 01, 2014 11:27 AM

Crossway Blog

Video: A Word of Encouragement from Jen Wilkin

Thank You!

We want to thank the thousands of women who signed up for Women of the Word Month! We’re grateful for all the encouraging emails, tweets, and comments that many of you sent our way over the last thirty-one days.

Here’s a final word of encouragement and advice from Jen Wilkin:

A Word of Encouragement from Jen Wilkin from Crossway on Vimeo.

We hope that this effort was helpful to your Christian life and that you learned something along the way.

As we close out the month, we want to remind you of two new resources that may help as you look to studying the Bible this fall:

Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds by Jen Wilkin

We all know it’s important to study God’s Word.

But sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. What’s more, a lack of time, emotionally driven approaches, and past frustrations can erode our resolve to keep growing in our knowledge of Scripture. How can we, as Christian women, keep our focus and sustain our passion when reading the Bible?

Offering a clear and concise plan to help women go deeper in their study of Scripture, this book will equip you to engage God’s Word in a way that trains your mind and transforms your heart.

Learn More / Read an Excerpt

The ESV Women’s Devotional Bible

The ESV Women’s Devotional Bible is a valuable resource for strengthening women in their walk with God. Applicable for women in any stage of life, the Women’s Devotional Bible is theologically rich in content while remaining accessible and practical. Readers will be encouraged in daily, prayerful Bible study, and equipped to understand and apply the Bible to every aspect of life.

The Women’s Devotional Bible features materials designed especially for women. The book introductions, character sketches of key figures, all-new daily devotionals, and all-new articles have been written by both women and men contributors. These contributors include professors, musicians, authors, counselors, homemakers, and conference speakers.

Learn More / Read an Excerpt

by Matt Tully at August 01, 2014 09:00 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

How Not to Argue: The Problem of ‘Folk Fallacies’

(Note: This is the first in an occasional series on argument, persuasion, and rhetoric for Christians.)

A Brief Introduction to This Series

Argumentation is the act or process of forming reasons and of drawing conclusions and applying them to a case in discussion. Christians are required to argue (1 Peter 3:15), so we should learn to do it well. When it comes to learning how to argue, you can find no better model than Jesus. (Which is why I co-wrote a book titled, How to Argue Like Jesus).

But you can also learn to argue well by learning how not to argue. On that subject, I’m somewhat of an expert. Over several decades I’ve argued a lot and, on the whole, made quite a mess of it. But while I have a woefully rudimentary knowledge about how to argue (a shameful admission considering I wrote a book on the subject), I’ve learned more than my share about how not to argue.

Through this series I plan to offer a set of heuristics on argumentation and persuasion. Heuristics are commonsense “rules of thumb” intended to increase the probability of solving some problem. The heuristics I offer aren’t derived from careful exegesis of rhetorical textbooks or from rule books on Oxford-style debating. These rules of thumb are merely useful tips I’ve learned from a long history of rhetorical mistake-making. I won’t take offense if you disagree. But I will try to persuade you that following these tips will make you more persuasive.

What Not to Do: Don’t appeal to folk fallacies in countering arguments.

Why Not to Do It: As a heuristic, “avoid folk fallacies” isn’t all that helpful until we answer the question, “What in the world is a ‘folk fallacy’?” The answer requires a bit of explanatory background (so bear with me, hopefully it’ll be worth the effort). But for now let's think about our new heuristic as “avoid appealing to those rules of thumb known as “informal fallacies.’”

To understand what makes an informal fallacy a folk fallacy (and why we should avoid them) we should start by understanding what constitutes a fallacy.

In argumentation, fallacies prevent us from forming good arguments. A good argument is one whose conclusions follow from its premises; its conclusions are consequences of its premises. This is known as logical consequence. To maintain this chain of logical consequence — to ensure the conclusions follow from the premise — we need a truth-preserving structure, a way to keep the argument “valid.” A valid argument is one where if the premises are true, the conclusion must be true. The structure that best preserves the truth of an argument is a logically valid form.

For instance, we can express the logical form of a valid argument as "All A are B. All C are A. Therefore, All C are B." This argument is formally valid, because every instance of arguments constructed using this scheme are valid. (A valid argument may also be sound or unsound, depending on whether the premises are true.)

What happens when you have an error in the logical form? Then you have a formal fallacy. These types of fallacies are not formal in the sense of formal attire like tuxedos but formal in that they affect the truth-preserving form of an argument. Since a formal fallacy messes up the logical consequence, it prevents an argument from being valid. (An argument with an invalid form can still be true, but it won’t be necessarily true.)

The beauty of formal arguments is that if you can get someone to agree on the truth of your argument’s premises then all you have to do is run it through a logical form that is valid and then they have to accept the truth of your conclusion. If they don’t then you can play the trump card that they are being illogical. (No one wants to be illogical.)

Formal arguments are appealing but it becomes difficult to judge their validity in the the hustle and bustle of real world discussions. Most arguments we have are detailed and complex. Because they are mixed up with a lot of rhetorical detritus, it’s often difficult to feed these arguments through the conveyor belt of a logically valid form in order to get an attractively wrapped conclusion that everyone has to agree on.

This difficulty of assessing formal arguments explains the appeal of informal fallacies. Informal fallacies don’t affect the form, and thus may or may not affect the validity of the argument. Yet people tend to treat informal logical fallacies as if they held the same status as a formal fallacies. The result is that many people think they can score points in an argument by throwing down an informal fallacy as a trump card. They think they are playing an ace of spades when they are throwing down a deuce of diamonds.

Let’s look at an example of a commonly cited informal fallacy, the “No true Scotsman.” The term, first coined by the late British philosopher Antony Flew, refers to how when faced with a counterexample to a universal claim, some people will modify the subject of the assertion to exclude the specific case. That sounds complicated, so let’s look at an easily digestible example:

Person A: "No Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge."
Person B: "I am Scottish, and I put sugar on my porridge."
Person A: "Well, no true Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge."

The implication is that by adding an additional requirement, Person A has committed a fallacy of reasoning. But this simply isn’t true. There could be valid reasons to believe the additional requirement is part of the definitional nature of the original claim. For instance, if all Scotsman have a genetic condition that makes them deathly allergic to sugar, then someone who regularly puts sugar on their porridge (and doesn’t die) is likely not a Scotsman at all.

Many informal fallacies (I would say most of them) are either conditional fallacies (i.e., they depend on the circumstances of the argument) or are not fallacies at all. Informal fallacies are a form of what philosopher Brandon Watson calls “philosophical folklore” or “folk fallacies”:

Among the many things worth studying, one of the most interesting is what I call ‘philosophical folklore’. Folklore, of course, consists of micro-traditions passed down within communities as part of the ordinary ways of life of the people in those communities. . . .

Of all subjects in philosophy, I think informal logic tends to provide the richest veins of philosophical folklore. Reasoning and evaluating reasoning are things everyone has to do. Formal logic tends to get too technical to be widespread. Informal logic, on the other hand, is almost purely folkloric in nature. Unsystematic and messy, it consists chiefly of rules of thumb, folk classifications, proverbs, slogans, and the like.

To say that informal fallacies are folk fallacies does not mean they are worthless. As with any widely accepted rules of thumb, informal fallacies are likely to be carrying at least a germ of practical wisdom. For this reason they can sometimes even be useful in our task of learning “how not to argue” since they provide practical examples of what patterns of argumentation to avoid.

In future entries we’ll consider why to avoid calling out people for specific folk fallacies, such as claiming someone has committed the informal fallacy of ad hominem. But for now it will suffice to point out three reasons why we should avoid claiming someone has committed an informal fallacy:

1) Such claims are never persuasive – You will never win an argument (especially one on the Internet) by telling people they are committing an informal fallacy. If you are debating someone who is also enthralled with folk fallacies, they may change their tactics to avoid being told they are committing a particular fallacy. But you are unlikely to persuade them or anyone else that disagrees with you that they are actually committing an error in reason. People may cite informal fallacies, but they rarely believe informal fallacies are truly fallacies of reasoning when applied to themselves. 

2) You’re probably using them wrong — Almost ten years ago I got into a heated debate with a notoriously rude and prickly academic philosophy professor. He insulted my intelligence, so I accused him of committing an ad hominem fallacy. He claimed he did no such thing and I accused him of not understanding logic. In hindsight, I realize he was right. His insulting me had nothing to do with his argument or his reasoning. Sometimes being called an idiot by a jerk is just an insult, and not a fallacy. (By the way, if your instinct is to turn to Wikipedia or some other reference to figure out which informal fallacy someone is committing – don’t waste your time. See #1.)

3) Such claims sidetrack the debate – Will pointing out the fallacy help prove the truth of your premises or conclusion? If not, then you are providing a distraction from the purpose of your argument.

What to Do Instead: For the reasons listed above, spending time debating whether someone has committed a particular folk fallacy is always a waste time. Fortunately, there is a profoundly powerful tool that can replace almost every appeal to informal fallacies: the clarifying question.

Consider our example above about Scotsmen, sugar, and porridge. What happens if we point out our interlocutor is committing the “No True Scotsman” fallacy? Most likely we’ll have to explain to them what the fallacy is, why it’s an error in reasoning, and how they’ve committed it. That’s two premises and a conclusion that we now have to argue for that have nothing to do with defending our original argument.

Instead, we could have saved ourselves a lot of trouble by merely asking, “Can you clarify what you mean by ‘true Scotsman’”? The onus is then on them to explain why a certain requirement is necessary to be a Scotsman. Even if you don’t agree with their answer, you’ll have a better understanding of the position they are arguing for.

Any time you suspect someone is committing an informal fallacy use a clarifying question. Instead of saying someone is resorting to ad hominem, ask them why they think that character trait affects the validity of the argument. Instead of telling someone their statement is a non sequitur, ask them to explain how their conclusion follows from their stated premises. This method works because it forces the person to think for themselves and untangle their own reasoning. This method works because everyone has an easier time persuading themselves than they do being persuaded by others.

The drawback to this method is that you won’t get to display your vast knowledge of Latinate informal fallacies (or at least your ability to look them up on Wikipedia). But the upside is that by replacing appeals to folk fallacies with a simple clarifying question, your persuasive abilities wil instantly increase.

by Joe Carter at August 01, 2014 05:10 AM

They Know Not What They Do

It is vitally important for American Christians to understand why threats to religious liberty are growing in our nation. Of course, those called to political activism must understand this trend in order to plan more effective strategies for championing religious liberty. However, it’s just as important for the rest of us to understand if we want to avoid the twin dangers of being naïve about our neighbors’ sins or resenting them. There is a key social dynamic at work.

The open persecution of explicitly anti-Christian tyrants, while harder to endure, is easier to understand than the more complex attacks on the church in America today. From Nero to Kim Jong-un, tyrants have always been more or less the same. Lying behind all their actions, you will find some combination of traditional cultural superstitions, cynical political manipulations, and that special breed of insanity that absolute power always seems to nurture in those who possess it. Small consolation this may be to those who suffer under tyranny, but there are few puzzles about how and why tyrants do what they do.

What we face is different. True, many of those who control the institutions at the top of American civilization seem to be working diligently to make those institutions suppress Christianity. If things were to continue to progress as they have lately (which I do not expect to happen), even the most basic elements of life in our culture—such as holding down a job so we can put food on our families’ tables—will require Christians to compromise their consciences.

Yet these people in power are no Neros. Get to know them, or just listen carefully to what they say, and you will find that they are, humanly speaking, decent people. They don’t know God, but they know the basic rules of common morality—fair play, respecting others, treating people decently. Paul could almost have been writing about these people when he said that unbelievers’ behavior shows the law of God is written on their hearts (Rom. 2:14-15). Yet they invoke these same rules of morality as their justification for rolling back religious freedom; they even invoke tolerance to justify their intolerance. What gives?

Not the Whole Story

One explanation would be simple ignorance. They sincerely believe that what they’re doing is right, just as Typhoid Mary sincerely believed she was helping people when in fact she was killing them. This explanation would find support in the fact that when these people talk about Christianity (or religion in general) they obviously have no idea what it really is.

Such ignorance almost certainly does play some role, but that cannot be the whole story. Given his defective understanding of what religion is—and, for that matter, what a business is—the secularist genuinely doesn’t understand why the owners of a company would feel their consciences were at stake in the company’s actions. Yet if ignorance were the only problem, once the issue became a conflict the secularist would inevitably discover and correct some of his ignorance. He might remain a secularist, but we would expect to see him making some effort to understand his opponents’ point of view and learn at least a little more about religion and business. Yet we see no such learning.

This leads us to another possible explanation. Perhaps the appearance of morality is just an appearance. To many Christians, it seems plausible that the people doing these things really are Neros, intentionally conspiring to destroy the church out of hatred. This explanation would find support in the fact that some supporters of these new policies do openly hope they will suppress Christianity.

We must not discount the fact that the church has deadly enemies, but this is also not the whole story. The people who openly profess these views are almost never the ones in power. They tend to be authors and conference speakers, or at most, obscure college professors. The people who occupy positions of real authority not only don’t talk that way, they pretty convincingly talk the other way. Some people will never be willing to believe that you might find less sin rather than more as you go up the ladder of power, but in this case it’s quite plausible. If nothing else, persecution and conflict is bad for business. The shrewdest cynics understand that fighting about religion detracts from profits.

'Noetic Effect of Sin'

We will get much further if we bring in what theologians call the “noetic effect of sin.” The sinful mind is morally aware enough to be responsible, yet sunk deeply in ignorance at the same time—especially when it comes to understanding its own motives and culpability. The natural man wants to avoid the awareness of his guilt and fear, and to an astonishingly large extent, he actually does avoid awareness of it. The ignorance is genuine, yet it is a guilty ignorance for which the sinner is answerable. This darkening of the mind can be understood as part of the nature of sin, as God’s punishment, as a gracious restraint on human evil (for the shamelessly self-aware sinner would be even more wicked, and more destructive, than the darkened one) or some combination of these.

Just think about the original act of persecution against one who proclaimed the gospel—the cross itself. When the Romans nailed him to the cross, Jesus asked his father to forgive them, for “they know not what they do.” When the religious authorities came to mock him, he said the same.

Was the cross an innocent mistake? Setting all else aside, if that were the case, there would be no sin on their part and thus nothing to forgive. Jesus wouldn’t have asked his father to forgive them. Those who murdered Christ were culpable. Yet even as he says they need forgiveness, he also says they don’t understand what they’re doing.

Social Basis of Morality

Two recent articles have offered a fascinating theory about the threat to religious liberty that suggests the importance of this noetic effect. They draw on the social psychology of morality recently proposed in the groundbreaking work of Jonathan Haidt, who emphasizes the role of relationships and social groups in the way people think about morality. Few people improve their behavior much strictly on their own initiative, through self-awareness and self-discipline. Our moral development comes much more from our response to other people’s prompting, encouraging and restraining us. While the basic principle here is ancient wisdom, Haidt backs it up with an impressive collection of empirical data, and shows that to some degree this social basis of morality is hard-wired in human physiology. (Unfortunately, he also explains it in terms of evolutionary psychology, but we can separate his empirical data from his explanations of them.)

This is why the Bible keeps admonishing us to strengthen bonds of fellowship in the church, hold one another accountable, and build one another up. It is also why the Bible warns us to be on our guard about conforming to the world within which we live.

However, this is also why the Bible tells us to go out into the world. We are not only to be salt, preserving our part of the world against decay; we are to be light, going forth into the dark places to shine the gospel. Wherever Christians are not present within a cultural group, the group will only become more and more hardened in its own ways. Just as good social prompting begets good character, their absence is the key condition for bad character.

The basic idea of these articles is that, as Christians and secularists increasingly live in separate social groups that don’t know or understand one another, militant secularism has turned in upon itself and become frighteningly self-reinforcing. As the Bible and Haidt’s data warn us to expect, people’s moral thinking tends to be limited to what the members of their social group will prompt and reinforce. In a social group where the response to, say, porn or gossip or theft is negative, members of the group will be much more likely to develop internal scruples against those things. Moral prompts coming from outside the group—such as Christian arguments against militant secularism—tend not to be heard. They only trigger the group’s defense mechanisms, being perceived as a threat to the group from outsiders. The more outsiders demand religious freedom, the more tightly the secularists cling to arguments against it.

The more outsiders demand religious freedom, the more tightly the secularists cling to arguments against it.

Three Lessons

From all this, I would draw three lessons for the general edification of the church. (Political activists will, of course, find much more to chew on.)

1. We must not allow the secularists’ obvious ignorance about Christianity to tempt us to naiveté. Our secular neighbors’ increasingly negative view of believers is no mere innocent misunderstanding that could be cleared up quickly if only we could communicate better.

2. We must not allow the explicit, self-conscious enemies of the church to lead us to think that all efforts to roll back religious freedom are part of an intentional secularist conspiracy. It is unlikely we'll find many Neros about us, and as difficult as it may be for some to believe, the higher you go up the ladder of power the fewer you'll probably find.

3. We can do ourselves and our world a huge service through the Christian virtue of hospitality, building bridges of understanding across cultural divides. The sooner we find ways of helping our neighbors think of us as “we” rather than “they,” the better off everyone is going to be.

by Greg Forster at August 01, 2014 05:01 AM

Making Sense of the Bible

Adam Hamilton. Making Sense of the Bible: Rediscovering the Power of Scripture Today. New York: Harper Collins, 2014. 324 pp. $21.99.

A professional mechanic friend walked into my garage and noticed my collection of Chilton Auto Repair books—one for every make I have ever owned. After eyeing them he quipped with a smile, “There is only enough in those books to be dangerous.” As I read Adam Hamilton’s Making Sense of the Bible: Rediscovering the Power of Scripture Today, my friend’s jibe came to mind. The book contains everything from an overview of the Bible to a debate over the nature of Scripture to what the Bible says about tattoos. Hamilton has covered too much ground too superficially to be of much help, which is why this book will be most dangerous to those trying to make sense of the Bible. 

But shallow coverage is not the worst problem the book faces. Hamilton, senior pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, seems to be making two differing claims. First, the Bible is important and valuable because, Hamilton writes, “when I open its pages, I hear God speaking to me” (3). The statement gives the impression that Hamilton believes Scripture carries the imprimatur of God because, after all, God is the one speaking in its pages. 

However, this assertion is followed by another. Though Hamilton doesn’t tell us how he knows, he posits that God wants us to wrestle with what the Bible says, since “there are statements on its pages that I don’t believe capture the character and will of God” (3). This is not a one-time slip of the pen, nor is Hamilton simply talking about those places where Scripture records the evil acts of human beings. Instead, he has in mind biblical statements that, for example, condemn homosexual practice. In fact, in the chapter titled “Homosexuality and the Bible” he four times reiterates the claim that some of the Bible is simply “out of sync with God’s will as we understand it today” (271). 

But such an allegation raises an obvious question. What’s a Christian to do in light of these biblical statements that Hamilton claims don’t reflect the will and character of God? He contends that believers and unbelievers alike are to “set aside those things that may not reflect the timeless will of God” (279). In other words, we are to decide which statements are really of God and which are not, and then set the latter aside. 

Hamilton rightly feels the weight of what he is suggesting and so declares we must resist the temptation to rid ourselves of those things in Scripture that would be convenient for us to set aside. But this point raises a rather important question: How do we make this determination? How do we settle on which statements do or do not reflect the timeless will of God? Which statements are we setting aside because it is culturally or politically convenient to do so?  

For Hamilton, the answer is easy: we must listen to Jesus, “the definitive, unmitigated Word of God” (146). He goes on to write, “Jesus is the only Word from God that does not come to us through the minds, the ears, and the hearts of fallible human authors”—while also admitting in an endnote that our primary knowledge about Jesus is from the Bible (146). Nevertheless, according to Hamilton, Jesus as the Word of God is the standard by which all other words from God are to be judged. These other words include words of a theologian, a devotional book, a moving novel, a variety of music, and, of course, the Bible itself. “These are all means by which God speaks to us,” Hamilton claims, and these all stand under the word of God, Jesus Christ (147). Jesus judges these other words to be consistent or not consistent with God’s will and character.

But if Jesus is the infallible word of God who “does not come to us through the minds, the ears, and the hearts of fallible human authors,” then how can we come to know and understand his judgment concerning these other words from God? For Hamilton, the answer is inspiration. Despite writing an entire chapter on the nature of inspiration, though, Hamilton offers guidance that is vague at best. Arguing at one time that inspiration is something like the inner compulsion felt by a poet or painter, Hamilton remarks that preachers writing their sermons are inspired in the same way the biblical authors were inspired (132–133). Still at other points, inspiration seems to have something to do with the reader of Scripture. For example, he contends, “Ultimately this understanding of inspiration . . . involves reading and interpreting scripture with the help of the tradition of the faith, the experience of the Spirit, and the use of our human reason” (142–143). Thus, for Hamilton, Jesus as the infallible standard for all other words from God (including the Bible) is accessed by tradition, experience, and reason.

Do you see what’s he's done? Hamilton has equated human reason and experience ensconced in the tradition of the church with Jesus, the infallible word who stands over all other words from God. It is little wonder Hamilton feels justified in determining which parts of Scripture are consistent with the will and character of God and which are not.

by Jeffrey A. Stivason at August 01, 2014 05:01 AM

Joy and Sorrow Intermingled

Everything that happens on the surface of this dappled planet, from the deepest joy to the most unspeakable tragedy, is a tangle of grief and celebration. We spend our days trying to separate the one from the other, yet we're baffled that we cannot.

My brother and his wife recently had their first baby, a beautiful little boy with miniature fingernails, a dimpled chin, and velvety blond hair covering his head like dandelion fluff. This baby has flooded their marriage with enormous joy, and anyone who observes them can sense it. My brother and his wife practically radiate their delight in this new child, shining with their pride and affection for him.

However, this tiny human living in their small home demands their time, their finances, and their energy. The dynamics of their relationship are permanently altered. This baby limits them in many ways, and though he is a source of great celebration, an aspect of loss mixes with this joy. I remember a similar feeling on the day this same brother married his wife. I was confused at the grief that kept welling up in me, convinced I should feel nothing but happiness for him. But this day meant the family of six I had known my entire life would take a permanent back seat to his marriage, and this realization was a source of grief for me despite my joy for the two of them. There are elements of sorrow in even the happiest moments because threads of grief are coursing through this broken world.

Inexpressible Hope

The opposite is true as well. People are often surprised when in the midst of the most crippling tragedies they experience strange moments of peace, hope, and even joy and gratitude. A few months ago, my friend’s younger brother died saving his girlfriend from a collapsing basement wall as a tornado tore through the Alabama town where they attended college. There are no words to capture the grief that flooded the hearts of those who knew and loved him, and I will not attempt to do so. I was unable to attend his funeral in Mississippi, but some friends and I gathered in a hot Manhattan apartment a few days later, and we prayed. Some of us knew the young man and his family; some had only heard of him. But we poured out our hearts to God and to each other, our words mingling with the voices that moved along the sidewalk below the open window. Hot tears spilled down my cheeks—tears of sorrow, confusion, weariness at the brokenness in the world, and anger at the injustice of death. Yet through the tears, I felt an inexpressible hope of something almost too beautiful to bear, and I wanted to weep even more at the realization of it. 

Death does not have the final word, for Christ has conquered it and ensured that one day even death will die. Through his own death on the cross, Jesus has ensured that we will never be condemned to the death we deserve. He has already borne the weight of our sin on his shoulders and fully paid the price we should have paid. And through his resurrection from the dead, he has guaranteed the ultimate and final victory of life over death. Justice triumphs over injustice; light eludes the reach of even the blackest darkness. Jesus is making all things new, not just in our own hearts but in the cosmos as a whole. He has promised that all things will be made right. We celebrate that even the deepest tragedy is subject to this truth.

Overlapping Realities

We live between overlapping realities—one broken and another being healed. Joy and sorrow, grief and celebration, cannot be locked away in separate compartments. Yet that's what we try to do. Looking at one without the other means we see only a portion of the whole story of this broken world being healed. When we look at grief on its own we fail to see that God is healing the world through the work of Jesus, that he is making things beautiful and turning darkness into light before us. When we live only in light of reasons to celebrate, as if joy is the only reality, we banish all thoughts of grief and turn a blind eye to the brokenness in ourselves and in the world. We forget how much we have been rescued from, and we ignore the fact that we still need healing. We ought not to be surprised when we find traces of pain in joy or beauty in sorrow, for this is the nature of living in a broken world being redeemed.  

The cross itself is the ultimate example of this intricate web of sorrow and joy. Jesus experienced sorrow incomprehensible, dying a gruesome and lonely death to absorb the entirety of God’s wrath toward evil in our place. This immense suffering is what leads to his ultimate exaltation in Revelation 5:12: "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” Somehow, this gruesome, tragic event of his crucifixion is the very thing God uses to redeem the arc of history, reconcile sinners to himself, and heal every aspect of the world he created. We were not made to know death or pain or loss, and the cross guarantees that one day, all of creation will be restored to its rightful design.  

Jesus' death and resurrection guarantee this promise from Revelation 21:4: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” That day we will only know the reality for which we were created, the reality of joy no longer laced with grief.  

by Katy Hartman at August 01, 2014 05:01 AM

512 Pixels

A Dad-built NASA simulator →

Two thoughts came to mind when I saw this link:

  1. My childhood sucked.
  2. Would my wife let me build one in our bedroom?


by Stephen Hackett at August 01, 2014 03:04 AM

Zippy Catholic

Freedom implies equal rights

Libertarians and reactionaries coming from a libertarian background tend to make equality subordinate to freedom in their political theories, or in some cases abandon equality entirely in favor of freedom. This doesn’t work, because freedom as a primary political principle implies equality in a context of massive and complex constraints on what people are permitted to do.

Freedom is the capacity to actually choose what we wish to choose. It is incapable of discriminating between good choices and bad choices, so when it is treated as a good in itself it makes discrimination between different kinds of choices impossible. If discrimination between different kinds of choices is impossible it follows that all choices are to be treated as equally valid politically.

So it isn’t really possible to abandon equality and still retain freedom as a guiding political principle. If we do that we’ll just wake up on liberalism’s eternal Groundhog Day all over again.

by Zippy at August 01, 2014 02:08 AM

July 31, 2014

Justin Taylor

A New Interactive Bible Study Curriculum for Students with Intellectual Disabilities

Paul Miller and his wife, Jill, have put together a study on the person of Christ for those with intellectual disabilities. The folks at WTS Books are so encouraged by what they’ve put together that they are offering a $5 coupon off anything in their store if you simply take the time to watch the video introducing it.

I was recently able to sit down with Paul to ask him about the curriculum, how it came about and how it can be used:

Here is some encouragement from Joni Eareckson Tada about the series:

“The Word of God should be-must be-accessible to all, and people with intellectual disabilities, young and old, are no exception. This is why I’m so excited that my friend Jill Miller has developed a robust Bible curriculum that engages the student in real Bible study. Jill and her team have gone to great pains to ensure that this curriculum is interactive and appealing to students, and I highly applaud her efforts. The Bethesda Series is a ‘must’ for every church that desires to make Christ’s Gospel accessible to all, and the best place to start is Unit 1, Compassion. Thank you, Jill, for a job well done!”
- Joni Eareckson Tada, Joni and Friends International Disability Center

by Justin Taylor at July 31, 2014 08:19 PM

CrossFit 204

Workout: Aug. 1, 2014

Today's skill work is designed to help you master this position.

Today’s skill work is designed to help you master this position.

Press 3-3-3

3 rounds of:

20 chest-to-bar pull-ups

30 shoulder presses (75/45 lb.)

50 air squats

Time cap: 15 minutes


Part 1

Handstand work – If you have been following these handstand progressions, choose 2 progressions this week. First, perform the sequence you did last week. If you’re very confident in it, perform the next progression up. For those of you who are starting to master progression 3, a fourth is inserted.

Progression 1 – 2 sets of 1-minute “nose and toes” handstand holds

No bowing, get hollow.

Work:rest – 1:1

Progression 2 – 2 sets of 24 shoulder taps

Done with the back to the wall this week.

Rest 30 seconds between sets.

Progression 3 – 4 sets of 15-second single-arm handstand holds (per arm).

Rest 30 seconds between sets.

Progression 4 – 6 sets of: Find balance in a handstand hold with chest to the wall. Try to hold the position while bringing the feet away from the wall. Once you find stability, take three steps with the hands to walk away from wall, then let the feet fall back to wall and reset. This is 1 set.

Set up so you have room to pirouette or roll out of the position without kicking anyone.

Avoid developing the bad habit of looking at the floor by craning the neck. Keep your head neutral and look up “through the eyebrows” only.

Part 2

3 rounds of:

Row 300 m

12 shoulders-to-overheads (135/95 lb.)

by Mike at July 31, 2014 05:07 PM

One Big Fluke

How I'm writing a programming book

I've been working on Effective Python for just over two months now. The plan is to have 8 chapters in total. I've written a first draft of 5 so far. Chapter 3, the first one I wrote, was the hardest for many reasons. I had to establish a consistent voice for talking about Python. I took on the most difficult subjects first (objects and metaclasses) to get that work out of the way. I also had to build tools to automate my workflow for writing.

Each chapter consists of a number of short items that are about 2-4 pages in length. The title of an item is the "what", the shortest possible description of its advice (e.g., "Prefer Generators to Returning Lists"). The text of the item is the "why", the explanation that justifies following the advice. It's important to make the core argument for each item using Python code. But it's also important to surround the code with detailed reasoning.

Before I started I read a nice retrospective on how one author wrote their programming book. They had separate source files for the example code and used special comments to stitch it into the book's text at build time. That's a great idea because it ensures the code that's in the book definitely compiles and runs. There's nothing worse in programming tutorials than typing in code from the text and having it barf.

I wanted to go a step further. I wanted my examples to be very short. I wanted to intermix code and prose more frequently, so the reader could focus on smaller pieces one step at a time. I wanted to avoid huge blocks of code followed by huge blocks of prose. I needed a different approach.

Writing workflow

After some experimenting what I landed on is a script that processes GitHub Flavored Markdown. It incrementally reads the input Markdown, finds blocks that are Python code, runs them dynamically, and inserts the output into a following block.

Here's an example of what the input Markdown looks like:

The basic form of the slicing syntax is `list[start:end]` where `start` is inclusive and `end` is exclusive.

a = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8]
print('First four:', a[:4])
print('Last four: ', a[-4:])
print('Middle two:', a[3:-3])

First four: [1, 2, 3, 4]
Last four:  [5, 6, 7, 8]
Middle two: [4, 5]

When slicing from the start of a list you should leave out the zero index to reduce visual noise.

assert a[:5] == a[0:5]

I write the files in Sublime Text. When I press ⌘B it builds the Markdown by running my script, which executes all the Python, inserts the output back into the text, and then overwrites the original file in-place. This makes it easy to develop the code examples at the same time I'm writing the explanatory prose. It feels like the read/eval/print loop of an interactive Python shell.

My favorite part is how I made Python treat the Markdown files as input source code. That means when there's an error in my examples and an exception is raised, I'll get a traceback into the Markdown file at exactly the line where the issue occurred.

Here's an example of what that looks like in the Sublime build output:

Traceback (most recent call last):
  File ".../", line 29, in 
IndexError: list index out of range

It's essentially iPython Notebook, but tuned for my specific needs and checked into a git repo as Markdown flat files. Update: A couple people mentioned that this is a variation of Knuth's Literate Programming. Indeed it is!

Publishing workflow

Unfortunately, my deliverable for each chapter must be a Microsoft Word document. As a supporter of open source software and open standards this requirement made me wince when I first heard it. But the justification is understandable. The publisher has a technical book making system that uses Word-based templates and formatting. They have their own workflow for editing and preparing the book for print. This is the reality of desktop publishing. More modern tools like O'Reilly Atlas exist, but they are new and still in beta.

There is no way I'm going to manually convert my Markdown files into Word files. The set of required paragraph and character styles is vast and complicated. These styles are part of why the published book will look good, but it's tedious work that's easy to get wrong. Sounds like the perfect job for automation!

I have a second script that reads the input Markdown (using mistune) and spits out a Word .docx file (using python-docx). The script has a bunch of rules to map Markdown syntax to Word formatting. The script also passes all of the Python code examples through the Python lexer to generate syntax highlighting in the resulting document.

The other important thing the publishing script does is post-process the source code. Often times in an example there are only two lines out of 20 I need to show to the reader to demonstrate my point. The other 18 lines are for setup and ensuring the example actually demonstrates the right thing (testing). So I have special directives in the code as comments that can hide lines or collapse them with ellipses.

Here's an example of what this looks like in the Markdown file:

class MissingPropertyDB(object):
    def __getattr__(self, name):
        if name == 'missing':
            raise AttributeError('That property is missing!')
        # COMPRESS
        value = 'Value for %s' % name
        setattr(self, name, value)
        return value
        # END

data = MissingPropertyDB()
# HIDE  # Test the success case
except AttributeError as e:

The actual output in the published book would look like this:

class MissingPropertyDB(object):
    def __getattr__(self, name):
        if name == 'missing':
            raise AttributeError('That property is missing!')
        # ...

data = MissingPropertyDB()
except AttributeError as e:

AttributeError('That property is missing!',)


If you have any interest in using these tools let me know! Writing a book is already hard enough. Having a good workflow helps a lot. I'd like to save you the trouble.

by Brett Slatkin ( at July 31, 2014 05:03 PM

Crossway Blog

Video: The Picky Eater Approach to Bible Study


We all know it’s important to study God’s Word.

But sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin . . . especially when you’re feeling a bit lost in the middle of Leviticus.

Looking for some help? Check out Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin—a book written to help you develop a plan for engaging, consistent, and transformative Bible study.

For more, be sure to check out the infographic (6 Counterproductive Approaches to Studying the Bible) or download a free excerpt from the book!

by Matt Tully at July 31, 2014 05:00 PM

Cal Newport » Blog

Do Goals Prevent Success?

An Effectual Understanding of Impact

I’ve long been interested in the idea of the impact instinct: the ability for a trained professional to continuously generate big wins at a rate much higher than his or her equally well-trained peers (see here and here and here).

What explains this impact instinct?

A reader named Jason recently pointed me toward some interesting research relevant to this question. The topic is effectuation, a theory of entrepreneurial success devised by Saras Sarasvathy (see above), a professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.

The origin of effectuation is a study Sarasvathy conducted in 1997. She traveled the country to interview 30 different entrepreneurs who founded successful companies (their company valuations were all measured in hundreds of millions of dollars). Instead of simply asking them their approach to business, she had each solve a 17-page problem set containing 10 decision problems relevant to introducing a new product. She asked that they talk out loud about their thinking, and then later scrutinized the transcripts of these sessions. The patterns she identified became effectuation theory.

In a nutshell, this theory notes that we’re used to thinking about problems (especially in the business world) using causal rationality. We identify a goal and then attempt to identify the optimal path to accomplishing this goal given our current resources. This process is top-down with the final goal occupying the apex position.

The entrepreneurs Sarasvathy interviewed did not rely on causal thinking. They instead relied on an alternative she called effectuative thinking.

Effectuative thinking, unlike causal thinking, is bottom-up. It doesn’t start with a final goal in mind. Instead, as Sarasvathy explains, “it begins with a given set of means and allows goals to emerge contingently over time.”

Sarasvathy identifies four main principles to approaching your work in this manner:

  1. Start with what you already know how to do well.
  2. Filter your efforts to avoid big downsides not to select for big upsides.
  3. Work with other people who bring new abilities to the table.
  4. Take advantage of the unexpected .

If you approach a new business using these guidelines, you might not know in advance your main product or even your market, but according to this theory you’re optimizing your chances of nonetheless ending up successful.

Here’s Sarasvathy describing effectuation in action:

“Plans are made and unmade and revised and recast through action and interaction with others on a daily basis…Through their actions, the effectual entrepreneurs’ set of means and consequently the set of possible effects change and get reconfigured. Eventually, certain of the emerging effects coalesce into clearly achievable and desirable goals — landmarks that point to a discernible path beginning to emerge in the wilderness.”

An analogy that helps me understand these issues is that the marketplace can be described as an unpredictable and complex landscape with only a small number of peaks representing massive potential.

Causal thinking has you try to draw a map to a peak in advance. Given the complexity of the landscape, this is likely to fail. Your best bet is that your map, by pure luck, happens to lead you straight to a high peak.

Effectual thinking, by contrast, has you hone your navigation skills. It teaches you how to systematically search the landscape around you, bringing along guides that know the area, and keeping you attention tuned to the tell-tale signs of elevation gain.

There are, of course, other business trends that echo similar ideas (think: lean methodology). But what’s nice about effectuation is that its principles are presented in a general way that seem applicable beyond the world of business start-ups.

The reader who brought this work to my attention, for example, is involved in a study to see if effectuation explains star academics (the original question that piqued my interest about such issues).

One could imagine the same theory being just as applicable to explaining consistent success in other fields, such as book writing or even personal productivity.

At the very least, Sarasvathy’s scientific results underscore what I’ve long argued: the process of becoming a stand out in almost any field is way more nuanced and complicated than most suspect.

by Study Hacks at July 31, 2014 03:50 PM

John C. Wright's JournalJohn C. Wright's Journal

Literary Envy and the Last Redoubt

Over at Armed and Dangerous, a topic very near and dear to my heart is being debated. The author, Eric Raymond, begins thus:

I’ve been aware for some time of a culture war simmering in the SF world. And trying to ignore it, as I believed it was largely irrelevant to any of my concerns and I have friends on both sides of the divide. Recently, for a number of reasons I may go into in a later post, I’ve been forced to take a closer look at it. And now I’m going to have to weigh in, because it seems to me that the side I might otherwise be most sympathetic to has made a rather basic error in its analysis. That error bears on something I do very much care about, which is the health of the SF genre as a whole.

Both sides in this war believe they’re fighting about politics. I consider this evaluation a serious mistake by at least one of the sides.

He then identifies the two sides

On the one hand, you have a faction that is broadly left-wing in its politics and believes it has a mission to purge SF of authors who are reactionary, racist, sexist et weary cetera. This faction now includes the editors at every major SF publishing imprint except Baen and all of the magazines except Analog and controls the Science Fiction Writers of America (as demonstrated by their recent political purging of Theodore Beale, aka Vox Day). This group is generally frightened of and hostile to indie publishing. Notable figures include Patrick & Theresa Nielsen Hayden and John Scalzi. I’ll call this faction the Rabbits, after Scalzi’s “Gamma Rabbit” T-shirt and Vox Day’s extended metaphor about rabbits and rabbit warrens.

On the other hand, you have a faction that is broadly conservative or libertarian in its politics. Its members deny, mostly truthfully, being the bad things the Rabbits accuse them of. It counteraccuses the Rabbits of being Gramscian-damaged cod-Marxists who are throwing away SF’s future by churning out politically-correct message fiction that, judging by Amazon rankings and other sales measures, fans don’t actually want to read. This group tends to either fort up around Baen Books or be gung-ho for indie- and self-publishing. Notable figures include Larry Correia, Sarah Hoyt, Tom Kratman, John C. Wright, and Vox Day. I’ll call this group the Evil League of Evil, because Correia suggested it and other leading figures have adopted the label with snarky glee.

I can speak authoritatively for the United Underworld of the Evil League of Evil, since I (with some help from Batman and Dr Horrible) coined the term. We do not believe we are fighting about politics.

Politics is the least part of the struggle. None of my stories mention it, nor do those of our dishonorable and craven opposition.

We of the United Underworld have said what we are fighting about. Larry Correia wrote our manifesto: We believe story comes before message.

We are entertainers first and crusaders second.

Our opponents are crusaders first, or, to be precise, anticrusaders, because instead of fighting for the holiness and righteousness as the crusaders did of old, these creatures fight against everything holy and right and instead fight for socialism, totalitarianism, feminism, perversions sexual and otherwise, atheism, nihilism, irrationalism, Ismism, and every other ism one can name.

We say you can put a message in your story if you insist, but story comes first. Space Princesses come second, at least for me. I think way cool guns come second for Larry Correia. Message comes third for both of us.

United Underworld02

United Underworld (from Left to Right: Sarah Hoyt, John C. Wright, Larry Correia, Vox Day)

On a more serious note, the United Underworld represents an artistic vision of science fiction that is in keeping with our roots. We write science fiction after the fashion of Jules Verne, John W Campbell Jr, and the Big Three of the 1950s, Heinlein, Asimov and Van Vogt. We write in the footsteps of C.S. Lewis and Arthur C Clarke. We take our inspiration of Milton, Dante, and Homer and other men of vast imagination and startling vision. In our universe, truth is true, reality is real, logic works, fair is fair and foul and foul. We are the men of the mind.

Our dishonorable opponents follow in the footsteps of Michael Moorcock and his New Wave theory that the Academics will like us if only we write incomprehensible trash like Academics claim to like.

I say ‘claim to like’ because Academics read the first and final chapter of a book and pretend to have read the whole book so they can mention it at cocktail parties and impress the people who are not their friends. In their universe, truth is optional, reality is whatever you say it is, logic is oppression, hysteria is your friend, and ugliness and absurdity are paramount.

The writer, Mr Raymond, goes on to say

Alas, I cannot join the Evil League of Evil, for I believe they have made the same mistake as the Rabbits; they have mistaken accident for essence. The problem with the Rabbits is not that left-wing politics is dessicating and poisoning their fiction. … Nor, I think, is the failure of Rabbit fiction to engage most SF fans and potential fans mainly down to its politics; I think the Evil League is prone to overestimate the popular appeal of their particular positions here.

No, I judge that what is dessicating and poisoning the Rabbit version of SF is something distinct from left-wing political slant but co-morbid with it: colonization by English majors and the rise of literary status envy as a significant shaping force in the field.

All I can say is that this is not the stance of the Evil League of Evil, for which I hereby unilaterally declare myself the official spokesvillain.

Our stance is more universal and obvious. We are not talking about politics. We are talking about the universe. We believe in telling stories about the universe, its wonders and horrors, and the Rabbits believe in talking about nothing at all.

The Rabbits are talking about their universe; it is just that, for the Rabbit, their universe IS politics. It is a universe that has already suffered the Big Crunch.

United Underworld

A note on nomenclature: Theirs is a movement which from time to time calls itself Leftist, Liberal, Socialist, Progressive, or Political Correct.

Theodore Beale (aka Vox Day) calls them Rabbits. I pay them more respect and call them Morlocks. We both agree they dwell in underground warrens, so for the purpose of this column, here following I will split the difference and call them Troglodytes.

(If you like, you can call them Progressive Troglodytes, or Prog-Trogs for short.)

The movement changes its name each decade or so, since it cannot afford to be associated with its own works and results, so it calls itself names that are more or less the opposite of its actions produce. Whether this is a product of deliberate deception, deliberate self-deception, inattention, ignorance, insanity, worship of the Crawling Chaos Nyarlathotep or well intentioned yet misplaced zeal can be debated endlessly.

Technically speaking, this movement is a heresy, that is, something that breaks away from the Church, while adopting her social teachings, and elevating some minor principle to a supreme principle then used to sweep other principles away.

There are thirteen identifiable markers of the membership of the tribe of Troglodytes:

1. Theologically, they are atheist and agnostic, or at least laiacist.
2. In Metaphysics, they are nihilist. They hold the universe to have no innate meaning.
3. In Epistemology, they are subjectivists and (ironically) empiricists.
4. In Ontology, they are materialists. They believe minds are epiphenomena of matter.
5. In Logic, they are polylogists. They believe each race and both genders possesses unique and exclusive rules of logic.
6. In Aesthetics, they glorify the ugly and destroy beauty.
7. In Ethics, they are Gnostics. Whatever we call good, they call evil, and whatever we call evil, they call good.
8. In Politics, they are statists, and tacitly totalitarian. They want arbitrary power rather than law and order.
9. In Economics, they are socialist. They want the law of supply and demand to vanish softly away.
10. In Semantics, they are nominalists. They hold words to have no innate meaning.
11. In they psychological stance, they are sadists.
12. In their psychopathology, they are suicidal. They don’t want to live, they want you to die.
13. Emotionally, they are infantile. The emotion that governs them is envy.

Now, these are rough generalizations only, and no one member of the movement believes all these points, and, being a strongly anti-intellectual and pro-irrational bent, few of them even know what these big words mean. Some of these points contradict each other. That matters nothing to them. Logic is not their strong suit.

Nonetheless, we call a man a biped even if Captain Ahab has only one leg, and we call dogs quadrupeds even if Triskele has only three. The members of the genus who lack some of these defining characteristics lack them by accident, not essentially.

The essential quality is envy. These are losers who want to punish the winners for winning.

They are stupid people who want to be called smart and want the smart people called stupid. These are morally corrupt and morally retarded brats who want the laurels of saints and the palms of martyrs awarded them without the moral growth into that selflessness which is necessary for sainthood, and certainly without the suffering which is necessary for martyrdom. They just want the credit for being wise and good without actually suffering the trouble and effort of being wise and good.

In politics, they want the poor to eat the rich, and they will laugh, laugh, laugh at the bloodshed.

But politics is the smallest part of their worldview. Their worldview is a cult. It is religion, or, at least, a pseudo-religion. Like a religion, it has its anathemas and heresies and inquisitions to penalize deviations from dogma. Unlike my religion, the dogma of the Troglodytes are neither written down, nor articulated, nor sensible, nor rational, nor happy, nor righteous, nor good.

Next, the writer at Armed and Dangerous makes this alarming comment:

The Rabbits have the best stylists, while the Evil League has the best storytellers.

Since I only just joined the Evil League of Evil, I am behind in my reading, and so I cannot speak for anyone else. But let us compare, shall we?

This is from one of their award winning efforts:

If all I needed was something blue, I’d run across the church, heels clicking on the marble, until I reached a vase by the front pew. I’d pull out a hydrangea the shade of the sky and press it against my heart and my heart would beat like a flower. I’d bloom. My happiness would become petals. Green chiffon would turn into leaves. My legs would be pale stems, my hair delicate pistils. From my throat, bees would drink exotic nectars. I would astonish everyone assembled, the biologists and the paleontologists and the geneticists, the reporters and the rubberneckers and the music aficionados, all those people who—deceived by the helix-and-fossil trappings of cloned dinosaurs– believed that they lived in a science fictional world when really they lived in a world of magic where anything was possible.

If we lived in a world of magic where anything was possible, then you would be a dinosaur, my love. You’d be a creature of courage and strength but also gentleness. Your claws and fangs would intimidate your foes effortlessly. Whereas you—fragile, lovely, human you—must rely on wits and charm.

A T-Rex, even a small one, would never have to stand against five blustering men soaked in gin and malice. A T-Rex would bare its fangs and they would cower. They’d hide beneath the tables instead of knocking them over. They’d grasp each other for comfort instead of seizing the pool cues with which they beat you, calling you a fag, a towel-head, a shemale, a sissy, a spic, every epithet they could think of, regardless of whether it had anything to do with you or not, shouting and shouting as you slid to the floor in the slick of your own blood.

If you were a dinosaur, my love, I’d teach you the scents of those men. I’d lead you to them quietly, oh so quietly. Still, they would see you. They’d run. Your nostrils would flare as you inhaled the night and then, with the suddenness of a predator, you’d strike. I’d watch as you decanted their lives—the flood of red; the spill of glistening, coiled things—and I’d laugh, laugh, laugh.

I direct your attention to the stylistic (ahem) accomplishment of copying IF YOU GIVE  A MOUSE A COOKIE, the deliberately childish tone, the blurred lack of detailed description for anything in the mention of the bar fight. The lack of style shows in the utterly generic insults used by the assailants: fag, towelhead, shemale, sissy, spic. If the nameless narrator’s bridegroom is an effete homosexual Arab transsexual from Spain or Mexico, the word choice here makes sense. Otherwise, they are selected without any ear for rhythm or assonance. They are, in fact, merely a grab-bag of the epithets which Leftists want to put into the mouths of civilized men, so that the Leftists can falsely accuse us of homophobia, Islamophobia, heteronormative sexism and racism.

Here is one of ours. I select a passage of similar tone and theme, that of a woman grieving for a loved one:

The monsters still howl for him, months after he fell. In the gloom, I can sometimes see one or the other, sometimes both together, wolfish beasts with leathery hides and dark bristles, and they raise their grinning, shark-like mouths to the black clouds above and utter their cries.

Impossible that such horrors could love a child of man, and be faithful; impossible. Yet they do not molest the body, nor even approach it.

My brother Polynices lies in plain view on the baked black salt of the Night Land. The hollow where he fell has a smoke-hole in it center, some five yards beyond his motionless, outflung hand, and the smolder from the hole casts a light across his form.

He lies many miles below the armored windows of our redoubt, but even so, the spy-glasses and instruments of the Monstruwacans (those scholars whose business it is to watch the horrors of the Night) leaning from the balconies, can pick out minute details.

The fingers of his gauntlet are stretched out, as if he were reaching for the little warmth of the smoke hole as he perished. He lays on a slight incline, for a circle of salty mineral surrounds the smoke hole and slopes toward it. His boots are toward us. The smoke hole is to his left. His helmet fell from his head, and rolled a yard down the salty slope. The little trail the helmet made as it fell is still visible. There has been no wind, no earth tremors, to disturb the salt crystals and erode the trail. The haft and great wheel of his disk-ax weapon lay to his right, and the shadow of his body falls across it, making details difficult to make out, even under the immense magnifications of the Great Spy Glass. The hair I used to tousle has continued to grow as the months have passed, and now falls across the shoulder-plates of his armor and spills onto the salt. I cannot see those wild locks without wishing for my comb of nacre to put the tangles right. He was always careless of his appearance.

Because of the angle of his fall, I cannot make out his face. Did he die calmly? Or is a rictus of hollow terror and despair frozen forever on his features?

His right forearm is hidden under his body, as if his teeth were seeking the lethal capsule buried under the flesh of his forearm when he fell. Did he fall too swiftly to bite the capsule, and slay himself wholesomely, before his soul and spirit were Destroyed?

There is no blood visible. There is no sign of wounds.

Yes, dear reader, I select one of my own works because, frankly, writers suffer from inflated egos. My style is ornate yet clear, and the language is elevated.

As said above, the leitmotif of the Morlocks is envy. It informs their every effort. Naturally, in the arts what the Morlocks do is take something ugly, and claim it is beautiful with a beauty invisible to the uncouth and unwashed masses, and they call the ugliness insight, or daring or stylistic. Usually what they call style is a lack of craftsmanship.

The article goes on to say:

Literary status envy is the condition of people who think that all genre fiction would be improved by adopting the devices and priorities of late 19th- and then 20th-century literary fiction. Such people prize the “novel of character” and stylistic sophistication above all else. They have almost no interest in ideas outside of esthetic theory and a very narrow range of socio-political criticism. They think competent characters and happy endings are jejune, unsophisticated, artistically uninteresting. They love them some angst.

People like this are toxic to SF, because the lit-fic agenda clashes badly with the deep norms of SF.

Amen and Hear, Hear. This is exactly right. If the author at Armed and Dangerous will not join us, let me just say that I would be happy to join him, if he wants to start a literary movement of his own.

The Evil League of Evil is fighting the wrong war in the wrong way. To truly crush the Rabbits, they should be talking less about politics and more about what has been best and most noble in the traditions of the SF genre itself.

Again, I mean no disrespect, but you should read our manifesto before you say what we are saying. We are not talking about politics, we are talking about science fiction stories and how to tell good stories of lasting value (for myself, my ambition is to tell great stories of immortal value) rather than the fashionable feculence of the Morlocks, which are concerned only with quotidian things and antique anxieties that beset the writers of the Victorian Era, like Marx.

The right (counter)revolutionary slogan is therefore not “Drive out the social-justice warriors!”, it’s “Peddle your angsty crap elsewhere, lit-fic wannabes! Let’s put SF back in the gutter where it belongs!”

We are the Last Redoubt of Humanity carrying the light of civilization against a besieging host of benighted barbarians who bow and serve the horrid and abhorrent idols of Political Correctness, vast, dark, unliving, inhuman, creatures of unreason. Despite whatever Mr Raymond says, if he is not against us, he is one of us.

Allow me to end with a quote from one Glen Filthie.

Look guys – I don’t give a chit about your politics. I just want something to read … that will entertain me. I don’t want to be lectured, preached at, scolded, emasculated, or otherwise orated, pontificated and bloviated at. I just want a good story.

I want you to imagine this read aloud by Patrick McGoohan, the actor who played Number Six on the television show THE PRISONER, in the same driving tone and cadence as his famous defiance:

I will not make any deals with you. I’ve resigned. I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered! My life is my own!


by John C Wright at July 31, 2014 03:36 PM

The Urbanophile

Summer Reading List

I’ll be on vacation for the next week or so. So I won’t be posting.

People often ask me for book recommendations, and I should probably put together an urbanism reading list. But until I do that I’ll share nine reccos today that are off the beaten path but very relevant to understanding urbanism and life in general. You don’t need me to tell you to read Jane Jacobs. These are some that may not have bubbled up to the top of your list. Not all of them are light reading, and some are written in an academic style, but they give important perspectives on the problems we face. And hey, this site is for the serious urbanist.

By the way, these are Amazon affiliate links so I get a few coins if you buy through them. Hopefully that will cover any parking meter fees while I’m in Chicago….

The Urban State of Mind: Meditations on the City
by Aaron M. Renn
I be remiss if I didn’t remind you of my own e-book collection of some of the best essays that have appeared here in the seven year history of the Urbanophile. It’s a great introduction to my work for those who are newer to the site. And even for long time readers, I’ve included some originals as well. If you haven’t bought it yet, now’s a great time.


Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West
by William Cronon
This book tells the story of the rise of the Midwest and Chicago. Cronon shows how the Midwest hinterland, urban and rural, would not have existed without Chicago, and how Chicago would not have existed without its hinterland. It was an integrated system. It’s a fascinating read, and also explains how and why Chicago became the Midwest’s dominant city instead of say Cincinnati.


Regional Advantage: Culture and Competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128
by AnnaLee Saxenian
Although Boston’s Route 128 corridor started out ahead of Silicon Valley in the tech industry and arguably had greater assets, nevertheless Silicon Valley ended up becoming ascendant. Saxenian looks at the structures of the social systems in these cities to help explain why. You read read more in my post on this book.


The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
by Thomas S. Kuhn
This 1962 work is a landmark in the history and philosophy of science. It’s where the concept of “paradigm” gained wide currency, and Kuhn described what came to be known as a paradigm shift. All of our debates about urbanism take place within the confines of tacit or explicit paradigms, so it’s important to understand how they work. Kuhn might describe urbanism as a pre-scientific practice given the lack of a broadly shared paradigm in the field


Risk and Culture: An Essay on the Selection of Technological and Environmental Dangers
by Mary Douglas and Aaron Wildavsky
Alon Levy turned me on to this work and the Cultural Theory of Risk. Douglas and Wildavsky explore why the United States became fixated on environmental pollution versus other risks. But apart from that, this book talks a lot about societal dynamics, plotting them along the axes of grid (hierarchy) and group (cost of defection). Both authors have done great work elsewhere as well, such as Douglas’ seminal literary analysis of Leviticus.


Change: Principles of Problem Formation and Problem Resolution
by Paul Watzlawick, John H. Weakland, and Richard Fisch
This is also one I got via someone else, in this case Richard Layman. It’s actually a book about personal and family therapy, but the principles are relevant to changing organizations and cities as well. The authors distinguish between first order change, which is basically like a finite state machine in that you are in a closed system from which it is impossible to escape no matter what you do, and second order change in which the possibility space is truly expanded. Published in the 1970s but still relevant today.


The Logic of Failure
by Dietrich Dörner
Why do expert economists fail at even basic simulations of development programs in Africa, often with catastrophic results? It’s because human beings are terrible at solving so-called “complex” problems that include such characteristics as being multivariate, with action lags, intransparence (the full set of variables is unknown), and change happens even if we don’t take an action. Humans fall back on a set of well-worn default strategies in the face of these problems that inexorably leads to disaster. I previously posted a review of this book. It’s sure to instill a bit of humility about our ability to deal with our urban ills. Money quote: “Because planning involves only imagining our actions, we are essentially free from the irksome conditions of reality, and nothing prevents us from simply ignoring the conditions necessary to carry out an operation. Since we human being tend to think in the abstract anyway, ignoring those conditions comes quite easily.”


by Marcus Aurelius
I’ve written a bit lately about cities needing to know themselves as per the wisdom of the Greek oracle. This work, written by the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius while he was leading a war against barbarian invaders, contains both self-analysis and a lifetime of accumulated wisdom from a man who considered his life and himself carefully. It’s also a great and readable entry point to the works of classical antiquity. Since it’s in the form of shorter observations and aphorisms, you can read and much or as little as you like at any one time, and put it down for as long as you’d like.


The Ordeal of Change (Kindle link)
by Eric Hoffer
This short work of essays by Eric Hoffer, the so-called Longshoreman Philosopher, is notable from an urbanism perspective because of how it makes the case for why the supposedly least of society are often business and social innovators and a key component of urban resiliency over the long term (though he didn’t phrase it that way). Hoffer is best known for “The True Believer,” a look at the nature of fanaticism and the fanatic, but all of his works I’ve read are profoundly insightful even where I don’t agree with all his conclusions.

Here are nine reccos to keep you occupied while I’m away, or for you to tuck inside your bag for your own vacation. Enjoy.

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 July 31, 2014 02:50 PM

Crossway Blog

Stay in the Word with Reading Plans

ESV Bible header

It can be a challenge to consistently read the Bible, and many times it’s even more challenging to know where to begin! has a variety of free reading plans to help you get in the Word and stay in the Word. Examples of these reading plans include a chronological reading plan, the M’Cheyne one-year reading plan, a daily Psalm, or a plan to help you systematically memorize Scripture.

Reading plans on are available to all users who create a free account. Once you create a free account, you can record your own notes, highlight and share verses, and track your progress.

How it Works:

Visit and click on the calendar “Plans” icon in the top right corner.

Calendar Icon




A drop down menu will display all of the reading plan options.

reading plan drop down menu












Create a free account and track your progress!

by Lizzy Jeffers at July 31, 2014 01:52 PM

CrossFit Naptown

Lurong Paleo Challenge Preparation

Friday’s Workout:

Over Head Squat Every 3 Minutes

10 Wall Balls
5 Swings
On The Minute 10:00


 Lurong Paleo Challenge Information:

This year will mark the 3rd annual Lurong Living Paleo Challenge. It is an online paleo challenge that helps people all over the world to get into better shape and improve their eating habits. Last year, CrossFIt NapTown participated as an affiliate and had many members take on the challenge and we will be back at it again this year. Registration begins August 11th and continues through the start of the challenge on September 15th.

As a Participating Affiliate we will…
1) Program the Lurong Paleo Challenge WODs during our weekly regular class WODS. (so you will be doing the WODs anyways whether you are signed up or not… so might as well sign up and get healthy)

2) Take your measurements for you as needed based on the calendar submission dates. Here is the 2013 calendar to give you an idea on the timing, 2014 dates will be released in the coming weeks. (

3) Post periodic information on our CFNT Blog regarding important dates of the challenge.

4) Provide a resource for questions and learning throughout the challenge.

1) Sign up and Register by September 15th, 2014 ($50 Registration Fee)
2) Commit yourself to this challenge for the next 8 weeks.
3) Hold yourself accountable to submitting your measurements and WOD scores. WE WILL NOT TRACK YOU DOWN!
4) Have fun and Learn something new about nutrition!

Education and Information Before the Challenge Begins!

CFNT will be hosting two educational opportunities in August to provide information to members that will help you succeed during the challenge:

Paleo Information Session, hosted by Leslie and Eric Gardner

August 12th, 7:00-8:00 pm, in the CFNT Yoga Room

We will be holding a free Paleo Information Session in order to gear up and equip everyone for the LuRong Paleo Challenge that begins September 15th. We will be going over the basic questions of why the Paleo Diet is a good choice, what exactly is the Paleo Diet, and how to follow it. We will also be presenting a new service offered by CFNT coaches in order to help you meet your nutrition and related goals. This informational session is free and open to all. Please come ready to learn, ask questions, and get exited for the LuRong Paleo Challenge! Cheers to a healthier community!

Meat and Greet hosted by Artie Stevens and Artie’s Paleo on the Go

August 18th,

by Anna at July 31, 2014 01:19 PM


caesar: Julius would be proud

Dropping back to bsd-games again, here’s caesar:


caesar decrypts text encoded with a caesar cipher, an ancient letter substitution system. If you remember when we talked about rot13, caesar does much the same thing, but doesn’t necessarily pirouette along the 13th character, like rot13 does.

caesar includes a measure of calculation though, using the statistical values of common English letters to find the most likely answer. I should mention that — given the fact that caesar will pick the statistical best answer, but not necessarily the intelligible one — it’s fairly easy to confound caesar. Give it a short word like WCRIVKC and caesar replies with FLARETL, when the correct answer is “synergy.”

It’s forgivable though. With a long enough string of normal English text, caesar will likely give the right answer, no matter what shift you apply. I tried two different encryptions of “Now is the time for …” and caesar decoded it correctly, each time.

I mention all this as a measure of praise for the program; I wouldn’t trust the cipher itself too far in this day and age. Of course, you might be able to find a few modern uses that don’t involve love notes between primary school children. ;)

Tagged: game

by K.Mandla at July 31, 2014 12:15 PM

cheat, cheat, cheats and cheat: So many cheaters

I got a frenzied e-mail the other day insisting that I add “cheat” to the remaining titles in the C section. I agreed, but was a little surprised to see that it was a different “cheat” than what I had added months earlier.

So there are a lot of cheats out there. Here is the one I was sent a few days ago. … I think. … :oops:


It’s a simple enough principle: Chris Lane’s cheat keeps a directory of text files, and calling “cheat” dumps them to the screen. In essence you have a healthy collection of cheatsheets with quick-fire display options.

What you put in a sheet is up to you; as Chris mentions, you could do just as well to keep recipes, inspirational quotes or bank account numbers in there. cheat itself doesn’t really know the difference.

Chris Lane’s cheat can accept a few external variables, such as a specific path to cheat files, or syntax coloring. Those can be helpful.

Here’s the cheat that I had found a few months ago, that is supposedly built to mimic Chris’s version.


It’s very similar, as you can see, and the real difference — as I understand it — is that jahendrie’s version is a bash rewrite, whereas Chris Lane’s original was made for python.

There are some special differences here and there; jahendrie’s version has a search option that seems to work differently from Chris’s. jahendrie also allows an in-file grep option, which might be preferable under some circumstances.

It’s very difficult for me to tell between Chris’s and jahendrie’s cheat. They work much the same and carry some similar options. I did notice that Chris’s version came bundled with cheatsheets for many terminal commands, but jahendrie’s apparently doesn’t. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

Here’s one more, this time called “cheats,” just to round out the trifecta.


There are some subtle differences here, which might not be obvious just from a screenshot. First, cheats allows for several cheatsheets on the same topic, with slightly different names. What you see as “dd 1″ and “dd 2″ came out of different files.

Second, and more importantly, cheats is a bash-only version with a very clever addition: the ability to actually prompt through a cheat, and build the command step-by-step. Finish the prompts, and cheats will run the command as you built it.

So in that sense, cheats takes the ideas shown in cheat and cheat one step further, and saves you retyping the reminder off the screen, or plunking around with testing options. It’s a nice touch, and would be useful for beginners in particular.

By default, cheats comes with a few examples for dd, du, git, sort, tar and a few others. You’ll have to add and build more, if you really want to flesh out your collection.

As a bonus, here’s cheat for ruby, which I found while trying to untangle the last three in my mind. :|

2014-07-30-lv-c5551-ruby-cheats-01 2014-07-30-lv-c5551-ruby-cheats-02

I’m not a ruby programmer, so I have a feeling that a lot of what ruby-cheat offers is outside my grasp. On the other hand, ruby-cheat seems to know enough to dump its output straight into $PAGER, and let you navigate from there.

I won’t judge the ruby edition of cheat too harshly (in fact, not at all), since again, it’s not something I have a direct application for. Then again, when has that ever stopped me … ? O_o

For what it’s worth, I have my own system for command-line cheats, and I would guess it’s similar to something you might have invented on your own. I keep a single text file with a list of sometimes-used-but-not-intuitive commands, and grep through them when I can’t remember the exact syntax.

It’s primitive, but it also allows me the freedom of pumping the command directly into the console, with help of eval. In short, eval $(grep exif hold/cmd.txt ) usually triggers a command, if I want it.

As a side note, I am admittedly a person who learns by experimenting with other people’s examples. It’s just my nature. To that end, you would think that something like cheat or cheat or cheats or cheat would be a quick adoption for me.

But I don’t know that any of these — cheats included, and that would probably be the one I would keep — is much more help than a decent man page. True, in a perfect world, every man page would include a few examples, and this is not a perfect world.

But I have a feeling these are only as useful as you make them. Pick any one and add a little of your own expertise to its database, and it will be a valuable addition. Of course, I could say that about everything. … :roll:

Tagged: cheat, data, manage, text

by K.Mandla at July 31, 2014 12:00 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Stoic impressions: Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down

I’m with the Stoics rather than the Aristotelians on this one (or at least based on how I understand things): all you need for a good life is you. I’m not wise enough to know whether that’s true, but I think that it’s better for me to live as if that’s the case instead of thinking that happiness can be that much influenced by luck and external events. Challenge accepted!

I’m starting to understand what I’d like to aspire to be when I’ve infused whatever wisdom I can get from philosophy into my reflexive responses to life’s situations. I’m not trying to get through life completely unruffled and serene. Stuff happens. I get sad. I get excited. I get scared. I get delighted. I react to the world around me.

At the same time, I like this ability to step outside of these impressions. I can see myself even as I laugh or cry, working on separating the facts from what I think about them. I can enjoy the ups and downs and yet not get carried away by them. I can be happy that something I cooked turned out well and that people liked it; and I can know that in the grand scheme of things, it’s insignificant (but worth doing anyway). I can be scared about the possible downsides of something I’m going to try anyway; and I can know that in the grand scheme of things, it’s insignificant (but worth doing anyway). Something can happen, and I know that I could respond to it in many different ways.

Whatever life throws at me, I can choose to respond and not just react. Sure, the first few moments might be more instinctive–pain hurts, joy elates, sometimes I say the wrong thing–but what happens after that is up to me.

I’d like to avoid getting carried away by stuff, the way people get consumed by grudges or misled by temptations. I think that’s what the Stoics meant in their focus on ridding themselves of passions–not “passion” in the modern sense of “things I feel awesome about and enjoy doing,” but rather the kind of “passion” that takes over your reason and leads to suffering.


I guess I’d like to be like a roly-poly toy, like the egg-shaped Weebles of the slogan “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.” Then the Stoic idea of a passion might be wobbling so much and not quite being the shape that you need to be to bounce back, ending up so far off your center of mass that you stay down (or at least until other people help you get back up, because really, sometimes people do get wobbled more than they can handle, and that’s an opportunity for other people to help out).

So far, I’ve been extraordinarily lucky. It’s been easy to return to normal from the little things I’ve come across so far. You know how some video games are designed to gradually help you learn different skills and others throw you in the deep end? So far my life has been like the former. When things come, they’re within my range and I have the support structure that makes them easier to deal with. So I guess that’s like I’m playing a game where you get just enough wobbling so that you can correct your mass distribution or egg-shaped profile in order to wobble back better.

Which is sort of Stoicism, I think. Stoicism helps with adjusting so that you can deal with bigger and bigger wobbles if you need to. Stoicism reminds you that you are not the wobble that pushes you. You don’t control the wobble, so why bother stressing out about it? You can get better at bouncing back. You can work on becoming the weebliest Weeble.

I sometimes hear from people who are playing a much harder game, where they have to deal with pretty darn big wobbles before they’ve been able to sort things out. I’m not sure I have that much to offer. Newbie tips aren’t as useful for people stuck playing life on the “hardcore” setting, I guess! I can say that I’m working on being a better roly-poly toy and that it seems to be working out so far, but I definitely haven’t wobbled as much as other people have. But maybe reflections from someone living an easier version of the game can help people think about little aspects of their own games, either from the actual thoughts or even just the process itself.

One of the thoughts that helps me is this: wobbling’s what makes Weebles Weebles. So as much as I’m sure people wish for care-free lives, I’m okay with there being some wobbling in mine. I might not actively seek out really wobbly situations, but if they’re there, they’re there, and they can help me be better. Eventually, perhaps, experience will let me bounce back quickly from minor disturbances (or even ignore them entirely); and more and more things will seem minor, too.

In the meantime, wobbling away!

The post Stoic impressions: Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at July 31, 2014 12:00 PM

Alexis C. Madrigal : The Atlantic

What Is Pinterest? A Database of Intentions

In 2012, Pinterest broke out to become a wildly popular site and app for collecting media across the Internet. People pin photos into collections called boards, which serve as big catalogs of objects. Pinterest, in effect, decomposes web pages into the objects that are embedded in them. 

For users, it's a way to think about and plan the future, or to show off one's taste for free. And that's where most people stop thinking about Pinterest. It seems like a shopping site minus the exchange of money part. 

But it's on the backend where things really get interesting. Think about what Pinterest is collecting: it's a database of intentions, as I put it for an essay on Fresh Air this week. 

As part of my reporting, I spoke with Pinterest co-founder Evan Sharp about how he thinks about the site. My contention is that Pinterest is one of the four ways that people find things on the Internet. The default, of course, is Googling (or—fine, Microsoft—Binging). For real-time searches, there is Twitter. For people or entities, there's Facebook. But if what you want to find are things, objects, then Pinterest is the way to go. 

And they are just getting started. They've got 30 billion pins now, half of them in the last six months. They've got 750 million boards. A full 75 percent of their traffic comes from mobile devices, and according to researchers, they're the top traffic source to retailers' websites and an important secondary source after Facebook for some media sites, like Buzzfeed

In this wide-ranging interview, Evan Sharp talks here about what Pinterest is now, what it could become, the potential the company has to make money, and how Pinterest competes (or doesn't) with Google and his old company Facebook.

Evan Sharp (Pinterest)

How do you think about what Pinterest is? How do you define it now?

Today, I define it as a place where people can go to get ideas for any project or interest in their life. And as you encounter great ideas and discover new things that you didn’t even know were out there, you can pin them and make them part of your life through our system of boards.

Best of all, as you’re creating a board on Pinterest, other people can get inspiration from your ideas, so there’s this cycle where what you’re creating for yourself also helps other people make their lives.

I think of it as a kind of utility. People use it to save and organize things for later. And then it turns out that integral to saving things is discovering new things.

When I was planning my wedding a few years ago, we wanted to track the things we wanted to put in the wedding. And at the time—it’s kind of like thinking back to Plurk and Twitter—there were all these other services that claimed to let you do what Pinterest does. But you were the only service that actually worked to let us save images from across the web. Think back to that time, just getting the utility working. What did you think Pinterest was then?

I didn’t have grand plans. I don’t think Ben did either in the beginning. It was just the tool I used in my job. I was in school for architecture and when you’re in school for a creative discipline, so much of what you produce comes out of inspiration from other people. The more you’re exposed to architecturally, the better you can develop your own language out of that history of architectural thought. So I had thousands of images that I had saved in folders on my computer. But they were all named like databasestrings.jpg and I had no idea what any of them were. So Pinterest was a way for me to create a link: let’s bookmark an image so that when I go look at it later, I go to where it came from. This is this architect’s building. This is what it is. And collections are a natural way of organizing that sort of inspiration.

So for me, it was very much a professional tool in my industry. For Ben, it was slightly different. Ben used it in ways that you see the broader cross-section of people using it. He used it for recipe ideas, products he was in love with, planning travel. He had a kid. He got married. He did all those things on Pinterest.

Every startup person I know, it’s like their startup was revealed to them long after they started working on it. So when did you know that you had something bigger than a bookmarking site?

You build something and it’s like, what can I build on top of that and what can I build on top of that and what can I build on top of that. Great companies, I think, are the ones that see what they’ve built and can build on top of it and iterate their product.

I don’t remember exactly when we were like “Holy crap! Pins aren’t just images. They are representations of things and we can make them rich and we can make them canonical and link back to the best source and we can attribute this properly to the creator.” (Which is a huge problem that I’m personally interested in.)

I would say we saw that pretty early on, but we’re still pretty early on in executing against that the vision of making Pinterest the largest inventory of the world’s objects.

What’s cool is that because every object was put there by a person. It’s not the largest inventory in the way that maybe a nerd like me would get excited about. But everything that’s on there, at least one human found interesting, so there is a very good chance that at least one other human is going to find that interesting. So, it’s a good set of objects. It’s the world’s largest set of objects that people care about.

One thing I’ve always loved about the Pinterest interface is that when you hit the button to pin something, it breaks the page down into its parts. How much do you think the design of the interface has defined what Pinterest does?

My background industry is design—I code a lot, too—but there’s been this narrative of design in technology becoming more prominent. Wthe UI enables on Pinterest is this human activity that ends up creating a great database. And it’s that knitting of front end and back end abilities that will power our products. We’re not going to be exclusively the best engineering company—though we have some the best engineers—and we’re not going to be the world’s prettiest, best designed company. What’s interesting is how those things interact, over and over, and back and forth. That’s where the magic comes out. That’s where the best new products are coming out on the Internet.

I wanna talk more about the UI. Certain UIs give you a new vocabulary for what you’re looking at. I had never thought about a webpage as a suite of objects hanging on a text skeleton. And the decomposition that your UI does gave me that new vocabulary. Even the way that I’d talk about or gesture to the screen: “Oh, put that thing on the board.” You wouldn’t talk about a link like that.

You know why that is? It’s the way the Internet was architected. HTML is the architecture of the web and it is about the presentation of text. It’s Hyper Text Markup Langauge. And if you’re Google and you’re trying to index that world of information, you’re really great at text because that’s what the code on the Internet does. It marks up text. But if you want to get at objects or the things on web pages, we think you need humans to go in and do that for you. So we think of Pinterest some days as this crazy human indexing machine. Where millions and millions of people are hand indexing billions of objects—30 billion objects—in a way that’s personally meaningful to them.

And even if you had some weird alternate universe markup language, you still wouldn’t get that human valence into the objects. You wouldn’t know what was interesting to humans

Discovery, which is different from search, is a very human process. We’re not building a machine that answers questions, although that’s great. We’re helping you discover the things you like. And part of that is you literally going through the process of discovering them. Yes this, not this, yes this, not this. This idea that you can build a machine that gives you the perfect possibility every time? It makes no sense because you wouldn’t know it was perfect until you saw the other possibilities.

Talk to me about Guided Search, which you all launched for mobile device a few months back.

Guided Search just says, when you search, what are the other things that people add to this search to help you understand the other possibilities. I only point this out, not to market it, but to highlight that the way we think of search is fundamentally different. It’s not just here is my query; it’s a process, a journey. You’re having a kid. You’re getting married. I don’t know what to do, I’ve never had a kid. Type in parenting, and you start to learn, what’s the language of this? On search engines, in general, the relationship to language is very different. You start with the words and you say I want to find these words. When you’re discovering something, we’re helping you figure out the language. If you are interested in discovering something new, you might not know what to type in. Here, the language is the end state.

It feels like you guys have been relying on human-to-human discovery, but you’re starting to roll out more heavy-lifting technical stuff. But people don’t seem to think of Pinterest as deploying a ton of compute power on various problems .

I like that they don’t think of it that way. But this is a technology company. It just is. We have a fucking great engineering team. We’ve solved all sorts of discovery problems that people hadn’t even thought about, all kinds of information database problems that have never been thought about.

And you are working with an impossible to replicate dataset that no one else has, this 30 billion pins. The machine learning aspects of this strike me as fascinating.

Definitely. If you pin something to a board, the name of that board is a string and that string by definition describes it. Someone else pins the same thing to another board. And on and on. One board says shirts, one says ikat, one says gifts for my wife, one says red things. And most pins are on thousands and thousands of boards. So there are thousands of human-generated strings that describe each of these objects. These are descriptions that are very meaningful to the people who created them. It’s not someone trying to make a machine smarter. And we think it will make a machine smarter because it will solve a human problem .

So the question is how do you take thousands of strings and make sense of them?

The question is what problem are you using them to solve. And it’s not just the words. There are also all the images and media that are associated on that board with that pin. Pinterest is very much part of this transition to a visual world. People think of databases as language based, which they are, but database entries aren’t just text entries. They can be anything.

I was reading this book about photography. And it was talking about how over the last 100 years, photos and video became the medium through which we encounter alternate lifestyle possibilities. Magazines, TV. Pinterest is just an acceleration of that effect.

My only point here is that when people think of search they think of words, but there is all sorts of cool computer science you can build with just media, just the images, or just the user graph. And the combination of all that is going to be very interesting. The words are just one signal. They’re super important and we’ve got better words than anybody, but there is all kinds of stuff people don’t even think about because their tools are constrained by language.

This gets to an interesting point: you guys are at an oblique angle to every competitor. There is no one taking on Pinterest head on.

People tried for years to clone us. Straight up stole my code. Stole the brand. They didn’t succeed yet. I think they won’t succeed, but there are services that touch us on the edges. Discovery is not something that we do exclusively. I don’t think it’s a problem any other company is focused on as much as we are. It is our company.

It seems to me that the most competitive overlap in the near future is Google. You think about the tools we have to find stuff. You might use Twitter for real-time search, search on Facebook for a person or institution, search on Google. And maybe search on Pinterest. That’s kind of it. And they are really different kinds of information.

Search for most people is web navigation. It stitches together the human information on web pages. It’s also a tool for answering questions. We weave them together, but you could decompose those in an interesting way if you were interested in solving search as a problem.

It feels like you’re just moving into these spaces. You’ve got all these images, what kind computer vision stuff can you do?

You’ll see. We acquired a company recently that specializes in that. It’s a very small company but there are all sorts of ways of pulling information out of images and using text to understand what you have. There are all sorts of ways of using that information. For us, it’s all in service of discovery.

We’d never beat Google at being Google. That company, their brand is scaling computer science. And I love Google for that reason.

An interesting thing about Google’s approach to search is that the way it wants to provide answers now doesn’t help me think better. At least not since they launched Google Instant which was pretty good for that.

That was our head of discovery.

I feel like it was the last great Google search product because it didn’t just execute the search, it taught me how to search better .

The process is part of the experience.

But it seems like Google is obsessed with getting rid of the process of search.

You should go watch the keynote of the head of Google search at the last [Google conference] I/O. His talk was about the vision for Google Search, which is exactly that: they are building that computer from Star Trek where you ask it a question and it answers. Which is amazing. It’s an amazing goal. But you’re right, there’s a whole world of searching and discovering that’s about the process itself. And that’s an interface driven experience.

Let’s talk about another way Pinterest is different: the female, non-coastal nature of the user base, or at least the initial heavy user base.

There is a seed of wisdom in that. The demographics it grew within. The geographies it grew within. The fact that it is ending on the coasts and didn’t start on the coasts. I can’t think of any other services that have grown this way.

How contingent do you think that was? One test for how contingent it was would be to say, is what happened in the UK? What happened in Spain? Did you find in Spain, it was Barcelona-first, then the hinterlands?

I don’t think we can talk about that yet.

Pinterest had such obvious business possibilities from the get, I’ve always wondered how much it influenced the culture of the company that the commercial potential was so obvious?

We’re lucky. We can make money without creating that second head that makes you say, “What is that doing there?” For me, personally, Ben and I want to build a big company and make a lot of money, so we can do cool stuff. But we’re not intrinsically motivated by money. We would have sold this thing if that’s what we were after personally. And for me, what’s been really important, there’s so much potential, and I don’t want to sound megalomaniacal or stupid, but it could be really good for the world in a way.

I know that sounds preposterous, but I’ve always worried that that people and marketers would be so eager to get their hands on it that it could be bad for the core. The things people do on Pinterest are so precious: this is what I want, this is what I think I want. They’re not ever sure, they’re feeling their way through. It’s a very weird emotional state. It’s this very beautiful thing to me. And if you start loading it with commercial pressure, it could really ruin the core of the experience. It doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for ads and a way for us to make money to sustain the business and the site, but that’s something that’s always been in my head. It’s one of the reasons why we invest in research and having a more active brand team. We have a community team that’s super active. All those things are just ways of understanding what the core experience feels like to people and making sure that we’re not messing it up.

What I mean is that some businesses that start from a premise of data-gathering have to make an argument that that data will be worth a ton once they can figure out how to monetize it, even if it’s kind of crazy. You run into people who are like, “We’re gonna fly drones across the entire country … to make marketing more effective.” And I’m like, “Wait, I don’t even understand what’s going on anymore?”

Dude, that’s the thing. I didn’t set out to build a business brand. I set out to build a product. We’re very lucky. And the good thing for us is that anyone who builds this stuff—monetization tech—they want to work here. Because the potential is so obvious to them. So we get to choose the people who are the best culture fits and the most brilliant. That’s a luxury we have that we do appreciate.

How would you compare yourself to Facebook?

I used to work at Facebook. And fundamentally, Pinterest is about inspiration. And inspiration is a word that doesn’t resonate with people until they use Pinterest and get what that means, but that’s fundamentally about connecting to other people. Other people end up being people’s source of inspiration, which also happens on Facebook. So, we’re like Google in the data model way, but we’re like Facebook in the more experiential way. The way you discover is a combination of the two.

So, how do you see yourself opening up the social potential of Pinterest?

Zuck describes Facebook in the press, I might butcher his words, but he’s like people have a psychological need to spend time and know about and learn about the people they care about. It’s built into our brains and its Facebook’s job to remove as much effort as possible from that, so you can fulfill it any time you want to. Pinterest is not about your friends, it’s about yourself. It’s about the things you want in your life, the possibilities. What can my kid’s first birthday party look like? It’s very future-looking in a way that Twitter and Facebook are very right now or backwards looking.

Pinterest is about connecting you with people who manifest one thing you want your life to be like. So, if you are getting into photography, what do you do? You read photography blogs because these guys or girls are really into photography. They love their photos. They’re talking about how to do it. People develop taste through other people, whether that’s celebrities or people they know. And we have the data to understand—in a very non-creepy way, honestly—who are the people on Pinterest that manifest and express the things you look like you’re interested in.

That’s why Pinterest doesn’t just show an image. It’s an image with a person. That was a very deliberate decision. Everything on Pinterest was put there by a human being and in aggregate, we can figure out who are the human beings who are the enthusiasts in the thing that really interests you. And those are the people who can guide your journey in that interest or project you’re planning.

People are fundamental not just for our data model, but because eventually, we’ll be able to connect you the people who really share your taste and express who you want to be. And that’s something that’s happened for decades in magazines and on blogs and on TV.

Huh. One of the things that I tend to like about Pinterest is that it feels less social. There are so many things where it’s like, jesus, all you want me to do is connect in some abstract sense.

If you look at the startups that are getting really big right now, they are either all friend messaging apps. What’s App, Line, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat all of them do that. Which is great, there’s a playbook, you get the address book and you go from there. Or they are marketplaces, Uber and Airbnb.

Exactly. Touch my phone and something happens in the world.

Which is great. We’re this weird different thing. We’re not gonna grow the way the messaging apps are gonna grow. We’re not building a marketplace of sellers or creating an inventory of services. So we’re a very weird company right now.

In a lot of corners, it seems like interest in the iPad is declining, but it seems like y’all are big on the iPad.

iPad is my favorite experience by far. It’s one of the perfect iPad apps because it’s a grid. If I can soapbox for 60 seconds again, the grid is like the thing that got us big. The grid, the grid, the grid. Pinterest is about browsing through objects and picking out the ones that are meaningful to you. And what the grid does is facilitate your ability to go through objects in an efficient way. Our job is to put the right objects in front of you to start with. But the iPad is the perfect place for us because that screen is tailor made for sitting there are browsing through things.

Are you the reason there is so much retailer traffic coming through the iPad?

I don’t know. But the second half of my thought—and this comes from my architecture background—if you think about discovery as this experience people have. Discovery is this thing that people do all the time right now in stores, in museums, in physical spaces. So many of our public physical spaces are organized around a collection and they are organized to help you access and browse through that collection to find the things you find meaningful. We’re just a digital version of that experience with a much larger inventory that cuts across different types of things.

But the reason I mention that is that the reason retail feels like an obvious fit for us is that you’re doing on Pinterest what you do in a store, browsing through things and picking out the things you like, saving them for later, and maybe eventually buying them.

But all that goes back to the UI, goes back to the design of the service, goes back to the screen you’re on, goes back to data that we use to power what you’re looking for. That was my soapbox.

by Alexis C. Madrigal at July 31, 2014 11:00 AM

Table Titans

Front Porch Republic

The Ailing Parson Malthus Project and the “New Sin of Pride”


Anyone who’s had the good fortune to spend time reading Christopher Lasch might be able to identify with the specific experience of risable joy I feel when putting myself in his presence.  For me, the joy is found in a…

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The post The Ailing Parson Malthus Project and the “New Sin of Pride” appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Michael J. Sauter at July 31, 2014 05:01 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Stay or Go When Ebola Breaks Out?

'Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.' John 12:24

This is the epigraph to one of the greatest modern literary commentaries on the question of suffering, Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s final novel, The Brothers Karamozov. The characters in this book wrestle with their conception of God in a world of suffering, especially suffering of the innocent. In a sense, they ask the ageless question: “How can God let bad things happen to good people?” Recent news from western Africa has brought that question to the surface yet again.

Kent Brantly is a 33-year-old family doctor from Texas who is also a husband and father of two young children. Last year, he chose with his wife to go to Liberia as a medical missionary. He currently struggles for his very life, having been infected with Ebola, a disease with a high mortality rate and no cure. He contracted it while serving the needs of patients who had fallen ill with the same virus. So fast is the course of this disease that his recovery or death may be known before this article can be read.

When I read of these sad circumstances, I remembered the day we were evacuated from the Democratic Republic of Congo, called Zaire in 1991. The military had revolted, the streets were filled with tanks, and we were told to leave before things got worse. I, too, had a wife and two children of similar age. I, too, was serving in Africa as a medical missionary. I chose to go. Dr. Brantly chose to stay. (His wife and children are in the United States, having already returned for a wedding when he became ill.)

Can both decisions be good? On what basis do we accept risk, calculate risk, even embrace risk, specifically when we seek to live out our faith and express the love of Jesus Christ in a dark and scary world?

First, this world is dark and scary. Many of us live in a modern world of convenience and control, where the most relevant international concern may be what kind of ethnic cuisine to eat tonight. In abrupt contrast to this false sense of security, the biblical testimony exposes a dark world where the forces of evil are active (Eph. 6:12). In fact, Scripture goes as far as to say that “the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). Ebola wreaks havoc in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, bombs drop on civilian populations in Israel and Gaza, and ethnic hate in South Sudan leaves millions hungry, because at present we do not yet see the full subjection of everything to the authority of Jesus Christ. It is a world still ruled by the prince of darkness.

Second, Jesus loves the whole world. It is not surprising that people like Dr. Brantly, who for many years had a love for Africa, would end up there to express his commitment to follow Jesus Christ. Does that mean he chose to disregard other commitments and irresponsibly put his young family in harm’s way? The crucial distinction is that Dr. Brantly did not choose danger or seek suffering. He chose to follow Jesus. I did not choose to enter a war zone when I took my young family to Africa, though I knew there were dangers. At the time Dr. Brantly’s family went, while they knew there were risks, they did not blindly walk into active danger.

Third, we should never be surprised by the likelihood of suffering if we choose to follow Jesus. The entire first letter from Peter is written to a persecuted church so that they will not see their ordeal as strange but almost natural (1 Pet. 4:12). Suffering and death appeared suddenly and uninvited one day in the community where Dr. Brantly and his family had chosen to go and serve. They did not choose this danger or plan for this risk. He chose to stay, as one uniquely qualified to serve the people ravaged by the disease. He carefully followed infectious control protocols, not seeking to be sick but hoping to stay healthy so that he could serve others. He contracted the disease despite every good effort. He is not alone. He stands with more than 100 African health care workers who have been infected with this virus, half of whom have died.

There is no golden rule for staying or going in the midst of danger. I chose to leave. It was clear that things would grow worse, and I had little to offer in the military crisis. There was even a possibility that the presence of foreigners would only add to the trouble of our fellow Congolese Christians. But I do not rest in certainty that I made the right decision to go. I cannot help but believe that Dr. Brantly made the right decision to stay. But there is no consolation in knowing we are right, or in being able to prove that God is just when bad things happen to good people. Our consolation must have deeper roots.

Jesus’ words in John 12:24 are given in the context of a request, not unlike the words in a song sung at my church this past Sunday. “We want to see Jesus,” said some Greeks in Jerusalem to worship during the Passover feast. How little did they, or do we, understand what is being asked. If we want to see Jesus, we will have to lose our life, not literally in most cases, but then who knows. If we are following Jesus and not asking him to follow us, then “where I am, my servant will also be” (John 12:26).

In the great love of Jesus Christ for the whole world, and especially for the least, the lost, and the left out, we should not be surprised to find Jesus in Africa in the middle of an Ebola outbreak. The presence of Dr. Kent Brantly in Liberia in July 2014 is a clear and beautiful display of the heart of God for a broken world in our day. I for one am thankful—very thankful—for his life.

Photo credits: Samaritan's Purse (1 | 2)

by Robert Cutillo at July 31, 2014 05:01 AM

Reflections from an Overgrown Garden

I returned home last month from TGCW14 with a heart full to bursting with all that God said and did over the four days, through the speakers, the workshops, and through the 4,000 women from all 50 states and 38 different countries who attended. I also returned to an empty fridge and a burgeoning vegetable garden. Not being ready to fully return to the trials and tribulation of daily life courtesy of the teeming hordes of humanity at Costco, I decided to tackle my overgrown tomato and cucumber vines first.

As I picked and pruned and tied and tidied, I thought on the words my husband had shared as he left for work that morning, courtesy of his company’s CEO. “After a major learning experience, you have about three days to create and begin executing on a plan of action that applies all of you’ve learned. After that, insights evaporate quickly, and all the time and money invested is lost.” I walked back into the kitchen with a large bowl of tomatoes and cucumbers ready to be transformed into sauces and salads, thinking about how my morning’s efforts were a powerful metaphor for the spiritual work I needed to do to make sure the spiritual investments of so many in Orlando weren’t squandered.


Planting a vegetable garden can be an enjoyable way to spend a day, but the ultimate goal for most people is the food the garden produces. Had I left my plants to themselves, my tomatoes would have fallen to the earth to quickly ferment into food for worms instead of food for my family, and my husband’s long hours invested in the planting and tending would be for naught. The memory of Paige Brown’s exhortation about Nehemiah’s fears being relieved by the saving grace of God, and Jen Wilkin’s workshop on fearlessly raising daughters, had returned to me with a jolt when I discovered on returning home that, in my absence, one of my daughters had checked out some books with content far beyond her maturity. For a moment, I panicked. Thinking on Paige’s reminder that the perfect love of Jesus for my daughter and me casts out fear over her heart being drawn away to worldly things, and praying for wisdom, was a way of harvesting the fruit Paige’s session had produced. 

The workshops and many conversations with friends into the wee hours of the morning about the trials and grace-fueled triumphs of women’s’ ministry gave me a new desire to serve the diverse community of women in my own church. At my husband’s encouragement, I sent off a quick email to one of my pastors, asking if I could share with him some of the insights I’d received in the hopes they might bless our church. Because he is a leader who listens, he replied almost immediately, asking for my “top ten list” of things I’d learned and ideas I’d gleaned, just as a start. My prayer is that in the coming months and years, the women at my own church will also be recipients of the great harvest of fruit produced at the conference.


Because God has promised to do abundantly more than we could ask or think, I’m believing in faith that my desires for my church’s women’s ministry to flourish may call for my willingness to serve in it more intentionally and regularly.

With only so many hours in the day, the need to be faithful and available to serve as needed may mean doing some careful directing and pruning of my schedule. That means less time on purposeless social media activity and some adjustments to my sleep and work schedule so I can leverage some before and after hours time in the midst of my other important ministries as a wife, mom, and student.


Prior to attending the conference, I had been wrestling for several months over whether my writing and teaching gifts needed to be retired along with my former career in technology. God in his kindness had been doing a season of necessary and painful weeding on my heart, exposing some occasions when my sharp tongue had wounded, not blessed. I had repented and sought forgiveness, and the garden of my soul was stripped clean, but I flew to Orlando wondering what fruit, if any, my words could ever bear, and I asked God for direction. He gave it, not once, but multiple times, as people I met spoke of words I had written that had blessed them. That unanticipated encouragement blessed me deeply. John Piper’s encouragement from Nehemiah that, because of Christ, we have never sinned so much in word or in deed to be beyond the mercy and blessing of God, restored my hope that my words might yet be used to build God’s kingdom, and I returned home newly committed to be fruitful as God enabled.

As I tidied my garden, I noticed that the tomato plants that had been weeded so recently had already begun to be assaulted once again by one of the most hated of all weeds—bindweed. With its pale green tendrils and tiny delicate flowers, bindweed is notorious for mimicking a beautiful budding vine, even as it twines around a growing tomato plant and slowly, insidiously, chokes the life out of the plant until it dies. I muttered imprecatory psalms against the evil weed, reminding myself that Tim Keller’s convicting admonishment from Nehemiah that vengeful prayers against the ungodly are no longer appropriate in light of the cross applied to my fellow image bearers. In her workshop on raising daughters, Jen Wilkin invited us to consider whether sins of the tongue might be of particular challenge to most women, just as the sin of lust is for many men. As I ripped the weeds away, I prayed that God would keep the weeds of unhelpful, unkind words away from any fruit he might help me bear.

I am beyond thankful for the investments made by so many to enable women from all over the country and world to gather together to hear from God through the book of Nehemiah, and through the teaching of so many gifted men and women. I want to harvest the fruit the conference bore in my own heart, and multiply it in the lives of my family and my church. By God’s grace, with faithful, intentional effort, I will.

by Rachael Starke at July 31, 2014 05:01 AM

Bring Back the Holy Kiss

“Nobody ever touches me,” a friend recently lamented. I could sympathize. In my 20s, I was in the same situation—unmarried and living far from my parents. As a teacher in a public junior high school even my job was strictly touch-free. Faculty were routinely warned against so much as placing a hand on a student’s shoulder, and once an anonymous co-worker filed a sexual harassment complaint against a single male teacher who sometimes stopped to talk to me on his free period. With no spouse and no nearby relatives, I returned untouched every evening to a quiet room and a stack of papers, often spending several days in a row without so much as a handshake of human contact.

Now, one husband and three young children later, my life is filled with touch: hand-holding, hair-stroking, and crack-your-ribs hugging. In fact, I frequently long for some isolation. But I haven’t forgotten my earlier life. And when I read my Bible, even in the middle of one of my leave-me-alone funks, I can’t ignore the fact that five times—five!—in the New Testament, we are commanded to touch other Christians (Rom. 16:16, I Cor. 16:20, 2 Cor. 13:12, I Thess. 5:26, 1Pet. 5:14).

It’s a challenge. With touch in our culture so often either co-opted by sexualization or horrifically corrupted by abuse, the right expression of physical affection in the Christian church is difficult to figure out. But I want the church to try.

Public Rap

In a May article for The American Conservative, “Our Starved for Touch Culture,” Leah Libresco grieves the lack of touch for many in our society. She theorizes that we have abandoned friendly touch because it has been too-frequently tainted or overtaken by ulterior motives of sexual intimacy: “The friendzone is treated as a wasteland not just because we treat sex as an idol, but because friendship and non-sexual affection is written off as irrelevant. Casual dating has been replaced by casual sex; platonic touch has been eclipsed by erotic signalling.” (Albert Mohler has written a thought-provoking essay making a similar argument.)

In addition I suspect that instances of abuse have done their nasty work to bring touch low. Particularly in the church, we are rightly sickened by our public rap sheet of abusers—often church leaders or clergy—who corrupted touch and abused vulnerable human beings to serve their own sinful desires.

We have, on every church roll, people who still suffer the effects of inappropriate touch. We worship weekly alongside men and women who have themselves touched others in sinful ways. We also, often unknowingly, enjoy fellowship with those who have been abused. We must not forget to treat our brothers and sisters with especial tenderness, aware that we may not know what they have experienced.

We are right to be cautious. In touching, just as in talking and looking, much can go wrong. But rejecting biblical imperatives poses danger, too. The New Testament “holy kiss” actually stands against many of the touch-corruptions in our day. What is a holy kiss? It's a culturally appropriate, morally chaste, physical expression of love for other believers. It's a hand on a shoulder, a warm smile with a hand-clasp, or a friendly hug—a touch that publicly acknowledges our bond with other members of Christ’s body. It’s not just a kiss, it’s a holy kiss, a kiss reclaimed from a fallen world and repurposed for the glory of God.

And it’s not optional. Pastor A. N. Martin notes that in 2 Corinthians 13:12, the holy kiss comes at the end of a list of imperatives that we would unanimously consider Christian obligations: rejoice, aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace, greet one another with a holy kiss. One of the essential marks of the body of Christ is physical affection.

Wide Diversity

We might be tempted to think of the holy kiss as a practice for a particular first-century culture, too fraught with issues for our day. But this imperative covers the wide diversity of the New Testament church. Paul commands it, and Peter commands it, too. It is required of the Jewish-background diaspora recipients of Peter’s epistle, and also of the Roman and Thessalonian churches—bodies largely composed of Gentile converts. Twice, the holy kiss is commanded for the Corinthian church, a church so beleaguered by sexual impropriety that you’d think the apostle Paul would ban touch altogether.

In many ways, this requirement best guards against perversion. “Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss,” reads 1 Thessalonians 5:26 (emphasis mine). The holy kiss is not subject to personal choice and individual preference. Touch in the church is not offered to someone we especially like as a sign that he or she has been singled out for intimate attention. The holy kiss is not exclusive. In contrast to the man in James 2:2-4 who tells the rich man to sit here and the poor man to stand over there, we must not show partiality in physical nearness to our brothers. We don’t touch only the people of our choosing; we touch the people of God’s covenant choosing. We give a holy kiss to all the brothers.

And the holy kiss does not accomplish goals of our personal choosing. It is not to the end of asserting power or manipulating someone into sealing a business deal—or scam, as Libresco notes. It is not for our own physical pleasure. (Treat “older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity,” Paul writes in 1 Timothy 5:2.) Instead, the holy kiss is what Martin calls “visible, physical confirmation of mutual love.”

Last Sunday, my church celebrated the Lord’s Supper. I looked at my hand and at the cupped hands of my brothers and sisters, each of us holding a piece of bread. And I gave thanks that Jesus has given us something to touch. The sacraments are themselves a holy kiss of sorts—a visible, physical confirmation of mutual love. 

Greet one another with a holy kiss.

by Megan Hill at July 31, 2014 05:01 AM

Balancing Administration and Teaching in Higher Ed

Hunter Baker (JD, PhD) is the dean of instruction and associate professor of political science at Union University. He is the author most recently of The System Has a Soul (coming out soon) and is a research fellow of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.


What do you do every day?

I’m a dean and a professor, which means that my time is divided between administrative work and ordinary teaching and/or writing. On the administrative side, I’m usually answering e-mails or working out conflicts that relate to anything from handling grade disputes to strategizing about curriculum changes. On the teaching side, my work is pretty straightforward. The challenge is always to get, and keep, students engaged.

How did you decide to work in higher education?

College was a formative time for me. Although I was raised with a moral sensibility, I wasn’t brought up in a particularly religious home. In fact, when I began college, I generally thought Christians who talked about having “a personal relationship with Jesus” were insane. Providentially, though, I attended an InterVarsity meeting where I heard the gospel and saw the lives of those involved. I developed a real openness to learning about Christ and the Bible. As a result of my experience, I decided to teach college because I wanted to influence students during these important, formative years.

When it comes to the “publish or perish” model in the academy, do you feel a lot of pressure?

Academic professional guilds traditionally emphasize research and publication. At Union, we certainly care about scholarship and intellectual rigor. More importantly, though, we want our faculty to be concerned primarily with the mission of the university and the students themselves. I’ve published in academic journals, but I find my own calling resonates strongest within me when I strive to reach students and well-educated lay persons. I like to try and present a sophisticated, Christian point of view that challenges broader communities to consider a perspective they typically dismiss. 

As an administrator, how do you meet the needs of the various, and sometimes conflicting, stakeholders?

After a meeting with people representing various interests, a participant told me, “I felt like you were for everybody.” That’s what I want to achieve, and I think the best way to do that is by being principled. I have to make decisions based first on principles, not power calculations. I have to ask questions like: What are we doing in the first place? Why do we have a university? It’s not fundamentally for programs or salaries, but for students. For a Christian university, in particular, it’s also for the work of the kingdom of Christ in these young lives.

Is your role, then, to be objective like a judge?

My work is judicial in nature at times, but I’m also an advocate. For example, at the university level, there’s always a debate about the core curriculum. Some people think it’s just a means to an end, a two-year delay before you get to the good stuff. Those who think that way are sometimes tempted to encroach on the core for their own programs and purposes.

I take a different view. The core should provide the philosophical grounding for a robust college career. One thing we sometimes forget is that the liberal arts actually have the potential to magnify all subsequent learning.


Editors' note: The weekly TGCvocations column asks practitioners about their jobs and how they integrate their faith and work. Interviews are condensed.

by Bethany Jenkins at July 31, 2014 05:01 AM

The Art of Non-Conformity

What Are People REALLY Saying About WDS 2014? (Part II)


Here’s round I.


After spending hundreds of hours in preparation and then hosting a week-long adventure for thousands of awesome people, I don’t actually say much about it afterward, at least not on the blog. I’m a writer who doesn’t do a writeup.

Thankfully, our awesome attendees pick up my slack—and wouldn’t you want to hear from them anyway?

Every year we see hundreds of blog posts from attendees. Here’s the first second round of unfiltered reviews and opinions on a variety of topics related to WDS. Check them out and decide for yourself what WDS is all about!


Since these posts were published, I’ve learned of another 50+ more—so stay tuned for a final round. For now, thanks again to everyone who contributed!

We’ll be back next year with another great adventure—count on it. If you’d like to come, join the waiting list for the first round of ticket sales (coming this fall).


by Chris Guillebeau at July 31, 2014 04:01 AM

512 Pixels

E.W. Scripps spinning off newspaper business →

Dan Monk:

The deal calls for Milwaukee, Wisc. –based Journal Communications Inc. to merge its 13 television stations and 35 radio stations into Cincinnati-based Scripps. Both companies will spin off their newspaper assets into a new publicly-traded company, Journal Media Group.

The deal is subject to the approval of shareholders and regulators. It is expected to close in 2015.

Big news in the journalism world, but no one else will notice the re-arranged deck chairs.


by Stephen Hackett at July 31, 2014 02:01 AM

Lift Big Eat Big

Think You Don't Need Sumo Deadlifts? You're Wrong

Article written by Pro Strongman Matt Mills

The sumo deadlift has been my favorite way to pull since the first day I was shown it.  Many lifters give the sumo pull a try, and if they are weaker at it, they never try it again.  Whether sumo is your go-to pull like myself, or a big weak point for you, it is definitely something you want to have in your program.  For myself, because I am much stronger I only put it in on occasion, in favor of working on my weaker conventional pull.  What I’m saying here is if you suck at pulling sumo then you need to work on pulling sumo.  The problem is when many lifters pull sumo they try to pull it like they do conventional, but just with a wider stance.  The sumo deadlift can be more frustrating as it is more technical, in my opinion.  The old saying “grip it and rip” doesn’t really apply to sumo.  Sumo is all about using leverages in your favor to break the floor.  Done correctly you might be surprised at how much more weight you can pull, especially if you are a powerlifter that has avoided it like the plague.  Strength is a skill, and it must be practiced over and over.

I find the sumo deadlift cannot be “muscled” up when technique fails, much like we see in a conventional pull.  The sumo pull is also far less stress on your lower back, and back injuries are very common in strength sports.  I have used sumo deadlifting in place of conventional many times for lifters with injuries to keep them pulling safely.

Typically we see the sumo deadlift recommended for the taller thinner lifters, while conventional is best for shorter thicker lifters.  I don’t believe this at all, because I have seen too many variations of stances, and body types using different stances.  Take a look at Dan Green’s sumo deadlift.  Dan is far from being considered a thinner lifter, as well as being under 6 feet. 

Ed Coan used what’s called a modified sumo stance when he pulled 901lbs in the 220lb weight class, an all time world record that still stands today.

Let’s break the sumo deadlift form down step by step.  Like most lifts, your set up is everything with sumo.  Any break in form will cause you to fail: again, strength is a skill!

Start by choosing the width of your stance.  The definition of a sumo deadlift is a deadlift where the feet are on the outside, and the hands are on the inside.  Typically a taller lifter will have a wider stance to make up for their longer limbs, while a shorter lifter will choose a narrower stance.  Let’s go back to the examples of Dan Green, and Ed Coan.  Dan being a taller lifter is best with a very wide stance, while Ed being 5’6’’ has a very narrow stance for pulling sumo.  Again height isn’t always the case so I recommend you play around to see what stance works best for you.  Also to go extremely wide like Dan you must have very flexible hips to get yourself into position.  If you have tight hips when starting sumo, you will be better off with a narrow stance.  As you become accustomed to sumo, you edge your feet out more and more to find where you can move the most amount of weight.

Once the width of your stance is set you want to fan your toes out much more then you normally would on a conventional deadlift.  The reason for pointing your toes out so much is you want to drive the knees out hard.

Driving the knees out, or “spreading the floor” will help you break the floor by activating your glutes more.  When it comes to pulling conventional, the bar can start anywhere from against the shins to over the midline of the foot depending on the lifter.  Also you do not want the knees going over the bar at all.  If the toes are pointed more forward the knees will track over the bar, and you want be able to use your leverage to break the floor.  The shins should be completely vertical, or even at a negative angle if you have the flexibility.  When it comes to sumo, you want the bar right against your shins.  This is where it’s also important to wear some long socks, or something to protect your shins because you are going to literally drag the bar up your shins.  No one wants to use a bar with your skin and blood on it, so protect yourself.  

Now that your feet are set, toes out, and the bar against your shins, you are going to drop straight down to the bar.  This is where most people make the mistake in the set up for sumo.  When pulling conventional you generally hinge down to the bar by pushing your hips back, until your hands reach the bar.  Again everyone has their own set up, but this is how I teach the set up for conventional.  Where people make the mistake is they hinge down to the bar in their sumo stance and end up stiff legging the weight up, hips pop up first, with no use of the quads off the floor.  I like to put my arms out in front of me, and keep them locked out to reinforce that fact.  Take a big breath in, and drop straight down to the bar.  The old saying by powerlifters is “drop your nut sac to the bar”, and if you’re a girl then use your imagination.  This will put you in the best position to use your leverages to break the floor.  At the same time, you do not want the hips too low.  The hips should be slightly above, as I will demonstrate in the video.

Once you grab the bar, take the slack out of it, and keep your head up.  One of the most common mistakes I see in any deadlift is the lifter does not take the slack out of the bar.  This makes for a very difficult pull, and will usually throw the lifter out of their form before they break the floor on both conventional and sumo.  When you take the slack out of the bar pulling sumo, you are going to use the weight to pull your hips down and your chest up.  Many lifters have issues breaking the floor pulling sumo, due to the face they treat it like a wide stance conventional deadlift.  Again, set up is everything here. 

In the last couple of years, there has been a lot of arguing about head position on the deadlift.  On the conventional pull I like to keep my chin tucked, so my neck stays in a neutral position.  I’m not saying this is the way to do it, as I have seen great conventional pullers that look up, but it’s something you can play around with to see what works best.  However, what I am saying when pulling sumo, is that your head SHOULD BE UP.  You don’t have to look to the ceiling, but your eyes should be at an upward angle.  You want to stay as upright as possible through the lift, and looking down will cause you to lean forward coming off your heels. 

As you use the bar to take the slack and get your hips in position, you are going to arch your lower back HARD.  This is another difference between sumo and conventional.   For conventional pulling you want a flat, or neutral lower back but it doesn’t have to be excessively arched, but again every lifter is different here. For sumo, you want to arch as hard as possible to keep your hips as close to the bar as possible.  As you arch you want to get your shoulders straight in line with the bar, or if you have the flexibility get behind the bar slightly.  This again will create the best leverage to break the floor with.

Set up is everything, so let’s review:
  • Set your stance depending on your body type and flexibility.
  • Fan your toes out.
  • Drop straight to the bar with arms locked out.
  • Arch the lower back hard.
  • Take the slack out of the bar by pulling your hips down and your chest up.
  • Keep your hips close to the bar.
  • Shoulders in line or behind the bar.
Now that we are in the proper starting position to start the pull, you want to again drive the knees out as hard as possible, while simultaneously think about falling backwards with the bar.  Falling back with the bar will ensure the most out of your quads off the floor.  Similar to conventional, think about driving your feet through the floor to get the bar moving.   This cue will keep your chest and hips rising at the same time.  As the bar passes your knees, squeeze your glutes tight and push your hips forward until you are fully locked out.  Make sure the hips and knees lock out at the same time to use your glutes effectively.  A lot of deadlifts are missed above the knees because the lifter locks the knees too soon, and all the stress is placed on the low back.  Make sure to lock out properly and think about getting tall.  Many lifters try to lean back too much to lock out, and end up re-bending their knees to compensate, causing a hitch, or even falling backwards because of loss of balance.

Application to Strength Sports

If you are a powerlifter like myself, pulling sumo as your main lift is a no brainer if it is your best pull.  However there are a lot of competitors that think they don’t need to train sumo as they only use conventional in competition.  This is a big mistake in anyone’s training, as weak points need to be fixed.  As stated before, pulling sumo will greatly strengthen your hips.  If your conventional pull is far better than your sumo then it is something you really need to work on.  If there are obvious weak points you have, strengthening them will only bring your main lift up.  In the sport of strongman, pulling sumo is illegal BUT I still recommend strong(wo)man competitors add it in their training from time to time.  For anyone wondering the reason it is illegal, it is because many deadlift events in strong(wo)man are anywhere from 12 inches to 18 inches.  If we were able to pull sumo at these raised heights it would create an extremely shorty range of motion, especially pulling from 18 inches. 

Personally I am far better sumo but I train conventional more even when I have a powerlifting meet coming up.  The same rule applies; I have a weak point in my conventional pull so strengthening that has only brought up my sumo pull.  Another application for the sumo pull to the Strong(wo)man competitor is lapping a stone.  Think of the starting position of loading an atlas stone.  The feet are set to the outside of the stone in a fairly side stance.  A great accessory exercise to get stronger off the floor with stones is to do Sumo RDL’s, which I will get to shortly.  A simple way to program sumo deadlifting is to use it as your secondary exercise.  Start your deadlift session with your conventional deadlift for heavy reps (under 5).  When using sumo as your accessory exercise, you can pull reps at it for added volume at 3 sets of 8-10 with short rest periods.  I guarantee you that if you are stuck on your deadlift AND you suck pulling sumo then this will be your answer.   If you are like me, you can do the opposite and pull your main deadlift sumo and conventional for volume and get the same training effect.

Accessory lifts

Deficit Sumo Deadlifts

Deficits are always my favorite accessory lifts, as I am mainly weak off the floor on both my pulls.  If you have trouble breaking the floor despite a good set up, these are for you.  I wouldn’t recommend going any higher than 1.5 inches here as that is plenty of deficit to get the training effect you are going for.  Just make sure you really get the hips in a low position here from the set up.  It’s a common mistake for a lifter to add deficits and not have the flexibility to perform them properly.


Raised Sumo Deadlifts

The same rule will apply here, if you are weak once you get the bar moving off the floor, you need to start from that position.  Raising the bar up 4 inches is usually a great place to work from, but place the bar where you get stuck.  One tip on raised deadlifts is to never do rack pulls.  As a gym owner I do not allow them in my gym for the main reason they damage bars.  The other is they do not apply much to the actual deadlift.  Having the bar on the racks changes the way the bar bends to get moving.  This subtle change can break you out of your form, and risk injury when going extremely heavy.  A better way is to use mats or blocks to raise the bar to where you want.  This will create the same pull as you would off the floor to better transition to a stronger lockout.

Sumo RDL

RDL’s are a great exercise to strengthen your low back, glutes, and hamstrings.  When working on your sumo pull, you want to do these in your sumo stance as well.  Sumo RDL’s are great to stretch your hamstrings out if you are having problems getting into the proper position on the set up.  Keep the lower back extremely tight and arch and only hinge at your hips.  The knees should be relaxed, but not locked out and not bending as you go down.  There should be a very big stretch in your inner hamstrings if you do these correctly.  If you are very flexible and can touch the floor, then stop the bar about mid shin level as you want to keep the stress on the hamstrings.

by Brandon Morrison ( at July 31, 2014 12:43 AM

July 30, 2014

CrossFit 204

Workout: July 31, 2014

Jay loves N.Y., and running.

Jay loves N.Y., and running.

2 sets of 16 lengths of shuttle sprints (50 feet)

Every minute on the minute for 12 minutes: sprint 90 yards

Mike Booth’s running clinic starts next Thursday. Register here.


by Mike at July 30, 2014 10:35 PM

Be Coachable

Our job is to find a way to help you move better, and your job is to be open to change.

Our job is to find a way to help you move better, and your job is to be open to change.

The best kind of athlete to work with, regardless of skill level, is an athlete who is coachable.

Being coachable has little to do with physical ability. Some people learn very quickly due to gifts for dexterity, coordination and so on, but others take far longer—which is more than fine. Physical gifts aside, it’s a specific mentality that helps some athletes progress faster than others. Much faster.

Coachable athletes are like modern action figures with dozens of engineered joints that articulate in all directions. You can adjust these athletes easily because they’re willing to move the way you ask them to move. It’s not about mobility; it’s about attitude. It might feel weird or awkward for these athletes to change their technique, but they’re open to trying, and they’ll invest in a little short-term discomfort for long-term success.

Uncoachable athletes are like action figures from the ’80s, such as the Star Wars figures that hinged only at the hips and shoulders. These athletes don’t really want to change positions or technique and will actively resist attempts to improve their form. Most do it unconsciously but relentlessly, and it’s more a mental block than physical limitation. Sentences like this are common:

“But I’ve always done it this way.”

“Your way feels weird” or “I don’t feel as strong when I do it your way.”

“This way is slower.”

“But I did it like this at another gym.”

“I can’t do that because (insert reason).”

In the last example, the reason can often be a mobility concern, but that’s usually just another creative way of saying, “I don’t want to do what you’re requesting.”

I’ve learned that in some cases, athletes are correct—their way does work better. But with a coachable athlete, the exchange goes something like this:

“Have you ever tried squatting with your feet closer together?”

“No, but I’ll try it.”

“Hmm. I think it was better your way. Let’s go with that.”


An exchange like that is unbelievably productive for both coach and athlete.

In many other cases, the athlete just needs to change a bad habit or correct poor form—which requires effort and patience. Athletes pay CrossFit coaches to help them move better, and I’ve never understood why someone would pay for that service and then ignore the instructions. If you want to do shallow squats with your knees rolling in, or if you want to hit a PR deadlift with a round back, you can find cheaper ways to do it. If you want to max out a lift instead of backing it down today and investing in greater success tomorrow, your garage is the best place for it. But if you want to move better and get fitter, then a coach’s instructions become pretty valuable.

If a coach asks you to change something, your current movements are outside what is considered optimal technique, hence the instructions. At that point, it’s in your best interests to give the suggestion some consideration and work with the coach to find the best fix. A great coach will never demand immediate changes unless safety is a factor or you’re ignoring the movement standards for a workout; great coaches will work with your unique body to help you move as well as you possibly can.

It’s a give-and-take situation from which coachable athletes emerge fitter and uncoachable athletes emerge frustrated.

But if you immediately find reasons why you can’t or won’t make a change, you’ll never improve.

It’s like the Tony Robbins quote: “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”

by Mike at July 30, 2014 10:31 PM

ASCII by Jason Scott

WHAT the Cloud?

In some circles, I’m known as the guy who wrote Fuck the Cloud.

Yet as of this past weekend, I have three Amazon EC2 instances doing massive amounts of screenshots of ZX Spectrum programs (thousands so far) using the Screen Shotgun.

Nobody has specifically come after me about this, but I figured I’d get out ahead of it, and again re-iterate what I meant about Fuck The Cloud, since the lesson is still quite relevant.

00_coverscreenshot (12)

So, the task of Screen Shotgunning still takes some amount of Real Time – that is, an emulator is run in a headless Firefox program, the resulting output is captured and analyzed a bit, and then the resulting unique images are shoved into the entry on so that you get a really nice preview of whatever this floppy or cartridge has on it. That process, which really works best once per machine, will take some amount of minutes, and multiply it by the tens of thousands of floppies I intend to do this against, and letting it run on a spare machine (or even two) is not going to fly. I need a screenshot army, a pile of machines to do this task at the same time, and then get those things up into the collections ASAP.

A perfectly reproducible, time-consuming task that can be broken into discrete chunks. In other words, just the sort of task perfect for….

Well, let’s hold up there.


So, one thread or realm of developer/programmer/bystander would say “Put it in the Cloud!” and this was the original thing I was railing about. Saying “Put it in the Cloud” should be about as meaningful a statement as “computerize it” or “push it digital”. The concept of “The Cloud” was, when I wrote my original essay, so very destroyed by anyone who wanted to make some bucks jumping on coat-tails, that to say “The Cloud” was ultimately meaningless. You needed the step after that move to really start discussing anything relevant.

The fundamental issue for me, you see, is pledging obfuscation and smoke as valid aspects of a computing process. To get people away from understanding exactly what’s going on, down there, and to pledge this as a virtue. That’s not how all this should work. Even if you don’t want to necessarily be the one switching out spark plugs or filling the tank, you’re a better person if you know why those things happen and what they do. A teacher in my past, in science, spent a significant amount of time in our class describing every single aspect of a V-8 engine, because he said science was at work there, and while only a small percentage of us may go into laboratories and rockets, we’d all likely end up with a car. He was damn right.

Hiding things leads to corruption. It leads to shortcuts. It starts to be that someone is telling you all is well and then all the wheels falling off at 6am on a Sunday. And then you won’t know where the wheels even were. Or that there were wheels. That is what I rail against. “The Cloud” has come to literally mean anything people want.

No, what I wanted was a bunch of machines I could call up and rent by the hour or day and do screenshots on.

And I got them.


Utilizing Amazon’s EC2 (Elastic Computing) is actually pretty simple, and there’s an awful lot of knobs and levers you can mess with. They don’t tell you what else is sharing your hardware, of course, but they’re upfront about what datacenter the machines are in, what sort of hardware is in use, and all manner of reporting on the machine’s performance. It took me less than an hour to get a pretty good grip on what “machines” were available, and what it would cost.

I started with their free tier, i.e. a clever “try before you buy” level of machine, but running an X framebuffer and an instance of Firefox and then making THAT run a massive javascript emulator was just a little too much for the thing. I then went the other way and went for a pretty powerful box (the c3.2xlarge is the type) and found it ran my stuff extremely well – in fact, compared to the machine I was using to do screenshots, it halved the time necessary to get the images. Nice.

You pay by the “machine hour” for these, and I was using a machine that cost $.47 an hour. Within a day, you’re talking $10. Not a lot of money, but that would add up. The per-hour cost also helped me in another way – it made me hunt down inefficiencies. I realized that uploading directly to was slowing things down – it had to wait in line for the inbox. Shoving things into a file folder on a machine I had inside the Internet Archive was much faster, since it just ran the file transfer and was able to go to the next screenshot. Out of the 2 minute time per program, the file upload was actually completely negligible – maybe 1-2 seconds of uploading and done, versus 1-2 minutes putting it carefully into an item. Efficiency!

I then tried to find the least expensive machine that still did the work. After some experimentation (during which I could “transfer the soul” of my machine to another version), I found that c3.large did the job just fine – at $0.12/hr, a major savings. That’s what has it for now.

00_coverscreenshot (11)

Because I knew what I was dealing with, that is, a machine that was actually software to imitate a machine that was itself inside an even larger machine and that machine inside a datacenter somewhere in California… I could make smarter choices.

The script to “add all the stuff” my screen shotgun needs sits on a machine that I completely control at the Internet Archive. The screenshots that the program takes are immediately uploaded away from the “virtual” Amazon machine, so a sudden server loss will have very little effect on the work. And everything is designed so that it’s aware other “instances” are adding screenshots – if a screenshot already exists for a package, the shotgun will move immediately to the next one. This means I can have multiple machines gnaw on a 9,000 item collection (from different ends and in the middle) like little piranhas and the job will get done that much quicker.

In other windows, as I type this, I see new screenshots being added every 20 seconds to the Archive. That’s very nice. And the total cost for this is currently 36 cents every hour, at which point a thousand screengrabs might be handled.

I’m not “leveraging the power of the cloud”. I’m using some available computer rental time to get my shit done, a process that has existed since the first days of mainframes, when Digital and IBM would lease out processing time on machines they sold to bigger customers, in return for a price break.

It is not new.

But it does rule.


by Jason Scott at July 30, 2014 09:57 PM

The Outlaw Way


Five Observations from the 2014 CrossFit Games:

1) Mat Fraser’s debut was the greatest rookie performance in the history of the Games, and there is a GIGANTIC reason he was able to do what he did.

What? You thought I was gonna let Froning look cool, while not talking about the guy I’ve been saying could beat him for the last year? Big deal, Rich won again – he’s been doing this since 2010, and hasn’t been touched since he learned how to climb a rope. As a matter of fact, every male top five finisher has competed in at least three times as many Games as Mat. The last rookie to podium was Talayna, and she had competed at multiple regionals before making her first Games appearance. Fraser didn’t just luck his way into that second spot. His lowest finish of the weekend was fourteen spots higher than Froning’s, he went into the final event trailing by only five points, and the fifty points he ended up losing by is the closest anyone has ever been to Froning.

So… Where in the world did the next great exerciser come from, and how was he able to push the insanely hyperbolized “Fittest Man in History”.

Well, if you attended a Para Bellum Series camp you’ll already know this, but for the rest of you: Mat Fraser was a weightlifter. Yep. He won multiple youth and junior national titles, was on three junior world teams, and trained at the Olympic Training Center for about a year. Jared and Mat grew up lifting and competing together, and for the better part of a year we have been telling groups of campers that Mat would be the first male who could legitimately give Froning a run. No, we aren’t exercise Nostradamus (just imagine that’s plural, I’m not even gonna attempt it). Jared knew how hard of a worker Mat was, and I knew that a 77kg lifter – with a good work ethic – would be able to step into the Stub Hub Center and have a level of competence that it would take a non-lifter years to develop.

My introduction to Mat was at the Northeast Regional in 2013. Daniel Tyminski and I were warming up when we heard the crowd go crazy during the second heat of the 3RM OHS. We asked some people what happened, and someone told us that “a dude named Fraser doubled 315#”, we literally looked at each other and said “who?” When I saw him walk past, and realized he was half the size I thought he’d be, I immediately texted Spencer and asked if there was a Weightlifter named Mathew Fraser. He said that he knew him, and I knew we’d have to watch out for him the rest of the weekend.

Since Mat’s fifth place finish at regionals, I’ve watched leaderboards as he dominated multiple off-season comps against numerous Games competitors. His Akinwale-esque rise (started CrossFit in January 2011 – 13th at the 2011 Games) to the upper echelon of the sport is not an accident. About two years ago I wrote a series called “The Importance of Olympic Lifting for the Sport of Fitness“. Mat’s performance did a pretty damn good job of illustrating every point in that series, and should serve as notice that there absolutely is a hierarchy, or a most important element to the development of a fitness athlete.

Put this thought in your brain, and let it float around a bit… Mat did nothing but compete in Weightlifting until roughly eighteen months ago. He finished 18th on “Triple Three”, and 17th on “The Beach”. He beat Froning by a score of 102 to 93 on those events combined, and they were both over thirty minutes long.

Let me go ahead and crystalize my point: It took Mat Fraser eighteen months to develop enough capacity to beat the “fittest man in history” on the two longest and most endurance oriented events of the Games.

Go pick up a barbell.

WOD 140731:

Rest day.

The post 140731 appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by at July 30, 2014 08:37 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

On the Cost of Upgrading Your Fleet of Warships

Upgrading Your Warship

I downloaded another iPad game that was a lot like the one I wrote about in The Tower.

It was probably a mistake, given my tendencies for going all-in, but once in a while I download a game and play it off and on for a couple weeks. Then I get bored and remove it from the device. No big deal.

In this game I had to build up defenses for my base and attack other bases, deploying a fleet of ships and military in a series of invasions. Simple and fun.

My endeavors would earn money, or at least in-game currency, which I could spend on upgrading my ships and defenses.

But I wasn’t the only actor in the game. As I grew stronger, so did my opponents! They too were upgrading, becoming tougher to defeat and more likely to invade my shores. Thus it became a literal arms race, or at least as literal as an arms race on an Apple device can become.

Most of the time when I invaded another base, I won. But other times I’d lose and have to quickly retreat, paying a cost for the artificial losses.

I wondered about the balance of challenge vs. accomplishment. The game couldn’t be too hard, but of course it couldn’t be too easy either.

I wanted challenge but not too much. I had grown accustomed to winning. Losing a battle felt like a true loss, something to be mourned.

I finally stopped playing and moved on with real life. It was probably the best possible action.


Image: Joriel

by Chris Guillebeau at July 30, 2014 07:08 PM

512 Pixels

AgileBits announces 1Password extension for iOS 8 apps →

This is the sort of thing I envisioned when Apple announced Extensions in June. Color me excited.


by Stephen Hackett at July 30, 2014 07:06 PM

John C. Wright's JournalJohn C. Wright's Journal

The Wright Perspective: Seven Right Ideas (Faith)

My latest is up at EveryJoe: This is the last in my series on the Seven Right Ideas on which Conservativism is founded, and it is the more difficult idea because it is a mystery.

Faith is as impossible to define in fullness as love, but it includes the idea that you owe a personal loyalty to truth, virtue and beauty, and that the mysterious source of truth, virtue and beauty will reward that loyalty and faithfully reciprocate.

Faith is the opposite of nihilism, which is the idea that there are no metaphysical truths, no supernatural reality, no innate purpose to life.

The point of faith is often misunderstood, and, frankly, often lied about. Matters of faith are neither illogical nor do they lack evidence.

The confusion comes because no other decision in life (even such all-embracing decisions as the decision to marry or to join the army) requires loyalty from every part of your soul and every nook of your psychology; including the part that decides.

All other decisions but this one allow you a place to stand, a neutral ground, a judge’s bench, where you can weigh the arguments for and against and make the decision according to rules that are themselves not part of the decision. But in this case, whether you become a Christian or become a Political Correction Cultist, there is no neutral ground.

You cannot make the decision based on the truth of the claims, because Political Correctness rejects the concept of truth whereas Christianity says Christ is truth.

You cannot make the decision based on the virtue of the claims, because Political Correctness rejects the concept of virtue, and says that all moral good or evil is a human invention, or the imposition of mindless genetic processes.

You cannot make a decision based on the beauty of the claims, because Political Correctness rejects the concept of beauty as trivial and trite, and rejects the concept that beauty reflects truth.

You cannot make the decision based on the rationality of the claim, because Political Correctness rejects the idea of objective reason whereas Christianity says Christ is Logos, a Greek term which means, among other things, reason, account or logic. We worship a rational God who created a rational universe in which he placed men to whom he granted the gift of reason.

You cannot even use your free will to make the decision because Political Correctness casts grave doubt on the freedom of the will, or denies it altogether.

Between the Christian universe and the anti-Christian universe, there is no way to be objective and dispassionate between the two universes. There is no third universe in which to stand while you make the choice. Either you are a member of one or a member of the other.

Read the Whole Thing

by John C Wright at July 30, 2014 06:39 PM

Daniel Lemire's blog

Predicting your future performance

The Matthew effect says that “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer”. With this sole principle in mind, you would think that the future is easily predicted. Whoever is rich or famous today is going to be rich or famous tomorrow.

So which programming language should you learn if you are a programmer? The most popular language right now, or the fastest growing language? If you believe in the power of Matthew effect, you should always focus on the most popular language right now, since you believe that challengers are unlikely to succeed.

At a personal level, the Matthew effect can be depressing: your starting position in life determines the rest.

Mazloumian asked an interesting related question. Given a scientist, which is a better indicator of his future success (measured by citations):

  • the total number of citations received so far,
  • the average number of published papers per year,
  • the average annual citations,
  • the annual citations at the time of prediction,
  • the average citations per paper,
  • and so on.

Can you guess the best indicator of future success?

First, it is worth stating that Mazloumian found that the Matthew effect was weak:

Our results have shown that the existing citation indices do not predict citations of future work well, and hence should not be given significant weight in evaluating academic potential. Including various indicators and testing various prediction time horizons, our results are still in agreement with Hirsch’s study “past performance is not predictive of future performance.” Even combining multiple citation indicators did not significantly improve the prediction: apart from citation indicators, no better predictor of the impact of future work exists.

But, if you are going to use a single measure to predict the future success of a scientist, you should go with the annual citations at the time of prediction. This is consistent with saying that the past is a poor predictor of the future.

Of course, the Matthew effect is real. If you start out strong, you will tend to outdo your poorer peers. However, the Matthew effect is often much weaker than people believe. People at the top of their game are beaten by challengers coming from nowhere all the time.

In some sense, it is troubling because it says that we know less than we think we know. When recruiting a scientist, for example, it is very tempting to use his past performance over many years to predict his future performance. But this heuristic is weak.

It also means that it is hard to build lasting capital. Working hard today may not be sufficient to establish a long stream of successes. To keep on succeeding, you need to keep on working hard and be lucky.

On the plus side, it means that if you have not succeeded early, you can always make it big later. It does not mean that it is easy to rise up at the top from the bottom. By definition, only 1% of all players can be part of the top 1%. Even without any Matthew effect, you would still be unlikely to reach the top 1%. What is says however is that life is probably fairer than you think.

So how do you predict someone’s performance? With humility. And this includes yourself. You do not know how well or how poorly you will do in the future. Most times, you should avoid both arrogance and defeatism.

by Daniel Lemire at July 30, 2014 06:33 PM

512 Pixels

Modbook Pro X hits Kickstarter →

The original Modbook hails from 2008, when the company took plastic MacBooks, cut them in half and turned them into tablets.

Currently, you can just get a non-Retina MacBook Pro from the company. However, the company has launched a Kickstarter campaign is for a new product, based on the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro.

If the $150,000 goal is met, customers will be able to send in their own machines for conversion at $1999 or reserve complete systems directly from Modbook starting at $3999.

The idea of the Modbook has always intrigued me, and I can see how designers or artists would be interested in it, but the Mac hardware nerd in me can't help but wonder what terrible things happen to these MacBooks.


by Stephen Hackett at July 30, 2014 06:30 PM

CrossFit 204

August Running Clinic With Mike Booth

Congrats to Mike Booth on a 7th-place finish in the 2012 Manitoba Marathon!

Four-time Manitoba Marathon winner Mike Booth in the 2012 marathon.

Cost: $52.50 (includes GST)

Dates (all sessions on Thursdays at 8 p.m.): Aug. 7, 14, 21, 28

Register here.

Just as with lifting, you can get better at running. It’s a skill, though most of us never give running technique a second thought as we run during workouts.

But it’s probable no one ever taught you how to run. Some of us have great mechanics as a natural gift, but others struggle and let poor mechanics make running workouts more challenging than they need to be. As you’ve noticed, we’ve been using running a great deal this spring and summer as a way to improve aerobic conditioning, and we’ve also thrown in some sprint workout to test your maximum output over shorter distances.

Can anyone catch Mike Booth? Good luck in Vegas, Mike!

Mike’s clinic in 2011.

To help you improve, we’re bringing in Mike Booth of Massage Athletica for a four-session running clinic. Most of you know Mike from workouts at CrossFit 204, but it’s worth mentioning that he won the Manitoba Marathon four times and trained in Toronto as a sponsored runner.

Mike will run the sessions like a CrossFit 204 class, with a warm-up, teaching component with skills and drills, and a workout. The sessions will be designed to help you improve your running technique and learn about pacing, racing and training.

These sessions are open to members of CrossFit 204 and anyone else who would like to come.

To register, click here.

by Mike at July 30, 2014 06:16 PM

John C. Wright's JournalJohn C. Wright's Journal

Hugo voting ends Tomorrow

Reminder from Larry Correia:

The Hugo voting ends shortly, so if you joined the crusade to combat the scourge of Puppy Related Sadness don’t forget to get your votes in.

Related — Vox Day posts his suggested sample ballot:

Myself I have no opinion on the current voting, but on the retro-Hugos, allow me to suggest:

Best Novel

  1. Galactic Patrol by E. E. Smith (Astounding Stories, February 1938)
  2. Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis (The Bodley Head)
  3. The Legion of Time by Jack Williamson (Astounding Science-Fiction, July 1938)
  4. Carson of Venus by Edgar Rice Burroughs
  5. The Sword in the Stone by T. H. White (Collins) (this is not science fiction at all, so why is it on the ballot?)

Best Novella

  1. “Who Goes There?” by Don A Stuart [John W. Campbell] (Astounding Science-Fiction, August 1938)
  2. Anthem by Ayn Rand (Cassell)

I have no recommendations concerning the other candidates, so I do not rank them.

Best Novelette

I have no recommendations here, having read none of the candidates.
Best Short Story

  1. “Helen O’Loy” by Lester del Rey (Astounding Science-Fiction, December 1938)
  2. “The Faithful” by Lester del Rey (Astounding Science-Fiction, April 1938)
  3. “How We Went to Mars” by Arthur C. Clarke (Amateur Science Stories, March 1938)
  4. “Hyperpilosity” by L. Sprague de Camp (Astounding Science-Fiction, April 1938)
  5. “Hollerbochen’s Dilemma” by Ray Bradbury (Imagination!, January 1938)

Best Editor

  1. John W. Campbell
  2. No Award

Left off ballot: Farnsworth Wright, Mort Weisinger, Raymond A. Palmer,  Walter H. Gilling. All of these were punks compared to Campbell, and Wright, despite his fine and wonderful and handsome last name, was a terrible editor, intrusive and lacking in taste. Campbell created modern Science Fiction out of a pulp sciffy space opera slush that previously existed, nearly singlehandedly.

by John C Wright at July 30, 2014 05:45 PM


A Few Words About Driscoll, William Wallace II, and Young Pastors

The Standard Driscoll pic.

The Standard Driscoll pic.

I generally don’t comment on Mark Driscoll controversies. I refrain partially because it feels like click-bait most of the time. Also, because there’s plenty of commentary on him already. Finally, because part of me still feels some sad affection for him. As a young man (like 19) I used to listen to him and I’d be a liar if I didn’t say I learned a lot and grew to love Jesus more. He was funny, he preached the Bible, and was free to download. (Ironically enough, this was the same period that I was also podcasting Rob Bell and learning from him too. Needless to say, like most 19-year-olds, I was a theologically confused young man.) In any case, though I stopped paying attention to him a long time ago, and have been increasingly saddened and frustrated at his antics, I really, really haven’t wanted to weigh in.

This week, though, even more dirt on Mark Driscoll came out beyond the aggressive church practices, plagiarism, and such.  If you haven’t already heard, apparently about 14 years ago, Driscoll used to go around on the internet commenting under a different pen name ‘William Wallace II’ or something like that. Now, he admits as much in his early book and says that under that name he was a little, well, aggressive. So, after some consideration he shut it down and moved on. Well, recently someone took the time to dig up about 140 pages of comments made by him about theology, men, women, and so forth. I won’t repeat it because you can find it on a number of sites, but I gotta be honest, even though it was 14 years ago, it’s really, really ugly stuff.

Well, what follows are a few quick reflections on the whole thing. They’re incomplete, but here they are.


First, this whole thing just makes me sad. It makes my heart sad as a younger pastor, as a Christian, and as a brother in Christ. It makes me sad both for him, and for the congregation that was dealing with that at the time. It makes me sad for sake of Christ’s church whose name is being dragged through the mud again. Both the tone and the content of what was said are things that are unfit for an elder in Christ’s Church. I’m not sure you can read that stuff with a love for Christ’s Bride without any sense of grief. Please be praying for his church, his community, his family, and for Driscoll himself. This has to be a rough last year and I hope the Lord is doing a work there.

Holy Fear 

One of the things my parents consistently warned me against as a child and young man was self-righteous pride. Whenever we saw someone involved in obvious sin, or a scandal on TV, my mom was always warned me never to utter the words “I could never do that”, but instead “Lord, protect me from that.” The reality is, because of indwelling sin, I could do that. Maybe not easily, but I’m not so far removed from that so that I could become haughty about these things. In the same vein, my dad always reminded us, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” If you find yourself cultivating anger, scorn, malice, or pride as you think about Driscoll right now, take care and turn over these things to the Lord. Without saying there shouldn’t be accountability, Paul reminds us that discipline and correction ought to be done by those who are “spiritual” and who “watch themselves lest they also be tempted” (Gal. 6:1-2).

Young Pastors and Their Words

For other youngish types in the ministry, be careful. Yes, if the math is correct, at 30 Driscoll was two years older than I am now, which means he wasn’t a kid. Still, take this as a cautionary tale. I know I am probably far too careless in ordinary speech, but now, in the age of recordings and the internet, we’re beginning to see little hints of what it’ll be like on the day of judgment when Jesus says “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” (Matt. 12:36). Nothing we write or say dies or fades away.

Young pastors, I’d suggest a few tips in this area:

  • Read and re-read Proverbs and pay special attention to what it says about wise speech. Soak in that.
  • Do the same with 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus.
  • Go find an older, wise mentor whose judgment you can defer to as a spiritual discipline of humility and guidance. Look at their speech. Model yourself after them as much as you can.
  • Do something similar with your preaching and writing models. Young types don’t need help to be aggressive, and brash. We do need models of passionate wisdom. In other words, try to find more old dudes to listen to. This is part of why I started listening to Keller instead of Driscoll and Bell. Well, that and a bunch of other stuff.
  • When it comes to your writing practices:
    • Write everything like your Elders (who presumably have some authority) could read this. Also, if you aren’t in a church where you have godly Elders who can speak to this, fix that ASAP.
    • Don’t give yourself the privilege/temptation of an anonymous online alias. It’s just too tempting. Anonymity is the death of restrained, godly speech.

Older Pastors

I’ve written about mentorship before, but please find the young ones starting out. They need your prayers, your wisdom, and your help. Desperately. To some degree the younger pastors in the Church are only as good as they were mentored. If you care about the future of, not only your church, but the Church, you’ll find someone to mentor.


This one sounds weird, but, it makes me trust God. Somewhere in the middle of all of that anger, foul language, and so forth, God managed to save a lot of people and change a lot of lives at Mars Hill. I know there are a lot of survivor stories that tell a different side to it, and the more I know, the weirder and sadder it gets. That’s a side of the story that’s real as well. Still, in the middle of it, God is gracious. God takes care of his people through it all.

Well, these are the reflections of a young man, so take them for what they’re worth.

Soli Deo Gloria

Update: Given my youth, it’s unsurprising that I have to clarify myself. So, for those of you reading this, please, please don’t take this as my total thoughts with respect to the situation, or a sign that I don’t care about the people who struggled there and so forth. I was thinking about this kind of introspectively and with regard to my own role, so, that’s kind of what shaped this.

by Derek Rishmawy at July 30, 2014 04:19 PM

The Urbanophile

Urban TED Talks

This week I want to feature a couple of urban related TED Talks for you.

First, because this never gets old, former New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan talks about transforming New York’s streets.

Second, if you don’t know the story, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett challenged his city – and himself – to lose weight. The result was over a million pounds lost. He tells the tale in his talk.

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 July 30, 2014 04:09 PM

John C. Wright's JournalJohn C. Wright's Journal

Fooled by Heinlein for 40 Years

This is a reprint of an article of mine from 2003. I bring it to the attention of my current readers. My opinions on this point have not changed:

Here is my Heinlein tale, which I pass along only to show that one’s most cherished beliefs can sometimes be revised by experience:

There is a scene in Robert Heinlein’s GLORY ROAD, where the hero, Oscar Gordon, is traveling among barbarians from some outer dimension. Their custom is to share their daughters’ love (or wives’) with traveling heroes for a night or two, in hopes of fathering good stock. Oscar the hero unwittingly offends the custom by refusing the copulate with the daughter of the local lord, his host. For this he is tongue-lashed by the heroine for being provincial, backward, rude and stupid; at some personal risk to himself, he returns to the mansion of the barbarian lord, apologizes manfully, commits orgy, fornicates with gusto, and goes on his way with the heroine on his arm, her eyes shining with admiration. This heroine is named Star; the names of the nice young ladies with whom he ruts are nowhere mentioned.

Even as a youth, I prided myself (and my pride was immoderate when I was young, I am afraid, and may not be moderate now) on being a careful and skeptical thinker. But it was not until I was 41, some three decades after first reading that scene, that I thought, for the first time, there was something wrong with the picture Mr. Heinlein paints.


What if Oscar the hero had fathered a child during his one-night stand? Does a father have no moral obligations running to a child, to love, to cherish, to protect, to see to its upbringing? The mother of Moses sent her babe off in a basket down the river because the soldiers of Pharaoh were coming to kill it; but Oscar here apparently is sending his child down the river because he wishes to enjoy a momentary sexual pleasure with an unnamed woman, and because he does not wish to offend ugly customs of outlandish people.

I look at the perfect face of my own cherubic child, and I wonder, what kind of man would let his child be raised as a bastard by strangers? If the child is a daughter, will she be sent to whore around with other wondering heroes?

If the customs of the land had demanded our hero sacrifice a captive to Tezcatlipoca, would his bitchy girlfriend have brow-beaten him into doing that, too?

The bitchy girlfriend turns out to be an Empress, and she marries the hero. I must laugh. What kind of girl would marry a man (or even give him the time of day) after he has sported with harlots? How did Clytemnestra react when her husband lord Agamemnon come back from the wars, having slept with many a golden slave-girl from Illium? She killed him with an axe in the bath. Compare Heinlein with Aeschylus. Who do you think knows more about how women really act?

For that matter, compare Heinlein with Robert E. Howard. Solomon Kane, puritan adventurer from New England, travels the world slaying troglodytes, vampires and witch-queens descended from the survivors of devil-worshipping Atlantians. He would not take off his hat for a king of Europe or Asia, or bow to an alien idol, even if he might die for his unbending defiance. Who is more the hero?

In a word, I was snookered. Skeptic that I thought I was, it did not occur to me to question the amoral, epicurean and hedonistic philosophy put across by Mr. Heinlein in his books. It seemed so much common sense. I had never stopped to wonder: would Socrates, or Cato of Utica (or Sir Galahad or Kimball Kinnison of the Galactic Patrol, or Frodo Baggins of Bag End) have done what Oscar Gordon did?

I was too young to know, and too arrogant to believe, that hedonism leads to nihilism. It is a dead-end philosophy: a hedonist has no reason to praise temperance; an epicurean has no reason to praise courage; the live-for-today libertine has no use for prudence; man who, like Oscar Gordon, says that all customs are merely arbitrary cultural constructions, and refuses to see the difference between cruelty and civilization, such a man has no sense of justice.

I assure you I was as settled in my beliefs as man can be: I had studied the premises and principles with great skepticism, and subjected the whole structure of philosophy to pitiless logic, and tested and retested every link in my chain of reasoning. But I was inexperienced. Non-Euclidean geometry is also perfectly logical, but only experience can tell you whether or not Euclid’s fifth postulate describes the world we see, or not.



by John C Wright at July 30, 2014 03:25 PM

CrossFit Naptown

Give Your Input!

Thursday’s Workout:

Skill WOD:
5 Strict T2B
5 Strict HSPU
5 Rounds

*for completion not time

2000 Row Time Trial


What do you want to read about on the CFNT Blog?

For those of you who are slightly less attentive than others, I (Anna) have been writing many of the blog posts over the past few weeks. First off, I want to thank many of you out there who have extended compliments my way for the articles I have been writing. I am so glad to hear that any of you out there find them entertaining, informative, or valuable in some way, shape, or form. Now, I want to hear from you guys what you would like to see more of on the blog. I am happy to keep blubbering on about whatever pops into my head but thought I would give you all an opportunity to throw out your ideas on what would be interesting to see and read here. Do you have questions about CrossFit as a sport or for general health? Maybe you want to read about a specific movement or workout or read about nutrition and supplements. I reserve the right to totally ignore any of your requests but (let’s get real) I can share my opinion on almost any topic you throw out there:)

If you have ideas, post them to the comments section of this blog entry or feel free to email them to to reach me privately. I may throw more posts like this out there in the future but you are always welcome to give input on blog post ideas at any time. I am excited to continue sharing with you in the future!

by Anna at July 30, 2014 02:30 PM

Zippy Catholic

Why insisting on more freedom brings about more tyranny

Modernity’s idea of freedom is based on the concept of rights.

Rights have two modalities which cannot be separated from each other. Every right has a modality of empowerment and a modality of constraint. A right discriminates between the right holder and others, empowers the right holder, and constrains others.

A simple example is that a property right discriminates between owner and potential trespasser, empowers the owner, and constrains all of the potential trespassers. But this basic structure is common to all rights.

Individual rights are a one-to-many relation in terms of modality: for every single right-holder who is empowered by a given right there are many other people constrained by that right.

Liberalism functions by a kind of sleight of hand wherein, on our freedom ledger, we are supposed to count the individual empowerment from a given right; but we are not supposed to notice the constraints it implies. As we insist on more and more freedom what happens is a proliferation of empowering rights. And behind the curtain, for every single instance of empowerment we get many instances of constraint.

by Zippy at July 30, 2014 02:11 PM


cbm: A color bandwidth meter

We haven’t seen a network monitor for a while. Here’s one from the C section that follows a very simple model.


What you see there is about everything I could make cbm do. A quick list of interfaces, their activity, their total, and a chance to see a few details. One or two controls for the display. No command-line flags other than -v and -h, and no onboard options that I could find.

If that strikes you as primitive, in light of things like ifstat or speedometer, well it is. But simplicity might be the strong point for cbm.

For one thing, you won’t need superuser privileges for cbm. You can see the activity and read the IP address, but there’s not much chance you’ll do any serious damage with it.

And as you can see above, cbm keeps a good grip on the terminal space, and will most likely fit unusual emulator shapes or panels. I haven’t tested every arrangement, but I don’t see much that would be corrupted by twisting the dimensions.

And … it’s got color. ;)

A few caveats: This was not in Arch/AUR that I could find, but is in Debian … which explains the Linux Mint screenshot. And the home page was dead, last time I tried it.

I tried to build cbm with the source available off the Debian package page, but ran into compilation errors. If you find a way to build this in Arch, let me know. It’s probably worth adding to AUR as a simple, clean, color bandwidth meter. ;)

Tagged: information, network

by K.Mandla at July 30, 2014 01:35 PM

CrossFit Naptown

Bracket Buster Reminders

Wednesday’s Workout:

Push Jerk Every 3 Minute

Skill WOD:
5 Pull Ups
10 Hollow Rocks
On The Minute 10:00



The 2014 Bracket Buster is Almost Here!

Registration for this year’s Bracket Buster will open this Sunday, August 3rd, at 6:00 pm. The event sold out quickly in 2013 and will likely go even faster this year, be sure to get your team of 4 together by this weekend to reserve your spot for the event. The registration process will include filling out information on each of the four teammates so have that all at the ready at your computer Sunday night. After registration is complete, an online qualifier workout will be released that all teams will be required to complete and submit to compete. Stay up to date on all information in regards to the Bracket Buster through the official FaceBook page!

The FaceBook page will have all updates on the event and can be used as a portal to find teammates if you are still looking for some friends to wod with! Use the FaceBook page to reach out to friends near and far to challenge them to throw down in the Bracket Buster and prove their fitness against yours.



by Anna at July 30, 2014 01:25 PM

Crossway Blog

Midweek Roundup – 7/30/14

Each Wednesday we share some recent links that we found informative, insightful, or helpful. These are often related to Crossway books, Bibles, or authors—but not always. We hope this list is an interesting and encouraging break for the middle of your week.

1. Tim Keesee writes a letter to the leader of ISIS

Dear Mr. al-Baghdadi,

Recently, you publicly presented yourself as the Caliph, the leader of a new order for the Islamic world. In your inaugural sermon at the mosque in Mosul near the ruins of Nineveh, you said, “If you see me on the right path, help me. If you see me on the wrong path, advise me and halt me.” I’ve given that offer some thought and wanted to follow up with you.

2. The Gospel Coalition reviews Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully by John Piper

The Scripture recommends beautiful words as like “apples of gold” (Prov. 25:11) and illustrates such words in genres from David’s poetry to Jesus’ parables. How welcome, then, to read John Piper’s bracing Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully, in which the former pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church reintroduces the power of “poetic effort” by considering three titans of Christian rhetoric: the poet George Herbert, the evangelist George Whitefield, and the apologist and novelist C. S. Lewis. I suspect most readers will know something of Lewis, less of Whitefield, and Herbert least of all. But in Piper’s hands, the combination of these three aptly demonstrates the value of Christians’ literary labors for the glory of God and the edification of the church.

3. Michael Patton answers alternatives to the resurrection

When it comes to the resurrection of Christ, there are an infinite number of possible alternative explanations for the development of belief in a risen Christ other than opting for the most obvious (Christ actually rose from the grave). For centuries skeptics and non-believers have offered their possibilities, but, in my opinion, they are never a probability.

4. Gloria Furman encourages us to take confidence in the wake of Easter

Sometimes when we survey the landscape of missions we feel a tremor of despair in our hearts because of either the magnitude or the complexity of the task. My own feelings of boldness come and go for different reasons, and I felt the familiar tremors of discouragement as I read the news this week.

But there is a heart-lifting truth that holds us fast in the midst of the ground-shaking wars and rumors of wars. There is one piece of earth-shaking news that our forgetful hearts need to always remember. We live in the wake of Easter. Two thousand years ago the ground shook as the Son of God died on a cross, and three days later the earth trembled again as he walked out of his tomb never to die again. Our confidence is not in our earthly circumstances, but in a Person.

5. John Piper reflects on J. I. Packer’s 88th birthday

[Packer] is not naïve. He is 88! There is no romantic idealization for the final years of this life. It will be hard. “Aging,” he says, “is not for wimps.” Some may paint a rosy picture of life after seventy. Even John Wesley, Packer observes, said that at eighty-five “the only sign of deterioration that he could see in himself was that he could not run as fast as he used to.” With characteristic understatement Packer says: “With all due deference to that wonderful, seemingly tireless little man, we may reasonably suspect that he was overlooking some things.”

by Matt Tully at July 30, 2014 01:00 PM


cdm: xdm, gdm, kdm … cdm!

Now here’s something you don’t see every day:


cdm is a display manager tied to the console. Imagine the immense savings in system resources and drive space by relegating the mundane task of display manager to a text-based tool, rather than a gob of graphical gizmos.

cdm has been around for a while — a long while really, considering it was first announced way back in 2009. That makes it rather frosty to some folks. If you can’t handle software that wasn’t written in the past three years, that’s okay with me. It’s your world.

Configuration is fairly straightforward, but might take a little effort to get aligned properly. Copy the rc file at /etc/cdmrc to .cdmrc and you can probably work on it for a while and get results.

Keep in mind that there are three different sections that will require your additions, and if the entries don’t correspond correctly, you’ll end up starting wacky stuff at the wrong time. I was wondering why I kept starting the console when I selected “blackbox and X,” before I realized I had to encapsulate the entry with quotes. You’ll get the hang of it.

cdm is terrific on a lot of points, but the best reason I can think of to use it is it reliance on dialog … and not much else. I know the AUR package lists things like xorg-xinit as dependencies, but I think if you ran a strict console-only system you could get away without those. (I have dialog installed already on my Arch system, because I use netctl‘s wifi-menu fairly often.)

The only real downside to cdm is … that it relies on dialog and little else. :???: To be honest, on a one-user, one-desktop system, I have little need for cdm, since I can just hot-wire the system to autologin and jump to X or a command prompt.

And since I gain nothing and lose nothing by adding cdm, it really only represents a small added step to the boot process. It’s terrible to say it, but in a one-man/woman, one-desktop arrangement, cdm is actually a tiny inconvenience.

On the other hand, if I used a system that was primarily text-oriented and occasionally relied on a graphical environment, or perhaps a graphical environment that was slanted heavily toward text (think: tiling window manager), then cdm is a nifty addition to an already sparse system that won’t add an ounce to your present setup.

And so we’re back to where we started: Imagine the immense savings in system resources and drive space by relegating the mundane task of display manager to a text-based tool, rather than a gob of graphical gizmos. ;)

Tagged: login, manager, security, startup, system

by K.Mandla at July 30, 2014 01:00 PM

Front Porch Republic

Rising at Night


“…and when anything needs doing it ought not to be left undone, whether it be day or night. There are occasions when a householder should rise while it is still night; for this helps to make a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” Aristotle, Economics

I wonder what occasions Aristotle had in mind.

A need to attend to some seasonal work of the household, or some repair that otherwise simply will not get done?

Staying up with an ailing child; and perhaps not administering a drug with dubious side effects?

Or getting up very early most days of the week, just to hold a job needed to support the family?

Maybe rising before others to set aside the time one needs for silence, reflection, and prayer?

Today I completed a two day visit to a Trappist monastery, where men rise at 3 AM, while it is still night. Every single day of their lives. This makes me ponder again, just what is health, wealth, and wisdom. And for what am I willing to rise, while it is still night.

Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), student of Plato, tutor of Alexander the Great, has been considered by many to be the greatest ancient philosopher. The work cited, ‘Economics,’ is attributed to him, but might have been authored by his students.

Originally posted at Bacon from Acorns

The post Rising at Night appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by John Cuddeback at July 30, 2014 12:00 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Teaching myself to prefer what’s good for me

One of the ideas I’m mulling over from this study of ancient Greek philosophy is this: Instead of using willpower to get through things you don’t like, you can learn to appreciate the things that are good for you or gradually move up through activities that you enjoy and that are a little better for you than what you were doing before.

I’ve been trying this idea in terms of exercise. Having decided that I would be the type of person who exercises, I’ve been keeping up this habit for a little over a month. I usually run with W-. He treats those sessions as recovery runs (he’s much fitter than I am and can run circles around me), and I treat them as “extra time with W- and an occasion for smugness.” I’m not yet at the point of experiencing the runner’s high, but I do feel somewhat pleased by this ability to keep up with the heart rate thresholds that should help me build up endurance. I’ve even gone for runs on my own, propelled by growing custom and the knowledge that I’m going to be able to celebrate whatever progress I’m making. Gradual progress through the Hacker’s Diet exercise ladder is fun, too.

In terms of food, I’m finally beginning to appreciate the sourness of yogurt, the peppery taste of radishes, and other things I’m still not particularly fond of but can deal with.

As for substitution, keeping a range of nonfiction books in the house means I’m less inclined to spend time playing video games. Latin and Japanese flashcards on my phone mean less time reading fiction. A file full of writing ideas means less time spent browsing the Web.

We change a little at a time. It’s good to pay attention to your changing tastes, and to influence them towards what’s good for you. Sometimes you can kick it off with a little bribery or willpower, if you use that temporary space to look for more things to appreciate. Sometimes you can encourage yourself by making better activities more convenient. Good to keep growing!

The post Teaching myself to prefer what’s good for me appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at July 30, 2014 12:00 PM

Front Porch Republic

At D-AA, A Mind in the Gutter


Ingham County, MI The guy at the hardware, the former owner now hired on, as per his arrangements, as nothing more than one of the guys, wants to know if the cops followed me into town. He was there when…

Read Full Article...

The post At D-AA, A Mind in the Gutter appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Jason Peters at July 30, 2014 11:34 AM

Light Blue Touchpaper

Privacy with technology: where do we go from here?

As part of the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition 2014, I spoke at the panel session “Privacy with technology: where do we go from here?”, along with Ross Anderson, and Bashar Nuseibeh with Jon Crowcroft as chair.

The audio recording is available and some notes from the session are below.

The session started with brief presentations from each of the panel members. Ross spoke on the economics of surveillance and in particular network effects, the topic of his paper at WEIS 2014.

Bashar discussed the difficulties of requirements engineering, as eloquently described by Billy Connolly. These challenges are particularly acute when it comes to designing for privacy requirements, especially for wearable devices with their limited ability to communicate with users.

I described issues around surveillance on the Internet, whether by governments targeting human rights workers or advertisers targeting pregnant customers. I discussed how anonymous communication tools, such as Tor, can help defend against such surveillance.

The panel discussion then moved to the “Right to be Forgotten” ruling, its impact and how US and EU laws and practice are diverging. In particular, how should the ideas behind the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act influence the availability of information on past criminal acts on the Internet?

On privacy of health data, the risks of misuse include “disaster scenarios” such as having the identity everyone’s biological parents being disclosed (including those who didn’t realise their paternity was misattributed). But that doesn’t mean that no sensitive information should ever be disclosed; instead people should be allowed to make appropriate tradeoffs balancing the risks with the potential benefits. For example, teenagers have been shown to make careful privacy decisions online despite some casual observers having previously made throw-away remarks to the effect that teenagers don’t care about privacy.

Opening up the discussion to the floor, questions included the effectiveness of privacy-preserving search engines like DuckDuckGo, which promise not to track users (but give no ability for users to verify their claims) as contrasted to Tor which maintains its security even if partially compromised. The EU Data Retention Directive (which was declared “invalid” by the European Court of Justice in April 2014) was discussed, though subsequent to this panel the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 was passed, complicating the situation further.

One potential privacy enhancing technique is obfuscation, whether though tradecraft to avoid determined surveillance or just white lies to smooth social situations. However such obfuscation is becoming harder now that there are so many sources of information which can be tied together, such as from CCTV, mobile phones and wearable computers. Such pervasive surveillance might help catch some criminals, but whose definition of criminal should be used – “one man’s terrorist in another man’s freedom fighter”?

One challenge which comes from the large amounts of data available is that extracting value is difficult, whether that is from highly structured information from media outlets or less structured information on the web or email archives. As information has many uses, its value will vary greatly depending on who is asking and its cost could drastically drop when there’s more than one company which can provide it.

A question was raised on whether social conventions will change in response to the reduction in privacy, though often social conventions are more complex than they might at first seem and they may be preserved even after the reason for their existence has passed.

Cloud providers offer advantages and disadvantages when it comes to security. On one hand they have the skills to defend against attacks far more effectively than the average business could do by themselves. On the other hand they become a far more tempting target for intelligence agencies and hackers. A further reason for the lack of trust in technology is the suspicion (now confirmed by the Snowden revelations) that the NSA has been adding back-doors in cryptography. Tor is developing ways to increase trust through deterministic builds. Researchers are also developing algorithms which are robust to flawed random number generators (one of the NSA’s favoured back-door techniques).

Overall the panel proved to be a popular and interesting session, with a diverse range of questions from the audience.

by Steven J. Murdoch at July 30, 2014 10:10 AM

Crossway Blog

5 Ways to Make the Most of Your Bible Study

WOWM - Tips and Encouragement

This is a guest post by Jen Wilkin and is part of Women of the Word Month, a free 31-day campaign designed to encourage and equip women for transformative Bible study. Learn more or sign up at

As women, we must often find creative ways to work “time in the Word” into our schedules. Depending on our life stage, we may find ourselves squeezing in fifteen minutes in the morning before the baby wakes, taking two hours on a Wednesday evening that suddenly opens up because of a cancelled meeting, or stealing a few minutes before bedtime when the day’s tasks are finally put to rest.

I’m often asked by women for tips on how to make the most of the time we have to spend in the Word. Here are five ways to make the time you have count:

1. Distinguish between devotional reading and Bible study.

It can be tempting to want our personal study time to fill our emotional tank for the day. We may rush to find an application point we can act on in whatever time we have. This may mean we limit our time in the Word to devotional reading—meditating on a passage and looking for a way to put it to immediate use.

Devotional reading is beneficial, but it is not foundational, and its benefit actually increases exponentially as we grow in our foundational understanding of the Bible. Draw a distinction between devotional time and study time. Then decide how much time you will allocate to each, based on their relative merits. Dedicate your study time to building a foundational knowledge of Scripture.

2. Remember who the Bible is about.

It is tempting to read the Bible as a road map for our lives or a guide for abundant living. But the Bible, strictly speaking, is not a book about us. It is a book about God. From Genesis to Revelation, it reveals and celebrates the character and work of God. We do gain self-knowledge, but only as we gain God-knowledge, learning to see our own character in relation to His.

Read asking “What does this passage teach me about God?” Then see yourself in relation to Him: “Knowing that God is longsuffering causes me to reflect on how impatient I am. How then should I live?” Allow application of a passage to flow from seeing God in a particular light.

3. Take a long-term view.

Think of Bible study as a savings account rather than a debit card. Rather than viewing it as a declining balance you draw on to fill an immediate need, allow it to have a cumulative effect over weeks, months, years. You may not reach understanding of a passage or be able to apply it well after one day’s exposure to it. That’s okay. Keep making deposits into your account, trusting that in God’s perfect timing he will illuminate the meaning and usefulness of what you’ve studied, compounding its worth.

What if the passage you study today is preparing you for a trial ten years from now? Study faithfully now, trusting that nothing is wasted, whether your study time resolves neatly in thirty minutes or not.

4. Stay put.

Rather than reading passages pulled from different parts of the Bible each day, choose a book and stay there. Jumping around from passage to passage can leave us with spot knowledge of Scripture. We may grow very familiar with certain passages, but we might never learn their context.

Reading a book of the Bible from start to finish helps us connect the dots of our spot knowledge into a cohesive understanding of the text. Be sure to learn the background information for the book (the who/what/when/why/where) before you dive in so that you can place it in its proper historical and cultural context as you read.

5. Pray.

We lack wisdom. Never are we more aware of this fact than when we embark on becoming students of the Bible. Pray before, during, and after your study time. Ask God to give you ears to hear. Like the psalmist, pray: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” Acknowledge your limitations, and humbly ask Him to grant you wisdom and insight as you study.

He will never refuse your request.

Jen Wilkin is a speaker, writer, and teacher of women’s Bible studies. During her thirteen years of teaching, she has organized and led studies for women in home, church, and parachurch contexts. Jen and her family are members of the Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas. She is the author of Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds.


Related Posts

by Matt Tully at July 30, 2014 09:00 AM

Video: Bible Study Q&A with Jen Wilkin (Part 2)


This Q&A with Jen Wilkin is part of Women of the Word Month, a free 31-day campaign designed to encourage and equip women for transformative Bible study. Learn more or sign up at

We recently asked readers to submit questions about Bible study for Jen Wilkin, author of Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds.

Yesterday, we published Part 1 of Jen’s response. Here’s Part 2:

Bible Study Q&A with Jen Wilkin (Part 2)
from Crossway on Vimeo.

Jen Wilkin is a speaker, writer, and teacher of women’s Bible studies. During her thirteen years of teaching, she has organized and led studies for women in home, church, and parachurch contexts. Jen and her family are members of the Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas. She is the author of Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds.


Related Posts

by Matt Tully at July 30, 2014 09:00 AM daily

Marvel Cinematic Multiverse

When I saw that Guardians of the Galaxy 2 was being made, I realized that all Marvel properties could now be made into movies, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe could live forever.

So I made a bot for it, that tweets things like -

Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 39 - Avengers 39: Pet Avengers, Squirrel Girl 14, Imperial Guard, Starfox, Champions 4

Every time I make a Twitter bot I feel bad because why am I making art (?!) on Twitter and also aren’t there real people pouring their souls out onto the internet still and I’m just excreting out the same one-line joke over and over again forever digitally.

July 30, 2014 08:00 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

In Praise of Ordinary Summers

On the last day of school I had grand ambitions for the dog days of summer: baking, painting, zoo trips, and homemade slip & slides. I think we accomplished two things before my expectations overwhelmed me, and I needed a break from summer break.

I know these Mary Poppins moms exist. I see them on Facebook successfully pulling tricks out of their bags. They’re taping racetracks on their carpet and building mazes out of refrigerator boxes—attending all the library days, the pool days, and the free movie days. They’re even wearing makeup and smiling. I see them as I’m jealously stalking their Instagram feeds. Alas, our less showy summer proves I’m no Mary Poppins.Picture by Ryan McGuire

In my home, the word summer is not synonymous with vacation. When school books close and the broken crayons and stubby pencils are thrown in the trash can, my mom duties as a concierge/cook/maid/relational coach/referee all intensify. And let me confess: intensity does not do good things for my creativity or endurance. All the pressures of the long hot days melt me like a popsicle on the Houston sidewalk.

Maybe your summer hasn’t been stellar either. Maybe you aren’t crafty; maybe you’ve had sick kids, a crammed schedule, or a revolving door of family visitors. If you’re feeling disappointed your summer hasn’t been the smorgasbord of fun you’d hoped for, take heart. I have good news, moms—you can minister to your kids and love them well even when your summer isn’t so spectacular.

Maybe instead of asking the question “Why isn’t my summer over-the-top amazing?” ask yourself, “What is my goal?”

What Is the Goal of My Summer?

Is my goal to compete? While I’m unable to top the trip to Disney World or the Grand Canyon, it’s easier for me to try to replicate or outdo my friends in creativity or commitments. But my goal shouldn’t be to competitively outdo my friends. Instead my goal should be to recognize my strengths and weaknesses, while providing for my children in the ways God has uniquely enabled me and rejoicing with my friends who do so in ways that may look different.

Is my goal to constantly entertain? I’m all for fun and having a good time, but keeping a constant go-go-go carnival of activities on the schedule can sometimes undermine other good things I hope to instill in my children. For instance, the rhythm of work and rest, and the fruit born from moderation completely goes by the boards when the activity never stops. A little fun goes a long way but a lot of fun produces demanding and entitled kiddos. Do I regularly prioritize fun experiences at the expense of important lessons?

Is my goal to impress? While I genuinely enjoy building a tent in the living room and roasting marshmallows in the fireplace on a summer afternoon, what makes me take a picture and post it on Facebook? Sometimes it’s innocent—documenting the moment or an impromptu emotional gush. But I’d be lying if I said I've never written a "look what a great mom I am” post. Am I creating things for my children to enjoy purely for their delight or because it will boost my cool-mom points?

Is my goal to disciple? Oh, that my longing to disciple my children in Christlikeness would overshadow my desires to compete, to entertain, and to impress! Serving my children requires understanding our family’s obligations, dynamics, personalities, and specific strengths and weaknesses. I don’t need a circus, a water park, or a baseball game to communicate the gospel each and every day of the summer. I can teach them God’s grace just as faithfully through dishwashing, laundry, reading books, juggling ministry events, and occasionally going to the pool. 

What Is the Hope?

While I’ve lost hope in my own creative endeavors and in my ability to dazzle my kids with daily entertainment, I am not without hope for this summer.

I hope in Christ’s ability to sustain me in the long days. I hope in the Holy Spirit’s ability to sanctify me through both the joys and the trials. I hope in the Word’s ability to renew and refresh me when I am dragging. Because of my relationship with the Savior, I am confident the details of my summer days—busy or boring—can be used to his praise and glory.

Burned-out moms, your primary goal this summer is not to make sure your children create every Pinterest craft, visit every museum, or splash at every splash pad. Don’t let burnout cause you to throw in the towel this summer. Instead, seek the Lord’s eternal treasures for your family. Store them up where moth and rust do not destroy. Toil from your couch, the sticky heat of your backyard, or the front seat of your minivan. But work for the fruit that lasts beyond this season and into eternity. May Christ be exalted despite our burnout—even in the most ordinary of summers.

by Lindsey Carlson at July 30, 2014 06:01 AM

The Brooks Review

Think Critical on Begin

Nate Barham on Begin:

Begin sees its list (rightly) in a different way. There are things that need doing today, and you’ll be reminded of those at the start of your day (or your decided time). From there, it’s your responsibility to return to the app and check those items off as the day goes on.

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

by Ben Brooks at July 30, 2014 05:54 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

The Pastor’s Kid

Barnabas Piper. The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2014. 160 pp. $14.99.

“Once a PK, always a PK. It is an indelible mark.” So says Barnabas Piper in his wonderful new book The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity. Being a pastor’s kid (PK) is something that nobody chooses, many dislike, and many more completely misunderstand. One person who gets it is Barnabas Piper. You may or may not know who he is, but the odds are good you know his dad, John Piper, who served as the senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minnesota for more than three decades before stepping down last year.

I’ve never met Barnabas, but I felt camaraderie with him throughout The Pastor’s Kid. Both of us are lifelong PKs whose pastor-dads recently stepped down from the pulpit. More importantly, each of us met Jesus in our 20s only after realizing the faith of our fathers had not been our own. I related deeply with many parts of The Pastor’s Kid, but none so intensely as Barnabas’s story of being brought to a personal knowledge of Christ as an adult after years in a minister’s home. Again, that’s my story, too, and I suspect many have similar tales. This book will meet many PKs where they are, which is what makes it a volume to treasure.

Honest, Plain-Speaking

At barely longer than 150 pages, The Pastor’s Kid is an honest, plain-speaking look at the struggles that befall children of pastors. A word of warning: If you’re looking for salacious anecdotes from the Piper household, do not buy this book. Barnabas Piper is not looking to air dirty laundry or even make sense of his own childhood. Rather, his book is an unflinchingly authentic call for pastors and churches to realize that pastor’s kids are just that—kids. They’re not little pastors or mini celebrities, but children who need the grace of Jesus to overcome the pitfalls of having public ministers as parents. 

PKs are, above anything else, normal. Piper wants us to realize from the outset that PKs are not closer to God or less prone to sin by virtue of their lineage (25). This normalcy means that PKs are in the unenviable position of participating in ministry not necessarily because of calling but because of Dad:

A child doesn’t know the call of his pastor father. All he knows is the effects it has on his life. He doesn’t feel moved to ministry, because he’s not. Yes, it is the call of the child to honor his parents, but that is not the same as a call to vocational ministry. The call of the father is not the call of the child, but the ministry of the father creates an anvil-like weight on the child. He just feels the pressure of it. Even the best pastoral parents can’t protect their kids from this. And it is this pressure, in part, that drives so many PKs to break.

Where do PKs feel pressure? Piper gives us several examples, and my experience resonated with all of them. PKs are often held to extra-biblical behavioral standards to which the “regular” church kids are not held (47). As if that were not daunting enough, church members tend to expect PKs to fall in step behind Dad in each aspect of life. Describing it as a pressure to “stay in the lane,” Piper says that expectations about biblical knowledge, interest in theology, and even lifestyle mount up on PKs and summon them to look just like their parents: “The constant pressure to be something, do something, and believe something creates enormous confusion for PKs” (60). Piper makes it clear that he’s not discussing the desire of pastors for their children to be Christians but the cultural expectation that the children replicate the parents in all meaningful phases of life.

Reading this section I remembered episodes from my own life in which I could sense the pressure. When my musical tastes began to grow discontent with contemporary Christian radio, my parents took my interest in “secular music” in stride and encouraged discernment and not legalistic avoidance. But I can recall being admonished not to share my findings with the kids in youth group, since anything I recommended would come back on the pastor as his recommendation. Though this pressure was rare in my home, church life was different. I had to be “above reproach” alongside my elder father.

Being a pastor’s kid often means having to assume an identity that isn’t real. Pressure or even just desire to not reflect poorly on the pastor can result in frustrating years. It is a sobering thing to think back on all those years of Bible drills, vacation Bible school, Fuge camps, even leading worship and realize I was phoning it in to maintain the peaceable status quo. As Piper says, PKs know the “tricks of the trade” to being the pastor’s child.

True Knowledge of Grace

The key to relieving this often hurtful life of failed expectation and outsourced identity is true knowledge of the grace of Jesus. PKs need to have their innate sense of not measuring up exploded by the reality of God’s atoning love in Christ: “Only when Jesus becomes real to a PK can she begin to figure out what she is, who she is” (74). In an achingly beautiful section Piper writes that only grace can overcome the hopelessness and loneliness faced by so many PKs (93).

Piper’s words cut to my soul since for years I knew that who I was on the inside was a gross pall on my incredibly godly dad. I too felt hopeless, doubtful that change could ever happen to one who had been given so much and done so little with it. But that was only because I was looking for my savior in the wrong places. My hope did not depend on how proud I could make my pastor-dad but on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. Once my hope met me in person and no longer by proxy, I was set free from the tyranny of false expectation and outsourced identity.

The Pastor’s Kid is a book that will hit where it hurts. But it’s also brimming with grace and light. If nothing else, every pastor should read the chapter titled “Pastor and Child.” Piper pleads with pastor-dads to be fathers first, not preachers. He writes with the tender voice of a son when he exhorts pastor-dads to find a way (at the expense of their ministry, if necessary) to identify with their kids. The pastor’s identity as a preacher or scholar is always secondary to his identity as a father.

I identified strongly with the last chapter, “PKs: What Are They Good For.” Piper closes his book by meditating on the blessings and opportunities that come with being a PK. For me, those benefits were legion: I was given an incredibly gentle and kind and loving childhood that was filled with Scripture, love of the church, and treasuring of the gospel. All of those were daily realities in my home, not just Sunday routines. Such an environment cannot save the souls of children, of course, but my home was an instrument by which my soul became more tender and more receptive to the reality of Jesus.

I should say that this book will not be of much benefit to readers looking to justify themselves, their parenting, or their bitterness toward the church. This is not a book for those eager to hear how right they were about their kids or their parents. There are no diatribes, long testimonials, or “how to” lists. Those who can come to this book with ears ready to hear will see that The Pastor’s Kid is a grace-filled call for the church to minister more faithfully to the children of pastors.

Who should read The Pastor’s Kid? It’s a must-read for PKs and their parents. It also is an invaluable guide for church members that will gently correct some misconceptions about how to minister to PKs. Piper speaks with the heart of not just a PK but a parent who is seeking to love his own children well. The Pastor’s Kid deeply stirred my memories of growing up and encouraged me to know that my feelings and journeys were not wasted.

Barnabas, from one PK to another: thank you!

by Samuel James at July 30, 2014 05:01 AM

The Outlaw Way


I have had a few people ask a good question regarding what max to go off of for the percentage work in this cycle. I’d like you all to start off with basing the percentages off of your most recent 1RM’s. However, if the weights start crushing you and/or you start missing reps, adjust your weights by going off of a 90% training max for your percentages. The reality is if you posses excellent hip mobility and bar speed on your squats you will most likely not have to adjust your weights. If you have shitty mobility and bar speed and therefore will be spending much more time under tension then you most likely will have to adjust your weights.


High Bar Back Squat: 6×3@80%


12 minute AMRAP of:

10 TTB
20 Wall Balls 20/14#
30 Lateral Jumps over 12″ hurdle (each jump counts one rep)

Note: Go hard at the beginning of the piece, then when pace tapers off complete each round UB and as fast as possible. Do not rest during rounds.

Do Work…

The post 140730 appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by John Dill at July 30, 2014 02:08 AM



Power Snatch + Hang Snatch (full squat): Max for the complex (drop first rep) – 1X1@95%, 1X1@90%

Note: This is not a “jumping jack” Power Snatch. The goal is not to pull as hard as possible and hope that your MCL doesn’t snap when you catch. The goal is to receive the bar as high as possible, but with THE EXACT SAME MECHANICS as if you were catching in a full squat. Your first missed Power Snatch of this session should be because you accidentally caught in a full squat.


1) Snatch Balance: 3RM – 3X1@95%, 3X1@90%

2) Tall Snatch: 3RM – 3X1@95%, 3X1@90%


4XME Pause Back Squats @ 80% (STRICT 3 second pause in the bottom at absolute bottom depth – NO PAUSE FOR BREATH at the top)

The post 130730 appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by at July 30, 2014 02:02 AM


Look, I’m really trying to get some observations up from the Games. But writing is hard, and it’s nearly impossible to find enough adjectives for the amount of hyperbole I am gonna use to talk about Rich. So for now you get a half…

Half an Observation Five Observations From the 2014 CrossFit Games:

.5) Rich Froning’s stealing of Mat Fraser’s chalk, and subsequent crushing of it in his hands, was the single coolest and metaphoric thing ever done by a competitive exerciser.

Lemme set the stage for those of you who didn’t witness this soul stealing event… Rich and Mat go out hard on the first few rope climbs of the sophomorically named “Thick & Quick” event. Mat falls a little off pace with Rich when he stops to grab a piece of chalk. The chalk was sitting on the front corner of his crash pad, and he’d carefully broken it and placed it there so he could grab it on the way to the barbell. Rich finishes the final rope climb with Mat about half way up. He jumps off the pad, looks back at Mat, grabs the chalk Mat had staged, and crushes it in his hands – unceremoniously destroying the hopes and dreams his closest competitor.

I don’t know, call me crazy or an asshole, but that’s just fun. I’m not sure if Rich knew he was creating a heat-of-the-moment metaphor, if Jesus told him to pick up that chalk, or if he forgot which pad was his and grabbed the nearest white powdery substance. But I do know, in my opinion, this was the first year the Games looked like a full on professional sporting event, and that’s what professional sports have – characters and drama.


WOD 140730:


1) Power Snatch: 2RM (drop first rep) – 2X1@95%, 2X1@90%

Note: This is not a “jumping jack” Power Snatch. The goal is not to pull as hard as possible and hope that your MCL doesn’t snap when you catch. The goal is to receive the bar as high as possible, but with THE EXACT SAME MECHANICS as if you were catching in a full squat. Your first missed Power Snatch of this session should be because you accidentally caught in a full squat.

2) Snatch Balance: 4X3@100-120% of max double from #1


1a) 4XME Pause Back Squats @ 80% (STRICT 3 second pause in the bottom at absolute bottom depth – NO PAUSE FOR BREATH at the top) – rest 90 seconds

1b) 4X1:00 (total) Freestanding Handstand Hold – accumulate 1:00 total hold even if broken, rest 90 seconds


12 minute AMRAP of:

10 TTB
20 Wall Balls 20/14#
30 Lateral Jumps over 12″ hurdle (each jump counts one rep)

Note: Go hard at the beginning of the piece, then when pace tapers off complete each round UB and as fast as possible. Do not rest during rounds.

The post 140730 appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by at July 30, 2014 01:15 AM

July 29, 2014

Front Porch Republic

Localist Roundup: Little Free Libraries

This piece argues that the state of religion in the U.S. can be partially explained through the decline in traditional Catholic weddings.

Meanwhile, this article describes efforts to support local textiles in North Carolina.

This piece describes the continued appeal of Little Free Libraries.

And this story tells about an engineer’s gradual realization of the unsustainability of suburban sprawl.

Lastly, ice cream bars from Walmart don’t melt. Sure, they squash some, but they don’t melt. It’s tragic.

The post Localist Roundup: Little Free Libraries appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Josiah Duran at July 29, 2014 11:58 PM

The Outlaw Way


The folks over at Waypoint Crossfit-

Handstand Hamstring Stretch 4×0:20

Static Shaping
1:30 Chin to Toes HS Hold

Skills and Drills
3×8 Arch to Hollow Swing on Bar DEMO
3×12 Snap to Hollow Wall Med-Ball Throws DEMO

The post 140730 appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by Kaitlin at July 29, 2014 06:26 PM

The Brooks Review

∞ Why Reviewing by Numbers is a Bullshit Practice and Needs to Stop

Ok, we’ve been over this before, but we will keep going over it until people listen up.

Assigning a numerical “score” to any product review is misleading at best, and downright bullshit most of the time.

The Verge in their review of the Amazon Fire Phone 1 gave the device a score of 5.9 — they then go on to show the breakdown of that score over eight categories.

If you average the score of those eight categories you get 6.875 — or decidedly not 5.9 (which is the overall score they advertise for the device). Now, The Verge does note that they reserve the right to adjust that score if it doesn’t fit their overall assessments of the device, which is odd because those numbers (in the aforementioned eight categories) are part of the assessment and seemingly should accurately reflect the written assessment, but maybe that is too logical for this level of ‘journalism’.

So instead of accurately assessing the individual categories, in a manner consistent with thier written review, The Verge just adjusts the overall score down, or up to match (one assumes) the written words.

This is kind of like passing your exam with a C, and the professor giving you a D because he didn’t like your attitude — that’s actually how stupid this numerical scoring system is when you adjust the overall score at random so you, presumbly, don’t look so inconsistent.

Let’s take another approach to this numerical scoring system, and since I have not used the Fire Phone I will take The Verge category ratings as gospel and go from there. Let’s take a weighted approach and break up the categories like so:

  • Hardware
    • Design
    • Display
    • Performance
    • Camera
    • Battery Life
  • Software & Ecosystem
  • Call Quality (Reception)

So I have taken eight categories and made them into three categories with sub-categories. Now, using my experience with phones let’s weight the value each of those categories has as a percentage of 100.

  • Hardware: 30%
    • Design: 20%
    • Display: 5%
    • Performance: 30%
    • Camera: 40%
    • Battery Life: 5%
  • Software & Ecosystem: 50%
  • Call Quality: 20%

Essentially, I am saying that Call Quality alone is pretty important (this is a phone), but the software is the most important aspect of the entire device — hardware is also important, but mostly that is because people rely on the camera so heavily.

Now, you have every right to disagree with my weightings, but let’s just look how my weights change the overall rating, so I can get to my main point here.

Taking my weightings into account, but using the scores The Verge assigned to those categories, we get an overall rating of 6.4 — so higher than what The Verge adjusted to, but lower than their straight average, but that’s based only on my weights not theirs.

Here’s what’s stupid: The Verge doesn’t tell you their weights, so you, the reader, have no clue if you agree with their values on the weights or not. Because, say you think my weights on software and hardware should be flipped, well then you get an overall rating of 6.9, so knowing how something is weighted is very important. At least with me showing you the weights you know whether or not to agree, but that’s not the case on The Verge their weights appear discretionary, which is just not good.

Let’s go back to my original weights as listed above, and apply them to the ratings for the Apple iPhone 5s from The Verge. Using my weights you get a 9.1, whereas The Verge originally weighted it 8.8 — so, what does this really mean?

There’s three things this really means:

  1. You cannot assign an overall weighted score to a product review unless you spell out your weighting, and have the same person assign category values to every product you review. Because what I assign to design will be different than what anyone else would assign to that category. The alternative to using just one person, is to use only quantifiable categories, but that eliminates some important ones like ‘build’ and ‘design’.
  2. You cannot compare the overall scores from device to device unless you know the weighting and you know that those weights are the same on every reviewed device in that category. Because what if the iPhone was weighted more towards hardware, but the Fire more towards software? I’ll tell you what: it makes the overall scores pointless.
  3. The ratings of the Fire Phone are clearly bullshit.

Let’s explore the third point.

Here’s the most telling statement of the review: “But it’s not a very good smartphone.”

Ok, so it’s not a very good phone, so the overall weighted score should reflect that (I would argue the average score should reflect that as well, but what do you expect from The Verge) and the overall score should reflect the fact that the review is mostly a long reason for not buying the phone. The Verge ranked the phone on a weighted 5.9 and by the site’s own metrics that means:

  • A rating of 5 is: “Just okay.”
  • A rating of 6 is: “Good. There are issues, but also redeeming qualities.”

Which is where this gets comical. A phone that the review just rated as “not a very good smartphone” gets a score that says: “better than ok, almost, just one tenth away, from being good.” Now I guess that could mean “not very good”, but on a site like The Verge that statement is akin to me saying: this is a piece of shit.

And using their own numbers, but my weighting, that same phone gets a 6.4 which means it is better than good. Even the un-weighted average is better than good rating.

Holy. Shit.

The Verge essentially doesn’t like the phone very much, but if you view the ratings alone one would be right in assuming that this phone is actually good.

Now we could dive through all the reviews and make this same analysis, but why bother? It’s clear the numerical scores have little to no meaning and cannot be reasonably compared with one another. Therefore making these scores completely and utterly pointless.

I don’t like The Verge, but I hate these numerical type of scores even more. And you may be thinking: “But Ben, as long as you read the review you will be fine.” Which would be true, but misleading as a generalized statement because it assumes most readers read the review, and I highly doubt that. More likely most readers skim the review, watch the video, and then view the ratings — which means they have no clue how good the phone actually is. And every one of those readers will be completely mislead as they compare those scores amongst like devices.

This is shoddy journalism, and shoddy reviewing.

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

  1. No link because: The Verge

by Ben Brooks at July 29, 2014 05:25 PM

Front Porch Republic

Rituals of Embodiedness


[or “Talking with Our Stuff,” or “Salvation by Coffee”] This spring I had to buy a new coffee mill. Facing the loss of both my electric coffee grinder and my antique hand-cranked mill, I debated about what to buy. The…

Read Full Article...

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by David J. Walbert at July 29, 2014 05:00 PM


“You Forgot Something” A Reformedish Commentary on an Orthodox Commentary on the Sanctification Debates

This is the photo Martini had. I give him credit. Also, I wanted to make sure people could link the two articles. Also, how many people actually read image captions? Show of hands?

This is the photo Martini had. I give him credit. Also, I wanted to make sure people could link the two articles. Also, how many people actually read image captions? Show of hands?

Some of you know there’s been a bit of a brouhaha over the issue of sanctification in online Reformed circles in the last couple of months. It’s what led to the departure of Tullian Tchividjian (henceforth TT, because who can spell that?) from TGC and other unfortunate online ugliness. Basically, the dispute was surrounding a number of issues like, what role the law continues to have in the life of the believer?, or how necessary is obedience after conversion?, should we focus on obeying  or getting used to our justification, and stuff on that order. Kevin DeYoung’s summary article “What We All Agree on, and What We (Probably) Don’t, In This Sanctification Debate” is probably the best orientation to the subject. Also, his follow-up piece “The Grace that Saves Is The Grace That Leads You Home.” Also, the Mere Fidelity boys and I chatted on the subject about a month ago as well.

Well, recently Gabe Martini gave what he called an “Orthodox Commentary“, as in Eastern Orthodox, on the whole debate. He opened up with a lengthy, decently fair-handed summary of the dispute between the two sides, and then offered up a sort of Orthodox alternative. Essentially, Westerners of all stripes, and especially Protestants, have their categories all goofed up because of their fixation on ‘legalistic’ concepts of merit, earning, judgment, and so forth. Because of that, there’s a tendency to swing back and forth between moralism/legalism to the tendency to question whether obedience is required at all. Instead, with the Orthodox, we should see that it is indeed required, but we need to think through the basic form that obedience takes: repentance.

And for Orthodox Christians, that life of obedience is a life of true repentance. One where even the holiest saints end their lives with sorrow: the apostle Paul as the “chief” of sinners, and St. Sisoes the Great who desired yet another day to repent.

Through repentance we cooperate with God in our transforming sanctification leading unto the deification of looking like Christ. I won’t summarize it all. Again, you can go read it here.

I have to say, all in all, I appreciated the article. Martini was remarkably fair, which is not something I see a lot from Eastern criticisms of Protestants/Western theology. What’s more, for reasons that will become clear shortly, his call to repentance was, mostly, something I could get behind. Still, I had a couple of Reformed caveats and clarifications I’d like to offer up, for the sake of mutual up-building and understanding.

Union with Christ and Reformed Salvation

unionThe first comment I’ll make, and it’s really the biggest, is to note the surprising absence of any discussion of the doctrine of ‘union with Christ’ in Martini’s article. Actually, it’s both surprising and not surprising. On the one hand, it’s not surprising because in many popular discussions of Evangelical and Protestant understandings of salvation, it’s been ignored for the last 50+ years. To some degree, when I see a non-Protestant ignore it, well, so many Protestants have that it’s hard to blame them.

That said, the doctrine of union with Christ is arguably the heart of a Reformed doctrine of salvation (including both justification and sanctification) dating back to Calvin himself, through Berkhof (whom Martini quotes), all the way through modern treatments like those of J. Todd Billings, Marcus Johnson, Robert Letham, or Michael Horton (all of whom have released titles on the subject in the last 7 years). You can’t, therefore, talk about the problem with Protestant approaches to salvation without dealing with it. It’d be like talking about omelettes without mentioning eggs. Beyond that, it was explicitly at the heart of so many of the TGC/TT debates, so that if you’re going to comment on them, it seems like a big absence.

Now, for those of you still confused as to what the doctrine of union with Christ actually is, and what it looks like in a Reformed theology of salvation, I’ll quote Robert Letham at length as he discusses Paul’s understanding of the issue:

Union and Justification

According to Paul in Romans 5:12-21, just as Adam plunged the whole race into sin and death because of their relationship of solidarity with him, so the second Adam brings life and righteousness to all who sustain a relationship of solidarity with him

If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of gracee and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. (Rom. 5:17 ESV)

Here Paul reflects on his previous statement of the one way of salvation from sin by the propitiatory death of Christ, which avails for all who believe (Rom. 3:21ff). Justification is received only by faith and is grounded in what Christ did once for all in his death and resurrection (4:25).  Paul’s point is that we are not addressed merely as discrete individuals; instead, we are a team of which we all were members. His sin plunged the whole team into sin, ruin, death, and condemnation. What Christ did for us was also done as the head of a team of which we are a part. He did it on our behalf, for us–and God reckons it to our account as a result of our being united, through faith, with him as the head of the team. Our justification is therefore grounded on union with Christ.

Union and Sanctification

In Romans 6:1ff, in answer to charges that his gospel encourages moral indifference, Paul insists that believers, the justified, live to Christ and do not give themselves over to sin.  This is because they died with Christ to sin and rose again to new life in his resurrection. Not only did Christ die and rise again for them, but they died and rose with him. Union with Christ is the foundational basis for sanctification and the dynamic force that empowers it. As Paul says, “Do you not know that as many were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death; we were buried with him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father so we too should live in newness of life” (6:3-4).

Union and Resurrection

Paul argues in 1 Corinthians 15 that the resurrection of Christ and the future resurrection of his church is one reality (vv. 12-19). Paul argues back and forth from one to the other. If Christ is not raised, there can be no resurrection of believers. If there is no general resurrection, Christ cannot have been raised himself. The two stand together. In fact, Christ has been raised–and so, therefore, will we be. Christ is the firstfruits of the resurrection of believers at his return (vv. 19-23). Not only is his resurrection first in time, but as firstfruits, it is of the same kind as the full harvest. Hence, it is the guarantee not only that the full harvest will be gathered but that both his resurrection and ours are identical. From this it is clear that the resurrection of believers at the parousia is a resurrection in Christ. The resurrections are effectively the same…Christ resurrection and the resurrection of the righteous, separated by indefinite time, are identical because the later occurs in union with the former.

Union with Christ: In Scripture, History, and Theology, pg. 5-7

Union with Christ, then, does a lot of work in the Reformed (and Pauline) view of salvation, and it’s the answer to a number of Martini’s critiques. For one thing, Martini talks about the place that double-imputation plays in the Protestant system (Christ is reckoned as sinner in our place and we are reckoned as righteous because of him), but, because he doesn’t note that union with Christ is the structure underlying traditional formulations of double-imputation, he resorts to the old charge of calling it a ‘legal fiction.’ What he misses is that in Reformed thought Christ takes responsibility for our sin on the cross as our covenant head and representative, and can really do so, because through faith we are united to him in that kind of relationship. What’s more, we can be included in his righteous status because, through union, we really are part of his body, his people. As N.T. Wright says, in biblical thought, what is true of a king is true of his people–therefore, what is true of Messiah (Christ) is true of the people united to him.

There’s more to say there, but I’ll leave it at that.

Also, you can see now how this plays into the sanctification debates. Union with Christ means that I’m organically connected to Christ and have been given the vivifying, sanctifying Spirit. I have been set apart definitively, and now, through the power of the Holy Spirit, I am empowered to chase holiness in obedience to God’s commands so that I might be continually conformed to the Image of the Son. Actually, this is the sort of dynamic that has caused theologians like Billings, Letham, etc. to note possible overlap with Eastern Orthodox conceptions of deification (as long as the proper Creator/creature distinction is maintained.)

So, ya, union with Christ is massively necessary to the discussion.


The second point is much shorter. Martini calls for a refocus on the shape of sanctification in this life, which is repentance. Now, aside from the little discussion we could have about the words ‘synergism’ and ‘cooperation’, which have their place in Reformed systems when properly understood, I don’t see a lot there that classic Protestants would disagree with. I mean, he quotes St. Isaac of Syria as saying, “This life was given to you for repentance; do not waste it on vain pursuits.”

Funny enough, St. Martin of Beeria (Martin Luther) opened up his famous 95 Theses with this line: “When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said “Repent”, He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” Though Reformed types look mostly to Calvin, Knox, Bucer, & Co. I don’t think any of them would object that statement. In fact, Calvin himself says,

“This renewal, indeed, is not accomplished in a moment, a day, or a year, but by uninterrupted, sometimes even by slow progress God abolishes the remains of carnal corruption in his elect, cleanses them from pollution, and consecrates them as his temples, restoring all their inclinations to real purity, so that during their whole lives they may practice repentance, and know that death is the only termination to this warfare.” (Institutes, III.3.ix)

Passages like that could be multiplied ad nauseum in Calvin. I mean, he was the theologian of the Holy Spirit. That some of his heirs may have forgotten this emphasis, doesn’t change the fact that this sort of thing is deeply-rooted at the heart of Reformed spirituality.

In conclusion, I know I haven’t addressed the ‘legalistic’ charge. I may some time in the future because I think it largely without merit (Eh? See what I did there?). Still, I guess what I’d like to say is, Gabe, while we probably have some major disputes about merit, grace, atonement, and so forth (and that’s okay, I forgive you), when it comes to repentance and sanctification, we’re actually not as far off as you seem to think we are.

Soli Deo Gloria

P.S. For a few more resources on union with Christ, I’d suggest Todd Billings’ book ‘Union With Christ‘, Robert Letham‘s by the same name, and Marcus Johnson’s new work One with Christ.

Also, I attribute my inspiration for this to Joel Borofsky.

by Derek Rishmawy at July 29, 2014 04:20 PM


Follow These 4 "P's" to Conduct Gospel-Centered Funerals


I’ve given two funerals in my short pastoral ministry: one for a 34 year old man who died too early from cancer, another for a 64 year old who died suddenly from health complications; the former was co-led, the latter I flew solo.

While I took a class on pastoral ministry during my M.Div. program, I wish I would have had a new ministry guide to help, called Conduct Gospel-Centered Funerals.

This compact guide by Brian Croft and Phil Newton is more than a manual for the logistics, challenges, and practical matters of leading funerals. In it they aim to help you shape these experiences to be gospel-centered.

What is a gospel-centered funeral? “Gospel-centeredness is making the gospel of Jesus Christ the primary purpose and focus of the funeral.” (14)

Croft and Newton believe planning, preparing, preaching, and performing funerals should be infused with as much of Christ and His hope of salvation as all the other areas of life.

These 4 essential “P’s” will ensure you don’t merely perform a funeral, but that you conduct a gospel-centered funeral. Let's take a look at each point in brief:


Because funerals tend to come with little advanced notice, we must plan ahead by understanding our role and recognizing important do’s and don’ts during death.

“The responsibility for the pastoral care of the family belongs to you. There are six areas of responsibility you need to consider”: (17)

  • Offer guidance and care during this significant event;
  • Offer comfort through the Word and your presence;
  • Represent Christ, the Church, and the gospel;
  • Declare the sufficiency of the gospel, which gives joy even with death;
  • Build deeper relationships with the immediate and extended family;
  • Be ready to offer long-term counsel and care.

If these sound like a lot to accomplish, that’s because they are. But Croft and Newton provide tips for navigating the challenges in these ministries.

Planning will go a long way in being organized during the chaos of death, while serving grieving families and providing a good witness in the community.


How do you prepare for such a thing as a funeral?

Thankfully Croft covers the details relating to leading a funeral service, broadly outlined around five key areas: prayer, music, Scripture readings, eulogy, and sermon.

Pray for the spouse, children and grandchildren, and friends of the deceased, that they would be comforted by God and find their hope in the gospel.

Ask the family if they have specific songs they’d like played, while also selecting songs that reflect the Savior.

Carefully choose Scripture that is gospel-centered, such as Romans 5:6–11.

One of my favorite insights from this section is about the sermon. Croft shares advice he received: “Don’t preach them into heaven. Don’t preach them into hell. Just preach the gospel for the people who are there.” (46)


At my first funeral I delivered the sermon, during which I walked through God’s Story of Rescue: creation, rebellion, rescue, and re-creation. Afterwards an older Christian woman thanked me for preaching the gospel and offering a response. She said I was the first minister she heard clearly present the gospel at a funeral service and invite people to respond. Remarkable!

Because the gospel is our primary responsibility, Newton outlines four essentials for gospel-centered funeral sermons:

The Unchangeable Character of God“When a family loses a loved one, they may feel as if the world has collapsed. They will need the calm assurance that God is still on his throne and still at work in their time of need.” (54)
Clarity of the Gospel“A gospel minister never wants to sound an unclear note when communicating the gospel message.” (56)
A Call to Respond“Clarify the gospel during the funeral sermon presuming nothing, while calling for the hearers to give attention to their eternal condition.” (57)
Exhortation to Grieve—"Ministers should encourage grief, but exhort people to grieve appropriately…” (58)

Newton offers guidance in communicating each of these points in your sermon.


In the final chapter, Croft outlines all of the details involved in performing a gospel-centered funeral.

There are the pre-service details, during which you arrive early, greet the family, and more. Then the funeral service itself, where the single goal is “Christ and his saving work are on display throughout.” Finally, the post-service details include what to do at the funeral home, at the grave site, and with the family for long-term pastoral care.

While mastering all of these details can feel overwhelming, how we educate ourselves “can determine if the platform we are given for the gospel is credible in the eyes of those we pray [for, and whether those people] will find their hope in Christ in their darkest hour.” (79)


“Funerals pose unique situations and challenges that can leave a pastor unsure how to magnify Christ in the fog of the details and demands.” (14)

But if you take seriously the 4 P’s outlined above you will amplify Christ and ensure people experience the hope of His salvation.

In other words, you will conduct gospel-centered funerals.

This overview is a small taste of the helpful advice Croft and Newton offer to help you fulfill this sacred calling during this special moment. You will be happy you added this book to your ministry tool chest, and so will your people.


Jb_headshotJeremy Bouma (Th.M.) is a pastor with the Evangelical Covenant Church in West Michigan. He is the founder of THEOKLESIA, a content curator dedicated to helping the 21st century church rediscover the historic Christian faith; holds a Master of Theology in historical theology; and makes the vintage faith relevant at

by Jeremy Bouma at July 29, 2014 03:14 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Peace Corps, Gateway to the Travel Bug: On the Road with Michelle and Jedd Chang

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

I first heard about Jedd & Michelle through a blog submission… but then I got the chance to work with them at WDS this summer. They were two of our most reliable and hard-working ambassadors (volunteers), and I loved hearing their story of serving abroad in Jamaica. Here’s more.

Tell us about yourselves.

We’re Jedd and Michelle. In 2011, we left our “real jobs” to take a sabbatical – a time set aside to experience new things, learn, and grow. After an epic road trip and house-sitting, we made the life-changing decision to serve with the Peace Corps in Jamaica.

Our time away made us realize that we didn’t have to return to a typical, career-centered life.  We believe we don’t have to wait until retirement to live our dreams. By making intentional choices, there are out-of-the-box ways to make travel a consistent part of our lives, now.


Can you tell us more about your journey from “real jobs” to the Peace Corps?

By a stroke of fate, we had the opportunity to reconsider a housing purchase and realized we weren’t ready to settle down. Jedd and I agreed that the freedom to have adventures was a greater priority than comfort and stability.

That choice completely changed the trajectory of our lives. In deciding we wanted our lives to look, and feel, completely different, we applied for the Peace Corps.

How did the Peace Corps challenge you?

Branded “the toughest job you’ll ever love,” our Peace Corps service absolutely lived up to their motto. Our experience was not always easy, but we learned a so much from living and working in Jamaica.

Some challenges were small, but we quickly learned how to squeeze into public buses, shop at the bustling farmer’s markets, wash our clothes by hand, and sprint outside to take our clothes down from the line when it rained.

Others were huge, like trying to teach in schools where resources were scarce, and almost every student had a reading level of below grade 1. But we learned to do a lot with very little. And amazingly, after two years, we saw the impact we were making. I may never know for sure how, but hopefully my students lives will be better because my involvement. I know mine is because of theirs.

Since your experience, have you continued giving back while on the road?

Yes. We signed up for a Help Exchange account on Through them, we’ve been able to look for places to stay where we can learn news skills and give back. For example, we were recently connected to a beautiful chateau bed and breakfast in the French countryside where we can do a little work in exchange for free room and board.

While you do forfeit some freedoms and luxuries, you have the opportunity to share life among a community you would never otherwise have the chance to experience. The idea is that you live at the economic level of your local counterparts and through daily life and work, promote cross-cultural understanding.

How did you earn the Frequent Flyer Miles or save the money you needed for your trips?

Early on, we paid for trips outright. I was skeptical of travel hacking at first because I associated credit cards with irresponsible spending, but I realized it didn’t have to be that way. I bought Frequent Flyer Master and became a regular visitor at

We’re building up miles through Alaska Airlines, using their personal and business cards as well as the Starwood Preferred Guest cards (which can transfer to Alaska Air). To meet the minimum spend requirements, we use the Amazon Payments method.

How many miles/points have you earned in total (and in which programs)? How many do you have banked now?

Our initial round of cards got us 150,000 points, not including the Alaska companion tickets and the frequent flyer miles we already had in our Alaska account.

The great debate: Aisle or window?

Michelle: Window.

Jedd: Aisle.

Both: Anywhere together.

Tell us something that has surprised you on your travels, or about something you learned. Or both!

As our Jamaican host mother would say, “People are people.” No matter where you go, human beings actually do share much in common. And they all deserve dignity and respect.

Have you met any fun or interesting people on the road? If so, describe an experience or two.

In Jamaica, one of our favorite bus drivers, Bodo, was well-known and well-liked in the community for his outgoing demeanor and winning smile. His bus, however, was the most rickety, unreliable vehicle on the road.

One evening, Jedd and I were caught outside in a very serious thunderstorm, 15 miles from home. Feeling desperate, we saw Bodo’s rickety bus pull up nearby. Water was coming through various holes in the ceiling and the front windshield looked like a dark, foggy waterfall. We watched, wide-eyed, as Bodo inched forward blindly along the road,

Bodo inched through the storm, dropping off each of his passengers at their front door, even if it meant leaving the regular route. He took care of all of us at a time when we desperately needed him.


Best travel tips. Go: 

Diligently research and plan ahead, but be flexible in the moment.

When you know your options, you can make informed choices while still having the ability to adapt your plans based on how you’re feeling each day.

If traveling with others, discuss in advance what your travel goals are.

Travel means making a lot of decisions together. Make sure you’re on the same page about how you want to spend your time and money in order to prevent awkward misunderstandings or arguments during the trip. Just because you’re friends with someone doesn’t automatically make them a compatible travel companion.

Where are you headed next?

Honolulu, Hawaii to spend time with Jedd’s family. A few weeks after that, a road trip through Washington, British Columbia (camping in Banff and Jasper National Parks), Glacier National Park in Montana, and Colorado. In September and October, we’ll be going to France and Switzerland.

Follow Michelle and Jedd’s travels on their blog, Simply Intentional, or via Twitter @int_travelers

by Chris Guillebeau at July 29, 2014 02:57 PM

512 Pixels


Custom Vector Allocation

(First posted to, number 6 in a series of posts about Vectors and Vector based containers.)

A few posts back I talked about the idea of 'rolling your own' STL-style vector class, based my experiences with this at PathEngine.

In that original post and these two follow-ups I talked about the general approach and also some specific performance tweaks that actually helped in practice for our vector use cases.

I haven't talked about custom memory allocation yet, however. This is something that's been cited in a number of places as a key reason for switching away from std::vector so I'll come back now and look at the approach we took for this (which is pretty simple, but nonstandard, and also pre C++11), and assess some of the implications of using this kind of non-standard approach.

I approach this from the point of view of a custom vector implementation, but I'll be talking about some issues with memory customisation that also apply more generally.

Why custom allocation?

In many situations it's fine for vectors (and other containers) to just use the same default memory allocation method as the rest of your code, and this is definitely the simplest approach.

(The example vector code I posted previously used malloc() and free(), but works equally well with global operator new and delete.)

But vectors can do a lot of memory allocation, and memory allocation can be expensive, and it's not uncommon for memory allocation operations to turn up in profiling as the most significant cost of vector based code. Custom memory allocation approaches can help resolve this.

And some other good reasons for hooking into and customising allocations can be the need to avoid memory fragmentation or to track memory statistics.

For these reasons generalised memory customisation is an important customer requirement for our SDK code in general, and then by extension for the vector containers used by this code.

Custom allocation in std::vector

The STL provides a mechanism for hooking into the container allocation calls (such as vector buffer allocations) through allocators, with vector constructors accepting an allocator argument for this purpose.

I won't attempt a general introduction to STL allocators, but there's a load of material about this on the web. See, for example, this article on Dr Dobbs, which includes some example use cases for allocators. (Bear in mind that this is pre C++11, however. I didn't see any similarly targeted overview posts for using allocators post C++11.)

A non-standard approach

We actually added the possibility to customise memory allocation in our vectors some time after switching to a custom vector implementation. (This was around mid-2012. Before that PathEngine's memory customisation hooks worked by overriding global new and delete, and required dll linkage if you wanted to manage PathEngine memory allocations separately from allocations in the main game code.)

We've generally tried to keep our custom vector as similar as possible to std::vector, in order to avoid issues with unexpected behaviour (since a lot of people know how std::vector works), and to ensure that code can be easily switched between std::vector and our custom vector. When it came to memory allocation, however, we chose a significantly different (and definitely non-standard) approach, because in practice a lot of vector code doesn't actually use allocators (or else just sets allocators in a constructor), because we already had a custom vector class in place, and because I just don't like STL allocators!

Other game developers

A lot of other game developers have a similar opinion of STL allocators, and for many this is actually then also a key factor in a decision to switch to custom container classes.

For example, issues with the design of STL allocators are quoted as one of the main reasons for the creation of the EASTL, a set of STL replacement classes, by Electronic Arts. From the EASTL paper:

Among game developers the most fundamental weakness is the std allocator design, and it is this weakness that was the largest contributing factor to the creation of EASTL.

And I've heard similar things from other developers. For example, in this blog post about the Bitsquid approach to allocators Niklas Frykholm says:

If it weren't for the allocator interface I could almost use STL. Almost.

Let's have a look at some of the reasons for this distaste!

Problems with STL allocators

We'll look at the situation prior to C++11, first of all, and the historical basis for switching to an alternative mechanism.

A lot of problems with STL allocators come out of confusion in the initial design. According to Alexander Stepanov (primary designer and implementer of the STL) the custom allocator mechanism was invented to deal with a specific issue with Intel memory architecture. (Do you remember near and far pointers? If not, consider yourself lucky I guess!) From this interview with Alexander:

Question: How did allocators come into STL? What do you think of them?

Answer: I invented allocators to deal with Intel's memory architecture. They are not such a bad ideas in theory - having a layer that encapsulates all memory stuff: pointers, references, ptrdiff_t, size_t. Unfortunately they cannot work in practice.

And it seems like this original design intention was also only partially executed. From the wikipedia entry for allocators:

They were originally intended as a means to make the library more flexible and independent of the underlying memory model, allowing programmers to utilize custom pointer and reference types with the library. However, in the process of adopting STL into the C++ standard, the C++ standardization committee realized that a complete abstraction of the memory model would incur unacceptable performance penalties. To remedy this, the requirements of allocators were made more restrictive. As a result, the level of customization provided by allocators is more limited than was originally envisioned by Stepanov.

and, further down:

While Stepanov had originally intended allocators to completely encapsulate the memory model, the standards committee realized that this approach would lead to unacceptable efficiency degradations. To remedy this, additional wording was added to the allocator requirements. In particular, container implementations may assume that the allocator's type definitions for pointers and related integral types are equivalent to those provided by the default allocator, and that all instances of a given allocator type always compare equal, effectively contradicting the original design goals for allocators and limiting the usefulness of allocators that carry state.

Some of the key problems with STL allocators (historically) are then:

  • Unnecessary complexity, with some boiler plate stuff required for features that are not actually used
  • A limitation that allocators cannot have internal state ('all instances of a given allocator type are required to be interchangeable and always compare equal to each other')
  • The fact the allocator type is included in container type (with changes to allocator type changing the type of the container)

There are some changes to this situation with C++11, as we'll see below, but this certainly helps explain why a lot of people have chosen to avoid the STL allocator mechanism, historically!

Virtual allocator interface

So we decided to avoid STL allocators, and use a non-standard approach.

The approach we use is based on a virtual allocator interface, and avoids the need to specify allocator type as a template parameter.

This is quite similar to the setup for allocators in the BitSquid engine, as described by Niklas here (as linked above, it's probably worth reading that post if you didn't see this already, as I'll try to avoid repeating the various points he discussed there).

A basic allocator interface can then be defined as follows:

class iAllocator
    virtual ~iAllocator() {}
    virtual void* allocate(tUnsigned32 size) = 0;
    virtual void deallocate(void* ptr) = 0;
// helper
    template <class T> void
    allocate_Array(tUnsigned32 arraySize, T*& result)
        result = static_cast<T*>(allocate(sizeof(T) * arraySize));

The allocate_Array() method is for convenience, concrete allocator objects just need to implement allocate() and free().

We can store a pointer to iAllocator in our vector, and replace the direct calls to malloc() and free() with virtual function calls, as follows:

    static T*
    allocate(size_type size)
        T* allocated;
        _allocator->allocate_Array(size, allocated);
        return allocated;
    reallocate(size_type newCapacity)
        T* newData;
        _allocator->allocate_Array(newCapacity, newData);
        copyRange(_data, _data + _size, newData);
        deleteRange(_data, _data + _size);
        _data = newData;
        _capacity = newCapacity;

These virtual function calls potentially add some overhead to allocation and deallocation. It's worth being quite careful about this kind of virtual function call overhead, but in practice it seems that the overhead is not significant here. Virtual function call overhead is often all about cache misses and, perhaps because there are often just a small number of actual allocator instance active, with allocations tending to be grouped by allocator, this just isn't such an issue here.

We use a simple raw pointer for the allocator reference. Maybe a smart pointer type could be used (for better modern C++ style and to increase safety), but we usually want to control allocator lifetime quite explicitly, so we're basically just careful about this.

Allocators can be passed in to each vector constructor, or if omitted will default to a 'global allocator' (which adds a bit of extra linkage to our vector header):

    cVector(size_type size, const T& fillWith,
        iAllocator& allocator = GlobalAllocator()
        _data = 0;
        _allocator = &allocator;
        _size = size;
        _capacity = size;
            _allocator->allocate_Array(_capacity, _data);
            constructRange(_data, _data + size, fillWith);

Here's an example concrete allocator implementation:

class cMallocAllocator : public iAllocator
    allocate(tUnsigned32 size)
        return malloc(static_cast<size_t>(size));
    deallocate(void* ptr)

(Note that you normally can call malloc() with zero size, but this is something that we disallow for PathEngine allocators.)

And this can be passed in to vector construction as follows:

    cMallocAllocator allocator;
    cVector<int> v(10, 0, allocator);

Swapping vectors

That's pretty much it, but there's one tricky case to look out for.

Specifically, what should happen in our vector swap() method? Let's take a small diversion to see why there might be a problem.

Consider some code that takes a non-const reference to vector, and 'swaps a vector out' as a way of returning a set of values in the vector without the need to heap allocate the vector object itself:

class cVectorBuilder
    cVector<int> _v;
    //.... construction and other building methods
    void takeResult(cVector<int>& result); // swaps _v into result

So this code doesn't care about allocators, and just wants to work with a vector of a given type. And maybe there is some other code that uses this, as follows:

void BuildData(/*some input params*/, cVector& result)
  //.... construct a cVectorBuilder and call a bunch of build methods

Now there's no indication that there's going to be a swap() involved, but the result vector will end up using the global allocator, and this can potentially cause some surprises in the calling code:

   cVector v(someSpecialAllocator);
   BuildData(/*input params*/, v);
   // lost our allocator assignment!
   // v now uses the global allocator

Nobody's really doing anything wrong here (although this isn't really the modern C++ way to do things). This is really a fundamental problem arising from the possibility to swap vectors with different allocators, and there are other situations where this can come up.

You can find some discussion about the possibilities for implementing vector swap with 'unequal allocators' here. We basically choose option 1, which is to simply declare it illegal to call swap with vectors with different allocators. So we just add an assert in our vector swap method that the two allocator pointers are equal.

In our case this works out fine, since this doesn't happen so much in practice, because cases where this does happen are caught directly by the assertion, and because it's generally straightforward to modify the relevant code paths to resolve the issue.

Comparison with std::vector, is this necessary/better??

Ok, so I've outlined the approach we take for custom allocation in our vector class.

This all works out quite nicely for us. It's straightforward to implement and to use, and consistent with the custom allocators we use more generally in PathEngine. And we already had our custom vector in place when we came to implement this, so this wasn't part of the decision about whether or not to switch to a custom vector implementation. But it's interesting, nevertheless, to compare this approach with the standard allocator mechanism provided by std::vector.

My original 'roll-your-own vector' blog post was quite controversial. There were a lot of responses strongly against the idea of implementing a custom vector, but a lot of other responses (often from the game development industry side) saying something like 'yes, we do that, but we do some detail differently', and I know that this kind of customisation is not uncommon in the industry.

These two different viewpoints makes it worthwhile to explore this question in a bit more detail, then, I think.

I already discussed the potential pitfalls of switching to a custom vector implementation in the original 'roll-your-own vector' blog post, so lets look at the potential benefits of switching to a custom allocator mechanism.

Broadly speaking, this comes down to three key points:

  • Interface complexity
  • Stateful allocator support
  • Possibilities for further customisation and memory optimisation

Interface complexity

If we look at an example allocator implementation for each setup we can see that there's a significant difference in the amount of code required. The following code is taken from my previous post, and was used to fill allocated memory with non zero values, to check for zero initialisation:

// STL allocator version
template <class T>
class cNonZeroedAllocator
    typedef T value_type;
    typedef value_type* pointer;
    typedef const value_type* const_pointer;
    typedef value_type& reference;
    typedef const value_type& const_reference;
    typedef typename std::size_t size_type;
    typedef std::ptrdiff_t difference_type;
    template <class tTarget>
    struct rebind
        typedef cNonZeroedAllocator<tTarget> other;
    cNonZeroedAllocator() {}
    ~cNonZeroedAllocator() {}
    template <class T2>
    cNonZeroedAllocator(cNonZeroedAllocator<T2> const&)
    address(reference ref)
        return &ref;
    address(const_reference ref)
        return &ref;
    allocate(size_type count, const void* = 0)
        size_type byteSize = count * sizeof(T);
        void* result = malloc(byteSize);
        signed char* asCharPtr;
        asCharPtr = reinterpret_cast<signed char*>(result);
        for(size_type i = 0; i != byteSize; ++i)
            asCharPtr[i] = -1;
        return reinterpret_cast<pointer>(result);
    void deallocate(pointer ptr, size_type)

    max_size() const
        return 0xffffffffUL / sizeof(T);
    construct(pointer ptr, const T& t)
        new(ptr) T(t);
    destroy(pointer ptr)
    template <class T2> bool
    operator==(cNonZeroedAllocator<T2> const&) const
        return true;
    template <class T2> bool
    operator!=(cNonZeroedAllocator<T2> const&) const
        return false;

But with our custom allocator interface this can now be implemented as follows:

// custom allocator version
class cNonZeroedAllocator : public iAllocator
    allocate(tUnsigned32 size)
        void* result = malloc(static_cast<size_t>(size));
        signed char* asCharPtr;
        asCharPtr = reinterpret_cast<signed char*>(result);
        for(tUnsigned32 i = 0; i != size; ++i)
            asCharPtr[i] = -1;
        return result;
    deallocate(void* ptr)

As we saw previously a lot of stuff in the STL allocator relates to some obsolete design decisions, and is unlikely to actually be used in practice. The custom allocator interface also completely abstracts out the concept of constructed object type, and works only in terms of actual memory sizes and pointers, which seems more natural and whilst doing everything we need for the allocator use cases in PathEngine.

For me this is one advantage of the custom allocation setup, then, although probably not something that would by itself justify switching to a custom vector.

If you use allocators that depend on customisation of the other parts of the STL allocator interface (other than for data alignment) please let me know in the comments thread. I'm quite interested to hear about this! (There's some discussion about data alignment customisation below.)

Stateful allocator requirement

Stateful allocator support is a specific customer requirement for PathEngine.

Clients need to be able to set custom allocation hooks and have all allocations made by the SDK (including vector buffer allocations) routed to custom client-side allocation code. Furthermore, multiple allocation hooks can be supplied, with the actual allocation strategy selected depending on the actual local execution context.

It's not feasible to supply allocation context to all of our vector based code as a template parameter, and so we need our vector objects to support stateful allocators.

Stateful allocators with the virtual allocator interface

Stateful allocators are straightforward with our custom allocator setup. Vectors can be assigned different concrete allocator implementations and these concrete allocator implementations can include internal state, without code that works on the vectors needing to know anything about these details.

Stateful allocators with the STL

As discussed earlier, internal allocator state is something that was specifically forbidden by the original STL allocator specification. This is something that has been revisited in C++11, however, and stateful allocators are now explicitly supported, but it also looks like it's possible to use stateful allocators in practice with many pre-C++11 compile environments.

The reasons for disallowing stateful allocators relate to two specific problem situations:

  • Splicing nodes between linked lists with different allocation strategies
  • Swapping vectors with different allocation strategies

C++11 addresses these issues with allocator traits, which specify what to do with allocators in problem cases, with stateful allocators then explicitly supported. This stackoverflow answer discusses what happens, specifically, with C++11, in the vector swap case.

With PathEngine we want to be able to support clients with different compilation environments, and it's an advantage not to require C++11 support. But according to this stackoverflow answer, you can also actually get away with using stateful allocators in most cases, without explicit C++11 support, as long as you avoid these problem cases.

Since we already prohibit the vector problem case (swap with unequal allocators), that means that we probably can actually implement our stateful allocator requirement with std::vector and STL allocators in practice, without requiring C++11 support.

There's just one proviso, with or without C++11 support, due to allowances for legacy compiler behaviour in allocator traits. Specifically, it doesn't look like we can get the same assertion behaviour in vector swap. If propagate_on_container_swap::value is set to false for either allocator then the result is 'undefined behaviour', so this could just swap the allocators silently, and we'd have to be quite careful about these kinds of problem cases!

Building on stateful allocators to address other issues

If you can use stateful allocators with the STL then this changes things a bit. A lot of things become possible just by adding suitable internal state to standard STL allocator implementations. But you can also now use this allocator internal state as a kind of bootstrap to work around other issues with STL allocators.

The trick is wrap up the same kind of virtual allocator interface setup we use in PathEngine in an STL allocator wrapper class. You could do this (for example) by putting a pointer to our iAllocator interface inside an STL allocator class (as internal state), and then forward the actual allocation and deallocation calls as virtual function calls through this pointer.

So, at the cost of another layer of complexity (which can be mostly hidden from the main application code), it should now be possible to:

  • remove unnecessary boiler plate from concrete allocator implementations (since these now just implement iAllocator), and
  • use different concrete allocator types without changing the actual vector type.

Although I'm still not keen on STL allocators, and prefer the direct simplicity of our custom allocator setup as opposed to covering up the mess of the STL allocator interface in this way, I have to admit that this does effectively remove two of the key benefits of our custom allocator setup. Let's move on to the third point, then!

Refer to the bloomberg allocator model for one example of this kind of setup in practice (and see also this presentation about bloomberg allocators in the context C++11 allocator changes).

Memory optimisation

The other potential benefit of custom allocation over STL allocators is basically the possibility to mess around with the allocation interface.

With STL allocators we're restricted to using the allocate() and deallocate() methods exactly as defined in the original allocator specification. But with our custom allocator we're basically free to mess with these method definitions (in consultation with our clients!), or to add additional methods, and generally change the interface to better suit our clients needs.

There is some discussion of this issue in this proposal for improving STL allocators, which talks about ways in which the memory allocation interface provided by STL allocators can be sub-optimal.

Some customisations implemented in the Bitsquid allocators are:

  • an 'align' parameter for the allocation method, and
  • a query for the size of allocated blocks

PathEngine allocators don't include either of these customisations, although this is stuff that we can add quite easily if required by our clients. Our allocator does include the following extra methods:

    virtual void*
            void* oldPtr,
            tUnsigned32 oldSize,
            tUnsigned32 oldSize_Used,
            tUnsigned32 newSize
            ) = 0;
// helper
    template <class T> void
            T*& ptr,
            tUnsigned32 oldArraySize,
            tUnsigned32 oldArraySize_Used,
            tUnsigned32 newArraySize
        ptr = static_cast<T*>(expand(
            sizeof(T) * oldArraySize,
            sizeof(T) * oldArraySize_Used,
            sizeof(T) * newArraySize

What this does, essentially, is to provide a way for concrete allocator classes to use the realloc() system call, or similar memory allocation functionality in a custom head, if this is desired.

As before, the expand_Array() method is there for convenience, and concrete classes only need to implement the expand() method. This takes a pointer to an existing memory block, and can either add space to the end of this existing block (if possible), or allocate a larger block somewhere else and move existing data to that new location (based on the oldSize_Used parameter).

Implementing expand()

A couple of example implementations for expand() are as follows:

// in cMallocAllocator, using realloc()
        void* oldPtr,
        tUnsigned32 oldSize,
        tUnsigned32 oldSize_Used,
        tUnsigned32 newSize
        assert(oldSize_Used <= oldSize);
        assert(newSize > oldSize);
        return realloc(oldPtr, static_cast<size_t>(newSize));
// as allocate and move
        void* oldPtr,
        tUnsigned32 oldSize,
        tUnsigned32 oldSize_Used,
        tUnsigned32 newSize
        assert(oldSize_Used <= oldSize);
        assert(newSize > oldSize);
        void* newPtr = allocate(newSize);
        memcpy(newPtr, oldPtr, static_cast<size_t>(oldSize_Used));
        return newPtr;

So this can either call through directly to something like realloc(), or emulate realloc() with a sequence of allocation, memory copy and deallocation operations.

Benchmarking with realloc()

With this expand() method included in our allocator it's pretty straightforward to update our custom vector to use realloc(), and it's easy to see how this can potentially optimise memory use, but does this actually make a difference in practice?

I tried some benchmarking and it turns out that this depends very much on the actual memory heap implementation in use.

I tested this first of all with the following simple benchmark:

template <class tVector> static void
PushBackBenchmark(tVector& target)
    const int pattern[] = {0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7};
    const int patternLength = sizeof(pattern) / sizeof(*pattern);
    const int iterations = 10000000;
    tSigned32 patternI = 0;
    for(tSigned32 i = 0; i != iterations; ++i)
        if(patternI == patternLength)
            patternI = 0;

(Wrapped up in some code for timing over a bunch of iterations, with result checking to avoid the push_back being optimised out.)

This is obviously very far from a real useage situation, but the results were quite interesting:

OS container type time
Linux std::vector 0.0579 seconds
Linux cVector without realloc 0.0280 seconds
Linux cVector with realloc 0.0236 seconds
Windows std::vector 0.0583 seconds
Windows cVector without realloc 0.0367 seconds
Windows cVector with realloc 0.0367 seconds

So the first thing that stands out from these results is that using realloc() doesn't make any significant difference on windows. I double checked this, and while expand() is definitely avoiding memory copies a significant proportion of the time, this is either not significant in the timings, or memory copy savings are being outweighed by some extra costs in the realloc() call. Maybe realloc() is implemented badly on Windows, or maybe the memory heap on Windows is optimised for more common allocation scenarios at the expense of realloc(), I don't know. A quick google search shows that other people have seen similar issues.

Apart from that it looks like realloc() can make a significant performance difference, on some platforms (or depending on the memory heap being used). I did some extra testing, and it looks like we're getting diminishing returns after some of the other performance tweaks we made in our custom vector, specifically the tweaks to increase capacity after the first push_back, and the capacity multiplier tweak. With these tweaks backed out:

OS container type time
Linux cVector without realloc, no tweaks 0.0532 seconds
Linux cVector with realloc, no tweaks 0.0235 seconds

So, for this specific benchmark, using realloc() is very significant, and even avoids the need for those other performance tweaks.

Slightly more involved benchmark

The benchmark above is really basic, however, and certainly isn't a good general benchmark for vector memory use. In fact, with realloc(), there is only actually ever one single allocation made, which is then naturally free to expand through the available memory space!

A similar benchmark is discussed in this stackoverflow question, and in that case the benefits seemed to reduce significantly with more than one vector in use. I hacked the benchmark a bit to see what this does for us:

template <class tVector> static void
PushBackBenchmark_TwoVectors(tVector& target1, tVector& target2)
    const int pattern[] = {0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7};
    const int patternLength = sizeof(pattern) / sizeof(*pattern);
    const int iterations = 10000000;
    tSigned32 patternI = 0;
    for(tSigned32 i = 0; i != iterations; ++i)
        if(patternI == patternLength)
            patternI = 0;
template <class tVector> static void
PushBackBenchmark_ThreeVectors(tVector& target1, tVector& target2, tVector& target3)
    const int pattern[] = {0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7};
    const int patternLength = sizeof(pattern) / sizeof(*pattern);
    const int iterations = 10000000;
    tSigned32 patternI = 0;
    for(tSigned32 i = 0; i != iterations; ++i)
        if(patternI == patternLength)
            patternI = 0;

With PushBackBenchmark_TwoVectors():

OS container type time
Linux std::vector 0.0860 seconds
Linux cVector without realloc 0.0721 seconds
Linux cVector with realloc 0.0495 seconds

With PushBackBenchmark_ThreeVectors():

OS container type time
Linux std::vector 0.1291 seconds
Linux cVector without realloc 0.0856 seconds
Linux cVector with realloc 0.0618 seconds

That's kind of unexpected.

If we think about what's going to happen with the vector buffer allocations in this benchmark, on the assumption of sequential allocations into a simple contiguous memory region, it seems like the separate vector allocations in the modified benchmark versions should actually prevent each other from expanding. And I expected that to reduce the benefits of using realloc. But the speedup is actually a lot more significant for these benchmark versions.

I stepped through the benchmark and the vector buffer allocations are being placed sequentially in a single contiguous memory region, and do initially prevent each other from expanding, but after a while the 'hole' at the start of the memory region gets large enough to be reused, and then reallocation becomes possible, and somehow turns out to be an even more significant benefit. Maybe these benchmark versions pushed the memory use into a new segment and incurred some kind of segment setup costs?

With virtual memory and different layers of memory allocation in modern operating systems, and different approaches to heap implementations, it all works out as quite a complicated issue, but it does seem fairly clear, at least, that using realloc() is something that can potentially make a significant difference to vector performance, in at least some cases!

Realloc() in PathEngine

Those are all still very arbitrary benchmarks and it's interesting to see how much this actually makes a difference for some real uses cases. So I had a look at what difference the realloc() support makes for the vector use in PathEngine.

I tried our standard set of SDK benchmarks (with common queries in some 'normal' situations), both with and without realloc() support, and compared the timings for these two cases. It turns out that for this set of benchmarks, using realloc() doesn't make a significant difference to the benchmark timings. There are some slight improvements in some timings, but nothing very noticeable.

The queries in these benchmarks have already had quite a lot of attention for performance optimisation, of course, and there are a bunch of other performance optimisations already in the SDK that are designed to avoid the need for vector capacity increases in these situations (reuse of vectors for runtime queries, for example). Nevertheless, if we're asking whether custom allocation with realloc() is 'necessary or better' in the specific case of PathEngine vector use (and these specific benchmarks) the answer appears to be that no this doesn't really seem to make any concrete difference!

Memory customisation and STL allocators

As I've said above, this kind of customisation of the allocator interface (to add stuff like realloc() support) is something that we can't do with the standard allocator setup (even with C++11).

For completeness it's worth noting the approach suggested by Alexandrescu in this article where he shows how you can effectively shoehorn stuff like realloc() calls into STL allocators.

But this does still depends on using some custom container code to detect special allocator types, and won't work with std::vector.


This has ended up a lot longer than I originally intended so I'll go ahead and wrap up here!

To conclude:

  • It's not so hard to implement your own allocator setup, and integrate this with a custom vector (I hope this post gives you a good idea about what can be involved in this)
  • There are ways to do similar things with the STL, however, and overall this wouldn't really work out as a strong argument for switching to a custom vector in our case
  • A custom allocator setup will let you do some funky things with memory allocation, if your memory heap will dance the dance, but it's not always clear that this will translate into actual concrete performance benefits

A couple of things I haven't talked about:

Memory fragmentation: custom memory interfaces can also be important for avoiding memory fragmentation, and this can be an important issue. We don't have a system in place for actually measuring memory fragmentation, though, and I'd be interested to hear how other people in the industry actually quantify or benchmark this.

Memory relocation: the concept of 'relocatable allocators' is quite interesting, I think, although this has more significant implications for higher level vector based code, and requires moving further away from standard vector usage. This is something I'll maybe talk about in more depth later on..

** Comments: Please check the existing comment thread for this post before commenting. **

by Thomas Young at July 29, 2014 02:42 PM


God’s Very Verbal Word in the Words of Jeremiah

Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” -Jeremiah 1:9-10

mouth full of fireI’ve written before about the appropriateness of speaking of the Bible as the “Word of God” even though Jesus is referred to as the the Word as well. I was reminded of the discussion as I began Andrew Shead’s new study on the “word” theology of the book of Jeremiah A Mouth Full of Fire. I’m only in second chapter so far, but already Shead’s been making a compelling case that the whole book is structured around the story of the “word of the Lord” that comes to Jeremiah the prophet.

At the beginning of his exploration of the usage of various forms of the word “word”, Shead opens with a helpful comment for those involved in the task of theological exploration and biblical exposition: should be remembered that Jeremiah’s words were ordinary human ones. The notion that human language can be an adequate vehicle for the divine word is a bone of contention among theologians, and yet the remarkable implication of the book’s opening paragraph  is that the inescapable imprecision of human language does not prevent it from conveying the word of God. This impression is only strengthened by the striking imagery of Jeremiah 1:9, towards the end of the prophet’s call narrative: ‘Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth. The Lord said to me, “I have just put my words in your mouth.”‘ Clearly, it was not merely a general message that Jeremiah received. we can safely conclude that the message from God came to Jeremiah in words. To put it in theological terms, this act of revelation is verbal.

-A Mouth Full of Fire: The Word of God in the Words of Jeremiah, pg. 54

This observation about the passage in Jeremiah (and the theology of the book as a whole) is important for a number of reasons, the first of which is that it acts as a helpful counter-measure to an over-weening skepticism about theological language. Theologians are constantly falling into one of two errors: the first is an over-confidence in the ability of human language to capture the essence of God in human language that fails to forget the finite and fallen character of our speech of God. The other is the sort of agnosticism that comes in and says we can’t know anything at all about God because our human conceptions and speech are so far distant, none of our words can apply to him.

That second option sounds humbling to human speech at first, but it inadvertently makes too little of God the Speaker. Indeed, this passage reminds us that human finiteness and fallenness are not the ultimate reality, or last word, so to speak, when it comes to God’s words. It’s not so much a question of whether small, weak, human words can capture the divine holiness within them. The question is whether God can, in his omnipotence, grace, and condescension, put his own words into human speech. While we would do well to have a more complex account of God’s revelation and speech than a simplistic “divine dictation theory”, Jeremiah’s prophecy stands as a warning for us to hold off from scoffing too loudly at the idea that God could, or would, take the time to “dictate” a message for his people. Certainly we shouldn’t let that lead us to the conclusion that the words of Scripture are inherently the sort of thing that can’t be identified with God’s own word.

I’ll give the last word to Vanhoozer again:

Those who would be honest to God must strive to avoid both pride and sloth in their God-talk. Theological pride overestimates the adequacy of human language and thought; theological sloth underestimates the importance of responding to the provocations of God’s self-revelation. The one goes before destruction; the other pre-empts instruction. Yet it is hard to miss the recurring biblical theme that God wills to communicate and make himself known: “The word of the Lord came to . . .”; “the Lord said . . .”. Theology is ultimately irresponsible if it fails either to attend to what God says or to think about the nature of the one who addresses us.

–Kevin Vanhoozer, Remythologizing Theology, pg. xvi

Soli Deo Gloria

by Derek Rishmawy at July 29, 2014 02:31 PM

CrossFit Naptown

Another Round of Thank Yous

Tuesday’s Workout:

“Tabata Everything”
:20 work :10 rest x 8 rounds
Air Squats
1:00 rest
Push Press (65/45)
1:00 rest
Jumping Lunges
1:00 rest
Push Ups
1:00 rest
Overhead Squat (65/45)

*score total reps


The Community That Keeps Us Going:

The CrossFit Games have come and gone faster than any of us imagined possible. The four days of competition were full of ups and downs and some of the hardest workouts we have ever faced. Through it all, we were cheered on from near and far by the amazing community we have here at CrossFit NapTown. From the very start of this journey, we have received nothing but support and kind words from our members. From watching the Games at home and sending words along to making the trip out there with us, from helping us raise the money to get to California to sending us for with well wishes, from cheering us on at regionals to the earliest stages of the open. You were there and supported us through all of those big moments. Even more importantly, you helped us get through all of the little moments. The day-to-day minutia, cheering us on during training sessions and checking up on us when we were beat up and inspiring us every day with your won hard work and accomplishments. Many people reached out to us this weekend, sending us congratulations and letting us know that we inspire them. It is truly an honor to hear those words. It is the community of CrossFit that fuels us to new heights. I watch members every day achieve incredible feats that help to fuel my training and to be able to give back in that same manner is truly my goal. Thank you all for the support every step of the way. The 2014 season may be over, but I am confident that the CFNT community is not done inspiring each other and changing lives. Keep being awesome!



by Anna at July 29, 2014 02:30 PM

The Outlaw Way



1) 3 Position Clean (Floor, Hang, Power Position – do not drop bar) + 1 Jerk (after Clean complex): Max for the complex + Jerk – 1X1@95%, 1X1@90%

2) Jerk from blocks: 3RM – 3X1@95%, 3X1@90%


Paused Clean Pull (3 count pause at knee): 5X3 – heaviest possible


1a) 3X8 Bench Press – heaviest possible w/ no pause or loss of speed

1b) 3X8 Jumping Good Mornings – heaviest possible DEMO VIDEO

The post 140729 appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by at July 29, 2014 12:27 PM


cloc: Clock your code

Line-counting utilities are not a new thing for K.Mandla; there have been a few of these available for a while. codemetre comes to mind, as does sloccount. Even wc could fit in that category.

Here’s cloc:


cloc has a couple of features I like. For one, cloc can work straightaway on a compressed file. You don’t need to extract an archive before cloc does its thing; cloc will handle the decompression automatically. And if it runs into trouble, you can assert your biological superiority and tell it which decompresser to use.

cloc also has some built-in diff tools, which might not sound like a wonderful idea at first. What that means though, is that it can look for differences between versions of programs, and report on those. This might be useful if you have an axe to grind with a developer. >:(

And cloc carries a lot of filtering options, on everything from regex strings to specific programming languages to hidden Windows files. That might have saved me a little time when counting lines in the 3.15.6 kernel, above. :|

The sad part of this little exposé is that I have so very, very little coding ability that cloc (or for that matter, codemetre or sloccount) isn’t something I’ll likely use. Unless, of course, I’m counting lines of text in a smarmy blog. ^^’

Tagged: code, count, lines

by K.Mandla at July 29, 2014 12:15 PM

The Urbanophile

Why Do We Care About Mode Share? by Daniel Hertz

[ Daniel Hertz of City Notes fame takes a look at the debate over mode share - Aaron. ]

The New York Times ran an op-ed the other day that helpfully demonstrated the pitfalls of lifestyle arguments in favor of urbanism, namely that they are annoying to everyone but the people making the argument.

The boys, like their father, are lean, strong and healthy. Their parents chose to live in New York, where their legs and public transit enable them to go from place to place efficiently, at low cost and with little stress (usually). They own a car but use it almost exclusively for vacations.

“Green” commuting is a priority in my family. I use a bicycle for most shopping and errands in the neighborhood, and I just bought my grandsons new bicycles for their trips to and from soccer games, accompanied by their cycling father.

These arguments – whether they’re about physical health, or “diverse” or “vibrant” or “creative” communities, or whatever else – are, at bottom, about telling people that they are lacking, and that in order to improve themselves they should become more like the author. In the 1970s, when city dwellers felt superior mainly because of their supposed cultural capital and were telling middle-class suburbanites to loosen up a little, that might have been obnoxious but harmless. In our current situation – when the city dwellers making these arguments are the economic elite (the author of this particular piece, Jane Brody, lives in gentrified brownstone Brooklyn, I believe) – it’s a lot more sinister. Brody talks about commutes as if their length and form were something that most people could freely choose, rather than something imposed upon them by their wages and the price of housing and form of development of their metropolitan area. She makes this a story about personal morality, rather than the constraints we choose to put on people through public policy.

This is related, I think, to the study about mode share in U.S. cities that got passed around the urbanist blogosphere recently. In virtually every instance, the study was presented like a sports power ranking, with the winning cities being those with the least travel by car (“city of Chicago ranks sixth among large U.S. cities for percentage of people either biking, walking, or riding transit,” is a typical formulation of the lede).

But why, exactly, do we care about mode share? The pettiest possible answer is that we do conceive of cars v. transit/biking as a sort of culture war, just like many committed drivers have alleged, and what percentage of people choose to drive or do something else is how we measure whether or not we are winning. This, clearly, is not a particularly edifying possibility. A better answer might be that we really do want everyone else to be more like us – to reap the benefits of non-car commuting, from being healthier (although, contra Brody, I spent my subway commute today scarfing down a pound of spaghetti) to polluting less – and this tells us how many people are enjoying those perks.

That’s much more reasonable, but still problematic in that, like the Times piece, it strongly implies that the issue is individual choice, rather than the circumstances that constrain that choice. The people who write for places like Streetsblog know that circumstances matter, but for the casual reader, articles about mode share makes those issues a sort of specialists’ background.

That’s too bad, because mode share does convey some important information about constraints. If we assume that, allowing for some cultural margin of error, most people will choose to get to work via whatever method they find most efficient and comfortable, then we can determine roughly what percentage of people in any given city have decent access to transit – access that’s at least in the same ballpark of convenience as driving – just by looking at what percentage of people actually use it. Obviously there are complications to this: since one major inconvenience of driving is cost, cities with high poverty rates may have mode shares that exaggerate their transit’s effectiveness, for example. And since transportation choice is basically zero-sum on an individual basis – that is, all that matters is the relative efficiency of each mode – you could get a lot of people on transit by making driving truly hellish, without providing decent service. (Although in the American context, I think there are vanishingly few places where that would be an issue.)

Moreover, if we care about mode share as a proxy for service effectiveness, then beyond a certain point – say, a quarter, a third, whatever, of commuters – you’re kind of done. It doesn’t really matter. If New York City, with one of the most comprehensive transit systems in the world, can only get 50% of its commuters on buses and trains, then surely most of the distinction between it and, say, Asian cities with much higher transit mode shares isn’t the quality of their systems (although they may be of higher quality), but the increased misery of driving in ever-denser places. The issue stops being whether we can get from 40% to 45%, but whether subregions of the metropolitan area have strongly varying mode shares, suggesting that you can only get decent access to transit if you live in the right place. And, of course, that is in fact the case.

But if what really matters is service levels and access – if what we’re trying to accomplish is giving everyone a level of service where transit is a viable option, for reasons outlined here – then why not just measure that directly? Why not have widely-disseminated statistics about the percentage of people in every metropolitan region who can walk to a transit stop? Or make a bigger deal about the number of people who can reach some given percentage of metro area jobs via transit in a reasonable time frame? I almost never see those numbers in urbanist conversations, and to the extent that I do, they’re sort of ghettoized into the “social justice” urbanist subculture.

But these seem like relevant numbers for “mainstream” urbanists, too. In fact, they seem a lot better than mode share. Generalized public arguments in favor of transit projects are more likely to benefit from language that suggests they’ll provide options, rather than language that suggests the ultimate goal of the policy is to force people out of their cars. Because, in fact, that’s what public policy should be about: making transportation easier for more people, rather than moralizing about the perfectly legitimate choices that people make, given their circumstances.

This post originally appeared in City Notes on November 11, 2013.

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 July 29, 2014 12:09 PM


column: With oddly satisfying results

I’m going to stick to the C section for a day or two, and hopefully whittle down the disproportionate number of titles I have listed there. I’m not sure why, but it seems that between October of last year and now, I managed to collect 30+ titles in the C section alone. And it hasn’t helped that ls vimwiki/ | shuf -n1 kept pulling stuff from outside that band.

column is on the list, and is something I use on a weekly, if not daily basis. Here’s column, in its most daring escapade yet: :roll:


And the attraction should be immediate. If we’re going to talk about tools that improve readability, column needs to be at the top of the list. Even when combined with yesterday’s deluge of colorificated diff tools, column makes things better.


It’s not always perfect, but I have a feeling that the escape sequences used to trigger colors might interfere with the final results. No major loss.

The point is that column, by default, and especially when used in conjunction with the -t flag, is going to be a real improvement for scanning lists of data and finding corresponding entries. Keep that in mind next time you’re working with csv files.

column takes very few options, and in general they are only affect how the rows and columns are generated, or determining display width. You won’t find a whole lot of frills with column, even if it does amazing work.

I know what you’re thinking at this point: You’re imagining that a utility as simple and cool as this could only come from one place — coreutils. Surprise: This appears in util-linux in Arch, and bsdutils in Debian. :shock: O_o Why? IDK. IANADD. :D

Tagged: adjust, display, format, text

by K.Mandla at July 29, 2014 12:00 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

What’s in your handbook?

Ancient philosophy was designed to be memorized, so that it could be “at hand” when we are confronted with tumultuous situations like the one Stockdale found himself in. … The students wrote these maxims down in their handbook, memorized them, repeated them to themselves, and carried them around–that’s the point of a handbook, so the teachings are procheiron, or “close at hand.”

Philosophy for Life and other Dangerous Situations, Jules Evans (2013) – p116

Oh! Hence handbook – something small that you carry with you to guide your actions or remember principles when the craziness of life messes up your mind. This got me thinking about what might be the beginnings of my handbook: the little ideas that run through my life. Here are some.

  • Happiness is a response. Happiness isn’t something you buy or pursue, nor is it something that happens to you or that someone gives to you. This feeling of well-being comes from how you decide to respond to the world.
  • It’s just stuff. A common refrain when we’re donating things to the thrift store, passing up on purchases, cleaning up after something breaks, and so on.
  • It is what it is. Work with it.
  • Life is short. Before, nothingness. After, nothingness. We know people for such a short time. This is okay; in fact, it makes life sweeter.
  • Life is long. There’s lots of things to learn, and you’re going to run into similar situations again and again. You don’t need to sweat over making the absolute best decisions, since you’ll probably be able to try out different options. Still, giving things a little thought helps, because you can reap the benefits over time.
  • “Enough” is in the mind. You have enough.
  • Celebrate small steps. Because they’re fun!
  • Everything is part of the story. Especially the tough parts. They make the story interesting.
  • Build on your strengths. Situations can often be transformed into similar situations that take advantage of your strengths instead of hitting your weaknesses. Likewise, you can translate your strengths into new ones.
  • See the third way. When you think something is the only way, or when you’re stuck with the dilemma of one or another, step back and see even more approaches. You don’t have to accept the way the problem is framed; look for creative solutions.
  • Choose what to assent to. Be careful about what you let into your brain. For example, just because advertising is compelling doesn’t mean you have to be compelled.
  • It’s okay to be weird. Life is a grand experiment. If you zig when other people zag, you might feel weird, but don’t worry – there are lots of people zigging in the grand scheme of things, too.
  • Everyone’s learning. Everyone messes up. Everyone has bad days. Everyone has awesome moments. Practise loving kindness.
  • Share. Your memory is fuzzy and life is short. Get things out of your head and in a form that might help other people, and you could be pleasantly surprised by how it comes back.
  • A safety net helps you fly. It’s worth weaving a strong net so that you can take risks.
  • Everything will be okay. Things always work out, although sometimes it takes some time, action, or perspective.
  • Cats will be cats. There is no point in getting upset over out-of-the-litter-box thinking, throwing up, etc. Just tidy up and enjoy the purring and the fluffy cat-ness. The same can be said of much of life.
  • How wonderful can it be? Let that be your guiding question. Make life better.

Ask me again in five years and I’ll probably have added a few more. What’s in your handbook?

The post What’s in your handbook? appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at July 29, 2014 12:00 PM

Greg Mankiw's Blog

April 16, 2013

City Gallery Blog

City Gallery Book Discussion Series

Ever since college, I have fantasized about the stacks of books that I would conquer during my free time post-graduation.  I imagined delving into the literary works of art that my twenty hour collegiate workload had not allowed for.  Works like One Hundred Years of Solitude, Anna Karenina, Seven Years in Tibet, Jayber Crow; the […]

by cgindy at April 16, 2013 04:10 PM

July 29, 2014

Crossway Blog

Video: Bible Study Q&A with Jen Wilkin (Part 1)


This Q&A with Jen Wilkin is part of Women of the Word Month, a free 31-day campaign designed to encourage and equip women for transformative Bible study. Learn more or sign up at

We recently asked readers to submit questions about Bible study for Jen Wilkin, author of Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds.

Today is Part 1 of Jen’s response to some of your questions:

Bible Study Q&A with Jen Wilkin (Part 1)
from Crossway on Vimeo.

Watch Part 2!

Jen Wilkin is a speaker, writer, and teacher of women’s Bible studies. During her thirteen years of teaching, she has organized and led studies for women in home, church, and parachurch contexts. Jen and her family are members of the Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas. She is the author of Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds.


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by Matt Tully at July 29, 2014 09:00 AM

4 Tips for Memorizing God’s Word

WOWM - Tips and Encouragement

This is a guest post by Gloria Furman and is part of Women of the Word Month, a free 31-day campaign designed to encourage and equip women for transformative Bible study. Learn more or sign up at

The Truth

Whether you feel like you are wandering aimlessly through life in a misty fog, or the sandy foundation you thought was firm is currently being blown to a billion pieces, or you are confident that you are grounded on an unshakeable rock, you need to be reminded of the Truth. We all do.

God is Truth and he speaks truth only. He was pleased to breathe out his holy Scripture and his Word carries with it his incontestable authority. It is impossible to have too high of a regard for the Bible.

With such faith-full convictions like these, it’s no wonder that Bible memory is such a yearned-for spiritual discipline. And with such a distraction-saturated world like the one we live in, it’s no wonder that Bible memory so often eludes us.

But what if we flipped our so-called distractions on their head like a preschooler turning somersaults and focused on how these things can actually serve us in our Bible memory efforts?

1. Pray It

Are you faced with a situation that grieves you? Circumstances that frustrate you to no end? Things that make you feel like there’s no point to life? Seize the opportunity to pray through the Scripture that you have memorized. Pray the words that the Spirit divinely authored. You never know when those verses you have memorized will lead you to prayer, comfort you as you pray, and instruct you in your prayers as the Lord intended them to do.

2. Announce It

How many times have you had an opportunity to share the gospel and felt frustrated by a loss for words? When we memorize verses about the gospel, we will become better prepared to announce the gospel. Since faith comes through hearing and hearing through the word of Christ, we can take seemingly outlandish confidence that the verses we have memorized explicitly concerning the Good News (and other verses!) will be of unparalleled benefit to our hearers. Taking opportunities to announce the gospel as the Spirit leads also drives God’s Word deeper into our own hearts.

3. Sing It

Do you need to hear something that is “music to your soul”? There are hundreds of verses in the Bible that were written so God’s people could sing them. Some modern musicians have even put lots of other verses to music in really enjoyable arrangements. On one memorable day this year, God steadied my heart as I sang with my kids in the car, “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name” (Ps. 86:11). Singing Scripture on different occasions is one more way that our circumstances can serve our Scripture memory.

4. Teach It

Scripture doesn’t “come alive” when it is skillfully taught because it already is “living and active” (Heb. 4:12). God’s Word is what makes us come alive! Dive deep into the study of the Bible and talk about what you’re learning with other women, and see how the God’s Word gets stamped indelibly on your own heart. When we take the passages we’ve memorized and explain them to others, defend them to skeptics, and talk about how we are applying them to our lives, the Word not only edifies those who listen, but it also works in us.

Instead of drawing us away from remembering what God has said in the Bible, we can see our circumstances as gifts to help us store up his Word in our hearts.

Gloria Furman is a wife, mother of four young children, doula, and blogger. In 2008 her family moved to the Middle East to plant Redeemer Church of Dubai where her husband, Dave, serves as the pastor. She is the author of Glimpses of Grace and Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full, and blogs regularly at The Gospel Coalition and


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by Matt Tully at July 29, 2014 09:00 AM daily

Table Titans

Beeminder Blog

The Type Bee Personality

The letter B in the style of the superman logo

People often ask, sometimes incredulously, what kind of person uses Beeminder. We’ve found that the following personality traits are required:

  1. Akratic (obviously)
  2. Ambitious/motivated (ironically)
  3. Self-aware (knowing the limits of one’s motivation)
  4. High-integrity (to not spoil the whole point by cheating/weaseling)
  5. And probably lifehacking data nerdery

What fraction of the population does that leave? Most people are akratic about at least some things. It’s practically part of the human condition. I don’t know where the ambitiousness threshold is but it’s a sizable minority if not a majority. There’s some empirical evidence [1] to suggest 1/3 is the fraction of people with enough self-awareness to appreciate the value of a commitment device. Integrity is another one I don’t know how to estimate, but hopefully it’s at least 50%. And we’re gradually lowering the bar on lifehacking data nerdery (and the more competitors we have the more receptive the general population is to this kind of craziness!) but we’re still clearly targeting the nerd elite.

Multiplying it out: 95% × 50% × 33% × 50% × 10% = nearly 1% of the population.

We are the 1%!

Embarrassed To Be Minded?

“I needed something like Beeminder so badly that I went and built it”

Despite my claim that we are the elite 1% with enough Integrity and Ambition (and pretty enough faces) to use Beeminder, I was surprised to discover, in the early days of Beeminder, that not everyone felt the same. We were getting feedback about our privacy features and one user revealed that they viewed needing commitment devices as a bad signal. [4] I’m obviously not used to thinking that way since my whole identity is wrapped up in the fact that I needed something like Beeminder so badly that I went and built it. (In fact Bethany did and does more of the actual building than me but my point stands!)

And perhaps the entire point of this post is to disagree with that person. If anything, and the above list makes this clear, I think it is a positive signal. Akrasia is an extremely common problem and the ones who introspect well enough to recognize it and correct for it (and who have the kind of self-integrity to not just find a way to weasel out of every possible attempt to employ commitment devices) are, in my experience, super impressive people.

It’s true there are the arguably even more impressive people who simply don’t suffer from akrasia in the first place. So if you can get away with passing yourself off as one of those people — keeping your beeminding secret — I’m not sure I have a good argument to dissuade you!

One possible counterargument is to look at all the very clearly awesome people who proudly use Beeminder. We’ve got open source superstars like Yehuda Katz, Paul Fenwick, and Steve Klabnik, authors like Nick Winter and Conrad Barski, and startup founders and professors who are so famous they have Wikipedia pages. We’ve even got the international director of the EFF and coiner of the term “lifehacking”, Danny O’Brien. (The list actually goes on and on — see also our press roundups.)

Personally, I view akrasia like literal myopia. [5] It would be nice to have perfect vision, but it’s not embarrassing to need glasses. What would be embarrassing is stumbling around bumping into things for lack of wearing them.



[1] I know of one study [2] involving a datacenter in India where people had the choice to set up commitment contracts to voluntarily incur real losses as a way to force themselves to maintain higher output (and thus get paid more, if the commitment device worked). Something like a third of participants chose to do it. And, bizarrely, Ainslie saw a similar result with pigeons [3], 95% of whom are apparently akratic with 30% using a commitment device when available.

[2] Kaur, Supreet, Michael Kremer, and Sendhil Mullainathan. 2010. “Self-Control and the Development of Work Arrangements.” American Economic Review, 100(2): 624-628.

[3] Ainslie, George W. 1974. “Impulse Control in Pigeons.” Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 21(3): 485-489.

[4] I haven’t heard that complaint since then, which I take to be a sign that this concept is (very gradually) becoming mainstream.

[5] “Psychic myopia” is a great definition of akrasia. In other words, hyperbolic discounting. See also the sidebar of this blog.

Image credit: Ohmarion

by dreeves at July 29, 2014 06:24 AM


Wifi, Interference and Phasors

Before we get to the next part, which is fun, we need to talk about phasors. No, not the Star Trek kind, the boring kind. Sorry about that.

If you're anything like me, you might have never discovered a use for your trigonometric identities outside of school. Well, you're in luck! With wifi, trigonometry, plus calculus involving trigonometry, turns out to be pretty important to understanding what's going on. So let's do some trigonometry.

Wifi modulation is very complicated, but let's ignore modulation for the moment and just talk about a carrier wave, which is close enough. Here's your basic 2.4 GHz carrier:

    A cos (ω t)

Where A is the transmit amplitude and ω = 2.4e9 (2.4 GHz). The wavelength, λ, is the speed of light divided by the frequency, so:

    λ = c / ω = 3.0e8 / 2.4e9 = 0.125m

That is, 12.5 centimeters long. (By the way, just for comparison, the wavelength of light is around 400-700 nanometers, or 500,000 times shorter than a wifi signal. That comes out to 600 Terahertz or so. But all the same rules apply.)

The reason I bring up λ is that we're going to have multiple transmitters. Modern wifi devices have multiple transmit antennas so they can do various magic, which I will try to explain later. Also, inside a room, signals can reflect off the walls, which is a bit like having additional transmitters.

Let's imagine for now that there are no reflections, and just two transmit antennas, spaced some distance apart on the x axis. If you are a receiver also sitting on the x axis, then what you see is two signals:

    cos (ω t) + cos (ω t + φ)

Where φ is the phase difference (between 0 and 2π). The phase difference can be calculated from the distance between the two antennas, r, and λ, as follows:

    φ = r / λ

Of course, a single-antenna receiver can't *actually* see two signals. That's where the trig identities come in.

Constructive Interference

Let's do some simple ones first. If r = λ, then φ = 2π, so:

    cos (ω t) + cos (ω t + 2π)
    = cos (ω t) + cos (ω t)
    = 2 cos (ω t)

That one's pretty intuitive. We have two antennas transmitting the same signal, so sure enough, the receiver sees a signal twice as tall. Nice.

Destructive Interference

The next one is weirder. What if we put the second transmitter 6.25cm away, which is half a wavelength? Then φ = π, so:

    cos (ω t) + cos (ω t + π)
    = cos (ω t) - cos (ω t)
    = 0

The two transmitters are interfering with each other! A receiver sitting on the x axis (other than right between the two transmit antennas) won't see any signal at all. That's a bit upsetting, in fact, because it leads us to a really pivotal question: where did the energy go?

We'll get to that, but first things need to get even weirder.

Orthogonal Carriers

Let's try φ = π/2.

    cos (ω t) + cos (ω t + π/2)
    = cos (ω t) - sin (ω t)

This one is hard to explain, but the short version is, no matter how much you try, you won't get that to come out to a single (Edit 2014/07/29: non-phase-shifted) cos or sin wave. Symbolically, you can only express it as the two separate factors, added together. At each point, the sum has a single value, of course, but there is no formula for that single value which doesn't involve both a cos ωt and a sin ωt. This happens to be a fundamental realization that leads to all modern modulation techniques. Let's play with it a little and do some simple AM radio (amplitude modulation). That means we take the carrier wave and "modulate" it by multiplying it by a much-lower-frequency "baseband" input signal. Like so:

    f(t) cos (ω t)

Where ω >> 1, so that for any given cycle of the carrier wave, f(t) can be assumed to be "almost constant."

On the receiver side, we get the above signal and we want to discover the value of f(t). What we do is multiply it again by the carrier:

    f(t) cos (ω t) cos (ω t)
    = f(t) cos2 (ω t)
    = f(t) (1 - sin2 (ω t))
    = &half f(t) (2 - 2 sin2 (ω t))
    = &half f(t) (1 + (1 - 2 sin2 (ω t)))
    = &half f(t) (1 + cos (2 ω t))
    = &half f(t) + &half f(t) cos (2 ω t)

See? Trig identities. Next we do what we computer engineers call a "dirty trick" and, instead of doing "real" math, we'll just hypothetically pass the resulting signal through a digital or analog filter. Remember how we said f(t) changes much more slowly than the carrier? Well, the second term in the above answer changes twice as fast as the carrier. So we run the whole thing through a Low Pass Filter (LPF) at or below the original carrier frequency, removing high frequency terms, leaving us with just this:

    → &half f(t)

Which we can multiply by 2, and ta da! We have the original input signal.

Now, that was a bit of a side track, but we needed to cover that so we can do the next part, which is to use the same trick to demonstrate how cos(ω t) and sin(ω t) are orthogonal vectors. That means they can each carry their own signal, and we can extract the two signals separately. Watch this:

    [ f(t) cos (ω t) + g(t) sin (ω t) ] cos (ω t)
    = [f(t) cos2 (ω t)] + [g(t) cos (ω t) sin (ω t)]
    = [&half f(t) (1 + cos (2 ω t))] + [&half g(t) sin (2 ω t)]
    = &half f(t) + &half f(t) cos (2 ω t) + &half g(t) sin (2 ω t)
    → &half f(t)

Notice that by multiplying by the cos() carrier, we extracted just f(t). g(t) disappeared. We can play a similar trick if we multiply by the sin() carrier; f(t) then disappears and we have recovered just g(t).

In vector terms, we are taking the "dot product" of the combined vector with one or the other orthogonal unit vectors, to extract one element or the other. One result of all this is you can, if you want, actually modulate two different AM signals onto exactly the same frequency, by using the two orthogonal carriers.


But treating it as just two orthogonal carriers for unrelated signals is a little old fashioned. In modern systems we tend to think of them as just two components of a single vector, which together give us the "full" signal. That, in short, is QAM, one of the main modulation methods used in 802.11n. To oversimplify a bit, take this signal:

    f(t) cos (ω t) + g(t) sin (ω t)

And let's say f(t) and g(t) at any given point in time each have a value that's one of: 0, 1/3, 2/3, or 1. Since each function can have one of four values, there are a total of 4*4 = 16 different possible combinations, which corresponds to 4 bits of binary data. We call that encoding QAM16. If we plot f(t) on the x axis and g(t) on the y axis, that's called the signal "constellation."

Anyway we're not attempting to do QAM right now. Just forget I said anything.

Adding out-of-phase signals

Okay, after all that, let's go back to where we started. We had two transmitters both sitting on the x axis, both transmitting exactly the same signal cos(ω t). They are separated by a distance r, which translates to a phase difference φ. A receiver that's also on the x axis, not sitting between the two transmit antennas (which is a pretty safe assumption) will therefore see this:

    cos (ω t) + cos (ω t + φ)
    = cos (ω t) + cos (ω t) cos φ - sin (ω t) sin φ
    = (1 + cos φ) cos (ω t) - (sin φ) sin (ω t)

One way to think of it is that a phase shift corresponds to a rotation through the space defined by the cos() and sin() carrier waves. We can rewrite the above to do this sort of math in a much simpler vector notation:

    [1, 0] + [cos φ, sin φ]
    = [1+cos φ, sin φ]

This is really powerful. As long as you have a bunch of waves at the same frequency, and each one is offset by a fixed amount (phase difference), you can convert them each to a vector and then just add the vectors linearly. The result, the sum of these vectors, is what the receiver will see at any given point. And the sum can always be expressed as the sum of exactly one cos(ω t) and one sin(ω t) term, each with its own magnitude.

This leads us to a very important conclusion:

    The sum of reflections of a signal is just an arbitrarily phase shifted and scaled version of the original.

People worry about reflections a lot in wifi, but because of this rule, they are not, at least mathematically, nearly as bad as you'd think.

Of course, in real life, getting rid of that phase shift can be a little tricky, because you don't know for sure by how much the phase has been shifted. If you just have two transmitting antennas with a known phase difference between them, that's one thing. But when you add reflections, that makes it harder, because you don't know what phase shift the reflections have caused. Not impossible: just harder.

(You also don't know, after all that interference, what happened to the amplitude. But as we covered last time, the amplitude changes so much that our modulation method has to be insensitive to it anyway. It's no different than moving the receiver closer or further away.)

Phasor Notation

One last point. In some branches of eletrical engineering, especially in analog circuit analysis, we use something called "phasor notation." Basically, phasor notation is just a way of representing these cos+sin vectors using polar coordinates instead of x/y coordinates. That makes it easy to see the magnitude and phase shift, although harder to add two signals together. We're going to use phasors a bit when discussing signal power later.

Phasors look like this in the general case:

    A cos (ω t) + B sin (ω t)
    = [A, B]

      Magnitude = M = (A2 + B2)&half

      tan (Phase) = tan φ = B / A
      φ = atan2(B, A)

    = M&angleφ

or the inverse:

    = [M cos φ, M sin φ]
    = (M cos φ) cos (ω t) - (M sin φ) sin (ω t)
    = [A, B]
    = A cos (ω t) + B sin (ω t)

Imaginary Notation

There's another way of modeling the orthogonal cos+sin vectors, which is to use complex numbers (ie. a real axis, for cos, and an imaginary axis, for sin). This is both right and wrong, as imaginary numbers often are; the math works fine, but perhaps not for any particularly good reason, unless your name is Euler. The important thing to notice is that all of the above works fine without any imaginary numbers at all. Using them is a convenience sometimes, but not strictly necessary. The value of cos+sin is a real number, not a complex number.


Next time, we'll talk about signal power, and most importantly, where that power disappears to when you have destructive interference. And from there, as promised last time, we'll cheat Shannon's Law.

July 29, 2014 05:52 AM

The Brooks Review

∞ Quote of the Day: Marco Arment

“The best thing Apple could do to increase the quality of apps is remove every top list from the App Store.”

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

by Ben Brooks at July 29, 2014 05:04 AM

The Outlaw Way



Bench Press: 6×2@80%


5 rounds of:

Row 500M
15 6″ Target Burpees

Rest 1:1

Do Work…

The post 140729 appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by John Dill at July 29, 2014 02:43 AM


So they made you a lead; now what? (Part 2)

The first part of this article took a closer look at why people with outstanding art, design or programming skills sometimes struggle or even fail as team leads. In addition to that part one also identified the core values of leadership as trust, direction and support.

The goal of this part is to provide newly minted leads with practical advice how to get started in their new role and it also describes different ways to develop the necessary leadership skills.

Learning leadership skills

Now that we have a better understanding of what leadership is (and isn’t) it’s time to look at different ways of developing leadership skills. Despite the claims of some books or websites there is no easy 5-step program that will make you the best team lead in 30 days. As with most soft skills it is important to identify what works for you and then to improve your strategies over time. Thankfully there are different ways to find your (unique) leadership style.

The best way to develop your skills is by learning them directly from a mentor that you respect for his or her leadership abilities. This person doesn’t necessarily have to be your supervisor, but ideally it should be someone in the studio where you work. Leadership depends on the organizational structure of a company and it is therefore much harder for someone from the outside to offer practical advice.

Make sure to meet on a regularly basis (at least once a month) in order to discuss your progress. A great mentor will be able to suggest different strategies to experiment with and can help you figure out what does and doesn’t work. These meetings also give you the opportunity to learn from his or her career by asking questions like this:

  • How would you approach this situation?
  • What is leadership?
  • Which leader do you look up to and why?
  • How did you learn your leadership skills?
  • What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?

But even if you aren’t fortunate enough to have access to a mentor you can (and should) still learn from other game developers by observing how they interact with people and how they approach and overcome challenges. The trick is to identify and assimilate effective leadership strategies from colleagues in your company or from developers in other studios.

While mentoring is certainly the most effective way to develop your leadership skills you can also learn a lot by reading books, articles and blog posts about the topic. It’s difficult to find good material that is tailored to the games industry, but thankfully most of the general advice also applies in the context of games. The following two books helped me to learn more about leadership:

  • Team Leadership in the Games Industry” by Seth Spaulding takes a closer looks at the typical responsibilities of a team lead. The book also covers topics like the different organizational structure of games studios and how to deal with difficult situations.
  • How to Lead” by Jo Owen explores what leadership is and why it’s hard to come up with a simple definition. Even though the book is aimed at leads in the business world it contains a lot of practical tips that apply to the games industry as well.

Talks and round-table discussions are another great way to learn from experienced leaders. If you are fortunate enough to visit GDC (or other conferences) keep your eyes open for sessions about leadership. It’s a great way to connect with fellow game developers and has the advantage that you can get advice on how to overcome some of the challenges you might be facing at the moment.

But even if you can’t make it to conferences there are quite a few recorded presentations available online. I highly recommend the following two talks:

  • Concrete Practices to be a Better Leader” by Brian Sharp is a fantastic presentation about various ways to improve your leadership skills. This talk is very inspirational and contains lots of helpful techniques that can be used right away.
  • You’re Responsible” by Mike Acton is essentially a gigantic round-table discussion about the responsibilities of a team lead. As usual Mike does a great job offering practical advice along the way.

Lastly there are a lot of talks about leadership outside of the games industry available on the internet (just search for ‘leadership’ on YouTube). Personally I find some of these presentations quite interesting since they help me to develop a broader understanding of leadership by offering different ways to look at the role. For example the TED playlist “How leaders inspire“ discusses leadership styles in the context of the business world, military, college sports and even symphonic orchestras. In typical TED fashion the talks don’t contain a lot of practical advice, but they are interesting nonetheless.

Leadership starter kit

So you’ve just been promoted (or hired) and the title of your new role now contains the word ‘lead’. First of all, congratulations and well done! This is an exciting step in your career, but it’s important to realize that your day to day job will be quite different from what it used to be and that you’ll have to learn a lot of new skills.

I would like to help you getting started in your new role by offering some specific and practical advice that I found useful during this transitional period. My hope is that this ‘starter kit’ will get you going while you investigate additional ways to develop your leadership skills (see section above). The remainder of the section will therefore cover the following topics:

  • One-on-one meetings
  • Delegation
  • Responsibility
  • Mike Acton’s quick start guide

As a lead your main responsibility is to support your team, so that they can achieve the current set of goals. For that it’s crucial that you get to know the members of your team quite well, which means you should have answers to questions like these:

  • What is she good at?
  • What is he struggling with?
  • Where does she want to be in a year?
  • Is he invested in the project or would he prefer to work on something else?
  • Are there people in the company she doesn’t want to work with?
  • Does he feel properly informed about what is going on with the project / company?

You might not get sincere replies to these questions unless people are comfortable enough with you to trust you with honest answers. Sincere feedback is absolutely critical for the success of your team though which is especially true in difficult times and therefore I would argue that developing mutual trust between you and your team should be your main priority.

Building trust takes a lot of time and effort and an essential part of this process is to have a private chat with each member of your team on a regular basis (at least once a month). These one-on-one meetings can take place in a meeting room or even a nearby coffee shop. The important thing is that both of you feel comfortable having an open and honest conversation, so make sure to pick the location accordingly.

These meetings don’t necessarily have to be long. If there is nothing to talk about then you might be done after 10 minutes. At other times it may take an hour (or more) to discuss a difficult situation. Make sure to avoid possible distractions (e.g. mobile phone) during these meetings, so you can give the other person your full attention.

One-on-one meetings raise the morale because the team will realize that they can rely on you to keep them in the loop and to represent their concerns and interests. Personally I find that these conversations help me to do my job better since it’s much more likely to hear about a (potential) problem when the team feels comfortable telling me about it.

At this point you might be concerned that these meetings take time away from your ‘actual job’, but that’s not true because they are your job now. Whether you like it or not you’ll probably spend more time in meetings and less time contributing directly to the current project. Depending on the size of your company it’s safe to assume that leadership and management will take up between 20% and 50% of your time. This means that you won’t be able to take on the same amount of production tasks as before and you’ll therefore have to learn how to delegate work. I know from personal experience that this can be a tough lesson to learn in the beginning.

In addition to balancing your own workload delegation is also about helping your team to develop new skills and to improve existing ones. Just because you can complete a task more efficiently than any other person on your team doesn’t necessarily mean that you are the best choice for this particular task. Try to take the professional interest of the individual members of your team into account as much as possible when assigning tasks, because people will be more motivated to work on something they are passionate about.

Beyond these practical considerations it is important to note that delegation also has an impact on the mutual trust between you and your team. By routinely taking on ‘tough’ tasks yourself you indicate that you don’t trust your teammates to do a good job, which will ruin morale very quickly. Keep in mind that your colleagues are trained professionals just like yourself, so treat them that way!

Experiencing your entire team working together and producing great results is very empowering and it is your job to make it happen even if nobody tells you this explicitly. In an ideal world it would be obvious what your company expects from you, but in reality that will probably not be the case. It is important to understand that while you have more influence over the direction of the project, your team and even the company you also have more responsibilities now.

First and foremost you are responsible for the success (or failure) of your team and any problem preventing success should be fixed right away. This could be as simple as making sure that your team has the necessary hardware and software, but it could also involve negotiations with another department in order to resolve a conflict of interest.

One responsibility that is often overlooked by new leads is the professional development of the team. It is your job to make sure that the people on your team get the opportunities to improve their skillset. In order to do that you’ll first have to identify the short- and long-term career goals of each team member. In addition to delegating work with the right amount of challenge (as described above) it is also important to provide general career mentorship.

A video game is a complicated piece of software and making one isn’t easy. Mistakes happen and your team might cause a problem that affects another department or even the production schedule. This can be a difficult situation especially when other people are upset and emotions run high. I know it’s easier said than done, but don’t let the stress get the best of you. Rather than identifying and blaming a team member for the mistake you should accept the responsibility and figure out a way to fix the problem. You can still analyze what happened after the dust has settled, so that this issue can be prevented in the future.

It is very unfortunate that a lot of newly minted team leads have to identify additional responsibilities themselves. Thankfully some companies are the exception to the rule. At Insomniac Games, for example, new leads have access to a ‘quick start guide’ that helps them to get adjusted to their new role. This helpful document is publicly available and was written by Mike Acton who has been doing an exceptional job educating the games industry about leadership. I highly recommend that you read the guide:

Leadership is hard (but not impossible)

Truth be told becoming a great team lead isn’t easy. In fact it might be one of the toughest challenges you’ll have to face in your career. The good news is that you are obviously interested in leadership (why else would you have read all this stuff) and want to learn more about how to become a good lead. In other words you are doing great so far!

I hope you found this article helpful and that it’ll make your transition into your new role a bit easier.

Good luck and thank you for reading!

PS.: Whether you just got promoted or have been leading a team for a long time I would love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a comment.

PPS: I would like to thank everybody who helped me with this article. You guys rock!

by Oliver Franzke at July 29, 2014 02:20 AM

The Outlaw Way


4×0:20 Box Shoulder Stretch, immediately follow last set with 8 PVC Shoulder Raises

Static Shaping
3×0:30 On/0:30 Off Front Hold on Boxes
photo 2-4
3×0:30 On/0:30 Off Back Hold on Boxes
photo 1-4

Skills and Drills
5x Straight Body Lever on Floor, lower down as slowly as possible
DEMO Goal = 0:10+ Descent

For 4:00, 0:20 On/0:10 Off Hollow Rocks

The post 140729 appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by Kaitlin at July 29, 2014 02:00 AM


If you guys see John Buccigross – kick him in the nuts for me.

WOD 140729:


1) 3 Position Clean (Floor, Hang, Power Position – do not drop bar) + 1 Jerk (after Clean complex): Max for the complex + Jerk – 1X1@95%, 1X1@90%

2) Jerk from blocks: 3RM – 3X1@95%, 3X1@90%


1a) 3XME UB Strict Muscle-Ups + ME UB Kipping Muscle-Ups (drop down after ME Strict set, and reset for Kipping set with no more than :10 break) – rest 90 sec.

1b) 3X8 Jumping Good Mornings – heaviest possible, rest 90 sec. DEMO VIDEO


5 rounds of:

Row 500M
15 6″ Target Burpees

Rest 1:1

The post 140729 appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by at July 29, 2014 12:04 AM

July 28, 2014

The Frailest Thing


I’m back. In fact, I’ve been back for more than a week now. I’ve been back from several days spent in western North Carolina. It’s beautiful country out there, and, where I was staying, it was beautiful country without cell phone signal or Internet connection. It was a week-long digital sabbath, or, if you prefer, a week-long digital detox. It was a good week. I didn’t find myself. I didn’t discover the meaning of life. I had no epiphanies, and I didn’t necessarily feel more connected to nature. But it was a good week.

I know that reflection pieces on technology sabbaths, digital detoxes, unplugging, and disconnecting are a dime a dozen. Slightly less common are pieces critical of the disconnectionists, as Nathan Jurgenson has called them, but these aren’t hard to come by either. Others, like Evgeny Morozov, have contributed more nuanced evaluations. Not only has the topic been widely covered, if you’re reading this blog I’d guess that you’re likely to be more or less sympathetic to these practices, even if you harbor some reservations about how they are sometimes presented and implemented. All of that to say, I’ve hesitated to add yet another piece on the experience of disconnection, especially since I’d be (mostly) preaching to the choir. But … I’m going to try your patience and offer just a few thoughts for your consideration.

First, I think the week worked well because its purpose wasn’t to disconnect from the Internet or digital devices; being disconnected was simply a consequence of where I happened to be. I suspect that when one explicitly sets out to disconnect, the psychology of the experience works against you. You’re disconnecting in order to be disconnected because you assume or hope it will yield some beneficial consequences. The potential problem with this scenario is that “being connected” is still framing, and to some degree defining, your experience. When you’re disconnected, you’re likely to be thinking about your experience in terms of not being connected. Call it the disconnection paradox.

This might mean, for example, that you’re overly aware of what you’re missing out on, thus distracted from what you hoped to achieve by disconnecting. It might also lead to framing your experience negatively in terms of what you didn’t do–which isn’t ultimately very helpful–rather than positively in terms of what you accomplished. In the worst cases, it might also lead to little more than self-congratulatory or self-loathing status updates.

In my recent case, I didn’t set out to be disconnected. In fact, I was rather disappointed that I’d be unable to continue writing about some of the themes I’d been recently addressing. So while I was carrying on with my disconnected week, I didn’t think at all about being connected or disconnected; it was simply a matter of fact. And, upon reflection, I think this worked in my favor.

This observation does raise a practical problem, however. How can one disconnect, if so desired, while avoiding the disconnection paradox? Two things come to mind. As Morozov pointed out in his piece on the practice of disconnection, there’s little point in disconnecting if it amounts to coming up for breath before plunging back into the digital flood. Ultimately, then, the idea is to so order our digital practices that enforced periods of disconnection are unnecessary.

But what if, for whatever reason, this is not a realistic goal? At this point we run up against the limits of individual actions and need to think about how to effect structural and institutional changes. Alongside those longterm projects, I’d suggest that making the practice of disconnection regular and habitual will eventually overcome the disconnection paradox.

Second consideration, obvious though it may be: it matters what you do with the time that you gain. For my part, I was more physically active than I would be during the course of an ordinary week, much more so. I walked, often; I swam; and I did a good bit of paddling too. Not all of this activity was pleasurable as it transpired. Some of it was exhausting. I was often tired and sore. But I welcomed all of it because it relieved the accumulated stress and tension that I tend to carry around on my back, shoulders, neck, and jaw, much of it a product of sitting in front of a computer or with a book for extended periods of time. It was a good week because at the end of it, my body felt as good as it had in a long time, even if it was a bit battered and ragged.

The feeling reminded me of what the Patrick Leigh Fermor wrote about his stay in a monastery early in the late 1950s, a kind of modernity detox. Initially, he was agitated, then he was overwhelmed for a few days by the desire to sleep. Finally, he emerged “full of energy and limpid freshness.” Here is how he described the experience in A Time to Keep Silence:

“The explanation is simple enough: the desire for talk, movements and nervous expression that I had transported from Paris found, in this silent place, no response or foil, evoked no single echo; after miserably gesticulating for a while in a vacuum, it languished and finally died for lack of any stimulus or nourishment. Then the tremendous accumulation of tiredness, which must be the common property of all our contemporaries, broke loose and swamped everything. No demands, once I had emerged from that flood of sleep, were made upon my nervous energy: there were no automatic drains, such as conversation at meals, small talk, catching trains, or the hundred anxious trivialities that poison everyday life. Even the major causes of guilt and anxiety had slid away into some distant limbo and not only failed to emerge in the small hours as tormentors but appeared to have lost their dragonish validity.”

“[T]he tremendous accumulation of tiredness, which must be the common property of all our contemporaries”–indeed, and to that we might add the tremendous accumulation of stress and anxiety. The Internet, always-on connectivity, and digital devices have not of themselves caused the tiredness, stress, and anxiety, but they haven’t helped either. In certain cases they’ve aggravated the problem. And, I’d suggest, they have done so regardless of what, specifically, we have been doing. Rather the aggravation is in part a function of how our bodies engage with these tools. Whether we spend a day in front of a computer perusing cat videos, playing Minecraft, writing a research paper, or preparing financial reports makes little difference to our bodies. It is in each case a sedentary day, and these are, as we all know, less than ideal for our bodies. And, because so much of our well-being depends on our bodies, the consequences extend to the whole of our being.

I know countless critics since the dawn of industrial society have lamented the loss of regular physical activity, particularly activity that unfolded in “nature.” Long before the Internet, such complaints were raised about the factory and the cubicle. It is also true that many of these calls for robust physical activity have been laden with misguided assumptions about the nature of masculinity and worse. But none of this changes the stubborn, intractable fact that we are embodied creatures and the concrete physicality of our nature is subject to certain limits and thrives under certain conditions and not others.

One further point about my experience: some of it was moderately risky. Not extreme sports-risky or risky bordering on foolish, you understand. More like “watch where you step there might be a rattle snake” risky (I avoided one by two feet or so) or “take care not to slip off the narrow trail, that’s a 300 foot drop” risky (I took no such falls, happily). I’m not sure what I can claim for all of this, but I would be tempted to make a Merleau-Ponty-esque argument about the sort of engagement with our surroundings that navigating risk requires of us. I’d modestly suggest, on a strictly anecdotal basis, that there is something mentally and physically salubrious about safely navigating the experience of risk. While we’re at, it plug-in the “troubles” (read, sometimes risky, often demanding activities) that philosopher Albert Borgmann encourages us to accept in principle.

Of course, it must immediately be added that this is a first-world-problem par excellence. Around the globe there are people who have no choice but to constantly navigate all sorts of risks to their well-being, and not of the moderate variety either. It must then seem perverse to suggest that some of us might need to occasionally elect to encounter risk, but only carefully so. Indeed, but such might nonetheless be the case. Certainly, it is also true that all of us are at risk everyday when walking a city street, or driving a car, or flying in a plane, and so on. My only rejoinder is again to lean on my experience and suggest that the sort of physical activity I engaged in had the unexpected effect of calling on and honing aspects of my body and mind that are not ordinarily called into service by my typical day-to-day experience, and this was a good thing. The accustomed risks we thoughtlessly take, crossing a street say, precisely because they are a routinized part of our experience do not call forth the same mental and bodily resources.

A final thought. Advocating disconnection sometimes raises the charges of elitism–Sherry Turkle strolling down Cape Cod beaches and what not. I more or less get where this is coming from, I think. Disconnection is often construed as a luxury experience. Who gets to placidly stroll the beaches of Cape Cod anyway? And, indeed, it is an unfortunate feature of modernity’s unfolding that what we eliminate from our lives, often to make room for one technology or another, we then end up compensating for with another technology because we suddenly realized that what we eliminated might have been useful and health-giving.

It was Neil Postman, I believe, who observed that having eliminated walking by the adoption of the automobile and the design of our public spaces, we then invented a machine on which we could simulate walking in order to maintain a minimal level of fitness. Postman’s chief focus, if I remember the passage correctly, was to point out the prima facie absurdity of the case, but I would add an economic consideration: in this pattern of technological displacement and replacement, the replacement is always a commodity. No one previously paid to walk, but the treadmill and the gym membership are bought and sold. So it is now with disconnection, it is often packaged as a commodified experience that must be bought, and the costs of disconnection (monetary and otherwise) are for some too hight to bear. This is unfortunate if not simply tragic.

But it seems to me that the answer is not to dismiss the practice of disconnecting as such or efforts to engage more robustly with the wider world. If these practices are, even in small measure, steps toward human flourishing, then our task is to figure out how we can make them as widely available as possible.

by Michael Sacasas at July 28, 2014 11:46 PM

Lift Big Eat Big

Want A Bigger Deadlift? This Is How I Got Mine

 Article written by Matt Falk
If you’ve been following the page for a while, you should know by now that we at LBEB are in love with the deadlift. As a matter of fact, if I could pick one specific movement to do for the rest of my life, it would be… (you guessed it) the deadlift. Over the last year and a half, I have put about 140 pounds and counting on my pull and am frequently asked on how I did it. It has been a long road, but I’ve learned a few things on the way that may be of use to you.

The best way to put pounds on your deadlift, is obviously by deadlifting. That’s a no brainer, but I would like to take a moment to cover a few of my favorite assistance exercises. I am by no means saying this is the only way to do it, I am merely stating what has worked for me and the clients I work with.

Paused Front Squats:

The deadlift is a movement that primarily stimulates the posterior chain. The front squat, being anterior chain dominant, is a great complement to the aforementioned. Even to this day, I struggle at times keeping my hips down and getting the most out of my legs, while breaking the bar off of the floor. The pause helps to create explosiveness from a point of rest, simulating a bar at rest on the floor. Speed from the floor can make or break your lockout, and the pause will substantially help that. Many great deadlifters use the cue, “squat the weight up”. While this cue does not work well for me, it’s a good reminder to stay in your heels and let your quads do some of the work. If your hips come up too early, you’re wasting those wonderful teardrop quads you’ve worked so hard for.


I’m fairly certain these are the second greatest movement of all time. I primarily train RDL’s with a snatch grip (yes straps are encouraged), and load the bar up pretty heavy for 4-5 sets of 8-10 reps. The snatch grip lengthens the range of motion, and forces you to really fight the urge to roll your shoulders forward. Not only good for developing a wonderful set of glutes and hamstrings, they also build a powerful upper back. Do them on a weekly basis after training your main pulls and watch your numbers skyrocket.

Good Mornings:

Fairly self-explanatory, but I would like to elaborate on what I have found to be the best way to properly execute them. Start with the bar in a high bar position with weight that would seemingly be light (I usually use between 155-185), and make sure to keep your shoulder blades retracted and extremely tight. After you unrack the bar, keep your feet narrow, hip width or less, and turn your toes out slightly. I should note that I also grip out to the collars to keep my shoulders and lumbar from rounding forward. Take a slow and controlled eccentric, shifting the hips back first, and always keeping your head up/looking forward. Pause briefly at the bottom (which should be deep enough to give the hamstrings a nice deep stretch), and then explode up from this position shifting the hips forward and shoulders back. Think of this as a top loaded RDL. It is imperative to maintain a neutral spine through the entire duration of the set. Failure to do so will result in a less than optimal experience getting out of bed the next morning. I will generally perform these for 3-4 sets of 12-14 reps as a secondary assistance movement.

Leg Press:

Yep, I said it. A lot of people hate the leg press, but I am not one of them. 4-5 rep sets of 12-14 reps at a challenging weight has helped to put some serious mass on my quads without taxing the hips and lower back like the front squat. Nobody is forcing you to do them, but I doubt you will regret it when your pull starts jumping up.


This is where the haters come out. A lot of purists will argue that pulling trap bar or sumo as a conventional puller will ruin your movement pattern, has no carryover, blah blah blah (I stopped listening a while ago). Uhhh… No carryover? Deadlifting, will always have a great carryover to deadlifting, you idiots. It doesn’t take long to search through the YouTubes and watch some elite pullers training their deads with variety. Trap bar, sumo, conventional, from the high blocks, from the low blocks, from a deficit, with a snatch grip… You see the point I’m making. If you want to master the deadlift, get good at EVERYTHING. I promise it won’t make you weaker, or forget how to do your primary competition pull. If anything, your weaknesses will be exposed, and then you will have some fun homework to do. My hips really used to suck, then I started pulling sumo and my lockout got better. Magic! Of course, your primary pull will always be stronger, but I can pull roughly 90% of my conventional max sumo (started at about 70%), and can no longer add weight to a normal trap bar with metal 45’s. Put in the effort, reap the rewards.

There you have it, my secrets have been exposed. If you are interested in checking out a sample training cycle, my deadlift manual is available for purchase inthe LBEB store.

Thanks for reading, and may your deadlifts be large and abundant.


by Brandon Morrison ( at July 28, 2014 11:43 PM

The Brooks Review

∞ We Really Can’t Have Nice Things

Today Jared Sinclair stirred up quite a frenzy by way of blog post about the sales of his RSS app, Unread (which is fantastic). Jared Sinclair:

Despite all of these circumstances, Unread still only earned $42K in sales ($21K after taxes and expenses) and is on a course that doesn’t promise much growth. I conclude from all this that anyone who wants to make a satisfying living as an independent app developer should seriously consider only building apps based on sustainable revenue models.

His post was eye opening in how little a very popular app makes in the App Store these days. And he is not alone as he was joined by a chorus of other developers talking about what they make, and/or how to make money, as a ‘indie’ developer.

Cezar Carvalho Pereira:

We, the aspiring indies, need to keep in mind that being independent is a great privilege. It is a largely unattainable goal for most careers.

Benjamin Mayo:

If you want to maximise your profitability, make small apps that do a few things well. The amount of effort you put into an app has very little to do with how much of the market will buy it. This means that making big apps exposes you to substantially more risk, which is not fairly counterbalanced by significantly higher earnings potential.

It was, in other words, a rather somber day for those of us that love high quality apps.

Stephen Hackett:

Without good money coming in, developers can’t make the kind of apps they want to make, which in turn, drives the price further into the ground and hurts the ecosystem as a whole.

How Stephen, how does it hurt the ecosystem as a whole? Luckily TechCrunch is to the rescue on answering that. Sarah Perez:

The number one game in the iTunes App Store is a game about selling weed. Yes, really. The app, “Weed Firm,” however, looks brilliant when compared to what comes next: it sits just above yet another fairly dumb, time-waster of a game called “100 Balls,” reminiscent of beer pong. And that’s followed “Toilet Time,” which offers you quick games to play while you…um…go, as well as “Make It Rain,” which tests to see how fast you can swipe to make the money fly.

Oh, fuck me.

That’s the state of the store.

Good, well made, and useful apps make no money for the developers, and shitty pieces of shit make money for people who only care about making money and not about making excellent apps.

This is, quite literally, why we cannot have nice apps.

Brent Simmons:

There’s a downside to this beyond just the vague feeling that it’s a shame that iOS developers have to supplement their incomes — it’s that any rational developer aware of the economics will not be able to make as big an investment in iOS apps as they would if they could expect their effort would be rewarded.

There is some hope to all of this though. As Tyler Hall points out:

It took five years for me to gain semi-stable financial independence. That’s something that I worry most iOS developers with indie dreams don’t appreciate.
Well, it’s my experience that you CAN build a sustainable software business selling to consumers as an independent developer. You just can’t do it in the App Store any longer – if you ever could.

The laundry list of complaints about the App Store is well documented, and well complained about. But here is real, telling, evidence that the system is broken.

Flat out: the App Store doesn’t work. It solves the problem of trust — trust that the app won’t do anything overtly malicious when you install it. It solves the problem of ease — it has never been easier to buy an app.

But none of that solved the problem of revenue, because developers need these things to make money:

  • Exposure (App Store does this well)
  • Trials (App Store fails)
  • Upgrade pricing to convert current customers into paying customers again (App Store fails)
  • Demographics, so they know who is buying that app and therefore who to not only market to, but build features for (App Store mostly fails)
  • Easily respond to feedback, not to game ratings, but to help customers (App Store fails)

There’s more, but that’s the short list. It’s insane to think about how broken the App Store is. At least on the Mac we have the option of buying outside of it, but we are fucked on iOS. We cannot buy outside the App Store, so we have no choice but to play by the same shitty rules that developers have to play by, when a great many of us truly want to see those developers succeed.

Seriously, Apple launched the App Store with no mechanism for Trials and Upgrades and we all just though “Meh, that’s fine.” Turns out, we screwed over everything by accepting that.

I love iOS and all these apps, but once we lose the good developers, we’ll lose the good apps. And then we’ll lose the platform.

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by Ben Brooks at July 28, 2014 10:04 PM

The Sword and the Ploughshare

Remembering the Great and Holy War, 1914-1918


One hundred years ago today marked the onset of what was then known only as “The Great War.”  As Philip Jenkins’ new book The Great and Holy War shows, however, perhaps we ought still to dignify it with that awful title.  Although WWII looms vastly larger in our cultural consciousness, this is due partly to its greater proximity in time, and to the much greater role that America played in the hostilities.  Yet most people would be surprised to learn that the bloodiest battle in US military history remains the Battle of Meuse-Argonne, which took place over the final 47 days of WWI, in which 26,277 perished.  And the toll suffered by US troops is immeasurably dwarfed by that of the European nations.  Jenkins puts things in perspective for us:

“The full horror of the war was obvious in its opening weeks. . . . On one single day, August 22, the French lost twenty-seven thousand men killed in battles in the Ardennes and at Charleroi, in what became known as the Battle of the Frontiers. . . . To put these casualty figures in context, the French suffered more fatalities on that one sultry day than U.S. forces lost in the two 1945 battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa combined, although these later engagements were spread over a period of four months.  One single August day cost half as many lives as the United States lost in the whole Vietnam War. 
During August and September 1914, four hundred thousand French soldiers perished, and already by year’s end, the war had in all claimed two million lives on both sides.  The former chapel of the elite French military academy of Saint-Cyr systematically listed its dead for various wars, but for 1914 it offered only one brief entry: ‘The Class of 1914”—all of it.” (pp. 29-31)

Britain lost 1.75% of its pre-war population to military deaths alone, not to mention the hundreds of thousands maimed for life; Germany, 3%; France, 3.5%.  The Western Front of WWI would claim ten times as many lives as the Western Front of WWII, a statistic borne out by the somber lists of names that can be found in any parish church in Britain. Given that Europe in 1914 was the unquestioned leader of world civilization, and still the center of global Christianity, such trauma could not fail to reshape the course of world religion as well as politics, remaking the world order more comprehensively even than its more global successor, WWII, could do.  It is this cataclysmic shift, in all its varied manifestations, that Jenkins seeks to chronicle in The Great and Holy War

This book is extraordinarily wide-ranging, even by the standards of Jenkins’ impressive oeuvre thus far, and is difficult to summarize neatly.  This is in part due to the sense one gets that Jenkins was working to a deadline (the centenary of World War One) and hence lacked the time to fully organize the immense array of material his research had assembled.  The book thus perhaps lacks at some points the clear focus and compelling readability that has characterized much of Jenkins’ other work, though it remains a fascinating read, and one hopes any such handicaps will not prevent readers from engaging with its remarkable insights and theses.


The title of the book declares Jenkins’ most remarkable thesis: that the Great War, what we often consider the pinnacle of cynical nationalistic realpolitik, was perceived at the time as a deeply religious conflict, indeed, a “holy war,” by all the combatants.  Such a thesis strikes deeply at the roots of much modern secularization theory, which sees the de-Christianization of Europe as a long gradual process set in motion by science, the Enlightenment, and modern industry, a process very far underway by the 20th century.  On the contrary, shows Jenkins, Europe in 1914 was still steeped in religion, perhaps as much as at any point in its history—mostly Christianity of course, but even freethinkers and secularists were more likely than not to follow strange alternative religions like Theosophy, and to dabble in the occult.  Against the traditional narrative, Jenkins concludes his book with a new theory of religious development that he calls “punctuated equilibrium,” echoing the leading current view in evolutionary science: long periods of relative stasis (such as 1815-1914) followed by short periods of cataclysmic change (such as 1914-1918).  Jenkins’ thesis undermines any claim to comfortable self-assurance on the part of the modern West that technological and political progress necessarily leads to a cool scientific rationality; on the contrary, the years of the Great War were a time of superstitition, apocalypticism, and mass hysteria in all the combatant nations. 

However, Jenkins’ thesis also strikes deeply at any comfortable self-assurance on the part of western Christians: we like to think that our religion has long been a force for peace in the world, or at worst, essentially disengaged from the secular rationality that drives global conflict; Islam, on the other hand, is a primitive and violent religion that seeks to discern the divine will in every historical incident and to pursue expansion by merciless jihad, or “holy war.”  Jenkins neatly inverts this narrative: “enlightened” western Christianity was responsible for some of the most shocking rhetoric of holy war that we can imagine, at a time when global Islam was diffuse and relatively passive and apolitical; the events of World War One, in fact, set in motion the radicalization of Islam and its current appetite for “holy war” thinking.  A few quotations will illustrate just how fully and frighteningly “holy war” rhetoric took hold in 1914 Christendom:

“It’s not a saint or a bishop, it’s Our Lady herself,  it’s the Mother of God-made-Man for us, who endures the violence and the fire.  She’s the one we saw burning at the center of our lines, like the virgin of Rouen once upon a time, She’s the one they’re trying to slaughter, the old Mother, the one who gives us her body as a rampart.  At the center of our lines, she’s the one who stands as the rampart and the flag against Black Luther’s dark hordes.” —Paul Claudel, La Nuit de Noël de 1914
“Kill Germans—do kill them; not for the sake of killing, but to save the world, to kill the good as well as the bad, to kill the young as well as the old, to kill those who have shown kindness to our wounded as well as those fiends. . . . As I have said a thousand times, I look upon it as a war for purity, I look upon everyone who died in it as a martyr.” —Rt. Rev. Arthur Winnington-Ingram, Bishop of London
“It is God who has summoned us to this war.  It is his war we are fighting. . . . This conflict is indeed a crusade.  The greatest in history—the holiest.  It is in the profoundest and truest sense a Holy War. . . . Yes, it is Christ, the King of Righteousness, who calls us to grapple in deadly strife with this unholy and blasphemous power." —Rev. Randolph McKim, Rector of Church of the Epiphany, Washington, DC
“There is not an opportunity to deal death to the enemy that [Jesus] would shirk from or delay in seizing!  He would take bayonet and grenade and bomb and rifle.” —Albert Dieffenbach, American Unitarian pastor (of German heritage!)
“Our Father, from the height of heaven, make haste to succor thy German people.  Help us in the holy war, let your name, like a star, guide us: lead Thy German Reich to glorious victories. . . . Smite the foe each day, with death and tenfold woes.  In thy merciful patience, forgive each bullet and each blow that misses its mark.  Lead us not into the temptation of letting our wrath be too gentle in carrying out Thy divine judgment. . . . Thine is the kingdom, the German land.  May we, through Thy mailed hand come to power and glory.” —Rev. Dietrich Vorwerk (German pastor), Hurrah and Hallelujah


As this last quote suggests, German Protestants were perhaps the most extreme in such blasphemous rhetoric (so that their defeat seems indeed like an act of divine judgment), but they were scarcely to be outdone by any of the combatant powers.  Indeed, similar language and pervasive attitudes could be found in Orthodox Russia, Catholic Italy, etc., as Jenkins shows.  Liberals and conservatives, clergy and laymen, educated and uneducated, established and disestablished churches, Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox alike participated in the crusading mood of the time (though a few prominent leaders, such as Abp. of Canterbury William Temple, and Pope Benedict XV, stand apart as noble exceptions).  If there is anything for modern Christians to take comfort in, it is that at least contemporary examples of Christian nationalism, which many of us have so lamented, pale in comparison to anything a century ago; we have perhaps learned a few lessons. 


The story Jenkins recounts does not neatly fit any of the leading narratives of secularism or modernity-criticism.  The “secular nationalism causes violence” narrative of William Cavanaugh and company is as thoroughly contravened as the “religion causes violence” thesis that he seeks to overturn.  (Also, it should be noted, simplistic Catholic attempts to pin nationalistic violence on Protestantism per se, or Anabaptist attempts to pin it on church establishment per se, just do not fit the evidence).  On the one hand, it seems clear that for all the appalling Christian baptism of violence that the Great War witnessed, Christian convictions could hardly have caused the war, given the patchwork of religious allegiances represented among its combatants: Lutheran, Calvinist, and Catholic Germany allied with Catholic Austria-Hungary, Eastern Orthodox Bulgaria and the Muslim (!) Ottoman Empire against Orthodox Russia, secular/Catholic France, Catholic Italy, Protestant Britain, and secular/Protestant/Catholic America.  Indeed, it is a testament to the incredible power of self-deception in wartime that any of the combatants could have plausibly narrated their struggle as a sectarian one (i.e., in the first in the sequence of bloc quotations above, the French managed to portray their struggle as one against “black Luther’s dark hordes” despite the fact that their leading ally, Great Britain, was staunchly Protestant).  This, together with the fact that non-Christian minorities (notably Jews) in the various nations enthusiastically supported each national cause, suggests that idolatrous nationalism, rather than any genuine Christian conviction, was the real motivating force behind the war.  And yet at the same time, it is important to note that most of the “holy war” rhetoric, far from being stoked by cynical political leaders, was carefully disclaimed and even in cases systematically censored by many of them, especially the British.  On the whole, while the impetus for the conflict itself may have come from the politicians, the impetus for its sacralization came straight from the churches. 

Against any simplistic attempts to trace the relation of “religion” or “nationalism” or “secularism” to violence, then, Jenkins’ narrative invites us to see just how slippery these terms are, how inextricable they become in the actual heat of conflict.  But inasmuch as we might venture a thesis, it might be this: although violent conflict itself usually stems from worldly causes, it is human nature to imbue such conflicts with other-worldly significance, thus intensifying them.  In short, religion, unfortunately including Christianity serves as a means of explaining and legitimating violence, regardless of the original grounds of that violence (or of the logical coherence of the religious explanation).   Of course, the word explaining is key here; it should not surprise us at all that in times of almost inconceivable suffering and trauma, people should reach out for any explanation that can try to make sense of the enormity of events, and often only supernatural explanations are equal to the task.  As Jenkins says, immediately following the passage quoted above about the scale of the human cost in the war’s opening months, “Confronted with such horrors, it would be amazing if contemporaries had not believed they were entering some apocalyptic era.  How could anyone understand such hideous numbers except in supernatural terms?” (31)


Of course, there is much more that might be said of Jenkins’ book.  In a nutshell, he attempts to explain how so much of the world as we know it today, both politically and religiously, was a product of those tumultuous four years.  The crucible of war destroyed ancient empires and launched fledgling modern democracies or else dictatorships, it forged the Soviet communism that would drive so much of 20th century history, and laid the foundation for Nazism and all its horrors (as Jenkins chillingly comments at one point, “of necessity, messianic nations must have Satanic foes”; for humiliated Germany, the failure of such a grand messianic vocation could only be explained by a scapegoating of correspondingly Satanic dimensions).  For other nations, such as Britain, the disillusionment with the “holy war” mood of the Great War, rather than being re-cast in purely nationalistic terms, led to a rapid secularization of the public square and a general decline in religious commitment.  In the Third World, meanwhile, the events of the war stirred explosive religious growth, both Christian and Muslim, including apocalyptic forms of faith that Europe was now trying to leave behind.  For Jews, the war helped launch the Zionist movement, which together with the post-war revival of Islamic fundamentalism, drives so much geopolitics today. 


No doubt, in a book so wide-ranging, there are numerous details that specialist scholars in various fields might dispute, and many points that call for elaboration.  But the overall lessons for today are clear enough.  For one, Christians in the West today have much to repent for, and need to think twice before so casually demonizing the jihadist Islam which they helped created in their own image a century ago.  For another, history can change quickly and dramatically; our future will not necessarily resemble our past anymore than the future of Europe in 1914 would resemble its long Hundred Years’ Peace.  And yet out of these changes, however disastrous at the time, God often achieves remarkable renewals of his church.  Jenkins’ conclusion is an invitation to be alert and ready for whatever mighty works both the forces of evil and the Lord might have in store in the decades to come:

“In religion, as in politics and culture, we should see the pace of change not as steady, gradual evolution but as what biologists call punctuated equilibrium—long periods of relative stasis and stability interrupted by rare but very fast-moving moments of revolutionary or cataclysmic transformation.  These radical innovations then take decades or centuries for the mainstream to absorb fully, until they are in their turn overthrown by a new wave of turmoil. . . . Might another such realignment occur at some future point, a new moment of tectonic faith, with all that implies for innovation and transformation?  . . . When we trace the southward movement of Christianity, we also see faith becoming synonymous with the most volatile and ecologically threatened area of the world. . . . Catastrophe might once more precipitate a worldwide religious transformation.” (pp. 375-76)


by Brad Littlejohn at July 28, 2014 08:47 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Helpful Email Tip: Always Draw from the Top

I’m pretty good at keeping up with a lot of projects, but inevitably I fall behind on some emails. The way it works for me is that I get stuck on a final batch—I fly through a couple of hundred messages a day, but then there are at least a dozen that stymie me.

I mentioned this phenomenon on Twitter recently, and @kavla made an interesting comment:

In other words: first in, first out. Address the issues related to one email at a time without skipping ahead.

I should mention that I don’t think this will always work for me. Part of the reason I can fly through 200+ messages is because I work on them somewhat out of order, focusing on clearing the easier messages first.

Nevertheless, I can also see that if you’re able to follow the strategy with no exceptions, it might help you.


by Chris Guillebeau at July 28, 2014 07:00 PM

512 Pixels

The App Store Box Office →

Jared Sinclair, in an excellent article about the launch of his RSS application Unread:

If you want to make “real money” from a paid-up-front app, your launch week has to be be a box-office smash.

All of Jared's piece is interesting, but that statement really hit me. I've heard it said before, but his data really backs it up.

It's a shame Jared hasn't made more on Unread. As he points out, the app was both featured on the App Store and garnered a fair bit of media attention. I can't imagine how rough it is for developers of less popular paid apps. The whole thing really highlights how the free fall of App Store prices has affected developers.

It's not good for anyone, really. Without good money coming in, developers can't make the kind of apps they want to make, which in turn, drives the price further into the ground and hurts the ecosystem as a whole. I fear the App Store is in some weird chicken-and-egg downward spiral.


by Stephen Hackett at July 28, 2014 06:46 PM

Zippy Catholic

Actions kill deader than words

The central point of my post below may have gotten lost in discussion of the particulars of illegal immigration. So at the risk of repeating myself, I am going to repeat myself.

In day to day life we mostly learn how things work by watching what people do.  Listening to what they say generally takes a back seat, partly because we know and expect that frequently what people say is incongruent with how things really work.

The detailed terms and conditions of iTunes or other software are almost meaningless. Probably the only people who actually read them are the people who write them.

Even if we had to assent to them out loud through a microphone though – perhaps by saying “I do” several times after the computer reads each section aloud – it would be false to expect that most folks’ understanding of the terms and conditions of software use would come from the actual words which were read aloud. On the contrary: most folks’ understanding of the legal implications of software use would come from the actual practices of the people in charge: courts, police, government officials, etc.

Practices contrary to positive law on immigration are – among other things – an injustice perpetrated against illegal aliens themselves who, not unreasonably, set their expectations based on actual practices as opposed to mouthed or written pieties. Suggesting that it is morally just to deport them simply because they technically violated the terms and conditions of iTunes is, at best, a gross oversimplification. At the same time, suggesting that native lower class blacks should just suck it up, that they should stay in the ghetto because all the “jobs Americans won’t do” in that strata of society are now taken by illegal Mexicans, is also problematic. The disconnect between legal doctrine and actual practice has created a morally difficult situation, and anyone who pretends that it is morally cut and dried is just engaged in reductionist wishful thinking.

But the situation is much worse when it comes to marriage and the Church, because here we are dealing with sacramental reality. There is no way to make an estranged but validly married couple not married. It is only possible to turn them – and the people they attempt to “marry” in a “second marriage” – into adulterers. Sacramental “deportation” from a “second marriage” isn’t something over which the Church has any control or say, because it is impossible to “emigrate” from a valid marriage in the first place.

So current and proposed pastoral practices with respect to marriage are literally vicious on multiple levels.

People whose expectations about marriage come from what the Church does “pastorally” as opposed to what she says doctrinally in the fine print may have wrong ideas about marriage; probably in many cases to enough of an extent that they attempt marriage invalidly.  At least for most of them there is a sacramental way forward that does not involve perfect continence: convalidation.

But the only way forward, the only possibility for a ‘sacramentally illegal alien’ in a ‘second marriage’, is perfect continence or reconciliation with one’s valid spouse. “Deportation” isn’t just automatic: they never really left the home country to begin with. Pastoral practices contrary to this sacramental reality are unspeakably cruel.

by Zippy at July 28, 2014 04:34 PM

Vivek Haldar

"Now today, in the 21st century, we have a better way to attack problems. We change the problem,..."

Now today, in the 21st century, we have a better way to attack problems. We change the problem, often to one that is more tractable and useful. In many situations solving the exact problem is not really what a practitioner needs. If computing X exactly requires too much time, then it is useless to compute it. A perfect example is the weather: computing tomorrow’s weather in a week’s time is clearly not very useful.

The brilliance of the current approach is that we can change the problem. There are at least two major ways to do this:

Change the answer required. Allow approximation, or allow a partial answer. Do not insist on an exact answer.

Change the algorithmic method. Allow algorithms that can be wrong, or allow algorithms that use randomness. Do not insist that the algorithm is a perfect deterministic one.

- Shifts in algorithmic design

July 28, 2014 03:30 PM

John C. Wright's JournalJohn C. Wright's Journal

Architect of Aeons Cover

My next volume of my Count to the Eschaton Sequence is scheduled to go on sale, according to one source, in April of 2015. This is not the official announcement from the publisher, so it is possible someone is jumping the gun.

Cover below the cut. Personally, I think this is great cover art:

cover Architect of Aeons

The climactic and wildly inventive fourth volume in a series exploring future history and human evolution.

The epic and mind-blowing finale to this visionary space opera series surpasses all expectation: Menelaus Montrose, having forged an uneasy alliance with his immortal adversary, Ximen del Azarchel, maps a future on a scale beyond anything previously imagined. No longer concerned with the course of history across mere millennia, Montrose and del Azarchel have become the architects of aeons, bringing forth minds the size of planets as they steer the bizarre intellectual descendants of an extinct humanity.

Ever driving their labors and their enmity is the hope of reunion with their shared lost love, the posthuman Rania, whose eventual return is by no means assured, but who may unravel everything these eternal rivals have sought to achieve.

Time to nitpick!

I am not sure who wrote this blurb, but this is not the end of the series, not the climax, and not the finale. (It may be the last book Tor chooses to publish, the if sales are inadequate, however. That is up to you, the readers, to decide.) The next volume is tentatively titled THE VINDICATION OF MAN and the last COUNT TO INFINITY.

Nor is mankind extinct during the course of this volume; that happens two books from now. On the other hand, the current version of mankind is indeed gone, but that has been the case since the opening chapter of volume two, when the Sylphs replace the Giants as the dominant subspecies of man.

The rest of the blurb is accurate, and captures some of the scope and daring of the tale.

by John C Wright at July 28, 2014 02:07 PM

Crossway Blog

Christ in All of Scripture – John 5:36–40


John 5:36–40

“But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent.

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”

The conflict intensifies between Jesus and the Jewish leaders—an antagonism that would eventually lead to his crucifixion. Why the enmity? It was not just because of Jesus’ Sabbath breaking, but because he made claims that gave him equal status with God—an affirmation we encountered in the first verse of John’s Gospel: “the Word was God” (Jn. 1:1). Only God can save us, and Jesus, God incarnate, is the second member of the Trinity.

Jesus claimed a unique filial relationship with God as Father, an assertion which in that culture gave him divine status and amounted to blasphemy in the eyes of the Jews (Jn. 5:18). But Jesus did not back down. He claimed the Father’s works as his own, including raising the dead—a boast he would prove by raising Lazarus from the dead (Jn. 11), an act that not only created greater opposition from his religious antagonists but was also a preview of his own resurrection.

To honor Jesus is to honor the Father (Jn. 5:23). In fact, we too can know God as our Father if we honor Jesus—that is, if we believe on him (Jn. 1:12; 14:9). We pass from judgment to life because Jesus took our judgment on the cross (Jn. 5:22–24; cf. 2 Cor. 5:21). Our adoption is secured by Jesus’ propitiating (turning away, satisfying) God’s wrath.

According to Jesus, the only way we can derive life from the Scriptures is to see Jesus in the Scriptures, for all the Scriptures bear witness to him (Jn. 5:30–47; cf. Lk. 24:27, 44–47). The entire Bible, Genesis to Revelation, is ultimately about Jesus. Throughout Scripture God is unfolding the grace that culminates in Christ (Jn. 5:39–40). The Bible is therefore not fundamentally about what we do for God but what God does for us.

The Jews, tragically, preferred receiving glory from one another rather than seeking the glory of God (Jn. 5:44). No sin or idolatry is more insidious and destructive than living for the approval of people (Prov. 29:25). In the gospel of grace, we are liberated from the need to be approved by people because in Jesus we have been approved by the only One whose approval matters and the only One whose approval satisfies.

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


by Lizzy Jeffers at July 28, 2014 01:28 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Why Artistic Compromise Makes for Better Work

Once in a while (thankfully not often), I look back at some of the posts and articles I wrote in the early days. What in the world was I thinking? Most of them are riddled with errors, typos, and sometimes just bad writing.

For both The $100 Startup and my new book (more news on that coming soon), I worked with a fantastic editor from Random House. There’s no doubt that both manuscripts were much, much better off because of his efforts. I’d love to say I’m the kind of writer who turns in a manuscript complete and ready to go, but that’s definitely not the case. Rick Horgan, that editor, deserves much of the credit.

In the course of writing the new book, Rick sent me more than thirty pages of detailed feedback after he read the early drafts. Thirty pages! Single-spaced!

It’s not just the first-round and second-round (and sometimes many more rounds) of edits. After the main process of editing is finally done, there’s a production phase involving design and layout. Meanwhile, a copyeditor reviews the entire manuscript and sends back more than a thousand suggested edits of their own.

At that stage I have the ability to accept or reject anything the copyeditor proposes, but mostly I accept. Of more than a thousand suggested copyedits in my new book, I accepted nearly 85%.

Wait, that’s not right. You can’t phrase it that way—I should have said “Of more than a thousand, I accepted nearly eight-hundred and fifty.” Or is it 850? I always struggle with written numbers.

That’s what a copyeditor will do for you, page after page after page. He or she will fix your mistakes and make the work better.

David Foster Wallace famously feuded with his copyeditor, issuing his own style guide and even providing edits to magazine subscription cards that he returned in the mail. But I’m no David Foster Wallace. There’s a different standard prescribed for geniuses, and I stick with the standard for those of us who merely work hard.

After the author, editor, and copyeditor have finished, a proofreader goes through another draft. The proofreader will have more corrections, and probably some additional suggestions. It never ends!

After all that, there are still typos and errors in the manuscript. We try to get them all but inevitably a couple of them sneak through to the first edition.

From the outside, all these edits and changes may be perceived as capitulations, but I think of them as improvements.

If I really don’t agree with a proposed change, I don’t accept it. But the reality is that much of the time I do agree. The work is made better through the willingness to compromise.

Isn’t it great to avoid the gatekeepers and have total control of your work? Well, sort of.

Sometimes it’s better to relinquish partial control in pursuit of something better than you could do on your own.

Maybe you should compromise a little.


by Chris Guillebeau at July 28, 2014 12:56 PM


Mounce Archive 3 — Does Theology Trump Context When Defining Biblical Words?


Everyone needs a sabbatical once in a while, and Bill Mounce is taking one from Koinonia blog until September. Meanwhile, we’ve hand-picked some of our favorite and most popular posts for your summer reading and Greek-studying pleasure.

Today's selection from Dr. Mounce's archive is actually a post from the elder Mounce. While Bill was traveling, his father, Robert Mounce, asked a rather interesting question:

"To understand a Biblical word or phrase shall we turn to theology or context?"

Good question. And one that's sure to provoke a conversation about the dynamics between biblical studies and systematic theology.

Read Robert's thoughts and then add your own voice to the conversation in the comments by sharing how you balance context and theology when defining biblical words.

In the first chapter of Revelation, “grace. . . and peace” is sent from three different sources: from God (“the one who is, and who was, and who is to come”), from “Jesus Christ,” and from “the seven spirits before [God’s] throne” (1:4-5). And who are the “seven spirits?” That‘s the question.

The customary answer is, “The Holy Spirit, of course.” The Trinity is expected because “Father, Son and Holy Ghost” is such a well- known ecclesiastical expression. However, the three-fold designation, “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” occurs only once in the entire Bible (Matt 28:19). The question is, to understand a Biblical word or phrase shall we turn to theology or context?

(Continue reading the full post, here.)



William D. [Bill] Mounce posts about the Greek language, exegesis, and related topics at Koinonia. He is the author of numerous works including the recent Basics of Biblical Greek Video Lectures and the bestselling Basics of Biblical Greek. He is the general editor of Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words. He served as the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version Bible translation, and is currently on the Committee for Bible Translation for the NIV.

Learn more about Bill's Greek resources at and visit his blog on spiritual growth at

by Jeremy Bouma at July 28, 2014 12:34 PM


wdiff, cwdiff and dwdiff: Since I mentioned it. …

I just mentioned colordiff, but left out one thing it can do: colorize the output of wdiff. And what is wdiff, you say?


That should give you an idea. wdiff works in the same way as diff, but at a word-by-word level. If you look closely in the upper half of that image, the differences in lines of text are offset with brackets and curly braces.

That may be enough for you, but you have to admit that the second half, where the output was piped through colordiff, is much easier to scan. The man page says you should add -n to wdiff before sending it through colordiff, but as you can see there, it worked fine in that example.

wdiff works well with colordiff, but you might prefer cwdiff, as opposed to piping things through one another.


cwdiff does much of what wdiff + colordiff offers, and simplifies the process quite a bit. There are a few added options too, including one to subtract the color from the output — meaning you get pretty much what wdiff had originally.

By default, cwdiff’s output is simplified somewhat from what wdiff creates, or what wdiff produces through colordiff. It’s not necessarily better, but it is a tiny bit … different. :roll:

dwdiff is the last on the list that I feel obligated to mention at this point. By now, you’ll probably feel like dwdiff doesn’t really do anything that wdiff, colordiff, cwdiff or even just diff could handle.


dwdiff also plucks out differences between words of files, and has a -c flag to inject color into the output. The distinguishing point between dwdiff and the others, as I see it, is its ability to set specific delimiters while searching.

I couldn’t think of a good case example for that, and I searched around in hopes of finding something to test it. Nothing handy appeared though, and most examples for dwdiff seemed to generate the same output as wdiff alone or cwdiff might get you.

So the final questions become academic: First, do you want colorized output (say yes! say yes!); and second, do you need control over specific delimiters when comparing files?

If you answer yes to the first, cwdiff might be the best tool, although you can get the same results from wdiff alone if you have colordiff available. If you answer yes to the second, you’ll most likely want dwdiff regardless of your preference for color.

And if neither of those questions is important … well, then you can probably get through the day with just the original diff tool. No shame in that. ;)

Tagged: code, color, colorize, compare, diff, difference, text, word

by K.Mandla at July 28, 2014 12:15 PM

colordiff: A difference in color

Remember my unnatural predilection for anything in color? You have to admit I’m right on this point. After all, which would you rather look at?


At the top, diff. At the bottom, colordiff. The choice should be an easy one.

The man page describes colordiff as a perl wrapper for diff, and that’s very true. As a matter of fact, it’s so tightly wound around diff that if you ask for colordiff --help, you get the output from diff --help. :???: And I know there’s no difference because I used colordiff to show the difference between diff --help and colordiff --help, and there was no difference. See what I mean? :?:


Clear as mud.

colordiff has its own rc file, installed by default at /etc/colordiff in the Arch version. I would advise you to copy that into .colordiffrc, and customize the colors there, but if you’re just one of those weirdos who runs a black-on-white terminal emulator, you’d do just as well to copy /etc/colordiff-lightbg into your .colordiffrc file instead.

That’s about all I can think about with colordiff. It stays very tight to the original tool while still giving you a small measure of customization, and that will probably keep you happy in your pursuit of differences. ;)

Tagged: code, color, colorize, compare, diff, difference, text

by K.Mandla at July 28, 2014 12:00 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

On Aristotle and talking to people about troubles

After reflecting on how I’d like to respond to people who want to talk about their challenges and how I want to discuss mine, I’ve been thinking a little bit more about the approaches that I favour and why.

Despite my faith in friends and availability of support groups or forums for pretty much any situation one can find yourself in, I tend to work through things independently. Sometimes I talk to W-. Even then, it’s often retrospective: “I worked through this-and-this dilemma. This is the decision I’ve come to because of these reasons, but I’d love to hear your thoughts in case I missed something.” I’d rather talk to people about the good stuff.

When it comes to other people talking to me about stuff they’re going through, I assume they’re smart and have tried things, so I ask questions about the obstacles they’ve run into. I like focusing on getting over barriers because this is one thing that other people can actually help with. You might get stuck on something because you don’t know where to start, don’t have the skills or experience for it, or because it intimidates you. Other people might be able to map out an easier way for you, directly help you (hooray for comparative advantage), or share how it’s really not that scary if you focus on doing X, Y, and Z.

While reading D.P. Chase’s translation of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, I came across this passage on what to share with your friends when you’re going through challenges:

But [friends'] presence has probably a mixed effect: I mean, not only is the very seeing friends pleasant, especially to one in misfortune, and actual help towards lessening the grief is afforded (the natural tendency of a friend, if he is gifted with tact, being to comfort by look and word, because he is well acquainted with the sufferer’s temper and disposition and therefore knows what things give him pleasure and pain), but also the perceiving a friend to be grieved at his misfortunes causes the sufferer pain, because every one avoids being cause of pain to his friends. And for this reason they who are of a manly nature are cautious not to implicate their friends in their pain; and unless a man is exceedingly callous to the pain of others he cannot bear the pain which is thus caused to his friends: in short, he does not admit men to wail with him, not being given to wail at all: women, it is true, and men who resemble women, like to have others to groan with them, and love such as friends and sympathisers. But it is plain that it is our duty in all things to imitate the highest character.

So if you’re sad, it can help to have company in your sadness, but that might cause your friends to feel sad as well. Be strong, if you can.

It would seem, therefore, that we ought to call in friends readily on occasion of good fortune, because it is noble to be ready to do good to others: but on occasion of bad fortune, we should do so with reluctance; for we should as little as possible make others share in our ills; on which principle goes the saying, “I am unfortunate, let that suffice.” The most proper occasion for calling them in is when with small trouble or annoyance to themselves they can be of very great use to the person who needs them.

That’s probably going to be my approach to getting by with a little help from my friends: to figure out, perhaps, if there are small things people can do that could have a big impact, and to focus on those instead of on commiseration. As for when people approach me, or when I notice friends in difficult situations, I will try to keep this in mind:

But, on the contrary, it is fitting perhaps to go to one’s friends in their misfortunes unasked and with alacrity (because kindness is the friend’s office and specially towards those who are in need and who do not demand it as a right, this being more creditable and more pleasant to both); and on occasion of their good fortune to go readily, if we can forward it in any way (because men need their friends for this likewise), but to be backward in sharing it, any great eagerness to receive advantage not being creditable.

… to see the opportunity to be kind, where kindness might be cooking a good meal, giving a person a hug, or helping out in ways that take advantage of our different skills and experiences.

The post On Aristotle and talking to people about troubles appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at July 28, 2014 12:00 PM

The Finance Buff

Social Security Claiming Strategy Calculators Compared

Financial Engines was founded by Nobel laureate William Sharpe. It offers investment advice primarily through workplace retirement plans. Recently Financial Engines launched a free Social Security planner.

I test-drove it with some hypothetical cases. I also ran the same cases through the free calculators by AARP, T. Rowe Price, and SSAnalyze via Bedrock Capital.

Because Social Security benefits for singles are relatively straight forward. I chose only married couples for my test cases.

Case 1

In case 1, both husband and wife have similar age and earnings history.

Assumptions: Husband was born in 1954, wife in 1957. Estimated benefit is $2,000/month for both at Full Retirement Age.

Financial Engines: Wife claims early for a reduced benefit at 63 when husband is at full retirement age; husband claims spousal benefits only for 4 years. Husband switches to his own benefits at age 70.

AARP: Husband files and suspends (at 69) when wife is at full retirement age; wife claims spousal benefits only for 4 years. Husband resumes benefits at age 70. Wife switches to her own benefits at age 70.

T. Rowe Price: Same as AARP.

SSAnalyze: Same as Financial Engines.

We have two different strategies here. Either way one of them will get spousal benefits for 4 years and husband will wait until 70. The difference is whether wife will claim early at 63 or wait until 70.

I lean toward waiting, as recommended by the AARP and T. Rowe Price calculators. The other strategy is better if husband doesn’t live long. After husband dies, wife switches to survivor benefits. Her claiming early isn’t penalized for many years.

Case 2

In case 2, the gaps in age and earnings between husband and wife are larger. The estimated benefit for the lower-earning spouse is still more than 50% of that for the higher-earning spouse.

Assumptions: Husband was born in 1953, with an estimated benefit of $2,435/month at his Full Retirement Age. Wife was born in 1959, with an estimated benefit of $2,044/month at her Full Retirement Age.

Financial Engines: Wife claims early at 62 when first eligible (husband is 68 at that time); husband claims spousal benefits only for 2 years. Husband switches to his own benefits at age 70.

AARP: Husband waits until age 70 (wife is 64). Wife claims spousal benefits only starting at her full retirement age. Wife switches to her own benefits at age 70.

T. Rowe Price: Same as AARP.

SSAnalyze: Same as Financial Engines.

Again, the difference lies in whether the lower-earning spouse claims early or waits. I lean toward the strategy by AARP’s and T. Rowe Price’s calculators again. The other strategy is better if the higher-earning spouse doesn’t live long.

Case 3

In case 3 the lower-earning spouse is older. Her estimated benefit is less than one half of the her husband’s.

Assumptions: Husband was born in 1955, with an estimated benefit of $2,367/month at his Full Retirement Age. Wife was born in 1952, with an estimated benefit of $1,000/month at her Full Retirement Age.

Financial Engines: Wife claims early at 65 (husband is 62 at that time). Husband claims only spousal benefits when he reaches his full retirement age. Husband switches to his own benefits at age 70; wife also files for spousal benefits at that time.

AARP: Wife files and suspends at 69 when husband is at full retirement age; husband claims only spousal benefits. Wife resumes benefits at age 70. Husband switches to his own benefits at age 70.

T. Rowe Price: Husband files and suspends at full retirement age (wife is 69 at that time); wife claims spousal benefits only. Husband resumes benefits at age 70.

SSAnalyze: Wife claims at 66 (husband is 63). Husband claims only spousal benefits when he reaches his full retirement age. Husband switches to his own benefits at age 70; wife also files for spousal benefits at that time.

Here four calculators recommended four difference strategies. I think the one from AARP’s calculator is the best. Again the strategies from Financial Engines and SSAnalyze work better if the higher-earning spouse dies young.

Which Do You Listen To?

Even for these seemingly straight forward cases, different calculators produced different recommendations. I didn’t try the two paid calculators Social Security Solutions and Maximize My Social Security. Maybe they will give yet something different.

When it comes to my turn to claim Social Security benefits, I would run my numbers through all of them, both free and paid. The time and a small amount of money spent on getting the decision right would be worth it.

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Social Security Claiming Strategy Calculators Compared is copyrighted material from The Finance Buff. All rights reserved. ( b87e8215d24496480249d6aaf20c77ea )

by Harry Sit at July 28, 2014 11:50 AM


Zero Initialisation for Classes

(First posted to, number 5 in a series of posts about Vectors and Vector based containers, this version has been rewritten and updated fairly significantly since first posted.)

This is essentially a response to comments on my previous roll your own vector blog post.

In roll your own vector I talked about a change we made to the initialisation semantics for PathEngine's custom vector class. In my first followup post I looked more closely at possibilities for replacing resize() with reserve() (which can avoid the initialisation issue in many cases), but so far I'm been concentrating pretty much exclusively on zero initialisation for built-in types. In this post I come back to look at the issue of initialisation semantics for class element types.

Placement new subtleties

At it's root the changed initialisation semantics for our vector all come down to a single (quite subtle) change in the way we write one of the placement new expressions.

It's all about the placement new call for element default construction. This is required when elements need to be initialised, but no value is provided for initialisation by the calling code, for example in a call to vector resize() with no fill value argument.

As shown in my previous post, the standard way to implement this placement new is with the following syntax:

       new((void*)begin) T();

but we chose to replace this with the following, subtly different placement new syntax:

       new((void*)begin) T;

So we left out a pair of brackets.

Note that this missing pair of brackets is what I'm talking about when I refer to 'changed initialisation semantics'. (Our custom vector class does not omit initialisation completely!)

What those brackets do

So what do those brackets do, and what happens when we remove them?

Well, this is all about 'zero initialisation'.

In certain cases the memory for the object of type T being constructed will get zero initialised in the first version of the placement new call ('new((void*)begin) T()'), but not in the second version ('new((void*)begin) T').

You can see find these two initialisation types documented on, in 'default initialisation' and 'zero initialisation', and you can find some additional explanation of these two construction semantics on this stackoverflow answer, as well as in the related links.

This makes a difference during element construction for built in types, (as we saw with the buffer initialisation overhead in my previous post), but also for certain types classes and structs, and this is what I'll be looking at in this post.

Initialisation of built in types

It's quite well known that initialisation for built-in types works differently for global variables (which are usually created as part of the program's address space) and local variables (which are allocated on the program stack).

If we start with the following:

main(int argc, char* argv[])
    int i;
    assert(i == 0);
    return 0;

This runs through quite happily with the debug build, but if I turn assertions on in the release build then this assertion gets triggered. That's not really surprising. This kind of uninitialised local variable is a well known gotcha and I think most people with a reasonable amount of experience in C++ have come across something like this.

But the point is that the local variable initialisation here is using 'default initialisation', as opposed to 'zero initialisation'.

And if we change i from a local to a global variable the situation changes:

int i;
main(int argc, char* argv[])
    assert(i == 0);
    return 0;

This time the variable gets zero initialised, and the program runs through without assertion in both release and debug builds.

The reason for this is that global variables can be initialised in the linked binary for your program, at no cost (or else very cheaply at program startup), but local variables get instantiated on the program stack and initialising these explicitly to zero would add a bit of extra run time overhead to your program.

Since uninitialised data is a big potential source of error, many other (more modern) languages choose to always initialise data, but this inevitably adds some overhead, and part of the appeal of C++ is that it lets us get 'close to the metal' and avoid this kind of overhead.

Zero initialisation and 'value' classes

What's less well known (I think) is that this can also apply to classes, in certain cases. This is something you'll come across most commonly, I think, in the form of classes that are written to act as a kind of 'value type', and to behave in a similar way to the C++ built in types.

More specifically, it's all about classes where internal state is not initialised in during class construction, and for which you could choose to omit the class default constructor.

In PathEngine we have a number of classes like this. One example looks something like this:

class cMeshElement
    enum eType

//.. class methods

    eType _type;
    tSigned32 _index;

Default construction of value classes

What should happen on default construction of a cMeshElement instance?

The safest thing to do will be to initialise _type and _index to some fixed, deterministic values, to eliminate the possibility of program execution being dependant on uninitialised data.

In PathEngine, however, we may need to set up some fairly large buffers with elements of this type. We don't want to limit ourselves to only ever building these buffers through a purely iterator based paradigm (as discussed in my previous post), and sometimes want to just create big uninitialised vectors of cMeshElement type directly, without buffer initialisation overhead, so we leave the data members in this class uninitialised.

Empty default constructor or no default constructor?

So we don't want to do anything on default construction.

There are two ways this can be implemented in our value type class. We can omit the class default constructor completely, or we can add an empty default constructor.

Omitting the constructor seems nice, insofar as avoids a bit of apparently unnecessary and extraneous code, but it turns out there's some unexpected complexity in the rules for C++ object construction with respect to this choice, and to whether an object is being constructed with 'zero initialisation' or 'default initialisation'.

Note that what the two terms refer to are actually two different sets of object construction semantics, with each defining a set of rules for what happens to memory during construction (depending on the exact construction situation), and 'zero initialisation' does not always result in an actual zero initialisation step.

We can test what happens in the context of our custom vector, and 'value type' elements, with the following code:

class cInitialisationReporter
  int i;
      std::cout << "cInitialisationReporter::i is " << i << '\n';

class cInitialisationReporter2
  int i;
  cInitialisationReporter2() {}
      std::cout << "cInitialisationReporter2::i is " << i << '\n';
template <class T> void
  T* allocated = static_cast<T*>(malloc(sizeof(T)));
  signed char* asCharPtr = reinterpret_cast<signed char*>(allocated);
  for(int i = 0; i != sizeof(T); ++i)
      asCharPtr[i] = -1;
  new((void*)allocated) T();
template <class T> void
  T* allocated = static_cast<T*>(malloc(sizeof(T)));
  signed char* asCharPtr = reinterpret_cast<signed char*>(allocated);
  for(int i = 0; i != sizeof(T); ++i)
      asCharPtr[i] = -1;
  new((void*)allocated) T;

main(int argc, char* argv[])
  return 0;

This gives the following results:

cInitialisationReporter::i is 0
cInitialisationReporter2::i is -1
cInitialisationReporter::i is -1
cInitialisationReporter2::i is -1

In short:

  • If our vector uses 'zero initialisation' form (placement new with brackets), and the value type has default constructor omitted then the compiler will add code to zero element memory on construction.
  • If our vector uses 'zero initialisation' form (placement new with brackets), and the value type has an empty default then the compiler will leave element memory uninitialised on construction.
  • If the vector uses 'default initialisation' form (placement new without brackets), then the compiler will leave element memory uninitialised regardless of whether or not there is a default constructor.

Zero initialisation in std::vector

The std::vector implementations I've looked at also all perform 'zero initialisation' (and I assume this is then actually required by the standard). We can test this by supplying the following custom allocator:

template <class T>
class cNonZeroedAllocator
    typedef T value_type;
    typedef value_type* pointer;
    typedef const value_type* const_pointer;
    typedef value_type& reference;
    typedef const value_type& const_reference;
    typedef typename std::size_t size_type;
    typedef std::ptrdiff_t difference_type;

    template <class tTarget>
    struct rebind
        typedef cNonZeroedAllocator<tTarget> other;

    cNonZeroedAllocator() {}
    ~cNonZeroedAllocator() {}
    template <class T2>
    cNonZeroedAllocator(cNonZeroedAllocator<T2> const&)

    address(reference ref)
        return &ref;
    address(const_reference ref)
        return &ref;

    allocate(size_type count, const void* = 0)
        size_type byteSize = count * sizeof(T);
        void* result = malloc(byteSize);
        signed char* asCharPtr = reinterpret_cast<signed char*>(result);
        for(size_type i = 0; i != byteSize; ++i)
            asCharPtr[i] = -1;
        return reinterpret_cast<pointer>(result);
    void deallocate(pointer ptr, size_type)

    max_size() const
        return 0xffffffffUL / sizeof(T);

    construct(pointer ptr, const T& t)
        new(ptr) T(t);
    destroy(pointer ptr)

    template <class T2> bool
    operator==(cNonZeroedAllocator<T2> const&) const
        return true;
    template <class T2> bool
    operator!=(cNonZeroedAllocator<T2> const&) const
        return false;

Oh, by the way, did I mention that I don't like STL allocators? (Not yet, I will in my next post!) This is a bog standard STL allocator with the allocate method hacked to set all the bytes in the allocated memory block to non-zero values. The important bit is the implementation of the allocate and deallocate methods. The rest is just boilerplate.

To apply this in our test code:

main(int argc, char* argv[])
    cNonZeroedAllocator<cInitialisationReporter> > v1;
    cNonZeroedAllocator<cInitialisationReporter2> > v2;
  return 0;

And this gives:

cInitialisationReporter::i is 0
cInitialisationReporter2::i is -1

Class with no default constructor + std::vector = initialisation overhead

So if I implement a 'value class' without default constructor, and then construct an std::vector with elements of this type, then I get initialisation overhead. And this accounts for part of the speedups we saw when switching to a custom vector implementation (together with the corresponding issue for built in types).

But there's a clear workaround for this issue, now, based on the above. To use std::vector, but avoid initialisation overhead for value type elements, we just need to make sure that each of our value type classes has an empty default constructor.

Extending to a wrapper for working around zero initialisation for built-in types

In the comments (commenting on the original version of this post!) Marek Knápek suggests using the following wrapper to avoid zero initialisation, in the context of built-in types:

template<typename T>
// assuming T is int, short, long, std::uint64_t, ...
// TODO: add static assert
class MyInt{
// m_int is "garbage-initialized" here
T m_int;

And sure enough, this works (because of the empty default constructor in the wrapper class). But I really don't like using this kind of wrapper in practice, as I think that this complicates (and slightly obfuscates!) each vector definition.

Using default initialisation semantics for our custom vector avoids the need for this kind of workaround. And, more generally, if we take each of the possible construction semantics on their merits (ignoring the fact that one of these is the behaviour of the standard vector implementation), I prefer 'default initialisation' semantics, since:

  • these semantics seem more consistent and avoid surprises based on whether or not an empty default constructor is included in a class, and
  • value type classes shouldn't depend on zero initialisation, anyway (since they may be instantiated as local variables)

Type specialisation

One thing to be aware of, with this workaround, is that it looks like there can be implications for type specialisation.

When I try the following (with clang 3.2.1):

    << "is_trivially_default_constructible<cInitialisationReporter>: "
    << is_trivially_default_constructible<cInitialisationReporter>::value
    << '\n';
    << "is_trivially_default_constructible<cInitialisationReporter2>: "
    << is_trivially_default_constructible<cInitialisationReporter2>::value
    << '\n';

I get:

error: no template named 'is_trivially_default_constructible' in namespace 'std'; did you mean 'has_trivial_default_constructor'?

and then when I try with 'has_trivial_default_constructor':

    << "has_trivial_default_constructor<cInitialisationReporter>: "
    << has_trivial_default_constructor<cInitialisationReporter>::value
    << '\n';
    << "has_trivial_default_constructor<cInitialisationReporter2>: "
    << has_trivial_default_constructor<cInitialisationReporter2>::value
    << '\n';

I get:

has_trivial_default_constructor<cInitialisationReporter>: 1
has_trivial_default_constructor<cInitialisationReporter2>: 0

This doesn't matter for PathEngine since we still use an 'old school' type specialisation setup (to support older compilers), but could be something to look out for, nevertheless.


The overhead for zero initialisation in std::vector is something that has been an issue for us historically but it turns out that for std::vector of value type classes, zero initialisation can be avoided, without resorting to a custom vector implementation.

It's interesting to see the implications of this kind of implementation detail. Watch out how you implement 'value type' classes if they're going to be used as elements in large buffers, and maximum performance is desired!

** Comments: Please check the existing comment thread for this post before commenting. **

by Thomas Young at July 28, 2014 10:06 AM

Hacking Distributed

HyperDex 1.4: Performance Improvements, and Bug Fixes

HyperDex Logo

We are proud to announce HyperDex 1.4, the next generation NoSQL data store that provides ACID transactions, schema-less documents, fault-tolerance, and high-performance. Some key features of HyperDex are:

  • High Performance: HyperDex is fast. It outperforms MongoDB and Cassandra on industry-standard benchmarks by a factor of 2X or more.

  • Advanced Functionality: With the Warp add-on, HyperDex offers multi-key transactions that span multiple objects with ACID guarantees.

  • Strong Consistency: HyperDex ensures that every GET returns the result of the latest PUT.

  • Fault Tolerance: HyperDex automatically replicates data to tolerate a configurable number of failures.

  • Scalable: HyperDex automatically redistributes data to make use of new resources as you add more nodes to your cluster.

This release brings the following changes and improvements:

  • Improved Performance: Concurrency improvements in HyperLevelDB provide higher throughput to concurrent applications.

  • Improved Performance: A new on-disk format and improved replication protocol offer higher performance to all applications

  • Improved Fault Tolerance: The fault tolerance code has been refactored to reduce time to recovery, especially under massive correlated failures.

  • Improved Go Bindings: The Go bindings are up-to-date with other languages.

  • New utility: It is now possible to rename spaces with the "hyperdex mv-space" command.

HyperDex runs on 64-bit Linux (Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, Centos) and OS X. Binary packages for Debian 7, Ubuntu 12.04,14.04, Fedora 19-20, and CentOS 6 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 July 28, 2014 10:00 AM

Light Blue Touchpaper

First Global Deception Conference

Global Deception conference, Oxford, 17–19th of July 2014

Conference introduction

This deception conference, as part of Hostility and Violence, was organized by interdisciplinary net. Interdisciplinary net runs about 75 conferences a year and was set up by Rob Fisher in 1999 to facilitate international dialogue between disciplines. Conferences are organized on a range of topics, such as gaming, empathycyber cultures, violence and communication and conflict. Not just the topics of the different conferences are interdisciplinary, this is the case within each conference as well. During our deception conference we approached deception from very different angles; from optical illusions in art and architecture via literary hoaxes, fiction and spy novels to the role of the media in creating false beliefs amongst society and ending with a more experimental approach to detecting deception. Even a magic trick was part of the (informal) program, and somehow I ended up being the magician’s assistant. You can find my notes and abstracts below.

Finally, if you (also) have an interest in more experimental deception research with a high practical applicability, then we have good news. Aldert Vrij, Ross Anderson and I are hosting a deception conference to bring together deception researchers and law enforcement people from all over the world. This event will take place at Cambridge University on August 22-24, 2015.

Session 1 – Hoaxes

John Laurence Busch: Deceit without, deceit within: The British Government behavior in the secret race to claim steam-powered superiority at sea. Lord Liverpool became prime minister in 1812 and wanted to catch up with the Americans regarding steam-powered boats. The problem however was that the Royal Navy did not know how to build those vessels, so they joined the British Post in 1820 who wanted to build steam powered boats to deliver post to Ireland more quickly. The post was glad the navy wants to collaborate, although the navy was deceptive; they kept quiet, both to the post, the public and other countries, that they did not know how to build those vessels, and that were hoping to learn how to build a steam boat from them, which succeeded, importantly whilst successfully masking/hiding from the French and the Americans that the British Navy was working on steam vessels to catch up with the US. So the Navy was hiding something questionable (military activity) behind something innocent (post); deceptive public face.

Catelijne Coopmans & Brian Rappert: Revealing deception and its discontents: Scrutinizing belief and skepticism about the moon landing. The moon landing in the 60s is a possible deceptive situation in which the stakes are high and is of high symbolic value. A 2001 documentary by Fox “Conspiracy theory: Did we land on the moon or not?” The documentary bases their suspicions mainly on photographic and visual evidence, such as showing shadows where they shouldn’t be, a “c” shape on a stone, a flag moving in a breeze and pictures with exactly the same background but with different foregrounds. As a response, several people have explained these inconsistencies (e.g., the C was a hair). The current authors focus more on the paradoxes that surround and maybe even fuel these conspiracy theories, such as disclosure vs. non-disclosure, secrecy that fuels suspicion. Like the US governments secrecy around Area 51. Can you trust and at the same time not trust the visual proof of the moan landing presented by NASA? Although the quality of the pictures was really bad, the framing was really well done. Apollo 11 tried to debunk this conspiracy theory by showing a picture of the flag currently still standing on the moon. But then, that could be photoshopped…

Discussion: How can you trust a visual image, especially when used to proof something, when we live in a world where technology makes it possible to fake anything with a high standard?

Session 2 – The science of lying

Isabela Fairclough: Rationalizations and persuasive definitions. An argumentative perspective on deception and manipulation in discourse. Discourse analysis of political statements, based on Searle’s speech act (1969), including assertives, directives, commissives, expressives and declarations. Its starts with a proposition (Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction). The preparatory rule involves having evidence and reasons in favor of this proposition. Subsequently, the sincerity rule includes that as long as you believe your own statement at the time (even if it later turns out to be untrue) it is not deception (did Tony Blair actually believe that there were weapons of mass destruction? If so, that’s not really deception according to the definition by Vrij, 2008). Author highlighted the importance of rationalization and confirmation bias. The main question is if Blair was sincere, and thus deceptive, or not, was it just an honest mistake due to human fallibility. Blair claimed he believed beyond reasonable doubt that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and thus claimed to have been sincere. On the other hand, as a politician he should have taken into account other, counter-information as well (was there enough information available to prove the contrary?). Author touches on the large effect word use can have on forming people’s opinion about a topic.

Discussion: Is there a link between the sincerity rule and self-deception? à Self-deception could be used as the ultimate excuse; how do you proof you believed something to be true in the past? Especially when viewing self-deception through the eyes of Von Hippel & Trivers (2011), who claim that information processing biases are self-deception “tactics”.

Mircea Zloteanu: Emotion recognition ability and deception detection of low-stake lies. People are bad at detecting lies, partly because there is not one single cue to deceit, aka the lack of Pinocchio’s nose. Author relies on the leakage theory, which states that cues to especially found in facial expressions, consists of micro expressions and subtle expressions. He mentions the importance of stakes in experimental deception research. High stake lies (police interviews) vs. low stake lies (everyday lies). In low stake lies, less cues to deceit might be shown because low stake lies cause less emotional reactions. The author is interested in the question how is people’s lying behavior affected by situation? And how do lie catchers use this? Author did an experiment with 20 videos (10 truths and 10 lies) of low stake lies about a holiday. These videos were shown to a set of participants who had to judge deception. Results: No effect for facial expressions, but the author did find an effect of empathy: More empathic people are worse at detecting lies. He also found that stakes matter; emotional cues did not work in low-stake situations and empathy served as a moderator. Suggestion for future research: Is the empathy effect caused by people who lack in empathy being more analytical?

Notes: The empathy results fit in nicely with the paper by Stel et al (2009), in which she found that mimicking your interaction partner reduces the ability to detect deception. As people who are very empathic tend to naturally mimic more, this may explain why people who are empathic are worse at detecting deception (i.e., empathy might increase mimicry and subsequently decrease detection rates).

 Emma Williams: Detecting deception across cultural bounds. A lot of deception research is focused on cues to deceit; can we tell if people lie based on their verbal and nonverbal behavior? Now more theoretical work is happening, why would we expect any differences? Zuckerman et al (1981) came up with 3 (note: originally 4) theoretical explanations: Cognitive load, emotional responses and attempted behavioral control approach, although the latter is mainly based on believed cues to deceit rather than actual cues to deceit. However, a lot of deception research has been done in Western countries, which makes it difficult to draw any cross-cultural conclusions. Important is that countries might differ in what they find acceptable: The acceptability of deception and how cultures differ in this respect. Main division that is often made is the one between collectivistic and individualistic cultures. Importantly, some behavior is evolutionary and similar across cultures, although others are culturally specific. For example, differences in the importance of impression management and masking emotions. Next step is to identify what drives people, the basic motivations of people. There might then be situations in which deception is more acceptable than in others. Does this acceptability effect people’s cues to deceit? And differs this between cultures?

Discussion: Although not much of the experimental deception research that has been done is culture-specific, some studies have looked at behavioral differences between cultures. Although there are differences in baseline behavior between different cultures and these differences do affect suspicions in the interviewer (Vrij & Winkel, 1991, 1994), so far, no culture-specific cues to deceit have been found. Similarly, Dan Ariely and his group have studied if people from different countries are more likely to cheat, and did not find any differences in cheating prevalence between cultures, including countries as US, Italy, Israel and China. So far culture seems to have little impact on deception specifically, including both prevalence and cues to deceit. Do keep in mind that interacting cross-culturally can negatively influence the interviewer’s suspicion levels and can create misunderstandings, so continuing to perform culture-specific deception research, and more widely communication research, is very important.

Session 3 – Literary Hoaxes

Clara Sitbon: The literary hoax: The art of authorial forgery. There are three types of literary hoaxes. The first is a hoax that imitates, to reveal flaws. The second is a pioneering hoax, and the third category is a hoax that steals, mostly different versions of plagiarism. This links in with pseudonyms (with or without fake biographies attached) and other literary forms of deception. Some hoaxes go as far as to create fake birth certificates. Sometimes the boundaries are less clear, for example Bob Dylan is a pseudonym for Robert Allen Zimmerman. But when you write something about Bob Dylan being from A and living in B, you’re actually creating a fake biography for the pseudonym, because even if this information is correct for Zimmerman, it’s not for “Bob Dylan”. Some literary hoaxes have been very successful and elaborate, of writers who hide behind fake names and sometimes even having other people standing in to become the “face of the pseudonym”. In French literary history this has put the writer Emile Ajar in a difficult position when he received a literary price for a book written under a pseudonym, while this price can only be awarded once in a lifetime. Unfortunately the writer already had received this price before under his actual name, making it impossible for him to come forward and explain that he was the person behind the pseudonym.

Stephen Lehane Smith: Telling the big lie: Obfuscation and untruth in Helen Demidenko/Darville’s “The hand that signed the paper”. Is it a problem that writers sometimes take on a pseudonym, and even sometimes create a fake biography for this pseudonym? Or is it harmless? But what if this pseudonym and biography pretend to have a specific cultural background and life experiences that give the story more credibility? The right fake biography can turn fiction into a biography. In the hand that signed the paper (1994), the writer (born out of British middle-class parents) pretended to be Ukrainian and faked a family history affected by the Holocaust. The book justifies the Ukrainian participation in World War 2 extermination camps. The (fake) biographical aspect helped the book gain credibility and escape allegations of anti-Semitism for a few years. However, when the hoax was revealed in 1995, the anti-Semitism allegations started again, together with a discussion on what level of deception is acceptable when writing. This case shows that it’s a thin line between literary freedom and literary deception with all its consequences.

 James Bainbridge: “Blind in my mask and tripped by my disguises”: Deception and disguise in the writing of A.S.J. Tessimond. Tessimond was accused of plagiarism in 1985 for a poem in the book “Collected Poems”. The author discussed Tessimond’s life full of deceiving and being deceived in both personal life and his writing. For example, he asked a woman to move in with him, who then invited her “brother” who secretly may have been her partner to move in with them as well. Also, he used 21 pseudonyms in different aspects of life and his writing (e.g., John Tango, John Sucker, John Fool). This shows how integrated aspects of deception were in Tessimond’s slightly disturbed life.

Research idea: A meta cost-benefit analysis of literarily hoaxes: Is deception when publishing written work beneficial, or are the costs (including psychological, financial and reputation costs, taking into account the negative impact of being caught on image and reputation) too high?

Session 4 – Identity and Self

Georgina Turner and Simon Farid: Being Mark Stone. Or, can anybody use a fabricated identity. The authors presented a combined project of an academic and an artist about the squatting the fabricated identity of the (fake) environmental activist Mark Stone, who really was an undercover police officer. The authors soon realized that identity squatting works as a spiral; with having access to an email address you can find other addresses and personal information such as a passport number. The more you know about someone, the more you can find out. From there, the authors accessed other online accounts such as Twitter. With access to these accounts and personal information, the authors started to create information about Mark Stone as well, such as signing up for loyalty cards, creating new accounts and interacting with banks and national insurance. This art piece crosses the boundaries from investigating somebody else and becoming another identity. During this project the artist noted feelings a discomfort and anxiety about safety, especially when impersonating this person and when being actively engaged with lying. There were also ethical concerns with the project regarding the people Mark Stone had come across and hurt in his life, so the authors had to make sure those people were not confronted again with the revival of this persona Mark Stone. This art piece opens up the discussion about identity checks; especially online, how can we prove that we are who we are? And should we? And what is the role of a digital signature? The Squatting Mark Stone’s identity experience is turned into a photo story that will be accessible online.

Michal Kravel Tovi: Believable Personas: Suspicion, sincerity and the making of Jewish converts in Israel.

William Ransome: Self-deception and ethics: Integrity and virtue. The self-deception view taken by the author is that it occurs often. Self-deception is accompanied with the paradox of knowing that something is both true and not true at the same time. When attempting to believe something you know to be untrue, the mere action of trying to convince yourself that something that isn’t true, is actually true, will remind you that you actually believe the information not to be true. The author then continued on talking about the role of virtue in self-deception.

Session 5 – Visual Art and Illusion

Katie Graham: Trompe l’Oeils: Traditional and augmented. The author is an architect who encounters deception in her work through the use of illusions, and more recently augmented reality. By manipulating perspective, illusions can be created, such as creating depth on flat surfaces (i.e., from 2d to 3d). For example, artists used to paint domes on flat surfaces to create the illusion of space and depth. Augmented reality is now used to create dynamic illusions by projecting a virtual world on top of an existing world, as used at Disney’s Cinderella’s Castle. So what happens when the “truth is revealed”? There seems to be a discrepancy between traditional (more passive method; it will still be there if you’re not there) and augmented reality (more active method; it needs movement to be believed, and as soon as it fades, the illusion is gone) in how people respond upon the revelation that they were tricked. The more traditional optical illusions can create the feeling that although you know it’s an illusion, you still see and believe it when looking at. However, upon the revelation of the illusion of augmented reality, people stop “seeing the illusion” and immediately become more critical; the impressed “wow” moment seems to be missing due to the active aspects of augmented reality illusions.

Carolyn Lefley: Seeing is believing: The capacity of the manipulated photograph to represent scenes of mythology and the supernatural. The author is a photographer and is interested in how manipulations of photos can distort people’s view of reality. When photography started, it was seen as a pencil of nature, a stencil or footprint of the real. But it can be a blurry line between “real” reality and the picture’s reality. For example, thanks to Arthur Conan Doyle, the Cottingley fairies in 1917 were believed to be true for quite a while, although people were aware that fairies (probably) didn’t exist. Similarly, grainy photo material in 1934 of the Monster of Loch Ness led to years of speculation. Experts examined the negatives of both pictures and did not find any tempering with the negatives. However, in both cases, the hoaxes were revealed years later and it turned out that although the pictures hadn’t been tempered, it also didn’t depict reality, because the fairies turned out to be made of paper fairies and the monster turned out to be a toy. Are photos only deceptive if they are tampered with? Or also when the picture is “real”, but shows something different than the viewers think it does? The author was also wondering if (manipulated) pictures can create or stimulate beliefs of supernatural, myths and folklore. She took pictures at heritage locations/routes and known “mysterious places”. Through the use of double exposures she could create combined “outside inside” images, resulting in mysterious pictures, for example one that shows trees and plants inside an attic. By doing so, she tried to show the unseeable. The author ended her story with the possibilities of CGI software, and how this facilitates a new state of photography, somewhere between truth and deception.

Discussion: How does using motion capture to use actual/real movements and implement them in animated contexts fit into the discussion of real and fake/deception? Technology seems to play a role in reality becoming a blurry concept.

Rachel Nahshon-Dotan: Mi Zilem Oti: Who shot meThe author read out loud her paper on the experiences having her picture taken by different people who played an important role in her life. The pictures captured the way the photographers perceived her. She described how the different photographers and experiences came across and affected her and the pictures. An important role was given to objects, chosen by the photographers, and to role-playing. This project touched upon its consequences for the individual’s privacy and the role of false representations.

Session 6 – Forgery and Fabrication

Olga Knapek: Forgery: The body of journal. The author is an expert on Polish literature. Does the fictional aspect of writing prevent writers from having to take (judicial) responsibilities of what they write? Recently, an author revealed that her auto-biography was fake (i.e., she did not actually experience the things she had described), which led to a 20 million fine (the author was sued by her own publisher because her book turned out to be fiction rather than true). This means that now, more than ever, the author (and truthfulness) counts. By being able to drag an author to court, bad literature might be prevented in the future. It shows that literature is very alive.

Discussion: What is the difference between lies and fiction? Does fiction consist of lies? And is it not related to deception due to the role of “forewarning”, which is part of Vrij’s (2008) deception definition: “a successful or unsuccessful attempt, without forewarning, to create in another a belief, which the communicator considers to be untrue”? The forewarning element in the deception definition eliminates magic and other situations in which you know you’ll be deceived as deception. If something is called fiction, does that mean people are “warned up front” that a fictional book isn’t true?

Session 7 – Tales of Espionage

Sophia Kanaouti: Open deception in the media: The cynical exercise of passing the responsibility to the citizen

Open deception is a late truth, the late admittance/exposure of an ongoing lie, usually exposed through media. Open deception means a revelation of the deceit, with the effect of adapting one’s (fictional) worldview. There are 3 types of open deception. First, the “I can’t believe it’s not butter” effect, which is a single person’s opinion. Second, the “why didn’t you pay attention” scam, using cloud language to manipulate someone’s worldview. Thirdly, a late truth is a silent truth, usually late, that is exposed once the deception has served it’s function. For example, the media exposure around the weapons of mass destruction as a rectification for the war in Iraq. After the deception had served its purpose (i.e., the war had started), it was revealed that there were no weapons of mass destruction; open deception. Lying wasn’t necessary anymore.

Notes: This links in with the previous talk by Isabela Fairclough and the discussion of the role of self-deception. How can one ever proof what goes on in someone’s head? Or even worse, what went on in someone’s head several months or years ago? All sorts of information-processing and memory biases such as the hindsight bias play a role here.

Discussion: If open deception is a “late truth”, what is the role of revelation? If the deception is never uncovered, can it still be open deception/a late truth? If not, does it matter if the deception is revealed by the deceiver himself, or by a third party?

William Bostock: The motivation to spy: The portrayal of Elyesa Bazna (Cicero) in literature and film. Who was Cicero? He was one of the great spies of World War 2, who photographed important documents at the British embassy in neutral Turkey; documents that he subsequently sent to the German government. Although most high German officers read these documents and used this insider knowledge, Hitler did not believe that those documents were genuine. Nonetheless, the damage was done by the time the documents reached Hitler, making Cicero a highly effective and influential spy. Cicero was able to photograph these top-secret documents because of two reasons. First of all, the British ambassador kept these documents at home, and second, the ambassador lived quite a structured life: He had the habit of taking a long bath twice a day, and he slept using sleeping pills. Because of the before mentioned reasons, the top-secret documents were accessible at certain, predictable moments each day, allowing Cicero to access and forward important information during wartime. Cicero’s espionage was the inspiration for several books and movies, such as Operation Cicero and 5 Fingers, where he was described in very different ways, from a great spy to mentally unstable and non-influential.

Discussion: Is Snowden the new type of spy? Instead of (secretly) reporting the sensitive information to a government, he’s reporting sensitive information via the media to society.

Session 8: Realism

Davide Rapp: Green is the message: A comparative analysis of nature-inspired design objects. The author argues how concepts as “green” and “sustainability” can be used deceptively, and disguise what is actually going on and why. This statement was supported through the presentation of 6 real life examples. The author showed areal pictures from the 1970s, showing a green forest in Brazil and de white/grey desert around Las Vegas. However, in 2014, similar areal pictures reveal that the roles have switched. Where Vegas now looks very green from above because of artificial plants and trees, the forest in Brazil shows several white/grey gaps. In 40 years time, the picture completely changed, showing the power of artificial developments and the delicate state of the natural. So although Vegas now looks greener from above, it’s not necessarily more natural. A second example involved a visual presentation of how the Adidas logo changed between 1920 and 2009, whilst describing which factors played a role in the changes. The author highlighted the role of green, the logo going from stripes to a clover shape, and from black-and-white to green. Lastly, the author used the example of an in 1994 developed ergonomic office chair that highlights the importance of sustainability. The chair is 94% recyclable and is promoted with the quote: “even if it’s black, it’s green”. The author finished with doubting if the link between green and good is always correct, as the concept green can also be used as a camouflage.

Baris Mete: Realism as deception: The theory and practices of literary forgery.

 Unscheduled talk by Jonathan Allen and Sophie Van Der Zee: Are illusions deceptive?  The authors  aimed to illustrate through both talking and visual demonstrations the difference between an illusion and a lie.  During the first talk on the use of motion capture equipment to detect deception, factual incorrect incorrect information was told (i.e, a lie), whilst during the second talk on the Magic Circle, the audience unexpectedly witnessed a magic trick (i.e., an illusion). In both cases, the audience was not aware of the deception. During previous presentations the issue had been raised if illusions and fiction are deception or not, which is why the authors  wanted to open up the discussion on socially acceptable versions of lying. By letting the audience experience how it feels to be lied to and to be tricked without forewarning, the authors wanted to spark this debate.

Session 9: Spy Fiction

Alan Burton: The man who never was: Impersonation, imposture and identity in British Spy Fiction. The author realized that most concepts discussed during this deception conference are somehow linked to the spy literature, and decided to talk the audience trough spy literature examples for all concepts. For example, topics as fiction, conspiracy narratives (MI5), lie detection apparatus (although in the spy literature usually an idealistic, well-performing version of true polygraph effectiveness), literary hoaxes (e.g., pretending to be someone you’re not), historical fiction (e.g., the early 20th century “Kim” by Rudyard Kipling and “Scarlet Pimpernel” by Emma Orczy and the newer “Cambridge spies” from 2003), fake identities (the anxiety aspect of impersonating someone else/going undercover and the juggling of identities is well described in books as Sweet tooth), self-deception (as encountered in for example the “perfect spy” from 1986, who was struggling with juggling multiple personalities), security (covering topics as surveillance and its friction with privacy), architecture and optical illusions, tales of espionage and realism. In conclusion, the wide variety of deception topics covered during this conference all link to spy fiction. Interestingly, the author highlighted that Mansfield College in Oxford is a very suitable location for discussing deception, seen as this place served as a Code and Cypher office during the Second World War.

Toby Manning: A wilderness of mirrors: Deception in John le Carre’s cold war novels. British and American intelligence agencies were very distrustful during the cold war, partly due to the Cambridge spies. The cold war didn’t invent deception, but deception thrived during it, more than during previous wars as Vietnam. Books and movies (such as Ian Fleming’s “James Bond” novels, John le Carre’s “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” and Len Deighton’s “The IPCRESS File”) on intelligence agencies during the cold war were very popular, and created an image of the cold war for the general public. Spying in general, and MI5 and MI6 in specific (their existence was respectively not even admitted until 1989 and 1994), are surrounded by secrecy, and spies and deception go hand in hand. For example, spies don’t have to only lie during their work, but also in their private life to their own family and friends. However, there are a few issues with the way deception in portrayed in the spy literature, such as the emphasis on deception being the end, rather than the means. Similarly, in those novels, deceit is always revealed (and punished) at the end, while this is not the case in real (cold war) life. Because of this, there are two worlds: The world of real spying and the literary, wishful version of this world in which deception in always revealed.

Session 10: Tales of Deception

Iman Sheeha: “I’ll henceforth turn a spy. And watch them in their close conveyances.” Spying as good service in Thomas Heywood’s “a woman killed with kindness”.

Joseph P. Lawrence: Dostoevsky on truth and deception. The author is challenging Plato’s assumption that poets lie (the poetic idea that poets tell the truth by telling lies). We are no longer using oracles to learn what will happen; we now turn to statistics and scientists. The author, a poet himself, argues that poets instead tell the truth. Dostoevsky was a positivist and argued that the life of a happy man if as different from the life of an unhappy man as heaven is from hell. While when those two people would discuss how the world, they will agree on the facts (e.g., yes, there is war, and yes, children get tortured, but that’s not all), the focus of the facts will be different, and interpretation (i.e., how things feel) will be different. Reality itself is constituted of ambiguity, as nothing cannot be.

General Conference Discussion

What deception aspects are missing for a true interdisciplinary approach to deception? Deception in religion, gender and deception (pretending to be a man/woman, which for example used to happen in the army and the magic circle), moral aspects of deception; deception in cinema; deception in nature; deceiving oneself as in disillusions and dreams (links to mental disorders); deceptive methods in advertising and lying in social relationships.

by Sophie Van Der Zee at July 28, 2014 09:12 AM

Crossway Blog

Video: Nancy Guthrie on Pretending to Teach the Bible

WOWM - Personal Story

This video with Nancy Guthrie is part of Women of the Word Month, a free 31-day campaign designed to encourage and equip women for transformative Bible study. Learn more or sign up at

In this video, popular author and Bible study leader Nancy Guthrie explains a valuable tip for those looking to study the Bible well: pretend you’re preparing to teach it.

Nancy Guthrie on Pretending to Teach the Bible
from Crossway on Vimeo.

Nancy Guthrie teaches the Bible at conferences around the country and is currently pursuing graduate studies at Covenant Theological Seminary. She and her husband, David, are the co-hosts of the GriefShare video series used in more than 8,500 churches nationwide and they also host Respite Retreats for couples who have experienced the death of a child. Guthrie is the author of numerous books including Holding on to HopeHearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow, and the five-book Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament Bible study series.

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by Matt Tully at July 28, 2014 09:00 AM


Preaching ‘God’ and Justifying the Self

You ought to have friends you disagree with regularly. For example, my buddy Morgan and I seem to agree about very little when it comes to the hot-button, theological issues of the day. He’s a progressive Methodist, I’m Reformed. Our rhetorical styles clash, and our forms of argumentation and analysis differ widely. And yet, for all that, I still find myself learning from our little sparring matches. In fact, often it’s precisely for that reason that I find his engagement so helpful. He helps keep me honest.

John the Baptist--very intense preacher.

John the Baptist–very intense preacher.

I bring this up because one of his big themes he’s always preaching is the way that Jesus frees us from our various attempts at religious, self-justification. Within that theme, a regular trope he’s identified is the way some theological types will use their doctrine of God as a way of self-righteously posturing as particularly holy and faithful compared to everyone else.

The way this supposedly works with conservative Reformed types is that we look at the world, see the way there’s a general rejection of the idea that God is a judge, or that he has wrath, or that he would command laws that go contrary to our cultural instincts, and then push back on over-aggressively to prove our own faithfulness. In other words:

You wanna know how faithful I am? Look at the God I preach. This God is big, HUGE!, sovereign, and full of judgment! His commands are his commands because they’re his commands, and there’s no way I’m gonna stop to explain them if you have a problem with that, because that would be cultural capitulation. And clearly, I’m not a capitulator. I’m one of the faithful as evidenced by the very hard to accept portrait of God I’ve just presented you.

So if you squint closely, under all of our proclamations of a God who doesn’t just coddle us therapeutically, there’s a self-justifying, chest-thumping motive at work.

Now, of course, a lot of us read something like that and we’re tempted to balk and respond sharply. I know I am. I mean, I’ve written a number of times on the issues of wrath, God’s judgment, and so forth, and I don’t think that at core I was really trying to impress anybody, or even justify my own heart, but speak to an issue of real concern. What’s more, I there is a real, healthy, biblical instinct to push back where you see some truth being sidelined, or abandoned, in order that the gospel might be properly proclaimed. All of that said, I don’t think we (Reformed, especially) should be too quick to write off the possibility of this kind of rhetorical self-justification.

I mean, let me put it this way: haven’t you seen it at work in the progressives? Haven’t you seen that writer, or friend, or theologian going on about the ‘radical’ nature of the God they proclaim? You know the type of rhetoric I’m talking about. They might be writing about grace, or maybe some sort of revisionism on a current social issue and you’ll get this string along the lines of:

You know what scares the ‘religious’, right? A God of grace. They can’t handle a God who bursts the confines of their petty little religious rules! But God is LOVE! And his love wins out over narrow-minded, gatekeepers of religious orthodoxy. And if preaching about this God and his grace gets me in trouble with the ‘religious’, or the ‘Pharisees’, then so be it!

Conservatives like myself can look at that and see more than a little chest-thumping going on in progressives priding themselves on how gracious, inclusive, and un-legalistic their God is. It’s courageous to proclaim the message of grace, you know, the way Jesus did despite the objections of the religious establishment. Wouldn’t you have fun placing yourself in the role of Jesus against the modern-day Pharisees?

Okay, so what I’m saying is, if you can see how that can work in the self-justifying God-rhetoric of the left, isn’t there just a chance those of us on the more conservative end of things can fall prey to this too? I mean, surely, if you’ve got a Reformed understanding of the power of indwelling sin, you can’t put this past yourself, right?

So what are the dangers here? Well, I can think of at least two. In the first place, if we’re being tempted to preach a view of God out of self-justifying pride, or anxiety, our hearts are in danger. Pride in all of its forms is a cancer to be rooted out ferociously, but none is so pernicious or lethal as spiritual pride that can defend itself behind the wall of righteous doctrine. Please don’t mishear me. I’m not an anti-doctrine guy. I blog about Calvin, study Bavinck’s Dogmatics every Saturday, and get depressed if I haven’t gotten to read theology for more than a day. And yet it’s precisely because I am who I am that I know this pride is so dangerous and worth examining yourself diligently to root it out. As Jonathan Edwards’ has written,

‘Tis by this [pride] that the mind defends itself in other errors, and guards itself against light by which it might be corrected and reclaimed. The spiritually proud man is full of light already; he does not need instruction, and is ready to despise the offer of it. . . . Being proud of their light, that makes ‘em not jealous of themselves; he that thinks a clear light shines around him is not suspicious of an enemy lurking near him, unseen: and then being proud of their humility, that makes ‘em least of all jealous of themselves in that particular, viz. as being under the prevalence of pride. -Some Thoughts Concerning Revival

Second, if this sort of theological self-justification is at work, it can have serious effect on our proclamation of the gospel. If your self-identity is caught up in the fact that you proclaim a strong God, who commands what he commands, and so forth, in order to push back against the culture, you may end up over-correcting and proclaiming a distorted picture of God! The righteous God who judges sin becomes a fastidious, contemptuous God who barely stomachs sinners, and so the real, biblical testimony about his tender love can get sidelined. In our rush to proclaim God’s laws that often correct our cultural logic and don’t instinctively appeal to our fallen reason, we may skip over the reasons he actually does give in Scripture, or miss ways that biblical truth can appeal to certain common grace, cultural instincts. This would be disastrous for our witness in the world.

Just a week or two ago, I wrote about the importance of properly proclaiming “Here is Your God!”, before move to “Thus says the Lord.” In other words, for people to have a proper grasp of the commands and be willing to obey them in holy worship, they must know about the good character of the God who commands them. When self-justification is distorting our preaching, we can’t properly do that. For those of us pastors, theologians, and church-folk who care about keeping a watch on our “life and doctrine” (1 Tim 4:16), then, let us constantly remind ourselves that our proclamation of the God of the gospel flows from our acceptance of the gospel for ourselves. We no longer have anything to prove. We’re justified in Christ and so are in need of no self-justification–not even through our own preaching.

Soli Deo Gloria

by Derek Rishmawy at July 28, 2014 06:58 AM

The Outlaw Way


More explanation of the new cycle coming this week, but don’t worry – the HSPU are not a typo.

Also… A Weightlifter almost won the CrossFit Games.


1) 3 Position Snatch (Floor, Hang, Power Position – do not drop bar): Max for the complex – 1X1@95%, 1X1@90%


1) 3 Snatch Grip Push Press (BTN) + 1 Snatch Balance: Max for the complex – 1X1@95%, 1X1@90%

2) Muscle Snatch: 3rm – 3X1@95%, 3X1@90%


1a) 4XME Strict HSPU – if more than 15 on first set add a deficit

1b) 4XME Pause Front Squats @ 70% (STRICT 3 second pause in the bottom at absolute bottom depth)

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by at July 28, 2014 04:47 AM


Today we will begin a 6 week Squat and Bench emphasis! You will be both squatting and benching 3 times a week.


Squat: 6×2@80%


4 rounds of:

Run 800m
15 C2B Pull-ups

Rest 1:1

Do Work…

The post 140728 appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by John Dill at July 28, 2014 03:53 AM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Weekly review: Week ending July 25, 2014

I’ve been going to more of these small get-togethers. I finally got around to hosting one here, too! I’m curious about this process of getting to know people better. I think I’m now more comfortable with conversation than I used to be, particularly if I preempt the “What do you do?” question by asking “What are you interested in?” This often leads to conversations about cooking, gardening, philosophy, and so on.

I used to feel slightly odd about small talk as something that didn’t really move forward–slight variations on a theme, again and again. Something is changing. Maybe I’m becoming more patient? Better at appreciating the little things? Worth reflecting on.

In other news, I made Japanese curry from scratch today, following this recipe. Mm! I’ve been making progress in terms of runinng and exercise too.

My consulting client needs some extra help over the next month or two, so I might nudge the balance a little more towards work. I want to keep writing, exercising, cooking, reading, and spending time with people, so I’ll probably try ~21 hours, but not ~40. Last week was about 25.5 hours and I felt like my brain was a bit fuzzy. Reading and writing feel like they expand my time; biking, too. Less time reading blogs, then. Time to tweak things…

Blog posts

Link round-up

Focus areas and time review

  • Business (34.0h – 20%)
    • Earn (25.6h – 75% of Business)
      • E1: Train TR
      • E1: Finish transition video draft
      • E1: Work on second video draft
      • Earn: E1: 2.5-3.5 days of consulting
    • Build (2.0h – 5% of Business)
      • Drawing (0.0h)
      • Delegation (0.0h)
      • Packaging (0.0h)
      • Paperwork (1.5h)
    • Connect (6.3h – 18% of Business)
  • Relationships (8.8h – 5%)
    • Attend Paul’s party
    • Attend potluck
    • Discuss F2
    • Have coffee with Andrew
    • Host party
    • Attend Nadia’s party
    • Make ratatouille at Hacklab?
  • Discretionary – Productive (11.4h – 6%)
    • Emacs (1.4h – 0% of all)
      • Record chat with Harry Schwartz
    • Fix website
    • Follow up on Canadian citizenship
    • Call CIC to find out what’s going on with my citizenship application
    • Writing (1.5h)
      • What’s in your handbook?
  • Discretionary – Play (14.3h – 8%)
  • Personal routines (23.1h – 13%)
  • Unpaid work (14.6h – 8%)
  • Sleep (61.8h – 36% – average of 8.8 per day)

The post Weekly review: Week ending July 25, 2014 appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at July 28, 2014 02:20 AM

The Outlaw Way


Congratulations Sharon!

PVC Shoulder Raises 3×8

Static Shaping
1:30 HS Hold Chin to Toes

Skills and Drills
3×5 Pull-Up Levers to Horizontal DEMO
3×3 Pull-Up Levers to Vertical DEMO

The post 140728 appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by Kaitlin at July 28, 2014 02:04 AM



WOD 140728:


3 Position Snatch (Floor, Hang, Power Position – do not drop bar): Max for the complex – 1X1@95%, 1X1@90%


1a) 4XME Strict HSPU – if more than 15 on first set add a deficit, rest 90 seconds

1b) 4XME Pause Front Squats @ 70% (STRICT 3 second pause in the bottom at absolute bottom depth) – rest 90 seconds


4 rounds of:

Run 800m
15 C2B Pull-ups

Rest 1:1

The post 140728 appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by at July 28, 2014 01:58 AM

July 27, 2014

512 Pixels

The Macintosh II →

True story: I was going to write up the history of the Macintosh II, but then ran across this artcle by Benj Edwards.

If you want to understand why Apple went off the rails in the 90s, reading up on this machine isn't a bad place to start.


by Stephen Hackett at July 27, 2014 10:30 PM

The Urbanophile

The Citizen Perspective on Smart Cities

One of the more highly touted concepts in the urbanism world is the idea of “smart cities.” Wikipedia says of the smart city: “A city can be defined as ‘smart’ when investments in human and social capital and traditional (transport) and modern (ICT) communication infrastructure fuel sustainable economic development and a high quality of life, with a wise management of natural resources, through participatory action and engagement.” The basic idea is “better urban living through technology”.

That smart cities has captured a huge amount of media and mindshare is unsurprising, given our technophilic society and the sums of money being spent by major corporations to promote it. But the smart city has proven to be elusive in practice and slow to materialize. What is it a city is actually supposed to do to become smart? And why haven’t we seen more of it?

As I said, smart city tech vendors have been making a major marketing push and so they are a fixture sponsors of conferences. Last month at New Cities, I saw several tech firms present their ideas on the topic, and it helped me understand more about why smart cities has proven elusive.

It’s already been observed that the citizen perspective is all too often missing in the smart city discussion. But listening to the providers in the space, it became clearer why. Namely because all of them are B2B companies who sell to the corporate C-suite and its public sector equivalent. They do not have a consumer heritage and thus they don’t have a lot of experience or heritage in end user applications, hence by default don’t see the city from the citizen perspective.

Think about a company like Cisco. Cisco sells most of the gear that makes the internet run. The people who buy their stuff expect it to work, all the time. They have to have carrier grade five 9′s reliability. These systems have to have the so-called traits of reliability, availability, and serviceability. They also have to be efficient and predictable in their operations. The idea is sort of like the Maytag repairman mentality. It just has to work.

This produces an operating model that would be, from the standpoint of a person, stifling or even dehumanizing. So it shouldn’t be any surprise the public and politicians by and large haven’t jumped in with both feet.

I want to stress that there’s actually huge value potential in this B2B, carrier grade type model. Not just Cisco’s business customers but all of us absolutely expect our phone to work and our internet to be up. All. The. Time. Comedians like Louis CK have skits mocking our entitled, unrealistic expectations about our technology (“I hate Verzion!”) The minute our home internet goes down, what do we do? Pick up our phones and start Tweeting about how much we hate AT&T/Comcast/Cox/etc. One reason we are so annoyed by them is that outages are so rare. Thank folks like Cisco for that.

Similarly, a Bombardier rep was talking at New Cities about his firm’s desire to sell managed services, not just trains, into the public transit market. If they were able to make trains run as reliably as phones work, there would be huge public benefit there.

So I don’t want to downplay the importance of that kind of stuff. In everything from water to 911 emergency dispatch, we need a whole lot of stuff in our cities to just work and work reliably. This necessitates the type of approach to gear and its implementation and management that comes from the B2B, sell to the CIO or operations manager mentality. It’s mission critical to public safety and quality of life.

On the other hand, that’s not the only type of application there is. Unfortunately, the smart city dialog has been dominated by it, with the exception of the open data movement, which I don’t generally see labeled as falling under the smart cities domain.

One thing I might suggest that these major vendors explore in trying to better capture the public imagination and drive uptake is to create a connection to the citizen by getting into some consumer businesses. Now this would be problematic strategically I know. Investors would probably hate it. But at least something small scale might be interesting. There’s probably a lot that could be learned.

Google is a B2B and B2C company, but one predominantly focused on software. They’ve been diversifying into hardware however, both by creating their own products like Google Glasses, and buying smart thermostat maker Nest. The latter I find particularly intriguing as these are in a sense a type of smart city application, but focused on the person in the city instead of back end infrastructure. Google is trying to learn the hardware space to be sure they don’t end up outflanked in the “internet of things.” (They are also getting into the infrastructure business as well though things like Google Fiber).

Potentially something like buying a Nest type vendor could be something these major smart city companies could do to put their toes in the water of the consumer space. Obviously any deal has to make sense from an investor perspective, but the idea here is that this is almost an R&D operation to create a pipeline of knowledge about the citizens of the city and what they value and how they live and create their lives. That then informs the smart city vision beyond efficiency and RAS, notably the “participatory action and engagement,” which is something you definitely don’t want on your router configuration.

This raises an interesting competitive question: will the majority of the profits in say the application of smart city ideas to energy efficiency go to someone like the smart meter vendor or to someone like Google/Nest? If I were the vendors in the space conventionally labeled smart cities, I’d be working hard to make sure the answer to that question was “me”. In the meantime, building relationships to citizens/consumers can help to shape the smart city idea into something with more marketplace uptake and public resonance.

For further perspectives on smart cities, see my previous post with my thoughts after I moderated a technology panel at Barcelona’s Smart City World Expo in 2012. Also, Adam Greenfield took a very negative view of the idea in his eBook that gives a different perspective on the issue.

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 July 27, 2014 08:44 PM

The Brooks Review

∞ Quote of the Day: Jon Bell

“We’re actually going to record “uses” of products now? Well, sure. Because it makes the number look bigger.”

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

by Ben Brooks at July 27, 2014 08:12 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Limited Time: Marriott Card 70,000 Points Signup Bonus


Link: 70,000 Points for Marriott Card

Marriott isn’t my favorite hotel program (that would be Starwood and Hyatt), but this new offer is worth a look for the free nights you’ll earn right away. They used to provide 50,000 points upon signup, but for a limited time—we don’t know for how long—you can earn 20,000 additional points for a total of 70,000.

70,000 points can put you in one of their nicer hotels or resorts worldwide for up to two nights. Marriott also partners with Ritz Carlton, where awards can also be booked.

In addition to the improved signup bonus, the card also features:

  • An additional 1 free night stay after account approval in Category 1-4 locations
  • An additional 1 free night stay at a Category 1-5 location every year after your account anniversary date
  • No annual fee for the first year, then $85 for year II and beyond

Note, however, that this probably isn’t the best card for everyday use. That’s still the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which offers 40,000 points for initial signup and then double points for all dining + travel spend.

The best strategy for most of us is to get the updated Marriott card for the limited-time signup bonus, meet the minimum spend, and then revert to using other cards on an ongoing basis.

Link: 70,000 Points for Marriott Card


by Chris Guillebeau at July 27, 2014 08:09 PM

Vivek Haldar

"The conservative view sees this as an automotive technology, and most of them are very used to..."

“The conservative view sees this as an automotive technology, and most of them are very used to thinking about automotive technology. For the aggressive school, where I belong, this is a computer technology, and will be developed — and change the world — at the much faster pace that computer technologies do.”

- The two cultures of robocars

July 27, 2014 03:30 PM

Doc Searls WeblogDoc Searls Weblog »

Time for digital emancipation

Civilization is a draft. Provisional. Scaffolded. Under construction. For example:


That’s Thomas Jefferson‘s rough draft of the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration hasn’t changed since July 4, 1776, but the Constitution built on it has been amended thirty-three times, so far. The thirteenth of those abolished slavery, at the close of the Civil War, seventy-seven years after the Constitution was ratified.

Today we are in another struggle for equality, this time on the Net. As Brian Grimmer put it to me, “Digital emancipation is the struggle of the century.”

There is an ironic distance between those first two words: digital and emancipation. The digital world by itself is free. Its boundaries are those of binary math: ones and zeroes. Connecting that world is a network designed to put no restrictions on personal (or any) power, while reducing nearly to zero the functional distance between everybody and everything. Costs too. Meanwhile, most of what we experience on the Net takes place on the World Wide Web, which is not the Net but a layer on top of it. The Web is built on architectural framework called client-server. Within that framework, browsers are clients, and sites are servers. So the relationship looks like this:


In other words, client-server is calf-cow. (I was once told that “client-server” was chosen because “it sounded better than ‘slave-master.’” If anyone has the facts on that, let us know.)

Bruce Schneier gives us another metapor for this asymmetry:

It’s a feudal world out there.

Some of us have pledged our allegiance to Google: We have Gmail accounts, we use Google Calendar and Google Docs, and we have Android phones. Others have pledged allegiance to Apple: We have Macintosh laptops, iPhones, and iPads; and we let iCloud automatically synchronize and back up everything. Still others of us let Microsoft do it all. Or we buy our music and e-books from Amazon, which keeps records of what we own and allows downloading to a Kindle, computer, or phone. Some of us have pretty much abandoned e-mail altogether … for Facebook.

These vendors are becoming our feudal lords, and we are becoming their vassals.

It’s handy being a vassal. For example, you get to use these shortcuts into websites that require logins:


To see how much personal data you risk spilling when you click on the Facebook one, visit iSharedWhat (by Joe Andrieu) for a test run. That spilled data can be used in many ways, including surveillance. The Direct Marketing Association tells us the purpose of surveillance is to give you a better “internet experience” through “interest-based advertising—ads that are intended for you, based on what you do online.” The DMA also provides tools for you to manage experiences of what they call “your ads,” by clicking on this tiny image here:


It appears in the corners of ads from companies in the DMA’s AdChoice program. Here is one:


The “AdChoices” text appears when you mouse over the icon. When I click on it, I get this:


Like most companies’ privacy policies, Scottrade’s says this: “Scottrade reserves the right to make changes to this Online Privacy Policy at any time.” But never mind that. Instead look at the links that follow. One of those leads to Opt Out From Behavioral Advertising By Participating Companies (BETA). There you can selectively opt out of advertising by dozens of companies. (There are hundreds of those, however. Most don’t allow opting out.)

I suppose that’s kind of them; but for you and me it’s a lot easier just to block all ads and tracking on our own, with a browser extension or add-on. This is why Adblock Plus tops Firefox’s browser add-ons list, which includes many other similar products as well. (The latest is Privacy Badger, from the EFF, which Don Marti visits here.)

Good as they are, ad and tracking blockers are still just prophylactics. They make captivity more bearable, but they don’t emancipate us. For that we need are first person technologies: ways to engage as equals on the open Net, including the feudal Web.

One way to start is by agreeing about how we respect each other. The Respect Trust Framework, for example, is a constitution of sorts, “designed to be self-reinforcing through use of a peer-to-peer reputation system.” Every person and company agreeing to the framework is a peer. Here are the five principles to which all members agree:

Promise We will respect each other’s digital boundaries

Every Member promises to respect the right of every other Member to control the Member Information they share within the network and the communications they receive within the network.

Permission We will negotiate with each other in good faith

As part of this promise, every Member agrees that all sharing of Member Information and sending of communications will be by permission, and to be honest and direct about the purpose(s) for which permission is sought.

Protection We will protect the identity and data entrusted to us

As part of this promise, every Member agrees to provide reasonable protection for the privacy and security of Member Information shared with that Member.

Portability We will support other Members’ freedom of movement

As part of this promise, every Member agrees that if it hosts Member Information on behalf of another Member, the right to possess, access, control, and share the hosted information, including the right to move it to another host, belongs to the hosted Member.

Proof We will reasonably cooperate for the good of all Members

As part of this promise, every Member agrees to share the reputation metadata necessary for the health of the network, including feedback about compliance with this trust framework, and to not engage in any practices intended to game or subvert the reputation system.

The Respect Network has gathered several dozen founding partners in a common effort to leverage the Respect Trust Framework into common use, and within it a market for VRM and services that help out. I’m involved with two of those partners: The Searls Group (my own consultancy, for which Respect Network is a client) and Customer Commons (in which I am a board member).

This summer Respect Network launched a crowd-funding campaign for this social login button:


It’s called the Respect Connect button, and it embodies all the principles above; but especially the first one: We will respect each others’ digital boundaries. This makes itthe first safe social login button.

Think of the Respect Connect button project as a barn raising. There are lots of planks (and skills) you can bring, but the main ones will be your =names (“equals names”). These are sovereign identifiers you own and manage for yourself — unlike, say, your Twitter @ handle, which Twitter owns. (Organizations — companies, associations, governments — have +names and things have *names.)

Mine is =Doc.

Selling =names are CSPs: Cloud Service Providers. There are five so far (based, respectively, in Las Vegas, Vienna, London, New York/Jerusalem and Perth):

bosonweb-logo danube_clouds-logo paoga-logo emmett_global-logo onexus-logo

Here’s a key feature: they are substituable. You can port your =name from one to the other as easily as you port your phone number from one company to another. (In fact the company that does this in the background for both your =name and your phone number is Neustar, another Respect Network partner.)

You can also self-host your own personal cloud.

I just got back from a world tour of places where much scaffolding work is going up around this and many other ways customers and companies can respect each other and grow markets. I’ll be reporting more on all of it in coming posts. Meanwhile, enjoy some photos.


by Doc Searls at July 27, 2014 02:31 PM

A Few Thoughts on Cryptographic Engineering

Noodling about IM protocols

The last couple of months have been a bit slow in the blogging department. It's hard to blog when there are exciting things going on. But also: I've been a bit blocked. I have two or three posts half-written, none of which I can quite get out the door.

Instead of writing and re-writing the same posts again, I figured I might break the impasse by changing the subject. Usually the easiest way to do this is to pick some random protocol and poke at it for a while to see what we learn. 

The protocols I'm going to look at today aren't particularly 'random' -- they're both popular encrypted instant messaging protocols. The first is OTR (Off the Record Messaging). The second is Cryptocat's group chat protocol. Each of these protocols has a similar end-goal, but they get there in slightly different ways.

I want to be clear from the start that this post has absolutely no destination. If you're looking for exciting vulnerabilities in protocols, go check out someone else's blog. This is pure noodling.

The OTR protocol

OTR is probably the most widely-used protocol for encrypting instant messages. If you use IM clients like Adium, Pidgin or ChatSecure, you already have OTR support. You can enable it in some other clients through plugins and overlays.

OTR was originally developed by Borisov, Goldberg and Brewer and has rapidly come to dominate its niche. Mostly this is because Borisov et al. are smart researchers who know what they’re doing. Also: they picked a cool name and released working code.

OTR works within the technical and usage constraints of your typical IM system. Roughly speaking, these are:
  1. Messages must be ASCII-formatted and have some (short) maximum length.
  2. Users won't bother to exchange keys, so authentication should be "lazy" (i.e., you can authenticate your partners after the fact).
  3. Your chat partners are all FBI informants so your chat transcripts must be plausibly deniable -- so as to keep them from being used as evidence against you in a court of law.
Coming to this problem fresh, you might find goal (3) a bit odd. In fact, to the best of my knowledge no court in the history of law has ever used a cryptographic transcript as evidence that a conversation occurred. However it must be noted that this requirement makes the problem a bit more sexy. So let's go with it!
"Dammit, they used a deniable key exchange protocol" said no Federal prosecutor ever.
The OTR (version 2/3) handshake is based on the SIGMA key exchange protocol. Briefly, it assumes that both parties generate long-term DSA public keys which we'll denote by (pubA, pubB). Next the parties interact as follows:

The OTRv2/v3 AKE. Diagram by Bonneau and Morrison, all colorful stuff added. There's also
an OTRv1 protocol that's too horrible to talk about here.
There are four elements to this protocol:
  1. Hash commitment. First, Bob commits to his share of a Diffie-Hellman key exchange (g^x) by encrypting it under a random AES key r and sending the ciphertext and a hash of g^x over to Alice.
  2. Diffie-Hellman Key Exchange. Next, Alice sends her half of the key exchange protocol (g^y). Bob can now 'open' his share to Alice by sending the AES key r that he used to encrypt it in the previous step. Alice can decrypt this value and check that it matches the hash Bob sent in the first message.

    Now that both sides have the shares (g^x, g^y) they each use their secrets to compute a shared secret g^{xy} and hash the value several ways to establish shared encryption keys (c', Km2, Km'2) for subsequent messages. In addition, each party hashes g^{xy} to obtain a short "session ID".

    The sole purpose of the commitment phase (step 1) is to prevent either Alice or Bob from controlling the value of the shared secret g^{xy}. Since the session ID value is derived by hashing the Diffie-Hellman shared secret, it's possible to use a relatively short session ID value to authenticate the channel, since neither Alice nor Bob will be able to force this ID to a specific value.
  3. Exchange of long-term keys and signatures. So far Alice and Bob have not actually authenticated that they're talking to each other, hence their Diffie-Hellman exchange could have been intercepted by a man-in-the-middle attacker. Using the encrypted channel they've previously established, they now set about to fix this.

    Alice and Bob each send their long-term DSA public key (pubA, pubB) and key identifiers, as well as a signature on (a MAC of) the specific elements of the Diffie-Hellman message (g^x, g^y) and their view of which party they're communicating with. They can each verify these signatures and abort the connection if something's amiss.**
  4. Revealing MAC keys. After sending a MAC, each party waits for an authenticated response from its partner. It then reveals the MAC keys for the previous messages.
  5. Lazy authentication. Of course if Alice and Bob never exchange public keys, this whole protocol execution is still vulnerable to a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack. To verify that nothing's amiss, both Alice and Bob should eventually authenticate each other. OTR provides three mechanisms for doing this: parties may exchange fingerprints (essentially hashes) of (pubA, pubB) via a second channel. Alternatively, they can exchange the "session ID" calculated in the second phase of the protocol. A final approach is to use the Socialist Millionaires' Problem to prove that both parties share the same secret.
The OTR key exchange provides the following properties:

Protecting user identities. No user-identifying information (e.g., long-term public keys) is sent until the parties have first established a secure channel using Diffie-Hellman. The upshot is that a purely passive attacker doesn't learn the identity of the communicating partners -- beyond what's revealed by the higher-level IM transport protocol.*

Unfortunately this protection fails against an active attacker, who can easily smash an existing OTR connection to force a new key agreement and run an MITM on the Diffie-Hellman used during the next key agreement. This does not allow the attacker to intercept actual message content -- she'll get caught when the signatures don't check out -- but she can view the public keys being exchanged. From the client point of view the likely symptoms are a mysterious OTR error, followed immediately by a successful handshake.

One consequence of this is that an attacker could conceivably determine which of several clients you're using to initiate a connection.

Weak deniability. The main goal of the OTR designers is plausible deniability. Roughly, this means that when you and I communicate there should be no binding evidence that we really had the conversation. This rules out obvious solutions like GPG-based chats, where individual messages would be digitally signed, making them non-repudiable.

Properly defining deniability is a bit complex. The standard approach is to show the existence of an efficient 'simulator' -- in plain English, an algorithm for making fake transcripts. The theory is simple: if it's trivial to make fake transcripts, then a transcript can hardly be viewed as evidence that a conversation really occurred.

OTR's handshake doesn't quite achieve 'strong' deniability -- meaning that anyone can fake a transcript between any two parties -- mainly because it uses signatures. As signatures are non-repudiable, there's no way to fake one without actually knowing your public key. This reveals that we did, in fact, communicate at some point. Moreover, it's possible to create an evidence trail that I communicated with you, e.g., by encoding my identity into my Diffie-Hellman share (g^x). At very least I can show that at some point you were online and we did have contact.

But proving contact is not the same thing as proving that a specific conversation occurred. And this is what OTR works to prevent. The guarantee OTR provides is that if the target was online at some point and you could contact them, there's an algorithm that can fake just about any conversation with the individual. Since OTR clients are, by design, willing to initiate a key exchange with just about anyone, merely putting your client online makes it easy for people to fake such transcripts.***

Towards strong deniability. The 'weak' deniability of OTR requires at least tacit participation of the user (Bob) for which we're faking the transcript. This isn't a bad property, but in practice it means that fake transcripts can only be produced by either Bob himself, or someone interacting online with Bob. This certainly cuts down on your degree of deniability.

A related concept is 'strong deniability', which ensures that any party can fake a transcript using only public information (e.g., your public keys).

OTR doesn't try achieve strong deniability -- but it does try for something in between. The OTR version of deniability holds that an attacker who obtains the network traffic of a real conversation -- even if they aren't one of the participants -- should be able alter the conversation to say anything he wants. Sort of.

The rough outline of the OTR deniability process is to generate a new message authentication key for each message (using Diffie-Hellman) and then reveal those keys once they've been used up. In theory, a third party can obtain this transcript and -- if they know the original message content -- they can 'maul' the AES-CTR encrypted messages into messages of their choice, then they can forge their own MACs on the new messages.
OTR message transport (source: Bonneau and Morrison, all colored stuff added).
Thus our hypothetical transcript forger can take an old transcript that says "would you like a Pizza" and turn it into a valid transcript that says, for example, "would you like to hack STRATFOR"... Except that they probably can't, since the first message is too short and... oh lord, this whole thing is a stupid idea -- let's stop talking about it.

The OTRv1 handshake. Oh yes, there's also an OTRv1 protocol that has a few issues and isn't really deniable. Even better, an MITM attacker can force two clients to downgrade to it, provided both support that version. Yuck.

So that's the OTR protocol. While I've pointed out a few minor issues above, the truth is that the protocol is generally an excellent way to communicate. In fact it's such a good idea that if you really care about secrecy it's probably one of the best options out there.


Since we're looking at IM protocols I thought it might be nice to contrast with another fairly popular chat protocol: Cryptocat's group chat. Cryptocat is a web-based encrypted chat app that now runs on iOS (and also in Thomas Ptacek's darkest nightmares).

Cryptocat implements OTR for 'private' two-party conversations. However OTR is not the default. If you use Cryptocat in its default configuration, you'll be using its hand-rolled protocol for group chats.

The Cryptocat group chat specification can be found here, and it's remarkably simple. There are no "long-term" keys in Cryptocat. Diffie-Hellman keys are generated at the beginning of each session and re-used for all conversations until the app quits. Here's the handshake between two parties:

Cryptocat group chat handshake (current revision). Setting is Curve25519. Keys are
generated when the application launches, and re-used through the session.
If multiple people join the room, every pair of users repeats this handshake to derive a shared secret between every pair of users. Individuals are expected to verify each others' keys by checking fingerprints and/or running the Socialist Millionaire protocol.

Unlike OTR, the Cryptocat handshake includes no key confirmation messages, nor does it attempt to bind users to their identity or chat room. One implication of this is that I can transmit someone else's public key as if it were my own -- and the recipients of this transmission will believe that the person is actually part of the chat.

Moreover, since public keys aren't bound to the user's identity or the chat room, you could potentially route messages between a different user (even a user in a different chat room) while making it look like they're talking to you. Since Cryptocat is a group chat protocol, there might be some interesting things you could do to manipulate the conversation in this setting.****

Does any of this matter? Probably not that much, but it would be relatively easy (and good) to fix these issues.

Message transmission and consistency. The next interesting aspect of Cryptocat is the way it transmits encrypted chat messages. One of the core goals of Cryptocat is to ensure that messages are consistent between individual users. This means that all users should be able to verify that the other user is receiving the same data as it is.

Cryptocat uses a slightly complex mechanism to achieve this. For each pair of users in the chat, Cryptocat derives an AES key and an MAC key from the Diffie-Hellman shared secret. To send a message, the client:

  1. Pads the message by appending 64 bytes of random padding.
  2. Generates a random 12-byte Initialization Vector for each of the N users in the chat.
  3. Encrypts the message using AES-CTR under the shared encryption key for each user.
  4. Concatenates all of the N resulting ciphertexts/IVs and computes an HMAC of the whole blob under each recipient's key.
  5. Calculates a 'tag' for the message by hashing the following data:

    padded plaintext || HMAC-SHA512alice || HMAC-SHA512bob || HMAC-SHA512carol || ...
  6. Broadcasts the ciphertexts, IVs, MACs and the single 'tag' value to all users in the conversation.
When a recipient receives a message from another user, it verifies that:
  1. The message contains a valid HMAC under its shared key.
  2. This IV has not been received before from this sender.
  3. The decrypted plaintext is consistent with the 'tag'.
Roughly speaking, the idea here is to make sure that every user receives the same message. The use of a hashed plaintext is a bit ugly, but the argument here is that the random padding protects the message from guessing attacks. Make what you will of this.

Anti-replay. Cryptocat also seeks to prevent replay attacks, e.g., where an attacker manipulates a conversation by simply replaying (or reflecting) messages between users, so that users appear to be repeating statements. For example, consider the following chat transcripts:

Replays and reflection attacks. 
Replay attacks are prevented through the use of a global 'IV array' that stores all previously received and sent IVs to/from all users. If a duplicate IV arrives, Cryptocat will reject the message. This is unwieldy but it generally seems ok to prevent replays and reflection.

A limitation of this approach is that the IV array does not live forever. In fact, from time to time Cryptocat will reset the IV array without regenerating the client key. This means that if Alice and Bob both stay online, they can repeat the key exchange and wind up using the same key again -- which makes them both vulnerable to subsequent replays and reflections. (Update: This issue has since been fixed).

In general the solution to these issues is threefold:

  1. Keys shouldn't be long-term, but should be regenerated using new random components for each key exchange.
  2. Different keys should be derived for the Alice->Bob and Bob->Alice direction
  3. It would be be more elegant to use a message counter than to use this big, unwieldy key array.
The good news is that the Cryptocat developers are working on a totally new version of the multi-party chat protocol that should be enormously better.

In conclusion

I said this would be a post that goes nowhere, and I delivered! But I have to admit, it helps to push it out of my system.

None of the issues I note above are the biggest deal in the world. They're all subtle issues, which illustrates two things: first, that crypto is hard to get right. But also: that crypto rarely fails catastrophically. The exciting crypto bugs that cause you real pain are still few and far between.


* In practice, you might argue that the higher-level IM protocol already leaks user identities (e.g., Jabber nicknames). However this is very much an implementation choice. Moreover, even when using Jabber with known nicknames, you might access the Jabber server using one of several different clients (your computer, phone, etc.). Assuming you use Tor, the only indication of this might be the public key you use during OTR. So there's certainly useful information in this protocol.

** Notice that OTR signs a MAC instead of a hash of the user identity information. This happens to be a safe choice given that the MAC used is based on HMAC-SHA2, but it's not generally a safe choice. Swapping the HMAC out for a different MAC function (e.g., CBC-MAC) would be catastrophic.

*** To get specific, imagine I wanted to produce a simulated transcript for some conversation with Bob. Provided that Bob's client is online, I can send Bob any g^x value I want. It doesn't matter if he really wants to talk to me -- by default, his client will cheerfully send me back his own g^y and a signature on (g^x, g^y, pub_B, keyid_B) which, notably, does not include my identity. From this point on all future authentication is performed using MACs and encrypted under keys that are known to both of us. There's nothing stopping me from faking the rest of the conversation.

**** Incidentally, a similar problem exists in the OTRv1 protocol. 

by Matthew Green ( at July 27, 2014 02:21 PM


cliwiki: Needing attention

I try to be as honest as possible when I look over software. If it seems like I’m too-often enthusiastic about programs, it’s probably because the ones that were less than gratifying were cast aside out of frustration.

I’ll list cliwiki though, since I sense it has a little potential, and a tool that pulls pages from Wikipedia is worth pursuing.


I don’t recall where I got the link to cliwiki, but my assessment is that it needs more attention. Here’s why:

  • The few arguments cliwiki claims to support produce nothing. The home page suggests potd, featured and onthisday, but none of those generates any different results.
  • cliwiki requires you answer a prompt to trigger the search. You can’t tack on the topic as a command line argument.
  • cliwiki incorporates no pager, and because of the prompt, it’s exceedingly difficult to page or redirect the output of very long pages.
  • Because of those shortcomings, I’ve tried to funnel cliwiki into text files with the standard > mark or a pipe symbol, but the prompt confounds things. I get half-formed pages or worse, lockups. For what it’s worth I’ve also tried to echo my search topic into a text file and use < and xargs in one fashion or another, with no real success.

All of this means to me that cliwiki is only half-formed, and partially useful on pages that don’t overflow your terminal window. I daresay on very shallow screens it will be nigh-on useless.

cliwiki does do some things right; I like that it lists links at the end of the page, and adds links to images in the text. But cliwiki still needs a bit more work before it’s functional, either to the degree it promises or to a point of usability.

Tagged: search, wiki

by K.Mandla at July 27, 2014 12:15 PM

jrnl: Focus, grasshopper

Now that I think about it, I haven’t seen many journals or diaries during this little adventure. It may be that they fall into the note-taking bracket and are relegated to text editors, or it may be that you see your old calendar entries as a journal of sort.

Seeing jrnl might change your mind.


jrnl is going to win some points from me for a lot of different reasons. For one thing, adding an entry is basically how it would happen with pen and paper: jrnl yesterday: I sold the farm. It’s very simple.

More complex entries are possible, and for that, jrnl jumps to your $EDITOR. Don’t ask me why, but I always find it appealing when a program allows you to stick with the editor (or pager) you know, and is already part of your system. That makes it easier for everyone involved.

And even if you aren’t a fan of your own $EDITOR (in which case you really should set it to another O_o ), you can just redirect a text file back into jrnl, a la jrnl < boastful-event.txt.

Showing your previous entries is a breeze, with the -from and -to flags for date matching, plus the ability to add tags preceded with an @ sign. From there, you can filter by topic. Very clever.

You can also star entries, for particularly exciting moments in your past. And you can encrypt a journal to keep it from prying eyes. And you can export it to markdown (and thence to HTML, meaning you can plop your journal into a rancid little blog or site :\ ) or json, and dump the journal into a folder with individual files for each entry.

jrnl has all the hallmarks of an application that was well thought out and designed to meet include specific abilities. Sometimes programs are organic collections of scattered features, obviously added as time went on or as the public suggested them, and without any focus.

I don’t get that feeling from jrnl. This has the distinct impression of having a specific end in mind, and the features it offers work very well together. I like it for that. :)

Tagged: diary, journal

by K.Mandla at July 27, 2014 12:00 PM

Zippy Catholic

Libertarianism is just a sociopathic kind of statism

In the comments to a previous post we were discussing libertarianism. Catholic Economist (not addressing libertarianism specifically) observed:

As both St Thomas Aquinas and St Augustine have noted, it is neither necessary nor desirable for the state to explicitly outlaw every vice…

This is true enough, but it should not be taken as a concession to libertarianism as a political philosophy, for several reasons.

One is that authority is not a single monolithic thing. Whenever one authority acts to prevent a particular vice, libertarianism implicitly requires another authority to step in and stop it. So libertarianism presupposes and requires the kind of centralized all-powerful bureaucratically micromanaging government that it is ostensibly against.

Another is that the fact that it is not possible or prudent for every government to enforce every moral norm in every conceivable case does not invalidate governance generally. If it is taken as support of libertarianism in particular it proves too much: if governance is legitimate at all then precisely what is at issue is what it ought to do, so saying that it can’t do everything so it ought to only do what I say is just begging the question.

Still another is that libertarianism adopts its pose of moral superiority by pretending that it is a passive, hands off political philosophy in contrast to the active busybody interventionism of other “statist” political philosophies. This is just an outright self-deception or lie: every government always actively and authoritatively discriminates in favor of its particular conception of the good. Libertarianism is no exception. Like all political philosophies it proposes to actively initiate force in favor of its particular conception of the good. By simultaneously denying that that is what it is doing, libertarianism just becomes (like all forms of liberalism) sociopathic.

In general, libertarianism presupposes the very things that it denies are legitimate.

At the end of the day, libertarianism is just another intrinsically dishonest form of liberalism.

by Zippy at July 27, 2014 11:05 AM

July 26, 2014

The Art of Non-Conformity

6 Discoveries From Near and Far, Volume III


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.

  • Your One Place — A fun game to play (also: how to go anywhere, anytime)


Image: IdleWords

by Chris Guillebeau at July 26, 2014 10:11 PM

John C. Wright's JournalJohn C. Wright's Journal

Polyatheism is Disbelief in Many Gods

A reader with the grandiose name of Zaklog the Great calls me to the witness stand. He asks:

When you were an atheist yourself, did you consider Christians in particular your enemies, or was Christianity merely one (comically wrong) religion among many? If Christians in particular were the problem, why so?

Second, having heard the story of how you became a Christian a few times, I have a question which may be unanswerable, or just silly. If not, however, it may be interesting. Once you had offered your pro forma prayer, had a heart attack, been healed by prayer and had the visions, do you believe you had a choice as to whether to become a Christian, or had the moment of choice been passed? Do you think it was possible, having experienced all of that, to have chosen otherwise?

Like I said, I’m aware that that last question may not have a meaningful answer. You chose as you did, and that may be all the answer we can have.

I am happy to answer. But you may not be happy with my answer, since I will say both yes and no. There is an old saying ‘go not to philosophers for counsel, for they will act you to define your terms.’  Or we are subtle and quick to anger. Or something.

So, on the one hand, the answer is yes:

When I was an atheist, I was an asupernaturalist, which means, I did not believe in anything supernatural, parapsychological, or supernal. (I was not, however, a materialist, because I was not prone to whatever insanity it is that makes a man pretend he is a meat robot, or a poached egg.) So gods, ghosts, witchcrafts, and (aside from stage magic) magic or miracles of any kind I dismissed on the grounds of the metaphysical incoherence of asserting that supernature could exist if nature existed.

After all, no matter what it is, a supernatural realm or being would by philosophical necessity be governed by its laws of nature. A supernatural realm or being would have a ‘nature’ because it had a definition. If a thing is what it is, and is not what it is not, it is defined; and whatever principle defines it, that principle is its nature.

Since I was convince nothing supernatural could possibly exist, I was convinced no gods (defined as supernatural beings) could possibly exist.

So, I was an equal opportunity atheist. On a rational level, I disbelieved in gods as much as I disbelieved in God, and for the same reasons.

Indeed, this got me in trouble with at least once with one of my fellow atheists. I was too fair-minded. Because I disbelieved in Christianity just as much as paganism, in a book starring the pagan gods, I threw in some Christian mythology as well, treating it with no more and no less respect than the other.

Pardon the digression while I talk about my writing. It is the perennial danger of talking to writers.

In my fantasy novel, ORPHANS OF CHAOS, I had my character the warlock boy Quentin Nemo believe in and talk to ghosts and gods and demons and so on, because it was a fantasy. He was unable to enter a church and his dark and airy familiar spirits could not approach the sound of a churchbell, because that is part of the legends and lore of witches. He also, since he was a pious witch and believes in ghosts and knew better than to meddle with them, went to the trouble of burying the corpses of some murder victims, and, being raised as a High Church Anglican, he knew the words to the Compline.

There is also a scene where Amelia Windrose, who (because of her paradigm of the universe had to be an agnostic, rather than an atheist like Victor) in desperation said a prayer, noticed and odd energy reaction in a higher dimension, as if somehow someone was listening and had answered.

And yet again, in a book where all the Olympian gods are real, I had to have some character, raised on Earth, ask about Jehovah. Was he one of their species or not? Just another sky god like Zeus? In my first draft, I said he was, but that did not sit right with my magic system, which basically requires the gods to act as a group to stave off Chaos. I could not make Jehovah a Chaoticist, nor could I make him younger than Chaos without making him a son of Saturn gone mad or something, so I decided to treat him as something mysterious, something the gods were not sure what to make of.

Then I came a across a charming folk tale about Saint Patrick telling a mermaid who craved baptism that mermaids did not have souls, and that she was just as likely to be baptized as the dead wood of the staff in his hand to bloom. Immediately the wood burst into leaves and flowers to the astonishment of the saint, who baptized her. Now, I (being an atheist) saw nothing particularly offensive in the story, because, to me, it is was no different than the parallel story of Buddha preaching to a Naga (a water dragon) and bringing the monster to achieve the enlightenment of an arhat.  I also thought it would be cute, and show the absurdity of the Christian religion, if my mermaid, a siren named Thelxipeia, was a member of a Gnostic or Donatists sect (I the time, I did not know the difference) which had been wiped out in the Fourth or Fifth Century, and was the single and sole one left, she thinking that she alone practiced the true version of Christianity and that the entire earth was heretical. (I have since in real life talked to a Mormon who had a remarkably similar belief).

Well, bizarrely enough, at least one of my fellow atheists reviewed the book and came to the conclusion that I was writing pro-Christian apologetic!

You see, because I only went out of my way to sneer at Christianity in the scene where Colin fights the garden hose, or one or two other places, and did not make my burning hatred of Christianity a centerpiece and core of my book, the critic missed it, and came to exactly the opposite of the right conclusion.

That should tell you a clue about Christianity. I was treating it, in my fairminded atheism, as if it were no more and no less controversial than any other superstition or religion. I actually believed it was no different. But my fellow atheists act as if Christianity is supreme, and that one either had to be one hundred percent against it or one hundred percent for it.

(I should mention my strong suspicion that my fellow atheist learned far to the Left. The simplicity of thinking everything is either all black or all white is not in their mental toolbox. There is no such thing as admiring the artwork of the Bible or of a Cathedral while not believing in God. One can admire the Koran and disbelieve in Allah, but all things touched by Christianity, even the way we date our calendar, is so hateful it must be despised with total and absolute despite.)

On the other hand, the answer is no:

I was willing to admit that I could not prove Thor or Zeus did not exist. Unlike the benevolent yet omnipotent yet God of Saint Thomas Aquinas who permitted evil to exist in His universe and indeed created it to happen that way, there was nothing innate illogical about pagan gods. However, if I ever encountered one, I would regard it as a natural and not a supernatural being, a creature with immense powers, perhaps, but no different in the moral sense, that is, making no innate demand on the loyalty of mankind, than a Martian of H.G. Wells.  So my disbelieve in the God of Thomas was more than my disbelief in the gods of Homer because Thomas made a bolder claim.

But that I have told you is but half the tale, because while that was my intellectual stance, my heart was fully opposed to Christianity but favorable toward paganism. When I looked at paganism, I saw Aristotle and Plato and Euclid and Thucydides, the fathers of philosophy and geometry and history. When I looked at Christianity, I saw the Spanish Inquisition, and I believed that old chestnut about Christians hating, opposing and discouraging science (or, rather, SCIENCE!!) which I saw as man’s only hope of salvation. When I spoke to Christians, I was immensely frustrated, because they seemed to have an answer for every question, but the answers were all illogical. It was a superstition, but one which had grown into a world-embracing and world-absorbing system, a trap into which, once one fell, there was no escape. Intellect was no help to escape: I knew too many intelligent Christians.

And everything that stood between me and my most base and perverse desires, sexual and otherwise, was embodied in the Christian message. Zeus never said adultery was bad; Mars never told me it was wrong to carry off Sabine Women; nor did one-eyed Odin, who subsists only on mead that maddens the senses, ever call it was wrong to cleave the skulls of my enemies and drink their brain and blood like soup.

Paganism is dead. The neopagans are not likely to resurrect it — pardon me, they do not believe in the resurrection — the neopagans are not likely to reincarnate it. There are probably more people who believe in UFO’s than believe Hecate’s consort is Cernunnos, or the Green Man.  Buddhism never once inspired a social change: it is a passive religion of utmost despair. Mohamedanism is barbaric, and can only destroy, not create, and despite the absurd pretensions and outright lies of the Left, the Islamic barbarians never invented anything, not even the zero. Toaism and Confucianism are philosophies with ritualized and mystical overtones, and do not have any power to change society, and hence no power to impose any restrictions on any atheist soul.

Communism, which even then I regarded as a cultic religion no different from the worship of Moloch, or, more to the point, the Cargo Cult of the Melanesians, I also regarded as my enemy, but even in my youth I saw that it was destroying itself and apt to die — although I was surprised as anyone that this happened in my lifetime. All my CoDominium future history books by Jerry Pournelle in the twinkling of an eye turned into alternate future history. But my nation was not Communist, my culture was not seeped in it, nor did Communism have any history old enough to make any impression on my thinking. Everything less than 150 years old, such as female suffrage, I regard as a temporary fad and unlikely to last. Communism is a fad; but Christianity was not a fad.

So it was my archenemy, my only real enemy. I never blasphemed Thor or Zeus, but I blasphemed and mocked God and Christ as often as I could.

As for your second question, you answered it yourself. It was like falling in love. When you fall in love, there is no sensation of choice or decision or debate unless part of your soul is not convinced. Debate and the sensation of decision happened only when you halfway decide and halfway resist. On topics were there is no scintilla of temptation, there is no decision, because the topic never comes up. Likewise on topics were every single brain cell assents to the proposition, there is no need for debate, no need for a vote, no need even for unanimous acclamation, and so the moment of decision passes unawares.

However, once in love, one is faced with the decision whether to be faithful, that is, honest or not. No amount of visions, miracles, or infusions of the Holy Spirit make it logically possible to doubt the obvious. A solipsist doubts the obvious every day, and a materialist denies the obvious each and every time he thinks and thought — and yet solipsists and materialists exist.

However, since I was never a conformist, the attempts by the Lefty atheists, who did not honestly disbelieve in God for good reasons, but merely hate God because He reminds them of their Fathers whom they fear and hate, the pathetic attempts of herd thinking collectivist atheists to shame me into returning to their herd fill me not with temptation but total disgust. The intelligent atheists are very far and few between, and none of them has given me and argument even as strong as the arguments I once gave on a routine basis. Indeed, the atheist I admire most for the clarity of his thinking (and its similarity to my own) has since been convinced to kneel and pray to God for the gift of faith. I pray for him daily.

Is my answer clear? The decision in the lower court was made without a trial, instantly, supernaturally, with no discussion or debate. I have since spoken to many an atheist online, and seen the rapid degeneration of their ability to form their thoughts into a coherent argument. None has given an argument sufficient to bring the case to an Appeals Court for review. But as a logical possibility, no matter what the evidence in the lower court, and Appellate Court always makes a decision, even if the decision is not to revisit the case.


by John C Wright at July 26, 2014 06:57 PM

Zippy Catholic

Why does Cardinal Kasper hate illegal immigrants?

There is an important distinction between immigration law and sacramental doctrine: the former is a matter of positive law, which can be changed; while the latter is not.

The position of most of the American bishops on illegal immigration ‘works’ by distinguishing between what the positive law requires and de-facto practice. Illegal immigration may be formally against the law, but the de-facto practice of the powers that be has encouraged it. People have settled in and built their lives in the place where they were encouraged to do so by the people in charge. The proposed just solution, then is some iteration of an amnesty for those who formally broke the law, followed by a change in the law, so that they can remain in the homes they have made for themselves.

Whatever one thinks of all that, the same sort of approach will not work with admission to the Sacraments. The hierarchy has winked at divorce and annulment for long enough now that, in a kind of doctrinal parallel of illegal immigration, many Catholics “know better” than to take explicit sacramental doctrine on marriage seriously.

But unlike the case of illegal immigration, granting sacramental amnesty to heretics and adulterers – even heretics and adulterers who have settled in the home they have because of the winking and encouragement of the powers that be – literally cannot, per impossibile, be followed by a change in sacramental reality.

They may well have walked into a trap set by negligent and even wicked elites and leaders. But springing the trap on them won’t save them from the predicament.

by Zippy at July 26, 2014 06:28 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Duke Ellington: A Life On the Road


Duke Ellington spent forty years traveling, composing, and performing.

Ellington composed as he lived, on the road and on the fly. He wrote his pieces in hotel rooms, Pullman cars, and chartered buses, then rehearsed them in the recording studio the next afternoon or on the bandstand the same night. He had little choice but to do so, for he was a professional wanderer who traveled directly from gig to gig, returning to his New York apartment, he said, only to pick up his mail. It would no more have occurred to him to take time off to polish a composition than to go on a monthlong vacation. Even if he had wanted to take a sabbatical to work on Black, Brown and Beige, the band’s touring schedule would have precluded it.

“I work and I write. And that’s it,” Ellington said. “My reward is hearing what I’ve done, and unlike most composers, I can hear it immediately. That’s why I keep these expensive gentlemen with me.” But maintaining a touring orchestra was for him not a luxury but a necessity. The band was his musical laboratory, the great good place where he experimented with new ideas, and he was incapable of functioning as a composer without its constant presence.

Link: A Life of Duke Ellington

by Chris Guillebeau at July 26, 2014 04:01 PM

John C. Wright's JournalJohn C. Wright's Journal

The Official Alphabetical List of Author Success

I hope any reader of mine will also become a reader of Larry Correia. We do not write the same sort of books, but we have the same sort of attitude.

He has posted a humorous look at the A-List through Z-List of authors, and what are their identifying marks. Some of this is inside joke that I don’t get, albeit you may. I surely recognized the last person listed, however, as well as the first.

The Official Alphabetical List of Author Success

A List – High upon Mount Olympus They Gaze Down Upon the Pathetic Mortals = All the $

  • Authors who are worth more than the GDP of some countries.
  • Authors who build their houses out of gold bars.
  • Characters from their books get their own theme parks.
  • The lady who wrote Twilight.

B List – The King(s) =$$$$$$$$$$

  • Authors who have TV shows about their books starring Peter Dinklage.
  • Authors who sleep on large piles of money.
  • Politicians who get illegal campaign contributions masquerading as advances.
  • Oprah’s Book Club.

C List – The Perpetual Bestsellers =$$$$$$$$$

  • Authors who play poker with Castle.
  • Authors who have lesser TV shows not starring Peter Dinklage.
  • Authors who always get sold in airport bookstores.
  • Authors who are rich enough to have sex scandals and it actually makes the news.

D List – My Wallet Says Bad Motherfucker = $$$$$$$$

  • Authors whose quarterly tax withholdings are sufficient to purchase a new Mercedes Benz.
  • Authors who’ve written a shit load of books for a whole lot of years.
  • Snooki
  • The International Lord of Hate.

And so on in like manner. Read and enjoy.

by John C Wright at July 26, 2014 03:57 PM

512 Pixels

Verizon to throttle some LTE users →

Oh, excuse me. The company is introducing "network optimizations:"

Starting in October 2014, Verizon Wireless will extend its network optimization policy to the data users who: fall within the top 5 percent of data users on our network, have fulfilled their minimum contractual commitment, and are on unlimited plans using a 4G LTE device. They may experience slower data speeds when using certain high bandwidth applications, such as streaming high-definition video or during real-time, online gaming, and only when connecting to a cell site when it is experiencing heavy demand. (Note: Does not currently apply to government or business accounts that have signed a major account agreement.)

Wait. Nope, that's throttling.

To be fair, AT&T introduced a "network management process" that does the same thing a while back as well:

As a result of the AT&T network management process, customers on a 3G or 4G smartphone with an unlimited data plan who have exceeded 3 gigabytes of data in a billing period may experience reduced speeds when using data services at times and in areas that are experiencing network congestion. Customers on a 4G LTE smartphone will experience reduced speeds once their usage in a billing cycle exceeds 5 gigabytes of data. All such customers can still use unlimited data without incurring overage charges, and their speeds will be restored with the start of the next billing cycle.

To be fair, Sprint does it, too, but to "improve data experience" for its users:

Sprint currently employs prioritization to improve data experience for the vast majority of users on Sprint’s CDMA and LTE networks. The heaviest data users consume a disproportionate share of network resources and cause a negative user experience for the rest. To more fairly allocate network resources in times of congestion, customers falling within the top 5% of data users may be prioritized below other customers attempting to access network resources, resulting in a reduction of throughput or speed as compared to performance on non-congested sites.

Even T-Mobile does it, but it's to ensure "you have a positive web experience and to help you avoid overage charges while allowing you to stay within the costs of your current plan."

While Verizon may be evil, they aren't less evil than their competition, so they've got that going for them, which is nice.


by Stephen Hackett at July 26, 2014 02:56 PM

The Outlaw Way



For time:

8 deadlifts 155/115#
7 cleans
6 snatches
8 pullups
7 chest-to-bar pullups
6 bar muscle ups
6 deadlifts 155/115#
5 cleans
4 snatches
6 pullups
5 chest-to-bar pullups
4 bar muscle ups
4 deadlifts 155/115#
3 cleans
2 snatches
4 pullups
3 chest-to-bar pullups
2 bar muscle ups

Do Work…

The post 140726 appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by John Dill at July 26, 2014 04:51 AM



1) 1rm Snatch

2) 1rm Clean & Jerk


1) Bench Press: 3X4@80%

The post 140726 appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by at July 26, 2014 03:49 AM


Thoracic Spine Barbell Stretch 4×0:20
photo-4 copy 2

Static Shaping
3×1:00 Chin to Toes HS Hold, Rest 0:30 Between Sets
photo 1

Skills and Drills
Straight Body Floor Levers 5×3 DEMO

The post 140726 appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by Kaitlin at July 26, 2014 03:01 AM



WOD 140726:


1) 15 minutes to establish a 1RM Snatch.

2) 15 minutes to establish a 1RM Clean & Jerk.


15 minutes to establish a 3RM Front Squat.


For time:

8 deadlifts 155/115#
7 cleans
6 snatches
8 pullups
7 chest-to-bar pullups
6 bar muscle ups
6 deadlifts 155/115#
5 cleans
4 snatches
6 pullups
5 chest-to-bar pullups
4 bar muscle ups
4 deadlifts 155/115#
3 cleans
2 snatches
4 pullups
3 chest-to-bar pullups
2 bar muscle ups

The post 140726 appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by at July 26, 2014 02:39 AM

The Art of Non-Conformity

What Are People REALLY Saying About WDS 2014?


After spending hundreds of hours in preparation and then hosting a week-long adventure for thousands of awesome people, I don’t actually say much about it afterward, at least not on the blog. I’m a writer who doesn’t do a writeup.

Thankfully, our awesome attendees pick up my slack—and wouldn’t you want to hear from them anyway?

Every year we see hundreds of blog posts from attendees. Here’s the first round of unfiltered reviews and opinions on a variety of topics related to WDS. Check them out and decide for yourself what WDS is all about!


As mentioned, this is just the first round. I have 75+ more posts in the queue and I’ll share them in a few days. For now, thanks again to everyone who contributed!

We’ll be back next year with another great adventure—count on it. If you’d like to come, join the waiting list for the first round of ticket sales (coming this fall).


by Chris Guillebeau at July 26, 2014 01:12 AM

July 25, 2014

John C. Wright's JournalJohn C. Wright's Journal

Meriam Ibrahim arrives safely in Italy; will meet the Pope

Here follows a column by Allen West. I reprint the whole without comment, not trusting myself to speak.

With all the horrible news for Christians in Iraq and elsewhere, there is one bright spot.

While we slept, Sudanese Christian Meriam Ibrahim arrived in Italy. As the UK Telegraph reports, the 27-year-old woman, who was spared a death sentence for apostasy in June for refusing to renounce Christianity, landed in Rome where she is to meet Pope Francis before traveling to the U.S.

I know she will appreciate all of you who prayed for her and her children and her perseverance through an almost year long-ordeal. Ibrahim and her family were flown to Italy in a government aircraft to Rome accompanied by Italy’s deputy minister for foreign affairs, Lapo Pistelli, who flew to Sudan to collect her late Wednesday.

There are many more Christians in Sudan who deserve our prayers. As the Telegraph reports, “Olivia Warham, director of Waging Peace, a UK NGO that campaigns against genocide and systematic human rights violations in Sudan, said millions of Sudanese Christians faced daily brutality and ethnic cleansing by the Sudanese regime.”

“Three years ago President Omar al-Bashir made it plain there would be no room for non-Muslims in his Islamist Sudan. He has been good to his word, crushing dissent and systematically killing ethnic and religious minorities. Regular aerial bombardment by the Sudanese armed forces destroys communities and Christian hospitals, forcing people to flee from their fields to hide in the Nuba mountains,” she said.”

“It is shocking that Bashir’s ideology of elimination provokes nothing more than the occasional words of regret from the international community, when we should be applying targeted smart sanctions on the architects of these atrocities.” As we reported yesterday, there is scant comment on the complete elimination of Christians in the Mosul in Iraq.

The Italian government and the Vatican led the way in securing Ibrahim’s release, something I wish our own American government had done. As we’ve written here, she is married to a naturalized American citizen and therefore her two children are American citizens.

I hope she is given the same compassion here in America – legally — as those who are entering illegally.

by John C Wright at July 25, 2014 08:39 PM

Natural Running Center

New Book on Sub-Two-Hour Marathon…It Should Happen Soon!

The sub two-hour marathon is running’s final, most elusive barrier. The first runner to go 1:59 will become universally celebrated as marathon’s Roger Bannister. This timely book by Dr. Phil Maffetone, “1:59: The Sub-Two-Hour Marathon Is Within Reach—Here’s How It Will Go Down, and What It Can Teach All Runners about Training and Racing,” examines [Read more...]

by BillK at July 25, 2014 07:08 PM

Englewood Christian Church: We Blog! » ERB

ERB Weekly Digest – July 25, 2014 – Brian McLaren, Hauerwas, GM Hopkins


One of our Best Books of 2012, Brian McLaren’s Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? is only $1.99 now for Kindle!
Get your copy now:
[ Read our review... ]


This week marked Stanley Hauerwas’s 74th Birthday!
Check out our video montage of him discussing Slow Church-related themes:



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

  • Barbara Crooker – Gold: Poems [Feature Review]
    Everything is Present A Feature Review of Gold: Poems (Poiema Poetry Series) Barbara Crooker Paperback: Cascade Books, 2014 Buy now: [ ]   Reviewed by Kendra Juskus   In the Preface to Lyrical Ballads, William Wordsworth wrote that “the poet has “a disposition to be affected more than other men by absent things as […]

  • New ERB Print Issue – Eastertide 2014
    The new ERB print issue has been mailed recently and is beginning to be received by our subscribers… (Yes, this issue is very late…) Featuring an interviews with Paul Sparks, Tim Soerens and Dwight Friesen authors of The New Parish, and Jon Sweeney, author of Inventing Hell, a review of the newly released translation of […]

  • Nicholas Wolterstorff – Journey Toward Justice [Feature Review]
    Hope for a New Creation A review of Journey Toward Justice: Personal Encounters in the Global South Nicholas Wolterstorff Paperback: Baker Academic, 2013 Buy now: [ ] [ ] Reviewed by Marilyn Matevia   Some of the clearest contemporary thinking and writing about the theory and practice of justice has come from Nicholas Wolterstorff. A […]

  • Gerard Manley Hopkins – 5 Favorite Poems
    July 28 marks the birthday of the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. Reverend Father Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J. (28 July 1844 – 8 June 1889) was an English poet, Roman Catholic convert, and Jesuit priest, whose posthumous fame established him among the leading Victorian poets. His experimental explorations in prosody (especially sprung rhythm) and his use […]

  • Mark Eckel – I Just Need Time to Think [Review]
    To Be a Thoughtful Learner A review of I Just Need Time to Think! Reflective Study as Christian Practice Mark Eckel Paperback: Westbow Press, 2014 Buy now: [ ] [ ] Reviewed by Jennifer Burns Lewis   I’ve had my review copy of I Just Need Time to Think! on my desk for several […]

  • Stanley Hauerwas – The Virtues / Practices of Slow Church [Video]
    Today is the birthday of theologian Stanley Hauerwas! Although I don’t always agree with him, Stanley Hauerwas’s work (and that of his many students, e.g., Phil Kenneson and others associated with The Ekklesia Project) has been absolutely vital to the Slow Church book that John Pattison and I co-wrote. In honor of his birthday, I […]

  • Medieval Christianity – ERB Library of FREE Ebooks [Kindle/More]
    This is the latest post in a series that will, in effect, create a library of classics that are available as free ebooks. Check out the full library to date here…. This week we focus on Medieval Christianity. We have selected the following books as recommended reading. We are encouraging our readers to mix up […]

  • New Book Releases – Week of 21 July 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…) See a book here that you’d like to review for us? Contact us, and we’ll talk about the possibility of a review. > > > > […]

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by csmith at July 25, 2014 06:11 PM

Alexis C. Madrigal : The Atlantic

The City That's the Center of China's Massive Frozen-Food Industry

Scientists call the frozen parts of the Earth the cryosphere: the arctic, the Antarctic, tundra permafrost, glaciers high on mountains. Global warming means the ice is slowly melting, but there's a lot of it.

At the same, humans are freezing more and more space. The same energy-intensive, fossil-fuel burning industrial technologies that contribute to climate change also allow humans to refrigerate an ever-greater volume of the Earth.

Writer Nicola Twilley calls this "network of artificially chilled warehouses, cabinets, and reefer fleets" the artificial cryosphere, and her work has detailed many of its fascinating intricacies, and its importance in "reshaping both markets and cities with the promise of a more rational supply and an end to decay, waste, and disease."

In a new piece for the New York Times Magazine, Twilley goes to the new center of the artificial cryosphere: Zhengzhou, the home of Sanquan, a sprawling empire of frozen food built by Chen Zemin, "the world’s first and only frozen-dumpling billionaire." (Sanquan, Twilley notes, "is short for ''Third Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China' — the 1978 gathering that marked the country’s first steps toward the open market.")

In one of Sanquan's factories, 5,000 workers pump out 100,000 dumplings an hour. That's 400 tons of dumplings every day. Sanquan and its chief rival Synear, also headquartered in Zhengzhou, control two-thirds of the country's frozen food market. The size of the industry has boomed, Twilley tells us, as the number of urban Chinese households with a refrigerator went from the single digits in the mid-1990s to 95 percent now.

And like everything else multiplied by the size of the Chinese population and the growth of its economy, the numbers get staggering quickly. "China had 250 million cubic feet of refrigerated storage capacity in 2007; by 2017, the country is on track to have 20 times that," she writes. "At five billion cubic feet, China will surpass even the United States, which has led the world in cold storage ever since artificial refrigeration was invented." Per capita, that would still only be one-third of the refrigerated space that we have available in the United States.

Why does that matter? Cooling uses 15 percent of the world's electricity. And electricity, especially in China, runs on coal, which is the dirtiest fossil fuel. And when the gases used in refrigerators leak, they are a more potent greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide.

A larger Chinese "cold chain," as refrigerated systems are known in the industry, will change what China eats, and the profile of its energy usage. "Of all the shifts in lifestyle that threaten the planet right now," Twilley concludes, "perhaps not one is as important as the changing way that Chinese people eat."

The epicenter for that change might just be Zhengzhou, which I've marked on a map here. It's a city that a vanishingly small number of Americans could spot on a map in a region of China far from Beijing, Shanghai, and the coastal images of urban china we know. (The map software itself declined to label the city at any zoom scale.)

Where Zhengzhou is (Map tiles by Stamen Design, under CC BY 3.0. Data by OpenStreetMap, under CC BY SA.)

And what looks like industrial change happening in this place will have lasting repercussions that extend far beyond the technical domain to the cultural one. When refrigeration comes to a place, the definition of freshness changes. The biological reality of seasonality can be suspended at will.

"I met with plant scientists at the Beijing Vegetable Research Center who are selecting and optimizing the varieties of popular Chinese greens that stand up best to cold storage," she writes. "If they are successful, the incredible regional variety and specificity of Chinese fruits and vegetables may soon resemble the homogeneous American produce aisle, which is often limited to three tomato varieties and five types of apple for sale, all hardy (and flavorless) enough to endure lengthy journeys and storage under refrigeration."

What's fascinating about freezing things is that refrigerators are time machines: They allow organisms from our present to be travel into the future without changing in natural ways. Cold slows biological time. That's why bacteria can't grow as well in a fridge. That's why women freeze their eggs. Cold is our weapon against life's inexorable clock. 

And yet the more stuff we freeze, the more time we control, the faster we push the planet's biosphere into disarray through climate change. What we can arrest now, at the cellular level, generates problems at scales unimaginably larger than microbes or embryos. 

by Alexis C. Madrigal at July 25, 2014 05:21 PM

The Brooks Review

The New Typewriter

MG Siegler:

I’ve been thinking about this recently when wondering why I like to write on my iPad so much more than my computer. It’s not that the iPad is “better” for writing, it’s that it’s decidedly less distracting. Yes, you still have access to Twitter, Facebook, and the like.

Read the entire post, I'm right there with him. Now all I need to do is figure out how to use this setup comfortably at my office.

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

by Ben Brooks at July 25, 2014 05:13 PM

Zippy Catholic

The pastoral road to Hell is paved with the skulls of bishops

27 Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. – 1 Corinthians 11:27

Participation in the sacraments while in rebellion against Church doctrine is very dangerous.

Someone who makes an invalid confession, by deliberately withholding explicit confession of acts which go against Church teaching or natural law, invalidates the confession and commits a sacrilege. Someone who receives the Eucharist unworthily commits sacrilege. Someone who attempts sacramental marriage while in rebellion against any of the essentials of sacramental marriage commits sacrilege, fails to actually marry, and instead creates a state of ongoing moral atrocity from which recovery becomes more difficult with each passing moment.

Formal excommunication is merciful, because it explicitly informs a person of the sacramental problem and its moral and spiritual gravity. Failure to do so trivializes sacramental irregularity. The alternative is to think of sacramental theology as a kind of bluff: the Church might formally say that we believe these things, that these things are the law as revealed by God Himself to His Church; but we don’t really believe them.

The problem with trying to put too large a gap between doctrinal belief and pastoral practice is that sane people pay more attention to what others do than to what they say.

The Catholic bishops have been teaching for decades that following written doctrines isn’t always required or just: that what is written should not be taken seriously when contrasted to the de-facto rules implied by action. For example although the explicit laws of the United States prohibit illegal immigration (which is what makes it illegal), as a de-facto matter illegal immigration has been encouraged and supported by the powers that be for decades. The explicit laws are a kind of bluff: our other actions demonstrate that we don’t really mean it, and immigrants can hardly be blamed for responding to what we do as opposed to what we say. It would be unjust to start enforcing the positive law as written against illegal immigrants because the positive law is a bluff, not meant to be taken seriously.

So if it is true that there are large numbers of invalid marriages among Catholics, that is just because those Catholics have taken to heart what the Bishops have been teaching. Their understanding of marriage has been formed by de-facto practice. They may (or may not) be aware of the explicit rules; but they’ve been taught not to take them seriously.

And whose doing is that?

by Zippy at July 25, 2014 05:05 PM

The Sword and the Ploughshare

Private Property, Aquinas, and Legal Realism

Earlier this week, two leading Catholic political bloggers, Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig and Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry (better known as Pegobry, or just PEG), engaged in a short but sharp exchange on one of my favorite subjects, property rights (see hereherehere, and here).  Although I can hardly claim to be an expert on the subject, I’ve long lamented the absence of substantive discourse on the subject among political theologians and Christian ethicists, so Liz Bruenig’s recent attempts to foreground the issue have been a breath of fresh air.  Pegobry, however, raised some rather important questions, or at the very least the sorts of questions that most conservatives are likely to raise, and given the frequency with which I encounter such questions, I think they deserve to be explored a bit further than they were in the inconclusive interchange.

So although I am told that a day is as a thousand years on the internet and a four-day-old discussion is too stale to bother resurrecting, I will venture some reflections of my own.

First, though, a bit of quick review for those of you just joining us.  Liz Bruenig kicked things off with a little discussion of St. Augustine (of whom she is a fan and perhaps something of an expert) and legal realism, which is to say the idea that property rights are nothing more than creations of the law, and thus in principle alterable at the law’s discretion.  The context for Augustine’s affirmation of legal realism that she identified was, unhappily, one of his anti-Donatist writings, in which he dismissed their complaint against the state’s confiscation of their property.  She notes that Augustine was somewhat prescient here in rejecting Lockean “labor-desert” theory, which is to say the idea that property rights are created and become morally binding as the just fruits of labor.  Pegobry objected, perhaps unsurprisingly, that this is precisely why conservatives object to anything like “legal realism” and insist that property rights are “sacred” and must be respected by the state, and not tampered with—legal realism encourages and justifies abominations like arbitrary state confiscation of property from people it doesn’t like.  To this Ms. Bruenig replied that of course the state often does terrible and unjust things with its power to define property rights, but the fact that you don’t like that power doesn’t make it untrue.  Legal realism is merely a descriptive account of how property rights are in fact generated, not a normative account of how they are generated, and the simple fact of the matter is that without the state’s determination to prevent me from taking your computer for my own purposes, your ownership of it is meaningless. 

At this point Pegobry complained that Ms. Bruenig had now defined legal realism so minimalistically as to be useless.  If all it means is that laws are, well, laws, and determine what will and won’t be enforced, then so what?  By the same token, one could note that descriptively, the state’s determination of what counts as human life worthy of protection (slaves? the unborn? infants?) does in fact determine who gets protection, and thus perhaps who may end up dying, and thus in this somewhat perverse sense “rights to life” are generated by law.  But of course the important question at hand, he insisted, is whether the law is acting rightly, which is to say whether in its legal determinations it is respecting pre-existing moral rights and duties that need to be honored.  Accordingly, Pegobry challenged Ms. Bruenig to clarify whether on her view there were such moral restraints in the case of property, whether she would have any principled objection to “a total redistribution of property.”  Ms. Bruenig’s response (in an addendum to her previous response) to these challenges was probably not fully satisfactory to many readers.  As far as pre-existing moral constraints that should normatively guide property law, she briefly pointed back to Augustine’s view of God’s ordination of creation (which He alone truly owns) for the common use of all.  The question about redistribution she dodged somewhat by saying “If a Christian community wanted to live in this way, communally, that would be fine.”  This sounds like a harmonious mutual decision, like the community in Acts 4, rather than a top-down legal imposition, which is what Pegobry worries about.  She concludes by explaining that the main purpose of legal realism in these discussions is simply to parry the common libertarian talking-point that taxes are a form of theft, or at least redistributive taxes are.  That is certainly an assertion I have sought to debunk a number of times myself, but I wonder if Ms. Bruenig is right that it can be dismissed with a merely descriptive theory; while not technically theft, taxes or other property arrangements that are unjust might fairly be described as *like* theft.


So I take it that, at the end of this brief exchange, the fundamental conservative worries were not answered as clearly and fully as they need to be.  So let me first restate those objections as clearly as possible, then attempt to clarify why at least Pegobry’s statement of them fails (though this does not mean that, suitably nuanced, the line of objection might not be more compelling, though that will mostly be a subject for another post).

The objection, then, from an intelligent conservative who avoids some of the more naïve ideas about private property rights, would run something like this:

To be sure property rights, as binding and enforceable social arrangements, depend on law.  Indeed, in various areas such as intellectual property, it is difficult to see how such rights could be given any generally-agreed upon content without being created by law.  However, law ought to be moral, not arbitrary.  And to be moral, law ought to serve not merely utilitarian ends, doing whatever works best for the greatest number, but principles of justice, which limit in advance the range of fair and acceptable actions the law may undertake.  (Never mind for now whether we construe these principles as some form of ‘natural law’ or another source of moral authority.)  This is why the law cannot simply decree the death of an innocent person to satisfy the whims of a majority.  This is why, to pick a more contentious example, many Christians will argue that the law cannot grant “marriage” to anyone who wants it, regardless of whether they fit the criteria for the institution.  (Indeed, marriage law represents an interesting analogy on several levels to property law, inasmuch as much of what gives it its distinctive shape in particular societies, and what makes it meaningful and binding, is provided by law; but we do not thereby reduce it wholly to a creature of law.) 

To be sure property is not like life; we do not come into the world with it, nor is there any natural way simply to unite it to ourselves.  Nonetheless, the principles for its distribution cannot be wholly arbitrary, and they ought to have something to do with desert.  In determining just property relations, states must have an eye to considerations like: who already has it (de facto)? Have they done anything to deserve having it taken away?  Who has worked hard for it, and who has merely passively reaped the benefit of another’s labor?  (Of course, it does not follow that the consistent application of such principles will necessarily favor the traditional property-owning class; quite the contrary.) Each generation does not have a clean slate with which they can say, “OK, who do we want to give this stuff to?  Let’s redistribute it as follows…”

This, I take it, is the substance of Pegobry’s objection—if I may say so myself, a better-stated version than he himself provided.  A closer look at Pegobry’s claims will, I hope, make clearer just what this sort of objection needs to deal with in order to get properly off the ground.


First, a historical point. Pegobry frankly admits his own unfamiliarity with Augustine; I am sorry to say that I am little better off myself.  This is one of the reasons I am very glad that Ms. Bruenig is doing so much to disseminate a better understanding of his political thought.  Unfortunately, however, Pegobry implies that, whatever Augustine may have thought regarding property and legal realism, we would do well to disregard it in favor of the medieval and post-medieval Catholic teaching on the subject:

“I find myself much more at home with what I take to be the ‘generic’ Catholic understanding, heavily influenced by Scholasticism, of private property as a kind of God-granted stewardship, which issues in both a natural right of private property and a moral duty to use this faculty in accord with the will of God.” 

Presumably, in declaring himself “at home with” this understanding, Pegobry means to imply that he is quite familiar with it.  And yet I must confess I am not at all sure he knows what he’s talking about.  Indeed, the appeal to a “‘generic’ understanding,” with a vague nod in the direction of “Scholasticism” (isn’t Scholasticism always involved in these things, one way or another), does little to instill confidence.  The first thing to say here is that there is not really a “generic” understanding—that is rarely so in the history of thought.  Rather, you have the common Patristic view that private property is a dubious product of the Fall,[1] which Christian communities ought to strive to transcend (Augustine is of course somewhat more pessimistic and “realist” on this point), then in the High and late Middle Ages, ferocious conflict (including real-world conflict) between the modified-Aristotelian Thomist view, the radical-Patristic Franciscan view, and a sort of proto-modern papalist view,[2] with diversity increasing as we move into modernity.  Even the papal encyclicals that undergird Catholic Social Teaching do not speak with one voice on the subject.  Rerum Novarum is notoriously influenced by Lockean ideas, but later encyclicals have moved away from this.[3]  All of this to say that we need thorough and thoughtful wrestling with these issues nowadays, rather than blithe reassurances that there is some basic common-sense view that surely every sane person must share and that more or less settles the issue.

However, to the extent that we could speak of a “‘generic’ Catholic understanding” it would have to be that of Thomas Aquinas, whose synthesis was enormously influential on succeeding centuries and is generally given at least lipservice in Catholic treatments of the subject today, even when it is not carefully attended to.  Indeed, I would hazard the claim that properly understood, the Thomist view could be taken as a rough consensus statement for most serious Christian reflection on property through the centuries. 


Space cannot permit anything like a full statement of Thomas’s doctrine here, but I will say enough to try to show the nub of the problem with Pegobry’s formulation, a problem which affects his whole line of argument.  He is right to highlight the theme  of “God-granted stewardship in the Thomistic understanding of private property, but just what does he mean when he says that it “issues in … a natural right of private property”?  That, after all, is what this whole discussion is really about: is there such a thing, and whence does it arise? 

Thomas, actually, is really not all that opaque on the question.  He offers a rather clear distinction between use (usum) and administration (potestas procurandi et dispensandi).  This generates two distinct sets of rights.  First is the right of humankind to take, use, and enjoy the fruits of the earth.  This is a natural right in the fullest sense of the term—pure and simple, everyone is born into the world with the right to take some fruit off a fruit tree if they’re hungry, just as they’re born free to speak, marry, etc.  But of course, this right is common and universal, and so is not really what we would call a property right; in fact, it is kind of the opposite.[4]  It is what we could call a pre-political right, and can of course be modified some by subsequent arrangements, but is always there in the backdrop (so that Aquinas contends that in cases of necessity—if you really need that apple or that loaf of bread—this natural right reasserts itself and trumps all others).

The second is the institution of property rights, whether private or public.[5]  This is where Aquinas parts company somewhat from many of the Fathers.  Whereas they asserted the primordial right of common use, and judged that only sin could account for compromising such a thing with the distinction between meum and teum, Aquinas was more Aristotelian.  Even without sin, property rights might be a good and useful thing, although perhaps only sin made them necessary (this is one point where Aquinas could be a bit more clear).  This was because, he deemed, a distinction between who administered what could actually help further the original natural right of common use—that is to say, by avoiding confusion and promoting a sense of personal responsibility (to use an unfortunately now-hackneyed term), property rights could actually help more effectively bring the fruits of the earth into general circulation.  Thus, Aquinas could speak of property rights in this sense as natural in the sense of being not contrary to nature, or even in accord with nature, but they were not natural in the fullest sense, because they were not spontaneously present in nature, but “derivatory and secondary” (in the words of Anthony Parel), arising out of subsequent human arrangements.  Conversely, although common ownership is natural in the sense that it comes first and supplies the backdrop for future ownership arrangements, it is not natural in the sense that the natural law

“dictates that all things should be possessed in common and that nothing should be possessed as one’s own, but because the division of possessions is not according to natural right, but, rather, according to human agreement, which belongs to positive right, as stated above. Hence the ownership of possessions is not contrary to natural right; rather, it is an addition to natural right derived by human reason.”[6]

Derived by human reasonAccording to human agreement.  As John Finnis summarizes,

“The moral or juridical relationships to such an entity that we call property rights are relationships to other people. They are matters of interpersonal justice. Arguments for founding property rights on alleged ‘metaphysical’ relationships between persons and the things with which they have ‘mixed their labour’, or to which craftsmen have ‘extended their personality’, are foreign to Aquinas.[7]

Thus Aquinas, too, is among the legal realists.  “Your list of allies grows thin,” Elrond might say to Pegobry. 


This will afford us some of the needed clarity to sort through some of Pegobry’s other comments.  He does not seem clear on why it is that property rights should be subject to “legal realism” in a way any different from other rights that we hold dear.  For instance, he describes Ms. Bruenig’s position as “the position that human beings have no intrinsic rights (at least in the domain of property, although why this should be true about property and not other rights is unclear) that human institutions and laws are bound by higher laws to respect, and that such rights are “totally” fictitious creations of the sovereign.”  Later he uses the analogy of the right to life, and the state’s responsibility to protect it, and he also appeals to “the declaration of the Ecumenical Council of Vatican II that every human being, as an image-bearer of God, has transcendent dignity, one consequence of which is the existence of natural rights that human institutions are bound by divine law to respect.”  He also asks,

“is it correct to say that people have a right to private property in the same way that we say they have a right to speak freely, or assemble peaceably, or any of those rights the recognition of which we typically take to be a mark of civilization? That is to say, rights, that (conceptually rather than historically) ‘preexist’ the state in the sense that the state is duty-bound to respect them not on grounds of expediency but on grounds of higher law.”

This is slippery stuff.  In particular, one worries about the invocation of “those rights the recognition of which we typically take to be a mark of civilization,” given the way in which human rights discourse has been used in increasingly imperialistic fashion by national and international authorities.  But leaving those aside, what about the specific rights here asserted—life, liberty of speech, liberty of assembly?  All of these we might quite justly associate with the “transcendent dignity” that we have as “image-bearers of God,” because they all seem to essential to a basic realization of our human nature.  Obviously we were born into the world for the purpose of living, and without that right we have no others.  And rational thought, and speech to share that thought, are essential to what it means to be human.  Likewise, as fundamentally social animals, we must be able to assemble together with others in pursuit of common ends.  For the state to legislate against such rights in general would indeed be intrinsically unjust, a violation of natural rights, because such rights arise not out of means to an end, but as part of the end of being human. 

But is there anything equivalent in the neighborhood of property rights?  Well only, it would appear, in the domain of common use.  This, Aquinas is clear, is a fundamental right of being human, because without it, without the power to appropriate to our use such fruits of the earth as we need for health and flourishing, we could not live at all.  And thus it is the case that there are natural, intrinsic, pre-political rights pertaining to the “transcendent dignity” of human beings as image-bearers which states are bound, as a matter of principle, to respect.  The problem is they are not the rights of existing de facto property owners, or would-be Lockean property-acquirers, but rights prior to these, which will condition and limit these.[8]   This, presumably, is what Ms. Bruenig is up to when she explains that the normative feature in the property picture is to “make sure the poor are supported.”  (While she follows this with, “Because Christ commands it,” it is clear more generally from her exposition of Augustine that it is because God created the world and intends it for the use of all, as Aquinas also argued.)

 Thus, to Pegobry’s insistent question as to whether, according to Ms. Bruenig, “under correct Christian ethics, all property is contingent and rights of property . . .  have only instrumental and not intrinsic value,” it must be answered, in Thomistic terms at least, “Yes, instrumental to the service of the common use of humankind.”  Indeed, it is difficult to conceive, within such a framework, of just what sort of “intrinsic value” such rights could have. 


However, this is not to say that Pegobry’s worries are entirely unreasonable.  In fact, the quest to identify an “intrinsic value” to private property ownership, more directly rooted in human nature, is not necessarily a fool’s errand.  For instance, we might well argue that the fundamental value of human freedom requires a certain self-sufficiency which requires, or at least is best secured by, property rights.  Or with a bit more sophistication, we might say that freedom in fact requires responsibility to be truly realized, or in more Scriptural terms, that taking dominion and exercising stewardship is part of what it means to bear God’s image, and thus something like private property ownership is naturally necessary for human beings, and must be protected by law as a pre-political right.  Hegel and Hilaire Belloc are two have offered something like this sort of reasoning.  The problem, as Jeremy Waldron has masterfully shown in The Right to Private Property, is that these arguments as well argue for a re-distribution of property, indeed, more dramatically so than the Thomist—they compel the conclusion that property is something that everyone should have, not merely enough for sustenance, but for freedom and self-realization. 

What we really would need, then, is an argument that the fruit of labor must not be separated from the labor, that just as the children that one brings into the world, are, by natural right, your children, not the state’s to do with as it wishes, so the products that you create or enrich by your labor are justly yours.  Of course, the analogy conceals the fact that the products of labor just don’t seem to have a metaphysical relationship to labor in the way that children do to conception (not to mention the fact that in laboring, one must make use of much more pre-existing material).  Unless a convincing metaphysical argument can be brought, then (and while I am not wholly dismissive of the attempt, most existing attempts have been quite unsatisfactory), then the analogy really falls back on some version of desert theory.  There are of course very substantial problems with building a property distribution on desert theory, as not merely Liz, but Matt Bruenig has argued.  However, this does not mean that relative assessments of desert cannot and should not play any role in legal determinations of just property relations.  It is this intuition—that it would be unjust for the law to suddenly deprive me of something I have worked hard for (assumign I’ve worked justly) even for good utilitarian ends—that drives Pegobry’s (and most conservatives’) worry about legal realism, and redistributional policies based on it.  And while I would be rash to make any promises at this juncture, I would hope to explore this further in a subsequent post or two, to outline what a good conservative version of legal realism might look like.


[1] See for instance Anton Herman Chroust and Robert J Affeldt, “The Problem of Private Property According to St. Thomas Aquinas,” Marquette Law Review 34:3 (1950), 155-75.

[2] See Joan Lockwood O’Donovan, “Christian Platonism and Non-proprietary Community,” in Bonds of Imperfection (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 97-120 for a particularly insightful discussion.

[3] Matthew Habiger, Papal Teaching on Private Property, 1891 to 1981 (Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1990), provides a useful, though not altogether reliable, discussion.

[4] See ST II-II q. 66 a. 1 for Aquinas’s exposition of this right.

[5] This occupies Aquinas in ST II q. 66 a. 2.

[6] ST II-II q. 66 a. 2 ad 1.

[7] John Finnis, Aquinas : Moral, Political, and Legal Theory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 189.

[8] Anthony Parel notes that for Aquinas, private property is “derivatory and secondary” right, with “the obligation to realize the primary purpose of property, namely, use,” so that, “if there is conflict between use and ownership, there was no doubt in Aquinas’ mind which should prevail.” (“Aquinas' Theory of Property,” in Theories of Property, ed. Anthony Parel and Thomas Flanagan [Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1979], 96.)

by Brad Littlejohn at July 25, 2014 05:03 PM


Extracurricular Activities 7.26.14 — Inerrancy, Immortality of the Soul, & Vanishing Middle-Class Clergy

Andrew Wilson on "Why I Don't Hate the Word 'Inerrancy'"

In ten years of teaching, writing, and researching theology, I've never once been asked whether or not I believe in inerrancy. As it happens, I do. If someone was to ask me whether, in my view, the Scriptures contain mistakes or not, I would answer in the negative. Partly this is a result of theological conviction about the divine and human components of Scripture: that when God's words are expressed by humans, neither their human aspects (authorial personality, tone, language, mode of expression) nor their divine aspects (truthfulness, authority, clarity, reliability) are compromised. Partly it's because I'd find it strange to tell people that the whole Bible represents the word of God, and the word of God is completely truthful, but that parts of the Bible aren't completely truthful. (I don't mean to say that nobody can believe all three of these things but that it would be beyond my intellectual faculties to do so.) Mostly, though, it's because of Jesus. Put simply, based on what I read in the Gospels, I cannot imagine (if we let this rather implausible thought-experiment run for a moment) Jesus being asked whether the Scriptures contained mistakes or not, and saying yes.

Chris Tilling's "Aha" Moment for Handling the Bible,  Textual Criticism, and Inerrancy

I realized that I thought Peter had made an historical mistakeand I realized that it didn’t make me trust the messageof Scripture less. The agenda of 2 Peter (to say that false prophets in his day were doing bad things, like Balaam did) is not remotely altered by the author’s snafu about Balaam’s surname.

In this case (though not in every case) the veracity of the theological message is in no way dependent upon the historical detail of the Old Testament illustration used to underscore the point. So I saw no reason to doubt 2 Peter’s criticism of the false teachers because of this tiny lacuna in his historical knowledge.

But for a lot of my friends, that wouldn’t be the case. In popular evangelical discourse (such as the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy), the historical and scientific inerrancy of Scripture is adduced as the reason one can trust Scripture’s message about God’s redemption in Christ.

Scot McKnight Asks, "Do All Humans Have an Immortal Soul?"

If you believe in the immortality of the soul, so it would seem, you would have to believe in endless punishment of the wicked or universalism. In the history of the church, belief in the immortality of the soul has been a constant. Not all, but most have believed God made humans immortal. While N.T. Wright, especially in Surprised by Hope and more academically in The Resurrection of the Son of God, has labored to prove that this is not only a later (than the New Testament) belief but also that immortality of the soul is positively nottaught in the Bible. Immortality is a gift from God, not an innate possession of humans.

Three Construals of Scripture and Tradition, Canon and Church: Lindbeck, Vanhoozer, and Jenson

There was a time when almost no scholarly work was being done to relate Christian theology and ethics to the Bible. We therefore owe a great debt to George Lindbeck, who spent much of his career seeking to recover what he called the “classic pattern of biblical interpretation” for today’s church. The mainline churches, Lindbeck contended, exist in a state of “methodological chaos” with respect to their reading of Scripture, wherein “disagreements over interpretive modes” have led to “the present crisis of biblical authority”—a “theoretical crisis that threatens to become a practical cataclysm, as the decline of the historically mainline denominations suggests.” What we need, Lindbeck suggested, is “criteria on how to proceed with the discussion,” in such a way that the traditional, precritical reading practices that remain integral to the church’s everyday life are preserved.

In this essay, I attempt to recover the classic pattern of biblical interpretation by comparing the postliberal position of Lindbeck, the sophisticated contemporary evangelical position of Kevin Vanhoozer, and the classical Lutheran position of Robert Jenson.

The Vanishing of the Middle-Class Clergy

For someone seeking a full-time job as a church pastor, Justin Barringer would seem to have the perfect résumé. He’s a seminary grad, an author and book editor, and a former missionary to China and Greece. But despite applying to nearly a hundred jobs over the course of two years, Barringer, who lives in Lexington, Kentucky, could not secure a full-time, salaried church position.

So he splits his time among three jobs, working as a freelance editor, an employee at a nonprofit for the homeless, and a part-time assistant pastor at a United Methodist Church. “I am not mad at the church,” Barringer says. “However, I wish someone had advised me against taking on so much debt in order to be trained for ministry.”

Barringer’s story is becoming increasingly typical as Protestant churches nationwide cut back on full-time, salaried positions.


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 Koinonia Blog

by Jeremy Bouma at July 25, 2014 04:44 PM

The Brooks Review

∞ For the Love of Gear

The Fourth of July is one of the best holidays in America, and my absolute favorite (and among adults one of the more favored too). Most people around the world know it as our Independence Day, but to me it’s the most family centric of all holidays. There’s very little stress because (for a change) there’s really no gift giving — and it’s a well accepted holiday throughout the country. It’s not uncommon for many stores to close.

Dad and Daughter.

Further, the festivities don’t usually take place until the evening — so you get a nice warm July day all to yourself. This year saw my family down on the Oregon coast, where we watched a small town parade of homemade floats. My two year old sat on my shoulders to see well above everyone.

Being as how we had two kids out with us, we knew we needed a diaper bag, and I knew I didn’t want to carry that silly one my wife loves. So I stuffed my GORUCK GR1 to the gills with the stuff for the girls and atop its padded straps is where my oldest daughter sat for a good hour plus. 1

It was a fun time and after the parade we headed to the beach. My wife took our youngest back home for nap and my daughter and I ran down the windy-chilly beach. And then, as two year-olds do, she bit it. No tears, just a quick pop back up. Hands covered in sand.

She promptly rubbed her eyes — long before I could react to try and stop her.


I rushed over and flung the GR1 to the wet sand, where it skidded to a stop, so I could block her hands while I dug out a burp rag to wipe the sand from her face. All ended well after some serious tears flushed the sand from her eyes.

I looked over at my GR1 to see a little skid-mark in the wet sand, and I grinned.

”This is what the GR1 was made for”, I thought to myself.

Now a few weeks removed from that event I still cannot shake that idea from my head. I’m the guy that won’t set his iDevice down on a rough tile surface for fear of small scratches. I keep my gear clean and tidy — I don’t baby it, but I treat it with care. Same with most of my bags.

But the GR1, the GR1 is a different beast. GORUCK will tell you that it gets better with abuse. It’s a hell of a bag, and a hell of a concept.

Any other bag and I would have tried to keep it on my back, not wanting the sand to work its way in never to leave the nylon. But without thinking about it I readily flung the GR1 into the sand.

And I can’t figure out why…

I know, in my mind, that the GR1 (and many other bags) can take the abuse, but I never abuse them. I never offer that abuse, because my default setting is for care.

And I know that the GR1 is made for it, but even still my GR1 looks (mostly) brand new. And yet I have never shied away from abusing the bag with dirt and grime.

What is it about a product that makes you change who you may be by default — change to go from someone who baby’s their gear, to someone that flings it into sand?

Is it marketing, or the design of the product itself? Perhaps it is something deeper, something you cannot see on the surface — knowledge of toughness feeling inherent to the bag?

I’m not sure, but I suspect it has less to do with marketing and more to do with design of the product itself.

I asked a few people what it is about these products that make use act differently towards them — what defines how we treat something?

Patrick Rhone (Minimal Mac):

If I were to distill it down to a single idea: It’s about purpose. There is something uniquely satisfying about using any tool for the purpose it was intended to be used. The GORUCK GR1, for example, was made for the harshest conditions a US Special Forces operator might face. Few of us who own them will ever put them through that kind of punishment. Yet, I love the stains from tree bark on my shoulder straps — left behind by a very big ugly log during a GORUCK Challenge. Not only for the memory of what was accomplished but also because that is exactly the sort of thing it was built to do. I have a 25 year old Dodge pickup that is dented and beat up to all hell. Yet, when I use it to haul some stuff to the dump or pickup some wood at the hardware store, it fills me with tremendous joy and satisfaction. These are the reasons it was made and every dent, scratch, and bump is a story of its purpose.

In a sense, then, the purpose of the product defines how the user should use it — the ‘patina’ one gains from that use only adds character. That makes sense when you think about trucks and GORUCK bags, but what about something as delicate as a MacBook Pro?

Surely you want to baby that.

Who better to ask than he of stickermania, Myke Hurley (Podcast Legend):

I would say that typically I take care of my products. Like you, my iPad will always rest on the Smart Cover or on a smooth surface, I don’t like an unprotected surface to touch it in most cases.

So this is where it’s interesting with my laptop. People think I’m crazy or super weird for covering my MacBook pro with stickers, but for me this is the very best way I could treat that computer.

Those stickers all represent something important to me in one way or another. So the outside of that computer is like a visual representation of lots of the things I care about or draw enjoyment from in my life. They are a visual representation of my personality.

But just to make the point, if I’m taking my Macbook anywhere, it goes inside a neoprene sleeve before being put in my rucksack. It receives the full level of care that I give all my other apple products.

You notice something there — said by both Rhone and Hurley — and it’s this notion that the outward appearance of a product tells a story that is important to both of them. That the stains on the GORUCK, and dents on the truck, or the stickers on the MacBook Pro speak to the user and the onlookers alike.

A clean gadget is just as representative to the owner as a dirty one. That should have been more readily apparent, but it’s often lost in, well, did you see that picture of Myke’s laptop? Goodness.

I wrote the above, and conducted the interviews before Apple released their now infamous sticker MacBook Air ad. It featured 74 stickers in total and a lot of different MacBook Airs.

But to me it tells the same story of personality, reflection, character, and mostly love.

I know why I readily threw the GR1 into the sand now: because that’s what it was made for, and I love it too much not to use it that way. In other words I don’t buy cars to look at them parked in my garage, I buy them to drive.

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  1. My shoulders were killing me. When did she get so heavy?

by Ben Brooks at July 25, 2014 04:36 PM

Front Porch Republic

The Good Man Must Himself Be a True Poem

The Violent and the Fallen Front Cover

The M.F.A. program in Creative Writing at the University of Notre Dame has just published an interview with me as part of its alumni series.  There, I get to reflect on my years of shooting pool and trying to hold…

Read Full Article...

The post The Good Man Must Himself Be a True Poem appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by James Matthew Wilson at July 25, 2014 03:18 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Giveaway: Free Website Hosting for a Year

Every Friday is giveaway day. Comment to win!

How to Start a Blog

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Enter this week’s giveaway below (click over if reading by RSS or email), then check back on Sunday night. We’ll announce the winner and get them set up!

Update: Comments are now closed. Congrats to Amanda Hackwith, selected by cats and a random number generator to win this great bag! Everyone else, thanks for entering. We’ll have another giveaway next week.

You can still take advantage of the excellent $5/month hosting offer from InMotion.


Image: The Great Thomas Hawk

by Chris Guillebeau at July 25, 2014 02:27 PM