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August 28, 2016

The Ontological Geek

The Dark Side Of Nostalgia

Geek nostalgia is high on the agenda currently, but we ignore the dark side of that imagined past at our own peril.

by Megan Condis at August 28, 2016 08:20 AM

John C. Wright's Journal

A General Query to all Panphysicalists and Radical Materialists

Let us cut to the chase.

Think back to the day when you first discovered that you were a meat robot without free will, without freedom, and without dignity. Did the discovery fill you with awe, rapture, wonder and gratitude?

For, if not, the discovery is false. Truth is majestic and majesty provokes awe; truth is sublimely beautiful and beauty provokes rapture; truth is startling, because it shatters the lies we tell ourselves, and the bright surprise leaves us blinking in wonder; truth is a gift of prized above all price, and gifts provoke gratitude.

If the discovery of material did none of these things, either your reactions are mis calibrated and do not reflect reality, or your discovery was not a discovery at all, merely a falsehoos you have yet to test with due rigor.

So? What was your reaction?

by John C Wright at August 28, 2016 05:11 AM

Workout: August 28, 2016

21-15-9 Snatch (95/65lb.) Bar facing burpee Run 500m

by Crystal at August 28, 2016 02:13 AM

One Big Fluke

Link roundup #7

Zero-cost futures in Rust:
Standardizing how futures / deferreds work in a language is a good idea. Python did something similar (and beyond) with asyncio and PEP 3156. JavaScript / ECMAScript 6 also defined Promises. I'm happy to see Rust do this early. I think there are some details that will make this tricky in practice since Rust doesn't have GC, so we'll see.

Google’s QUIC protocol: moving the web from TCP to UDP:
My skills are officially obsolete. I know HTTP 1.1 and TCP pretty well. I really need to understand the details of HTTP 2.0 and QUIC beyond the high-level architecture. I don't want to become a dinosaur who only knows UUCP or XNS. I've often wondered what it feels like to be an old, but still working programmer. This is probably part of it.

Working remotely:
This is a wonderful guide on how to be a thoughtful collaborator. Except for the "Before you get hired" section, almost all of the advice applies to non-remote (local?) working as well.

PyFlux:
Really cool library for working with time series in Python. See this Jupyter notebook for some compelling examples. I'm happy to see it works with Python 3 and is built on NumPy, SciPy, and Pandas.

What’s New in C# 7.0:
I surprisingly enjoyed using C# last year after ignoring it for years. It appears that the language is getting even more features with the next release. I don't think that's a good thing; some of what they're introducing seems overly complicated (e.g., out variable declarations).

by Brett Slatkin (noreply@blogger.com) at August 28, 2016 12:39 AM

August 27, 2016

confused of calcutta

Some Like It Hot: A Paean To Chillies

This is not meant to be a post about the Marilyn Monroe and Tony Curtis film by Billy Wilder. I didn’t actually watch it till late 1999, some forty years after it was made. It wasn’t on my bucket list. I was 42 by then, and so I was pretty careful about any new entrants … Continue reading "Some Like It Hot: A Paean To Chillies"

by JP at August 27, 2016 11:53 PM

Zippy Catholic

Libertarian superposition

Kristor suggested that I superimpose the libertarian diamond diagram over my own drawing.  Here it is:superposition

Libertarians are correct that their political views are, at least in a sense, more consistent with freedom and equal rights as uncompromising principles than other political views. That is precisely why libertarians (left and right) are so crazy and disconnected from reality.  “Centrism” is really a concentric circle in between the singularity and the event horizon: it is a region of many unprincipled exceptions, little introspection, fairly strong comfort with the status quo, and unwillingness or inability to call liberalism into question.


by Zippy at August 27, 2016 07:11 PM

Breaking symmetry

Modern political life has the incoherent logical singularity of liberalism at its center. Freedom as political act is self contradictory, because politics is essentially the public resolution of controvertible cases: the restriction of all possible controverting parties’ wishes in favor of a specific authoritative result.  Authoritative acts – politics – always and necessarily assert authority to reduce an infinite number of potential resolutions to one particular actual resolution.

That is what politics, governance, authority is: it is the deliberate constraint of the infinity of potential choices by subjects into a limited, particular actual range of choices: a constraint asserted and imposed by men with authority.  This explains why a society that becomes more liberal is always attempting to abolish politics in favor of ‘neutral’ bureaucratic procedures (e.g. democratic elections or neocameral formalism), really important documents in filing cabinets and under glass in museums, expert morally neutral scientific knowledge, and other quite literally inhuman forms of governance.  Every important question must already be begged, so that authority can be invisibly exercised without admitting that authority is being exercised.

At the incoherent liberal singularity in the center all reason breaks down and reality disappears.  When man’s reason breaks down and reality disappears all that is left of him is the hellish agony of his insatiable desire and will.  We define any man who is committed – at all – to liberalism as a liberal.  The purest form of liberal, then, is an anarchotyrannical madman, a madman who has lost all capacity to perceive reality and to reason.

However, the liberal singularity does not exist in a rarified world of ideas.  It exists in reality: in a real, physical, social, and spiritual context.  If the singularity existed ‘on its own’ it would have no effect on reality.  But because it exists in reality it structures and orders that reality in more or less comprehensible ways.

The interaction of liberalism with reality gives rise to various more or less comprehensible structures and features in liberal societies.  Unprincipled exceptions in the most general sense are interactions between liberalism and reality – or at least with the reality of particular concrete desires by particular people – which leave liberalism itself intact and unquestioned. When we get close to parts of reality where liberalism dominates less, or where it has been ‘mugged by reality’, those interactions become more overtly violent. Closer to the singularity the violence necessary to maintain the delusion doesn’t disappear, it just becomes more clinical and is not acknowledged as violence.

I’ve criticized ‘no enemies to the right‘ before, and that criticism stands.  But you can certainly see its appeal to someone swimming around somewhere on the right, whose eyes are beginning to open.  Once someone on the right has perceived the horror at the center, or even just the horror at the event horizon past the center, he is going to want to damn the torpedoes and get as far away from it as possible.

But once you’ve broken symmetry you can see how someone on the alt left — like Dorothy Day, for example – might quite reasonably hold a different view, and might even be inclined to assert ‘no enemies to the left’.

The important thing is to escape as far as possible from the hellish insanity at the very center.  But escape from the hellish center is only the beginning: an exit from the unreality immediately around the liberal singularity into somewhere else.  And we shouldn’t kid ourselves: nobody escapes from at least the material influence of the gravity well, as long as liberalism dominates global politics.


by Zippy at August 27, 2016 03:51 PM

Remembering MECC

This month in my column on iMore, I revisited MECC, the company behind some great software titles like Oregon Trail and Number Munchers:

My earliest memories of technology came from my first year of grade school: It was 1992, and our teacher had installed some variant of an Apple II in the classroom. The students were only able to use it a few times, but each time I got to put a disk in the machine, I was able to escape to another world.

A world in which I was traveling west in a wagon, attempting to avoid dying of dysentery.

by Stephen at August 27, 2016 03:00 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

How to Earn 250,000 Frequent Flyer Miles in a Year: An Action Plan

In a previous post I explained how to kickstart your experience with miles and points that can be used for free travel. A lot of new readers (hey, new readers!) said this was helpful, so I wanted to delve into some more details.

As mentioned in that post, you don’t have to spend hours upon hours tracking deals and immersing yourself in forums. By setting aside just a few minutes each month, you should be able to earn more than enough miles to go anywhere in the world within a year or less.

Still, if you want to go above and beyond, it’s totally possible to earn even larger numbers of miles and points, which can be applied to, well, even more trips. This is especially relevant this week, with the news of a huge 100,000 point bonus now being available for the first time in a while.

Here are a few ways you can get to 250,000 miles or more in a year (yes, really!).




Pay attention to special promotions and opportunities. 


I don’t just mean “emails that the airline sends out,” because those aren’t usually the best opportunities. At least several times a year, a major opportunity arrives in which you can earn a lot of points and miles all at once. Some of these deals are the miles and points equivalent of a mistake fare, where the airline incorrectly prices a particular route very low.

When the right opportunity arrives, jump on it! Don’t wait too long, because just like mistake fares, the best promotions don’t last forever. Here are a few popular examples I’ve written about before:

and of course, the Dining Dash, which isn’t really a special promotion but rather something that we made up a few years ago and now complete every year as part of an annual challenge.

If you’re wondering where to find current offers, we have a service that can help!  Several years ago I founded the Travel Hacking Cartel, which has now served nearly 20,000 members since first opening. This is probably the easiest and least time-consuming way to make sure you earn a ton of miles, and you can get either a 14-day trial for $1 or two months free when registering for the annual plan.

—> Join the Cartel and Earn Lots of Miles 

But you can also manage on your own, by reading blogs, keeping up-to-date on various forums, and paying close attention. Either way works, so it just depends on how much time you have.




Get the right credit cards. 

Right now, the single biggest bonus is 100,000 points for the Chase Sapphire Reserve. This offer puts all others to shame and is even better than the longstanding champ, Chase Sapphire Preferred.

As you continue your miles and points journey, you’ll likely want more than one card—because different cards are good for different reasons. Some are worth getting just for the signup bonus; others are best for ongoing spending, and others are best for the ongoing benefits they provide.

You can always see top recommendations for cards at our partner site, CardsforTravel.com. Some of the application links there are affiliate links, and others aren’t. I try to always recommend the best possible cards regardless of benefit to me.

The most frequently asked question I get about this process is “What does it do to your credit?” I’ve covered this topic many times over the years. The short answer is that by managing credit responsibility, you’ll actually improve your credit score over time.

The second more frequently asked question I get about it is, what about once you’ve had all the cards?

Well, it will take you a long time to get all the cards. If you’re a U.S. citizen or resident, there are more than a dozen high-quality ones worth your attention, and probably another dozen that are decent. If you’re elsewhere in the world, local offers vary, but there are usually at least a few decent products.

Either way, once you do get most of the better cards that you’re eligible for, new cards will come out—just as we saw this week. The travel hacking game isn’t ending anytime soon. Banks want to acquire new customers, and offering those potential customers miles & points is a proven strategy that will likely continue for several years at minimum.




Spend money … the right way. 

Whenever possible, once you have a good mileage-earning credit card, everything you buy should go on it. For best results, you’ll want to take advantage of category bonuses, where you earn double, triple, or even more points for spending in certain categories.

  • You can earn 2x points for all dining and travel spend on the Chase Sapphire Preferred (now 3x points on the Chase Sapphire Reserve)
  • You can earn 3x points for all airfare spend on the American Express Premier Rewards card
  • You can earn 5x points for everything purchased at office supply stores on the Ink Plus card
  • and more—these are just a few examples. The point (no pun intended) is to be wise with your spending and you’ll earn a lot of extra points and miles.




    OK, so how can YOU earn 250,000 Miles in a year? 

    Maybe you don’t need to earn 250,000 miles in a year. But if you can get them, why not try? Consider it a personal challenge, like I’ve done for more than a decade.

    Just don’t forget to actually travel. Miles are only valuable when you use them!

    ###

    Images: 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5

by Chris Guillebeau at August 27, 2016 11:06 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Millennials Don’t Need Your ‘Cool’

Article by: Jon Nielson

The generation we call “millennials” (individuals born between 1980 and 2000) has been the subject of countless Christian articles and books in the recent years. How do we reach them? What are they looking for in church? Why do so many, even those raised in Christian homes, seem disillusioned and frustrated with the local church? 

I should add that, at 33 years of age, I’m technically a millennial. As a college pastor and now as leader of a campus ministry at Princeton University, I also minister to many millennials. Here are a few of my own (admittedly anecdotal) observations about ministry to millennials.  

1. They really do care about content more than style.

My peers and the young adults I lead are much less concerned with the music style, fashion sense, and perceived “coolness” of any particular local church than we might think. They are far more concerned with the content of the preaching and the seriousness and warmth of the worship and community. 

Many genuine believers in the millennial generation have started to move from the “church consumer” mentality to a willingness to go deep with a God-centered (if non-hip) community of believers. (Thom Rainer, for example, makes a narrower yet similar point in his article, “What Worship Style Attracts Millennials?”) Content, now more than ever for young Christian adults, really does trump style.

2. They are activists in good yet potentially dangerous ways.

Larry Osborne calls this characteristic of the millennial generation the “Bono Factor.” In other words, millennials are always asking of any given church, ministry, or individual Christian: “What are you doing to help somebody else?”

Millennials want to see the gospel at work. They long to see Christians vibrantly, authentically, and sacrificially living out their faith in service to others. But this good trait is potentially dangerous. Many well-intentioned young people flee theologically faithful churches they perceive as stale and inward-focused only to join churches that focus less on preaching the Bible and more on serving the community. 

3. They have a “fake” detector that works within seconds.

Our students use the word authenticity constantly. If I’ve learned one thing during my years in college ministry, it’s that they actually extend a lot of grace and patience toward their spiritual leaders. You can lack fashion sense, and they’ll still hang out with you if you care for them well. You can be oblivious to pop culture references or the hottest new songs, and they may even like you more because of it. They invite you to share your struggles and open up about the ways you’ve not yet “arrived” at where you want to be in your walk with Christ.

They don’t expect perfection from you, but the minute they sniff out a lack of authenticity, you’re toast. Any sense that you’re posturing to gain approval, trying to be something you’re not, or putting forward a message you’re not living out yourself, and the “fake” label is affixed (and not easily erased). 

The best way you can minister the gospel of Jesus Christ to millennials is to passionately love Jesus and seek him yourself. They’re watching to see if you’re for real.

4. They can evade generalization just like any other generation.

We do face a danger, of course, when attempting to group individuals in a certain generation using sweeping generalizations. We risk missing the beautiful diversity of each generation, and the beautiful uniqueness of each person.

The bigger danger of generational generalizations, though, isn’t overlooking the diversity of people, but obscuring the unchanging nature of the gospel. Yes, we’re talking about particular traits of this particular generation, traits that can lead to precise conclusions about ministry strategies and stylistic decisions. But we’re also preaching an absolutely unchanging message—a message that has pierced hearts and transformed lives in every culture of the world in every era of history. We can tweak our methods, but we must never cease to trust the power of the gospel.

Editors’ note: Five years ago, Jon Nielson wrote an article that struck a chord with many parents, youth workers, and pastors: “Why Youth Stay in Church When They Grow Up.” He has now developed that basic concept into a book, Faith that Lasts: Raising Kids that Don’t Leave the Church, in which he considers how Christians can thoughtfully, winsomely, and faithfully minister the gospel to millennials. 

Jon Nielson (MDiv, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) serves as ministry director for Christian Union at Princeton University. Previously, he served as the college pastor at College Church in Wheaton, Illinois, and as the director of training for the Charles Simeon Trust. He and his wife, Jeanne, have three daughters.

by Jon Nielson at August 27, 2016 05:02 AM

God Doesn’t Owe Me Children

Article by: Nana Dolce

They are three dates I know well: May 13, 2016; June 10, 2016; July 7, 2016. They are marked in red, testifying to the vacancy of my womb. I’m technically infertile with what is known as secondary infertility—a couple who’s already produced at least one child faces sudden difficulty conceiving another. In most cases, couples are considered infertile after a year of trying without pregnancy.

My husband and I are the thankful parents of two precious daughters—ages 5 and nearly 3. We would be grateful for a third child and have prayed for almost two years for that gift. This isn’t the first time we’ve petitioned God for a child.

We began our marriage with the hope of children and decided against the use of contraceptives. Pregnancy took its time. I can remember mornings before God in bitter tears. I longed for children and so sought the One who enables conception (1 Sam. 2:21).

The Lord has used both motherhood and infertility in my sanctification. These have been useful instruments, cutting and revealing my heart. Yet he doesn’t leave me undone; he knits me together anew by the grace of his Word. As I kneel today to pray for a third child, two truths ring in my heart.

1. God doesn’t owe me children.

God’s command to our first parents was clear: “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:16–17). Adam and Eve disobeyed, and God’s word proved true. Physical death crashed into the world (Gen. 3:19).

But even in judgment, we see God’s grace. The couple is spared from immediate death. God covers them with a garment of his making, and sustains them with the promise of an offspring who will crush the lying snake (Gen. 3:15, 21).

God ordains life in the shadow of death. Eve is named the mother of the living; she lives and bears children (Gen. 3:20). Surely every child born to the fallen progeny of Adam and Eve screams of God’s unmerited mercy.

God owes us nothing but judgment; which of us, then, can claim the gift of children on the basis of our goodness? Even righteous Elizabeth and Zechariah were said to be childless (Luke 1:6). The couple’s saving faith was proven by their faithful obedience, and yet the next verse tells us “they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years” (Luke 1:7). If children are a heritage and reward (Ps. 127:3), how could this righteous couple not earn the prize? Because children, like all good gifts, are not earned; they are given, coming down from “the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17).

In his wisdom, God ordains barrenness for Elizabeth and then, in time, gives a son to fulfill his own plan (Luke 1:57–79). “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Ps. 115:3). And he doesn’t owe me children.

2. I must continue to pray.    

Darlene Deibler Rose was a missionary to Indonesia in the 1930s. She was captured by the Japanese and imprisoned during World War II. In her book, Evidence Not Seen, she tells a remarkable story of God’s mercy activated through prayer.  

Detained in a cell, Darlene witnessed someone smuggling bananas to a fellow prisoner. Barely surviving on meager rations of rice porridge, she was suddenly gripped by the desire for a banana. Everything in her wanted one—she could almost see, smell, and taste bananas. “Lord, just one banana,” she prayed. But how could God possibly get a banana to her in a WWII prison? Her brutal guards would sooner kill her than provide such nourishment. Was she wrong to ask for such a thing?

The following day, Darlene was surprised by the visit of a certain camp commander. Tears filled his eyes as he gazed on her emaciated form. He spoke briefly with her and left. Moments after his departure, a guard walked into her cell and threw several bunches of bananas at her feet. The commander had managed this favor. Stunned, Darlene counted to find 92 bananas.

She had prayed for just one.

God is pleased to display his omnipotent love through the instrument of prayer. While ordering everything according to the counsel of his sovereign will, he accomplishes his purposes through the prayers of his people (Eph. 1:11–16). How fitting that Christians are commanded to pray without ceasing. We pray as active laborers in God’s work (Luke 18:1–8; 1 Thess. 5:16–18).

In Knowing God, J. I. Packer states: “People who know their God are, before anything else, people who pray”—and not only this, but “their zeal and energy for God’s glory come to expression . . . in their prayers.” We pray with a jealousy for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:9–10). And because our Father works through the means of our prayers, we bring everything to him—from bananas to babies (Phil. 4:6).

All Things Well

So God doesn’t owe me children. I cannot claim a third child on the basis of my works or the strength of my faith. Yet I will pray. Prayer acknowledges God’s kindness and his sovereignty—to pray is to worship. And worship is particularly essential when hope is deferred.

It turns my longing heart back to the hand that keeps it. I’m reminded that prayer itself—not just the gift I seek—is good. And prayer is good because God is good. So if the coming months (or years) bring days marked in red—or a due date to erase the memory of all the rest—I will kneel in prayer, rejoicing in my King, for he does all things well. 

Nana Dolce was born in Ghana, West Africa; she lives today in Washington, D.C. with her husband Eric and two daughters. She has a master of arts in theological studies and serves on staff at a local church. She blogs at motherhoodandsanctity.com.

by Nana Dolce at August 27, 2016 05:02 AM

John C. Wright's Journal

Book Review: Ted Chiang’s STORY OF YOUR LIFE AND OTHERS

This is a reprint of my review, which I posted to Amazon.com, of Ted Chiang’s STORY OF YOUR LIFE AND OTHERS. It was written a few years ago, back when I was an atheist:

(WARNING! I am a science-fiction writer in economic competition with Mr. Chiang. All my gripes must be taken with a grain of salt.)

Eight well-crafted stories with engaging and interesting ideas are marred by weak endings. Each story ends with tepid pessimism.

MILD SPOILERS AHEAD.
First, the “Tower of Babylon” tale engages the reader with solid characterization and a thought-provoking description of what the mighty engineering feat of “building a tower to heaven” would have been like, had the world been flat. It is filled with amusing and authentic touches, like the Egyptian stone-masons brought in to chip through the hard surface of the sky-dome, or the description of how mid-levels of the tower rendered inhospitable by the too-near approach of the fiery sun. But the ending is weak, and the immense tower turns out to have been built in vain.

In “Understand” the super intelligent man is obsessed with finding a perfect expression of linguistic philosophy that will express the universe. The depiction of a mind smarter than any mind of man is wonderfully well-done, and the story is worth reading just for this alone. The super-mind discovers a second super intelligent man. One man wants nothing but to be left alone while he pursues his research, while the other wishes to use his powers to benefit mankind peacefully. Neither one is threatening or interfering with the goals of the other. For no apparent reason, and without any plot-purpose, these two “superior intelligences” both mutually agree that there is no possible way they both can exist, they duel, and one murders the other. What a waste. Maybe they were not so bright after all.

In “Story of your Life” a mother, through the study of an alien language, learns how to see the universe from a timeless point of view. She knows her daughter is going to die in a pointless accident even before the night the daughter is conceived. The mother does nothing, and can do nothing, to prevent the accident, since only those things that are fated to be will be. Precognition is vain.

In “Divide by Zero” all mathematics turns out to be vain.

“Liking What You See: A Documentary” once again, starts with a very interesting science fiction premise: what would the world be like if we could turn off our perception of human beauty? And, once again, the story soon disappoints. A college is debating whether to impose beauty-blindness on all its students. Both sides of the issue are debated. A girl who tries to make herself look nice to win the affection of a boy she loves is rebuffed when the boy turns off his beauty-seeing abilities. The girl realizes it is “unfair” to look better than other people. So her attempts are futile. In the end, an evil conspiracy of (I am not making this up) Big Lipstick Companies successfully prevents widespread implementation of the beauty-blindness plan by (you guessed it) having a particularly attractive spokeswoman sway the debate. So the entire debate was futile. This same egalitarian theme appears in a famous short story by Kurt Vonnegut, one where pretty folk were burned with acid, and smart individuals were lobotomized, so that everyone was “equal” and nothing would rouse the spite and envy of the herd. There, Vonnegut’s tale cheers for the individual; here, Chiang’s tale cheers for the herd.

“The Evolution of Human Science” has all scientific inquiry prove futile once super artificial intelligences take over the field.

The satire “Hell is the Absence of God” reads like it was written by someone who never met a Christian, or read anything written by a Christian. In this tale, those who see the light of heaven are grotesquely disfigured (their eyes and eye sockets are removed) and loose free will, and become perfect in faith, so that they are automatically assured of entrance into paradise. The main character, mourning after the death of his wife, seeks to find a spot where an angel is leaving or entering the world, so that he can, if only for a moment, glimpse the light of heaven, so that he can loose his eyes and his free will, but be assured of meeting his wife again in heaven. All goes as planned, but God capriciously sends the man to Hell in any case. Hell is not a place of torment, but a bland area much like earth, merely separate from God, peopled by Fallen Angels who sin was not rebellion, but free-thinking. Hence, out of all created beings, only the main character is actually suffering in Hell, since he is the only one who longs not to be there, and, thanks to his free will being destroyed, is the only one who loves God wholeheartedly. Again, all efforts of the main character to rejoin his wife are futile. There are secondary characters whose lives are also ruined and for no particular reason.

I myself am an unrepentant atheist, but I would never pen such trite antichristian propaganda. If an author is going to set a story in an alternate universe where the Christian myths happen to be true, the author should become familiar with (or, at least, hide his contempt for) the source material. Read Thomas Aquinas or John Milton. Christians may be wrong, but they are not stupid.

Over all, Mr. Chiang is an excellent writer, who writes wonderfully about big ideas, but weds them to a theme of dispirited nihilism. He is capable of subtle and penetrating characterization, except when he trots out a tired leftwing cliché, whereupon suddenly everything becomes flat and predictable (see, for example, his treatment of the CIA, Big Business, the Military, and the Victorian Age).

I can only recommend the first half of each story.

AND HERE is the reprint of an article from 2006 discussing the well written but fundamentally dishonest story ‘Hell is the Absence of God.’ I do not know if Mr Chiang can still be described as ‘up-and-coming’ but I am confident all who read him will continue to describe him as brilliant forever. This was from a series of articles I did called ‘Separation of Church and Spaceship.’

The worst attempt at Christian SF it has ever been my misfortune to run across is by a brilliant up-and-coming author named Ted Chiang. If you haven’t read his short stories, you are doing yourself a bit of a disservice. You might want to rush right out and buy a copy of STORY OF YOUR LIFE AND OTHERS. http://www.amazon.com/Stories-Your-Life-Others-Chiang/dp/0765304198/

But don’t tell him I sent you, dear reader, because I must now criticize his most famous story from that collection in the harshest terms. Since he is a better writer than I am, this exercise cannot be taken too seriously: a slow man is telling a fast man how to run a race.

Of course, even a slow runner can tell when a faster one has gone seriously off the track.

The satire “Hell is the Absence of God” reads like it was written by someone who never met a Christian, or read anything written by a Christian.

In this tale, those who see the light of heaven are grotesquely disfigured (their eyes and eye sockets are removed) and lose free will, and become perfect in faith, so that they are automatically assured of entrance into paradise. The main character, mourning after the death of his wife, seeks to find a spot where an angel is leaving or entering the world, so that he can, if only for a moment, glimpse the light of heaven, so that he can loose his eyes and his free will, but be assured of meeting his wife again in heaven. All goes as planned, but God capriciously sends the man to Hell in any case. Hell is not a place of torment, but a bland area much like earth, merely separate from God, peopled by Fallen Angels who sin was not rebellion, but free-thinking. Hence, out of all created beings, only the main character is actually suffering in Hell, since he is the only one who longs not to be there, and, thanks to his free will being destroyed, is the only one who loves God wholeheartedly. All efforts of the main character to rejoin his wife are futile. There are secondary characters whose lives are also ruined and for no particular reason.

This story is seriously off track for what a story should be. It is, however, note-perfect as a piece of cheap agitprop.

I do not mean the tale lacks characterization or craftsmanship. As a story goes, it is taut and well-constructed; not a wasted word. But a well-done picture of St. Peter kissing the hairy black buttocks of Satan would be seen for what it is: a slander against religion, and a fairly childish one, even if the perspective and composition, colors and figures of the drawing were executed with meticulous craftsmanship.

When I say the work is dishonest, I do not mean to imply Mr. Chiang himself is anything but upright. I have no doubt that he writes as his muses move him. I am no sibyl of other author’s intentions, by any means. And poets are an elfin and tricky breed at best, and sometimes do not know themselves what the story that comes to life in their hands must mean.

But in this case, I humbly suggest that the point of Mr. Chiang’s story is not just clear, it is repeated and exaggerated. He is criticizing Christian theodicy.

And the criticism can be dishonest, no matter how well-meaning the artist who pens it, merely by being false-to-facts. If a painter draws a wart on a portrait, where the original face was smooth and fair, that is not merely an exercise of artistic license: that is a false picture.

He is not criticizing religion in general: his ire is confined to Christianity. The universe described in the tale does not depict the sorrow of the endless incarnations; there is no hint of Mount Meru or Mount Olympos, nor does the great wolf Fenrir rear its all-devouring jaws; Isanagi and Isanami are not present, nor the Nine Immortals. The main characters do not recite the Koran or study the Torah: they go to prayer-meetings. If Mr. Chiang meant to make a point unrelated to Christianity, then he selected Christian props and tropes to clothe his meaning.

Perhaps he means to confine his ire to Protestantism, because priesthood is nowhere in evidence. The characters are revivalist lay-preachers, not sinister robed figures from Gothic churches.

Am I reading too much into it? I think I am not. There is no point to the story if it is not a criticism of Christianity, a topic fascinating to the dominant section of the SF audience, who are skeptics from the West, i.e. from Christendom. Criticism of other religions would be of marginal interest to the expected audience. When is the last time you heard someone blaspheming Thor?

I will say again, the story is well written. I will say again that Mr. Chiang is a gifted writer, touched with divine fire. The sorrow of a widower, or the wild rides of the angel-chasing truckers, make for memorable scenes. But the story itself is a misrepresentation, nay, a defamation.

Christians say virtue is its own reward; they also say to love God is good; they also say heaven rewards virtues not rewarded on earth, and martyrs are glorified. They propose the paradox of an omnipotent God who grants man free will. So all Ted Chiang does is propose a omnipotent God who removes a character’s free will, and martyrs him, cheating him of any glory, but without rewarding him either on Earth or in heaven. Oh, the irony! The girl born crippled was able to stir men’s souls back before she was touched with bliss, because, once blissful, the heavenly creature knows no suffering or empathy for suffering. More irony! (And we all know the Christians believe God never became flesh and never suffered, right? Of course right!) Virtue is its own reward, so the one virtuous man is stuck in Hell forever, and he is the only one to whom it is a torment! Irony upon irony! Yuck, yuck, yuck, and ain’t the Godbotherers stoopid?

Well, as a matter of fact, no. They may be wrong or right, but the theology is not simple, and what Chiang proposes is not what the Christians say. Or the Mohammedans, or the Jews, or the Pagans, or anyone else, for that matter. Chiang a trouncing a straw man.

That was what offended me when I first read it, by the bye. Back then I was a hard-core Xtian-bashing atheist and was therefore on his side, so to speak, but the blatant propaganda of the story nonetheless offended me. (I am less offended now that I believe in God: I figure He can take care of His own reputation.) My reaction back then was: Does he even know any Christians? Doesn’t he know what they say? The story reads like it was written for an audience of utter ignoramuses, who have never read a word of Christian theology, and never cracked a history book.

The major objection honest atheists must level (and I was an honest atheist, back then, not merely a character assassin) is that religion is false; that even if true, it has no claim on our loyalty; that the reason of man, being reason, cannot be bound by dogma; and that the claims, true or false, are repellant to the dignity of free and rational beings. In all this, atheists are like Benedict in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, saying marriage has no claim on our loyalty, that passions cannot be bound by oaths, that infatuation is repellant to the dignity, and marital bonds to the freedom, of man. Benedict says much that is true and much that is utterly beside the point. We all laugh when he falls in love himself, and it is not cruel laughter.

The major charge of honest atheists is that the claims of the Christian religion are false. The way to combat this is to uphold a standard, a rational standard, which divides true from false, and shows the difference between them: true is what can be proven by concrete observation or abstract reasoning. Wishes, hopes, poems, daydreams, are not true or false: they are moonbeams, pretty and unsubstantial.

What Mr. Chiang does here is undercut the atheist argument by abandoning the standard of true and false. Christians tell a ridiculous story about their Big Invisible Friend, who invisibly saved the world from an utterly imaginary danger caused by an entirely fictional Adam, granting to all and sundry an eternal life, which conveniently cannot be seen or sensed, but only exists in Elfland, beyond the borders of the world, in Oz, where no one dies and no one is unhappy. If you don’t believe in the Wizard, the Flying Monkeys of the Wicked Witch of the West will get you. When asked politely if they can see the Wizard, the atheists are told that no one can see the Wizard, not nobody not no how. Small wonder the atheists are skeptical.

You do not undercut this fairytale by saying that The Wizard is an evil bunny-killing tyrant and that the Wicked Witch of the West is merely a soulful and misunderstood victim of circumstance. You do not uphold a standard of truth by telling a lie. That is not what L. Frank Baum says, and not what any believer in the fairytale believes.

I am not objecting that Mr. Chiang is telling a story. Telling stories is like painting pictures: in this case he is representing not something from his imagination merely, but painting a picture about real people in whose midst we live, the Christian majority. Had he been honest, he would have explored what the world would be like if the Christian God were visible and obvious, and what the reactions might be. Had he been both honest and brave, he would have explored what the world would be like if the God of Islam were both visible and obvious, and what the reactions might be: some of his barbs might have struck closer to the mark. But even Allah is said to be compassionate, merciful, and it is not the faithful He sends to Jahannam.

Now, I suppose it might be objected that the God of the Old Testament at times seems capricious and cruel, never more so than when he inflicts, or allows to be inflicted, pain and suffering on Job. The argument could be made that the God of Job is the one here depicted, and that the faith of the faithful, which insists that they continue to believe in God despite all evidence, would be absurd in a world where God Himself was cruel and capricious. (Of course, this argument is undercut by Chiang’s hypothesis. If God were visible and obvious arguments about His nature would be matters of evidence, not matters of faith.)

And cruelty is not the point of the Book of Job; patience is. One major point of the Book of Job is that the suffering is redeemed in the end. Christians (and most other religions) believe in two worlds, this one and the next. Whatever injustices and suffering occur in this world are recompensed and healed in the next: God himself wipes all tears away. That promised redemption is sometimes (albeit rarely) glimpsed in this world, as when good fortune comes to the righteous and long-suffering man, like Job, who persevered during his time of agony. His joy on earth is a foreshadowing of the world to come, a representation of something greater. But good men are not rewarded for their goodness on Earth, as Job’s friends so cruelly say. Why does God restore Job’s fortunes at all? Job’s happy ending is an act of mercy, not something springing from Job’s merit as a good man. It is as strange and wonderful as the mercy with which God deals with Cain, who, instead of instantly being flung into a fiery pit or bed of snakes, is marked with a Sign to show that no man can take vengeance on him.

Job’s sufferings are an extreme, of course. Were they not, the tale would contain no power, no fascination. Whenever anyone in real life suffers even one of the pangs of Job, a loss of wealth or position, a lingering disease, the death of a child, his real pain is as deep as Job’s. If patience could not endure, or if faith could not comfort such pangs, it would be of no use, and religion would be a fair-weather affair, a belief to be held only when days are sunny, otherwise abandoned. Job is not a stoic; his lamentations are deep and heartfelt, and he wishes for the opportunity to put his case before God, that life has treated him unfairly. When God Himself arrives in a whirlwind, and displays the majesty of all visible and invisible creation, Job is silent.

There is something mystical here, something more than a concern for justice for one man. Like the Beast in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, like anything worth loving in life, God must be loved before He can seem worthy of being loved. The faithful do not adore Him as a trade in return for worldly pleasure and success, no more than a wife loves her man because he buys her jewels to adorn her: that would be low indeed. But what man in love does not delight to adorn his bride?

Taken to an extreme, to remain faithful even when all worldly pleasure and success is gone, means … what? Does it mean that this world is vain, and that no philosopher would make his happiness depend on the transitory things of this world, wealth, health, kith and kin? Does it mean that this world is cruel, in the hands of malign fate, that nature is the accuser and enemy of man, and that our true home lies elsewhere, perhaps, yes, with the Author whose hand created all the glories of this world?

Or does it mean only that Job is a big sucker, a rube, a chump, someone deceived by priestcraft? Chiang sends his version of Job to eternal Hell, to suffer alone, an endless chump, a battered wife with an infinite and infinitely cruel husband, a victim of the Stockholm syndrome. It rewrites the story by leaving out the only thing that makes the original make sense: the redemption. That is not a new take on the material: it is cheap shot.

I suppose there is nothing wrong with writing falsehoods for a particular audience already ideologically committed to enjoying them, knowing them to be lies, and taking pleasure from that very insolence. I suppose, for that matter, one could rewrite the Oz books so that Dorothy, rather than being befriended by the Tin Man, was raped by him, or that the Wicked Witch was the good guy. But such a depth of depravity is one to which only the sickest imaginable culture could fall, when audiences were titillated merely by the cruelty and foolishness of authors who have lost all sense of … Hm? I’m sorry, what was that you said? Something about Alan Moore and Gregory Maguire? In any case, such sick imaginings pretend to be challenges or revisions or updatings or answers to L. Frank Baum, but they are basically the artistic equivalent of lies. Well-told, well executed lies, of course, but lies nonetheless, and rotten to the very core.

A culture that cannot even take Oz honestly has very little chance of taking Heaven honestly.

On a personal note, Mr. Chiang’s short story, as far as I was concerned, not merely failed of its object, but was counter-productive. One of the things that made me suffer no regret when I was called away from the cramped intellectual jail of atheism into a wider and more wonderful world, was my growing conviction that my fellow atheists were shallow, men without insight into real human nature. I read Chiang’s story and I thought: is this the best my side can do? Is this cheap slander the best argument we can muster against our hated enemies, the Christians? In those days I kept wondering why, since my side had the Sixteen-Inch Guns of Truth and Logic, our gunners kept shooting blanks. Why were we sneering all the time, instead of setting out the evidence?

To get a notion of the depth of the contrast I saw, find a comfy chair by the fire, read ‘Hell is the Absence of God’ by Ted Chiang, and then, without rising from the chair except perhaps to toss another log on the fire, pick up and read SMITH OF WOOTTON MAJOR by J.R.R. Tolkien, or perhaps ‘Leaf by Niggle’.

It does not matter whether you are an Atheist or a Christian or are another faith or uncommitted: anyone reading those two author’s work in contrast will see that one has an insight into human joys and human woes, a compassion toward even human folly or pride or sloth. And the other one shows nothing, no humanity, no understanding. The heart of Chiang’s work is not in the right place. Even though I thought Chiang’ world view was true and Tolkien’s was false, I concluded Tolkien’s insight into real life was keen-eyed, and Chiang’s was superficial.

Now, you might say that Tolkien was an older man, like well-seasoned wood, who had been through war and tumult, joy and sorrow, and that Chiang is a young man, with a young man’s superficial idealism. To compare the two is unfair! To which I might reply: Tolkien’s world view is old, two thousand years old, or, if you accept the conceit that the Christians are the heirs of the Jewish legacy, as old as any written history. Well-seasoned indeed!

The Church and the Prophets before the Church have seen more wars and tumults, joys and sorrows, and kept an ongoing, unified, living tradition of written accounts, an accumulation of wisdom unmatched in the world.

In contrast, Mr. Chiang’s stories in this volume express nothing surprising to the fashionable modern consensus view (no CIA agent comes on stage without being sinister, no religious figure without being a fundie, no Victorian without being narrow and absurd, no Big Business without being malign). I should call it postmodern: it is too young to be modern. These stories represent a trendy view not as old as I am: I remember when they became the trend. These are green and flimsy sticks from which to build a house.

Let us turn to a question more of interest to SF readers: is Mr. Chiang’s story a fantasy? My own humble opinion is that it is science fiction. Science Fiction is distinct from fantasy by its speculative character. If there were such a thing as telepathy, how would a criminal elude a detective? Alfred Bester answered that in DEMOLISHED MAN. If there were such a thing as teleportation, how would society lock up crooks? Likewise in STARS MY DESTINATION. Science fiction takes some fantastic notion, and asks how the nuts and bolts of it would work. In ‘Hell’, Mr. Chiang asks if there was a God unhidden from human perception, how would the system actually work? What happens when one man who wants to love God but cannot tries to outsmart the system? Chiang is asking the paramount science fiction question: “What if?”

Well, to be honest, Mr. Chiang’s tyrant God is no more or less scientific than Mr. Bester’s telepathy or teleportation. Compare it to the Star Trek episode (Who Mourns for Adonis?) where the crew of the Enterprise meets Apollo. In that, the ‘god’ merely turns out to be a powerful and malevolent entity who attempts to beguile the innocent. So here. The story is solidly SF, despite its subject matter.

If we define any book with a supernatural figure in it as Fantasy, we are left in the awkward position of saying BEN HUR is fantasy, because lepers are cured by a miracle in one scene. The writer, General Wallace, and the expected readership, both believed such miracles can and do take place. A work does not become a fantasy merely because the reader happens not share the world-view of the writer.

Were that the case, CHARIOTS OF THE GODS by von Daniken, the HISTORIES of Herodotus, and Machiavelli’s THE PRINCE (which solemnly reports that the downfall of princes are foretold by Signs and Omens sent by Airy Spirits)  would be shelved in the Science Fiction section.

by John C Wright at August 27, 2016 05:00 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Why Instagram’s Latest Addition Fails at Authenticity

Article by: Robin Ham

Earlier this month, the hugely popular photo-sharing app Instagram unveiled its latest in-app feature: Stories. If you’re one of Instagram’s half-billion users, you can now upload photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours. As the official statement explains, Stories “lets you share all the moments of your day, not just the ones you want to keep on your profile.”

Wait, isn’t this just Snapchat?

For those of us who need a bit of a catch-up, Snapchat is a rival photo-messaging app that’s been around for nearly as long as Instagram (2010 for Instagram, 2011 for Snapchat). Though always slightly in the shadow of its older cousin, Snapchat has carved out a niche among younger teens due to its unique feature: All photos and videos (“Snaps”) remain on the receivers’ device for a limited amount of time (e.g., 10 seconds, or a day; it depends). In other words, you can snap, send, and—just like that—they’re gone. As one early Snapchat slogan put it, “Delete is our default.”

Authentic Spaces that Forget

Even if you’ve never heard of Snapchat, it doesn’t take long to see why it’s blossomed. Users praise the app’s authenticity, its intimacy, and the way that it encourages friends to see a side of them they don’t normally show—all in the knowledge it won’t be on permanent record.

Now compare that to Instagram (until now), or even Facebook, where we upload filtered images that gather on our profiles. It’s a very different way of doing social media. Whereas Instagram has often been caricatured as a “highlight reel,” Snapchat is more akin to “backstage footage.” It’s rough, unedited, in-the-moment.

All of this makes Instagram’s move to incorporate a temporary element fairly significant. Of course, with Snapchat being dominated by a younger demographic, there’s a sense in which Instagram is simply trying to engage the demands of the younger market—while simultaneously imitating and muscling out the current favorite.

Again, it’s worth pondering why Snapchat is so popular in the first place. In a perceptive piece for The New Yorker, Casey Johnston suggests the addition of Instagram’s Stories feature is more than just “a shameless grab for one of Snapchat’s core features.” It’s a response to an increasingly common demand: “On an Internet that always remembers, we are fighting for places we can go to forget.” After all, who would deny there are some moments that really don’t need to be recorded forever? The goofy selfie or the visual inside joke can be shared in the knowledge that in a few seconds they’ll be gone, just as they’d be in a face-to-face conversation.

But maybe this shift also marks a discontentment with a social media model that Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel has criticized as “pics or it didn’t happen.” The fig leaves of Instagram’s famous filters and architected profiles might yield a passing satisfaction, but it seems they still leave us aching for authenticity. Maybe we know deep down this isn’t who we really are? When the Australian model Essena O’Neill stepped back from Instagram in November 2015, she denounced its culture of “social approval, social status, and social expectations.” More poignantly, she acknowledged its personal impact: “I wasn’t loved, for how can anyone love a facade?”

The problem with filters and profiles is we never know reality, which means we’re never really known.

Snapchat’s Worldview

On one level, it’s understandable why traditional social media categories of permanence would eventually make space for temporariness. And yet it’s also worth reflecting on how this desire for in-the-moment authenticity shapes how we view our own identities.

Social media theorist and Snapchat researcher Nathan Jurgenson has written at length on the importance of “temporary social media.” He notes both Instagram and Facebook’s tendency to tether our sense of identity to how we’ve recorded ourselves online; Snapchat, on the other hand, offers an intentional shift to emphasize “who we are today, right now.” This means our identity has “room for growth, emotional risk, expression, mistakes—room for you.”

This “temporariness by design” has potential to be about far more than how long our images stay on someone’s screen. According to Jurgenson, it’s a means to “validate identity change and growth” by confronting the “myth of identity consistency.” Though this may seem a few steps removed from sending disappearing selfies, it’s indicative of a worldview that shapes and drives the theory behind an app like Snapchat.

In fact, this philosophy of personhood is entirely in keeping with Zygmunt Bauman’s analysis of late-modern culture as encouraging “liquid identities.” To quote Jurgenson again, a person is “a non-linear process of becoming, rife with starts and stops and wrong turns.” In conversation with this line of thinking, Tim Keller has noted their assumption that only the “self-actualization of the self” is absolute. Put simply, this is a narrative of unfettered freedom, with the great enemy being anything that stands in the way of the self being whomever or whatever it wishes to be.

Fully Known, Fully Loved

One Snapchat ad featured Guards’ song “Silver Lining,” with its repeated lyric: “I wanna live forever, I don’t care.” Given how much Snapchat emphasizes its “temporariness by design,” the mantra might seem a bit ironic. And yet, this worldview does seek to offer the promise of an “eternal present”—where we escape who we were and who we’ve been by recreating ourselves in an endless and fluid stream of identities.

For all our talk of authenticity, conceiving of ourselves as boundless reveals how little we actually know about ourselves.

Perhaps, then, we can look to Christianity for a bit of insight. After all, while we’re all growing and changing and rebranding ourselves, it’s Christians who believe in creation by a personal Creator. This means, among other things, there are inescapable givens concerning who we are and who we’ve been created to be. We confess that sin has turned us into fractured people who live in a fractured world, but the hope of Christianity is that a return to wholeness remains possible. We can be truly known, with no need to conceal or move on from whatever ugly realities lie in our hearts and pasts.

In her New Yorker piece, Johnston suggests Instagram’s Stories represents a general human desire for a place where we can “fully” be ourselves. But as Christians, we know it’s only by finding our place in the ultimate story that we have an ending that truly satisfies. 

Robin Ham (MA, Oak Hill College, London) serves as a church-planter with the Church of England in Cumbria, UK. He has written the eBook Filtered Grace: Seeing Goodness, Desire and Meaning in the World of Instagram. He blogs at That Happy Certainty and you can follow him on Twitter @rhamage. He and his wife, Zoe, have three children.
 

by Robin Ham at August 27, 2016 05:00 AM

Wilfred Hughes::Blog

Rustdoc Meets The Self-Documenting Editor

Emacs Lisp has a delightful help system. You can view the docstring for any function under the cursor, making it easy to learn functionality.

Rust goes a step further. All the standard library documentation is written with the source code. This means we can find docs programmatically!

When I learnt that racer recently added support for rustdoc, I couldn’t resist adding support to racer.el.

The new racer-describe command actually renders the markdown in rustdoc comments. Since we’re showing a separate buffer, we can render the docs and throw away the markdown syntax. We can even convert external hyperlinks to clickable links!

This is a really nice example of composing Emacs functionality. Since we can easily highlight code snippets (it’s an editor!), we actually apply syntax highlighting to inline code! Note how Vec and T are highlighted as types in the above screenshot.

Whilst we don’t use *Help* buffers, we extend the same keymaps, so all the relevant help shortcuts just work too.

We have hit a few teething issues in racer (namely #594 and #597) but it’s changed the way I explore Rust APIs. It’s particularly useful for learning functionality via examples, without worrying about implementation:

I hope it will also encourage users to write great docstrings for their own projects.

Love it? Hate it? Let me know what you think in the /r/rust discussion.

(It’s hot off the press, so there will be bugs. If you find one, please file it on GitHub.)

August 27, 2016 12:00 AM

August 26, 2016

Workout: August 27, 2016

Strict Press 5-5-5-5-5 Strict ring dips 12-12-12-12 Rest 90 seconds between sets 4 rounds: 1 minute banded plank 1 minute right side plank 1 minute left side plank 1 minute glute bridge

by Crystal at August 26, 2016 11:46 PM

Greg Mankiw's Blog

Aaron M. Renn

A Short Primer on Strength Training

I mentioned in a previous post that I deadlift. I took up barbell lifting about a year and a half ago after spending a lifetime doing little more than running. I really enjoy it but certainly wouldn’t hold myself out as an expert.

Fortunately, I found someone who was an expert to train me in the lifts. That’s Michael Wolf of Wolf Strength. The guy is an associate of Mark Rippetoe, author of Starting Strength (the bible of barbell lifting). He’s also quite an impressive lifter himself.

Wolf joined me this week for a chat on strength training. If the podcast audio doesn’t display for you, click over to listen on Soundcloud.  We discuss the what’s and why’s of strength training, the difference between “weightlifting” “powerlifting” and “bodybuilding”, and a bit about Crossfit and P90X.

Subscribe to podcast via iTunes | Soundcloud.

by Aaron M. Renn at August 26, 2016 08:49 PM

Market Urbanism

Market Urbanism MUsings August 26, 2016

 

ling library

The Ling Library of Urbanism

 

1. This week at Market Urbanism

Episode 1 of the Market Urbanism podcast came out this week.  Nolan Gray plans to release new episodes bi-weekly.  The RSS feed is http://feeds.soundcloud.com/users/soundcloud:users:236686274/sounds.rss

You can currently find the podcast on Soundcloud and PlayerFM. It will be available within the next few days on iTunes, Stitcher, and TuneIn. If there are other podcasting services you would like me to plug the RSS feed into, please let me know in the comment section below.

Cities And The Growth Of Our Collective Brain by Emily Hamilton

Sandy Ikeda describes the entrepreneur’s environment as the “action space.” Today, an action space could be in a suburban home for an entrepreneur who creates a digital product that’s sold online. While action space doesn’t necessarily need to be a place of high density, this face-to-face element remains a key part of the world’s most productive action spaces.

Economist Sandy Ikeda, a previous MU contributor, is back. Here’s the first of what will be weekly content, published every Tuesday at 10am eastern standard time–How The Housing Market Works

In other words, it’s not the entrepreneurs, developers, architects, and construction companies that build very expensive housing in cities like New York that drives up housing prices! Indeed, those people are responding to what they believe buyers are willing to pay, and if they are prevented from building those units the result will be higher prices for everybody. And if you observe housing prices rise despite increasing supply, that probably indicates demand is currently increasing faster than supply. Prices, however, would have been even higher were the government to undertake policies that restricted supply.

2. Where’s Scott?

Scott Beyer is spending his last night tomorrow in Austin.  Then he’ll spend a couple days in San Antonio, before leaving Texas. His Forbes article this week was America’s Ugly Strip Malls Were Caused By Government Regulation

Most cities’ comprehensive zoning maps separate residential, commercial and industrial uses. They usually allow commercial retail on just a handful of key roads that run from downtown to the suburbs. So that’s where most of the retail ends up. It’s as if the government has taken uses that are fundamentally ugly, and crammed them together, causing the ugliness to spread.

3. At the Market Urbanism Facebook Group:

Anthony Ling posted a photo of his urbanism library (see photo above)

Tom W. Bell asks a question on “differential impacts on local economies of improvements in long-distance transport system”

Jim Pagels wrote an article, “why asking if Airbnb takes rooms from the permanent housing stock is a somewhat fair, but wrong question to ask.” 

Graham Peterson asks about what incentives municipalities use to keep codes restrictive

Bob McGrew wants to discuss Tyler Cowen‘s, Should everyone crowd into New York and San Francisco?

Matt Robare wrote, “Can Cooperative Businesses Save Communities?

David Welton has some excellent suggestions for the reading list on the MU website, which is quite stale

via John MorrisCarless Renters Forced to Pay $440 Million a Year for Parking They Don’t Use

via John Morris: The Aqua Dam Sounded Nuts, Until…

via Brad DeVos: India plans to use 3D paintings as virtual speed-breakers to make its roads safer

via John Morris: The Forgotten Tale of How America Converted Its 1980 Olympic Village Into a Prison

via Todd Litman: The True Cost of Commuting: You Could Buy a House Priced $15,900 More for Each Mile You Move Closer to Work

via Scott Beyer: lack of zoning and bureaucracy has helped Rio’s favelas

via Todd Litman, “Here is another study which examines the inefficiency and inequity of minimum parking requirements which force households to pay for parking spaces regardless of whether or not they need them.” [pdf]

via John Morris: As Homeless Find Refuge in Forests, ‘Anger Is Palpable’ in Nearby Towns

via John Morris, “Growing evidence the Vancouver property market has cracked

via Matt Robare: How do we know zoning really constrains development?

via John Morris: Smugglers Secretly Repairing Russian Roads to Boost Business

via Rob MichaelNolan Gray‘s original MU post on trailer parks republished at Strong Towns

via Michael Hendrix: Why the High Cost of Big-City Living is Bad for Everyone

via Bjorn Swenson, ‘The narrative in my home state of Colorado is that the state is “full.”

4. Elsewhere

WSJ: regulators could push driver-less car innovation out of the U.S.

Bill FultonAn Old Slow-Growther Reshapes Himself As Trumpian

Forbes: Uber Debuts Amazon Prime-Style Ride Service To Lock In Users

5. Stephen Smith‘s tweet of the week:

by Adam Hengels at August 26, 2016 07:46 PM

Connected #105: What Does Done Mean?

This week on Connected:

Federico’s back, so the power of The Prompt Curse has been restored. Picturelife is dead, Ping is in headlines and iOS 10 is closer than ever.

My thanks to our sponsors this week:

by Stephen at August 26, 2016 04:41 PM

John C. Wright's Journal

SOULDANCER available free today, tomorrow

A letter from an ally

Dear Mr. Wright;

You are surely aware of this year’s Hugo results at the time of this writing. Though small compared to the outrage committed against Dr. Pournelle, the Worldcon clique chose to insult the readers who nominated me for the Campbell by publicly contradicting their judgment that I am worthy of consideration for the award.

As you may also be aware, my book SOULDANCER has been nominated for Best Horror Novel at the inaugural Dragon Awards. I do not take insults against
my person from ageing pedophile apologists to heart. However. the cretins have made the grave error of mocking the readers who are my patrons and lords.

To avenge my sovereign readers’ honor upon the CHORFs, I intend to rise from last place in the Hugos to win the Dragon, and dedicate the victory to my slighted fans. Pursuant to this design, I am offering the Kindle version of SOULDANCER for free, ending this Saturday. I would greatly appreciate it if you would be willing to help spread word of this promotion.

here’s the Amazon link:

https://www.amazon.com/Souldancer-Soul-Cycle-Book-2-ebook/dp/B01BM1SX3Q/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Brian Niemeier

by John C Wright at August 26, 2016 04:09 PM

Greg Mankiw's Blog

Uwe Reinhardt on Obamacare

The Princeton health economist sees a coming death spiral: "If you got a bunch of Princeton undergrads to design a health care system, maybe they would come up with an arrangement like the marketplaces."

by Greg Mankiw (noreply@blogger.com) at August 26, 2016 04:09 PM

John C. Wright's Journal

It’s Official! SOMEWHITHER is a Finalist!!

Somewhither: A Tale of the Unwithering Realm by John C. Wright is a finalist for a Dragon Award. These will be presented on Sunday, September 4th , at 2:30 pm in Centennial 1 of the Hyatt Regency at the Dragon Con 30 in Atlanta, Ga.

A message from DragonCon that might be of interest to my readers, both of you, and to my fan. The three of you have accomplished great things!

I am totally kidding. I know I have way more fans than that. The other three guys who read my books brings it up to an immense half a dozen!

But let us ignore the other five for a moment. You, the one person who reads my words, you are the one for whom my books and tales are meant. Just because other people also read the book, does not mean it is not meant for you, personally, to please and entertain you. The reward of your good favor, even if I never meet you or hear from you, is the only true reward. Public awards are merely an outward sign of an inward reality.

 

by John C Wright at August 26, 2016 03:12 PM

Crossway Blog

Why Study the Book of Jeremiah?

This is a guest post by Matthew S. Harmon, author of Jeremiah: A 12-Week Study, which is part of the Knowing the Bible series. This post is part of our Why Study the Book blog series.


Why Study Jeremiah?

On one level, the answer to the question "Why study Jeremiah?" is straightforward. On the day of his resurrection, Jesus appeared to his startled disciples as they hid from the authorities (Luke 24:36-49). In that appearance, Jesus reminded them of what he taught them before his death and resurrection: "Everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled" (Luke 24:44). Paul explained to the Romans that "whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Rom. 15:4). So we should study Jeremiah because we want to know Christ better and see God deepen our endurance in the gospel so that our hope in God and his promises will grow.

But that is true of every book of the Bible. So what are some specific ways that the book of Jeremiah produces endurance and deepens our hope? Let me just mention four.

1. Jeremiah shows us the fullness of God's character.

We live in a world that has an impoverished view of God. Jeremiah challenges us by putting on display the full range of God's character. In contrast to the false gods and idols that the nations worship, the LORD is the only true God (Jer. 10:1–16). God is sovereignly working out his purposes for human history. Before Jeremiah was even born God had set him apart to be his mouthpiece (Jer. 1:1–19). Through this prophet, God announces his plans to raise up and destroy nations (Jer 1:10), as well as his plans for his people (Jer. 29:1–23). The LORD sits in judgment over his own people as well as the nations, pouring out his wrath on their rebellion (Jer. 25:1–38; 46:1–52:34).

2. Jeremiah shows us the depths of our sinfulness.

We live in a world that often denies or minimizes the reality of sin. Jeremiah penetrates this delusional fog with striking descriptions of our depravity. God wired us to be worshipers, but in our folly we exchange worship of the true God for the worship of worthless idols (Jer. 2:4–13; 44:15–30). Sin has its roots in the human heart, deceiving us into calling evil good and good evil (Jer. 17:1–13). There is no aspect of our being that sin has not infected.

3. Jeremiah shows us the power of our Savior.

We live in a world that is in desperate need of a Savior. Jeremiah points us towards a Savior who comes from the line of David, a righteous Branch who will reign as a wise and righteous king, executing justice (Jer. 23:5). He will be called "The LORD is our righteousness" (Jer. 23:6) because he will give his people the righteousness they need to be acceptable before a holy God (Jer. 33:14–16). What we could not do for ourselves, God has done for us through his promised king.

4. Jeremiah shows us the riches of the new covenant.

We live in a world that desperately needs the transforming power of complete forgiveness of sins. Jeremiah points to a new covenant that God would make with his people (Jer. 31:31–34). Through this new covenant, God deals decisively and finally with sin, writes his law on the hearts of his people, and promises "I will be their God and they shall be my people." That is the good news that can change the world.

Those are just four of the ways that God speaks to us today through Jeremiah. Why not see for yourself what else the LORD might have for you by studying Jeremiah?


Matthew S. Harmon (PhD, Wheaton College) is professor of New Testament studies at Grace College and Grace Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana. He also teaches and serves on the preaching team at Christ’s Covenant Church, Winona Lake, Indiana. He is the author of She Must and Shall Go Free: Paul’s Isaianic Gospel in Galatians and Philippians: A Mentor Commentary.

by Crossway at August 26, 2016 02:00 PM

John C. Wright's Journal

New under Free Fic

I have added one of my short stories under the Free Fic button in my header: ‘The Far End of History: A Tale from the Last Days of the Seventh Mental Structure’ It was originally published in New Space Opera II, ed. Gardner Dozois & Jonathan Strahan, Eos (2009).

I thought it would serve as a useful introduction to my work. I had already seen it posted (with no permission from me, and no payment) elsewhere on the Internet, so it seemed a reasonable candidate to post here.

http://www.scifiwright.com/free-fic/

by John C Wright at August 26, 2016 01:27 PM

Larry Correia Reminds You to Vote

I read this announcement at the Monster Hunter Nation website, and wanted to pass it along. Vote for SOMEWHITHER, or I will George RR Martinize your favorite characters!

The voting for the Dragon Awards closes at the end of the month. Please spread the word and tell your friends. The Dragons are open to all fans, don’t cost anything, and they want as many fans as possible participating.
I would love for the first annual Dragon to have more fans voting in it than the Hugos.

Once you register herehttp://application.dragoncon.org/dc_fan_awards_signup.php they will email you your ballot. They send these out in batches, so make sure you give yourself time. If you registered, but not gotten your voting email yet, it might be stuck in your spam folder. It is from dcawards at dragoncon.

by John C Wright at August 26, 2016 12:28 PM

The Third Bit

What I Didn't Learn in a CS Degree

I recently stumbled across The Imposter's Handbook, which describes itself this way:

For the longest time I would remain silent when discussions with my peers would veer toward theoretical topics like P vs. NP, Lambda Calculus or bubble sort vs. merge sort... I decided to change all of this a year ago. I sat down and looked up all of the topics that a typical CS degree covers and then I dove in. Half way through, I decided to write a book about what I was learning.

It's an interesting project, but it got me thinking about all the things I didn't learn when I did do a CS degree:

  • At 25, I would have said that I got where I was through hard work. At 53, I realize that most of where I am is due to being born white and male without serious mental or physical challenges in a stable middle-class family living in a peaceful democracy.
  • The computing industry is actively unwelcoming to people who aren't straight white/Asian males, routinely builds systems that facilitate their harassment and abuse, and then pretends that the problem is somehow insoluble. Equally, the financial-industrial complex called Silicon Valley doesn't actually want to disrupt anything that matters because it's quite happy with wealth and power being distributed as they are (i.e., unequally, but in their favor).
  • To aid that, Silicon Valley perpetuates a mythos of rags-to-riches startups that enables it to extract as much unpaid or low-paid labor from people as it can, regardless of the personal cost.
  • Like most technologists, the founders of most "learn to code" groups unconsciously assume that knowledge should flow one way and gratitude another: we will teach them Javascript and data analysis, and they will just listen. The fact is, they have vitally important things to teach us about running meetings, being inclusive, staying focused on things that actually matter, staying healthy, and all the other tremendously hard skills techies condescendingly called "soft".
  • And a long list of other insights that still often make me uncomfortable.

It's easy to say "this stuff isn't part of computer science", but that's disingenuous. The boundaries of computer science can be exactly where we choose to draw them, just like the boundaries of medicine or economics. Right now, those boundaries are drawn by the privileged in ways that implicitly enshrine their privilege, but they could include this:

Declining Female Participation in Computing

or the fact that "Massive Open Online Course" has effectively come to mean ubiquitous surveillance in the classroom, or anything else if we so choose.

The first step toward choosing is to be aware that there are choices. That's why I'm looking forward to The Imposter's Handbook, but would look forward more to a book that collected and presented all the "other stuff" I didn't learn in school. I'm not qualified to write it, but nothing would make me prouder than to see it as the next volume in the AOSA series. I'd be grateful for your thoughts.

by Greg Wilson (gvwilson@third-bit.com) at August 26, 2016 11:30 AM

Justin Taylor

J. Alec Motyer (1924-2016)

Alec_MotyerRenowned Old Testament pastor-scholar J. Alec Motyer has passed away at the age of 91.

Born John Alexander Motyer (pronounced maw-TEAR [as in the “tear” of “teardrop”] in Dublin, he graduated with a BD (1949) and MA (1951) from Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin, Ireland, and did further studies at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford.

He was ordained in the Church of England in 1947 as a deacon, and then in 1948 as a priest, serving as a curate in Penn Fields, Wolverhampton (1947-1950), and at Holy Trinity Church in Bristol (1950-1954). In Bristol, he also served as Tutor, and then Vice Principal, of Clifton College (1950-1965).

From there, he became Vicar of St Luke’s, West Hampstead (1965-1970), but returned to Bristol as Deputy Principal of Tyndale Hall (1970-1971), and then became the Principal of the reconstituted Trinity College (1971-1981).

His final decade of active parish ministry was as the Minister at Westbourne (Bournemouth) (1981-1989).

A biographical sketch summarizes some of his publication and influence:

Few men of his generation have taught so many Anglican ordinands while also having parish experience and academic distinction; of a clearly Reformed stamp, for more than 40 years he has also been an occasional speaker at the Keswick Convention and some of its overseas equivalents. The author of an early ‘Tyndale monograph’ on Exod 6, The Revelation of the Divine Name (1959), a ‘Hodder Christian paperback’ After Death(1965), and a major commentary on Isaiah (1993), he has also contributed to Bible and Theological Dictionaries and written on Amos, James, Philippians, Zephaniah and Haggai, Psalms, Exodus, (‘A scenic route through the OT’ and ‘The days of our pilgrimage’), on the OT in general (Discovering the Old Testament) and (with his son Stephen) on Thessalonians.

You can watch him explain below why he thinks John 1:12 is the Bible’s best text:


Tim Keller explains the influence on his own approach to the Bible, becoming one of his “fathers in ministry”:

Approximately 40 years ago, during the summer between my undergraduate college years and seminary, I was working and living with my parents in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. One evening I drove over the mountains down into a long valley in the midst of the Laurel Highlands and came eventually to the Ligonier Valley Study Center, just outside the little Western Pennsylvania hamlet of Stahlstown, where R. C. Sproul was hosting at his regular weekly Question and Answer session a British Old Testament scholar, J. Alec Motyer. As a still fairly new Christian, I found the Old Testament to be a confusing and off-putting part of the Bible.

I will always remember his answer to a question about the relationship of Old Testament Israel to the church (I can’t remember if R. C. posed it to him or someone from the audience). After saying something about the discontinuities, he insisted that we were all one people of God. Then he asked us to imagine how the Israelites under Moses would have given their “testimony” to someone who asked for it. They would have said something like this:

We were in a foreign land, in bondage, under the sentence of death. But our mediator—the one who stands between us and God—came to us with the promise of deliverance. We trusted in the promises of God, took shelter under the blood of the lamb, and he led us out. Now we are on the way to the Promised Land. We are not there yet, of course, but we have the law to guide us, and through blood sacrifice we also have his presence in our midst. So he will stay with us until we get to our true country, our everlasting home.

Then Dr. Motyer concluded: “Now think about it. A Christian today could say the same thing, almost word for word.”

My young self was thunderstruck. I had held the vague, unexamined impression that in the Old Testament people were saved through obeying a host of detailed laws but that today we were freely forgiven and accepted by faith. This little thought experiment showed me, in a stroke, not only that the Israelites had been saved by grace and that God’s salvation had been by costly atonement and grace all along, but also that the pursuit of holiness, pilgrimage, obedience, and deep community should characterize Christians as well.

Not long after this I heard a series of lectures by Edmund P. Clowney on the importance of ministers always preaching Christ, even when they are preaching from the Old Testament. Dr. Motyer’s little bombshell and Ed Clowney’s lectures started me on a lifetime quest to preach Christ and the gospel every time I expound a Biblical text. They are, in a sense, the fathers of my preaching ministry.

While I believe I have read and used all of Dr. Motyer’s published works over the course of my life, three of his books were transformative to my ministry in particular. In my early days as a preacher his commentary on Amos, sub-titled “The Day of the Lion,” was a huge help to me as I struggled for the first time to expound the minor prophets. That work showed me God’s emphasis on social justice and righteousness, a standard he applied not only to his own covenant people but also to the nations around them.

The second intervention came a couple of decades later, when I was convicted about the shallowness of my prayer life. In response, I began to dig into the Psalms, and the two resources I relied on were Derek Kidner’s Tyndale commentary and Alec Motyer’s brief but luminous treatment of the Psalms in the New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition. Dr. Motyer’s compact description of the psalmists—that they were people who knew far less about God than we do, yet loved him a great deal more—is a crucial guide for interpreting the anguished cries, shouts of praise, and declarations of love we meet in God’s own Prayer Book. It is clear at some points that we are reading authors who were writing about God’s salvation before the “fullness of time” had come and the Cross laid bare God’s plan for saving the world. And yet the psalmists—with their less granular understanding of the outworkings of it all—did indeed grasp the gospel of salvation by grace, substitutionary atonement, and faith. Across the 150 psalms we see virtually every human condition and emotion set before God and transfigured by prayer. The authors’ love for God convicts, uplifts, and instructs us as nothing else can. Through Motyer and Kidner I was ushered into a new stage in my journey toward fellowship with God.

Finally, a few years ago I tackled a series of sermons expounding the book of Exodus mainly because I saw that Dr. Motyer had produced The Message of Exodus in 2005. It did not disappoint and became my main go-to resource for the series.

On May 9, 2000, Robert Mills of The Presbyterian Layman conducted an interview with Motyer about his formative years and his approach to the Word of God.

“I’m not really a scholar,” says J. Alec Motyer softly, “I’m just a man who loves the Word of God.”. . . . [H]e learned to love the Scriptures at his grandmother’s knee in Ireland. “Grandma was, in worldly terms, a comparatively uneducated lady,” Motyer says, “but she was a great Bible woman. Biblical studies have simply confirmed that which I learned from Grandma – that the Bible is the Word of God – and made it a coherently held position.” . . . He adds, “I had a conversion experience when I was 15, but I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love the Word of God.”

What has liberal scholarship done to the Old Testament?

It has removed the Old Testament from popular understanding. The majority of people who have gone through liberal schools in their Old Testament studies have come out totally uncertain of what the Old Testament is about. When people are taught the documentary theory they cease to understand the Pentateuch. They’ve lost the whole flow, the doctrinal as well as the historical. They’ve ceased to be able to grasp the centrality, for example, of covenantal theology.

Has it been your experience that many Christians spend little time reading the Old Testament?

Very much so. Of course, nowadays we don’t live in a literary generation. We live in a generation of lookers, not readers. That is one of our great problems as Christians. We are book people in a non-book world.

What are Christians missing by not reading the Old Testament?

The death of the Lord Jesus as understood in Old Testament categories. We don’t understand the cross unless we understand the Old Testament category of sacrifice and the shedding of blood. Likewise, the New Testament doesn’t have as strong a stated doctrine of creation. It leans on the Old Testament to reveal the nature of man and the nature of God as creator.

We have a two way traffic. I’m very drawn to the model I first read in John Bright of the two-act play. If you have a two-act play and only have act one you ask, Where is it going? If you only have act two, you ask, Where has it come from? That is a very penetrating view of the Scriptures.

Are the Old and New Testaments compatible?

The whole Bible is bound together around the single theme “I will be your God and you will be my people.” The same way of salvation is found right throughout the Bible. We trust the promises of God and are saved. I would lay most stress on the singleness and unity of the people of God running right through the Bible. We are the people of God. [Early believers] should never have allowed the people of Antioch to get away with nicknaming them Christians. Our proper name is Israel.

How would you answer the modern Marcionites who effectively teach that there is a God of law and a God of love and that Christians must follow the God of love?

Well it’s just not true. That’s the beginning and end of that one. It’s just ignoring so much evidence in each testament. It’s trading in prejudice and lack of knowledge. The Old Testament is the place where we learn about the good shepherd looking after his sheep. God is in love with us. His heart goes pitter-patter when he sees us. That’s so plain in the Old Testament. Likewise the wrath and holiness of God are equally plain in the New Testament.

How do you convince ministers and lay people that the Old Testament is an important part of God’s self-revelation?

Apart from taking every opportunity to speak to people about the Old Testament, to show them what a lovely and fascinating book it is, the slow drip method, I don’t know of any other. We need to get the people to read the Bible for themselves and become acquainted with the fact that the same mix of material occurs in the Old as well as the New. We need to ask, If you think the Old Testament is the book of a wrathful God, have you read Revelation lately? Try to get people to fall in love with the whole thing and not come with prejudgments about what love is and what love would do.

How important are questions such as who wrote the first five books of the Bible?

The veracity of Scripture is well into this discussion because of the authorship claim. If a book makes an authorship claim, that is part of the revealed scripture. We must start with that and see how it works. We must not divert unless there is good reason for doing so.

When New Testament scholars dispute the Petrine authorship of II Peter or the Pauline authorship of Ephesians, they are touching on the veracity of Scripture.

There is no authorship claim in Genesis, therefore we must leave that aside and see if any of the rest of the Bible instructs us on that. For the rest of the Pentateuch, the Mosaic claim is very strong indeed. Nothing in Exodus is free of Mosaic mediation. And when we come to Deuteronomy, the words “Moses said” and “God said” are used as equivalents.

I don’t think serious Bible study can skate round the claim and testimony of the document itself. I think there has been a methodological error. In every branch of study the student starts from what the subject claims. Whereas in Biblical studies the starting point of study has so often been what seems to be a problem. Starting from that problem the whole construction of the documents is read out. You can’t start any study from a problem, you must start from testimony. But that would leave egg on many faces and require the rewriting of many books.

What can contemporary Christians learn from the various divisions of the Old Testament, the Law, the Prophets, the Writings?

What is laid down in the Law is basic, the basic revelation of the holy God and how sinners can be made acceptable to that holy God. That is very definitely the message of the Law, the Pentateuch.

The Pentateuch prepares for the Prophets. Deuteronomy is emphatic that those who have come to God through his saving grace now have a pattern of life to live out. The prophets elaborate on that. I don’t think it’s true to say the prophets are innovators. They are expositors. They expound on and apply Mosaic theology.

The Writings either tell us what to do with it, as in the Psalms, how to rejoice in the truth of God, or wrestle with it, as in Job and Ecclesiastes. The intended implication of a wisdom and power higher than ours and wider than ours is clearly there. God says, “Can you sit on the throne? I can. There are powers in the universe that you can’t oppose but I can.”

If you have a God of wisdom, justice and power, you have no escape hatch. Take any of those out and deny it and life is totally logical. Put all three together and the only way to face life is faith.

How are the Psalms useful to our Christian faith and life?

In many ways. First in a formal way they are our window into the Old Testament, therefore they are a corrective. I think many Christians assume that the Pharisees are typical Old Testament men. They forget that Jesus said the Pharisees were a plant his heavenly Father never planted. The real window for us, what was it like to live as a believer in Old Testament times, is the Psalms.

Second, they are a great challenge. Here are people who knew far less about God than we do and yet loved him a great deal more. Third, they are instructive. They are lovely poems in their own right. If you sat down and analyzed them as poetry you would come out with a rich theology.

What are some of the consequences when the church fails to protect its members from poor or even false teaching?

The main consequence of the moment is that we are ethically illiterate. Great moral questions are being aired without professing Christian people having any guidelines on the matter. The big question is homosexuality. The vast majority of people intuitively feel that this is not something they want to go along with, but they don’t have any basis of scriptural teaching on which to rest or from which to draw conclusions.

All sorts of things have happened in my lifetime and found the Church totally unprepared. The breakdown of marriage, for example; the sexual revolution, which is not really a revolution at all but just uncontrolled sexuality. That has not been faced by the Church as a whole with any firm, reasoned response.

What can people do who are not receiving sound Biblical teaching in their churches?

The vast majority don’t know what they’re missing. They’re not aware of the loss. If people come alive in God and have been brought into a new dimension of faith through the ministry of the Word of God, then they want such teaching and they are faced with jolly difficult decisions. Do they stay where they are and soldier on?

Philip didn’t seem to worry when he was snatched away and the eunuch was left on his own. He didn’t scratch his head and say, “What about counseling?” He said, “He is a man with the Word of God. He’s safe. Let him get on with it.” I think many, many people would seek out a church where the Word of God is preached and transfer their allegiance, and that’s a difficult thing to do.

by Justin Taylor at August 26, 2016 09:21 AM

Table Titans

Tales: The Death of Groddic

Before this tale begins in earnest, understand I design my own adventures. So imagine my players’ surprise when I finally loaded them into a pre-planned adventure.

At least, that's what they thought.

In actuality, the ‘module’ was a list of who dies first... because I felt like running a…

Read more

August 26, 2016 07:00 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

We Need (Religious Freedom) Reinforcements

Article by: John D. Inazu

There’s an unforgettable scene in We Were Soldiers, the 2002 movie based on the first major battle between the United States and the North Vietnamese. American ground troops under the command of Lt. Col. Hal Moore (played by Mel Gibson) are losing ground to enemy forces. In a last and desperate act, Moore hails the radio and calls for “Broken Arrow”—the Hail Mary play that brings in planes for close air support. There’s no guarantee the planes will succeed, but one thing is certain: Without those reinforcements, Moore’s troops don’t stand a chance.

I thought of the Broken Arrow scene as I read Mary Eberstadt’s new book, It’s Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies. I realize it’s a risky analogy, especially from someone who would like to see us move away from the “culture wars” rhetoric and look for opportunities to find common ground through “confident pluralism.” But the battle imagery fits well with Eberstadt’s framing; indeed, one shortcoming of the book is its sometimes combative tone, which hinders the author’s stated goal of reaching “people of goodwill.”

Battle at Hand 

Eberstadt—an essayist associated with several think tanks, including the Hoover Institution and the Ethics and Public Policy Center—situates the battle as between religious traditionalists and secular progressives. Although that framing misses the role religious progressives have played in the push against religious traditionalists, she’s right that some secular progressives would like to see an end to traditionalist beliefs.

She also correctly observes that religious traditionalists often assume a defensive posture. Many religious schools, campus ministries, and social service organizations aren’t interested in picking fights—they simply end up in litigation, policy fights, and media battles from those who increasingly demand conformity with progressive sexual ethics.

To her credit, Eberstadt avoids some of the hyperbole that often accompanies culture war narratives. For example, she’s careful not to claim American Christians are being “persecuted,” though at times she invokes the phrase “soft persecution.” She’s also clear-eyed about the costs of this culture war. 

In one of the most important sections of the book, Eberstadt explains how our charitable infrastructure depends on traditionalist religious institutions; she rightly observes that government workers and well-meaning secularists are unlikely to fill the void.

Guys on the Ground 

There’s much Eberstadt gets right, but the book falls short in some important ways. That Broken Arrow scene from We Were Soldiers came to mind not from Eberstadt’s culture-wars framing, but because her narrow conception of religious traditionalists (the ground troops in this analogy) blinds her to the reinforcements that might actually save them. 

My hunch is that when Eberstadt refers to “religious traditionalists” she means “white Catholics and evangelicals.” Almost all her examples involve white Christian individuals or institutions, and apart from a few isolated examples, she shows little awareness of the millions of other religious traditionalists in this country. If the ground troops in this story are all white Christians, they’re unlikely to prevail without the guys in the planes. Yet Eberstadt’s religious traditionalists aren’t simply failing to call in these reinforcements; they’re often undercutting the very possibility.

Guys in the Planes 

Consider first American Muslims. Traditionalist Christians and traditionalist Muslims harbor many theological disagreements, but they share a common unease with many aspects of progressive sexuality. Yet at a time when these two groups ought to be building bridges toward one another, many traditionalist Christians are doing just the opposite. Instead of coming to the aid of their would-be reinforcements, many have lobbied for fear-induced “anti-Sharia” laws and joined conservative politicians who castigate Muslims as disloyal second-class citizens.

Black Christians are another potential reinforcement for the ground troops. Many black Christians (and other non-white Christians) share the biblical values of white religious traditionalists. Yet they’re virtually absent from Eberstadt’s account. Eberstadt also fails to address the argument that traditionalist religious views about sexuality are analogous to views about segregation a generation ago. Although that argument has significant legal and cultural flaws, it poses a powerful rhetorical challenge for white religious traditionalists whose predecessors impeded efforts toward racial equality and whose institutions, buildings, and bank accounts still benefit from that moral failure.

Those who bear the scars of “the old civil rights” are far better positioned to resist rhetorical challenges from advocates of “the new civil rights.” But instead of recognizing their need for black Christians, white religious traditionalists have largely ignored them, and many remain indifferent to the challenges of personal and structural racism that persist in this country. 

More than Strategy

Hal Moore could only call for Broken Arrow because the guys in the planes believed the guys on the ground were worth dying for. That doesn’t just happen out of the blue. It requires a shared understanding of common interests and a willingness to stand with one another in difficult times. If I were in the planes looking down, I’d be concerned about the friendly fire coming my way. And I’d be even more worried in light of some of the claims coming from white religious traditionalists in the current political season.

Of course, white religious traditionalists ought to be motivated by more than strategic alliances. They should defend the religious liberty of Muslim Americans not because they’re looking for reinforcements, but because religious freedom for all is a gospel imperative. They should stand with black Christians not because they’re in search of a rhetorically useful alignment, but because the gospel transcends race and calls us to bear each other’s burdens.

My worry is the ground troops in Eberstadt’s story don’t realize they won’t make it without the guys in the planes. And they don’t realize how little they’ve done to build trust with those potential reinforcements. That doesn’t bode well for Broken Arrow—a long shot under any circumstance. 

Mary Eberstadt. It’s Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies. New York, NY: Harper, 2016. 192 pp. $25.99. 

John D. Inazu is the Sally D. Danforth distinguished professor of law and religion at Washington University in St. Louis. His book, Confident Pluralism: Surviving and Thriving Through Deep Difference, has recently been published by the University of Chicago Press.

by John D. Inazu at August 26, 2016 05:03 AM

What You Should Know About the American Solidarity Party Platform

Article by: Joe Carter

Editors’ note: This is the second in a series examining the social positions of several minor political parties. A previous series covered the Democratic Party platform and the Republican Party Platform.

Although minor parties—often called “third parties” to distinguish them from the dominant two—have always been a part of American politics, the dissatisfaction with the Republican and Democratic parties in the current election season has led some Christians to give them more consideration than usual. To help Christians think about voting in a way that will most benefit the welfare of our nation (Jer. 29:7), this series will provide, without commentary, an outline of various minor party platforms as they relate to several social issues.

Unfortunately, because there are roughly 50 minor political parties in America this series will not be able to cover them all, so we’ll focus only on the Libertarian Party, the American Solidarity Party, the Green Party, and the Constitution Party. (The choice is obviously arbitrary and selective, but other parties will be added if there is sufficient interest/demand.)

In covering these platforms there are two issues to note.

First, unlike with the two major parties, the nominees of the minor parties often have no direct control over their party’s platform. For this reason, the positions held by the particular presidential candidates may differ radically from the positions held by the party. Second, minor parties tend to focus more on broad principles than specific policy prescriptions. This is especially true when it comes to social issues. Wherever possible, I’ll try to highlight the direct policy positions. Otherwise I’ll attempt to summarize their underlying philosophy on a public policy area.

Here are the positions of the American Solidarity Party as outlined in their 2016 Platform:

General Principles

• The American Solidarity Party self-identifies as the “only active Christian Democratic party in the United States.” (See here for more on Christian Democratic parties.)

• Seeks to promote the common good and the material and spiritual welfare of all people.

• Seeks to raise consciousness of the Christian worldview.

• Seeks to offer a positive vision that can bring communities together.

• Stands for the sanctity of human life, the necessity of social justice, responsibility for the environment, and hopes for the possibility of a peaceful world.

• Believes that political economy (economics) is a branch of political ethics. “We reject models of economic behavior based on greed and naked self-interest.”

 

Civil Rights

• Supports defending the rights of public assembly, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press.

• Opposes the expansion of censorship and secrecy in the interests of “national security.”

• Supports “ban the box” initiatives [persuading employers to remove from their hiring applications the check box that asks if applicants have a criminal record].

• Supports laws favoring equal access to the polls, the courts, housing, education, and credit.

• Opposes conscription into the armed services and other forms of compulsory government service, except in cases of clear and present necessity during declared war.

• Opposes the mandatory registration of women in the Selective Service system.

• Supports reforms in the process of jury-selection, in order to prevent jurypacking and the narrowing of jury pools.

• Supports restricting the legal construct of “personhood” for organizations and corporations.

• Opposes government censorship of the media and the internet.

• Supports the repeal of the Patriot Act

• Opposes the “indiscriminate and unauthorized” collection of data from the phones and computers of American citizens and foreign nationals.

• Opposes laws and trade agreements that allow the monitoring of personal internet usage for non-criminal offenses, such as copyright infringement.

 

Drugs

• Supports the “decriminalization (not the legalization)” of recreational drugs.

 

Education

• Supports parental right to homeschool.

• Supports public funding of both public and private schools, with a “preferential option for economically disadvantaged students.”

• Supports the “freedom of teachers” to design their own curricula within general parameters set by local authorities.

• Supports initiatives to improve education for virtue and citizenship, as well as core subjects such as reading and writing, mathematics, science, and the arts.

• Supports increased public investment in higher education and a reduction of tuition at public institutions.

• Supports stricter regulation of for-profit educational enterprises.

 

Environment

• Supports generous funding for research in safe and renewable sources of energy, such as solar and wind-power.

• Opposes government subsidies for “reckless oil- and mineral extraction (such as ‘fracking’).”

• Supports a strong regime of environmental protection by independent public agencies.

• Supports direct accountability of illegal polluters to their victims in the courts.

• Supports the institution of pollution taxes to “fund research in cleaner methods of production and to compensate all citizens for abuse of the natural commons.”

• Supports a cap-and-dividend approach to the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. “Producers will bid for permits to emit a fixed amount of greenhouse gasses; revenue from the permits will be applied to ecological research and the Citizens’ Dividend.”

• Support programs to reduce the damage done to communities and residents affected by the transition from fossil fuels and mineral extraction to renewable energy sources, including economic redevelopment aid, job retraining, and/or direct aid to those laid off and their families.

 

Human Trafficking

• Supports vigorous enforcement of laws against human trafficking.

 

Life Issues

• Supports constitutional and legal measures that establish the right to life from conception until natural death.

• Supports an end to capital punishment.

• Opposes the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

• Supports adequate social services and income support for women, the elderly, immigrants, and other vulnerable persons.

• Supports a ban on gestational surrogacy contracts.

• Opposes the use of military force in violation of Just War principles.  “Among other things, this precludes the use of pre-emptive strikes and disproportionate retaliation.”

• Supports strict accountability in the use of lethal force by officers of the peace.

 

Marriage

• Supports the legal recognition of marriage as a union of one man to one woman for life.

 

Pornography

• Opposes the “exploitation of human persons that pornography entails.”

 

Prostitution

• Supports the implementation of the “so-called ‘Nordic model’ for dealing with prostitution” by imposing stricter and more uniform penalties for the purchase of sex, decriminalizing the selling of sex, and providing viable employment alternatives to those who are exploited as prostitutes.

 

Religious Liberty

• Supports laws that allow people of all faiths to practice their religion “without intimidation” and opposes “aggressive secularism that seeks to remove religion from the public sphere.”

 

Torture

• “We condemn the use of torture—by whatever method, for whatever purpose, and by whatever euphemism it may be called – by any representative of the United States or in its interests. Those who participate in or authorize torture should be stripped of position, prosecuted, and punished to the fullest extent of the law.”

 

Welfare

• Opposes “sudden elimination or reduction” of income supports such as welfare, food stamps, and unemployment insurance, when “no other safety net is in place.”

• Supports a gradual replacement of needs-based welfare and assistance payments with a Citizens’ Dividend, funded by the collection of unearned income.

For a summary of the positions of the ASP on economic and public service issues, see this post.

Joe Carter is an editor for The Gospel Coalition, the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible, and the co-author of How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History’s Greatest Communicator. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Joe Carter at August 26, 2016 05:02 AM

How Celibacy Can Fulfill Your Sexuality

Article by: Sam Allberry

A friend of mine has an interesting spoon. (Bear with me.) Its slightly larger than a teaspoon and has a large hole in the middle, making it incapable of holding—let alone carrying—the sort of substance that typically requires a spoon. My friend keeps it in his sugar bowl, waiting for unsuspecting guests to attempt productive engagement with it. Some will quietly (but unsuccessfully) persevere with it, not wanting to make a fuss and assuming the fault must somehow lie with them. Others will immediately declare the spoon is ridiculous and insist on something better suited to the task at hand.

The spoon, it turns out, is actually an olive spoon. The hole in the middle is to drain the fluid as you lift the olive to your mouth. And so the lesson for us is this: You can’t make sense of the way the spoon is without understanding what it’s for.

The same is true of our sexuality.

Why We’re Sexual Beings 

We know we are sexual beings. We know this sexuality is meant to mean something. But unless we know what our sexuality is for, we won’t understand how it’s meant to work. The best we’ll be able to do (like my friend with his spoon) is try to get some passing entertainment from it.

The architecture of the Bible points us to the purpose of why we’re sexual beings. Scripture begins with a marriage (Adam and Eve), and it ends with a marriage (Christ and his church)—and the former is the trailer for the latter. The joining together of the man and woman is a picture of how heaven and earth will one day be joined together through the union of Jesus and his people.

Scripture begins with a marriage (Adam and Eve) and it ends with a marriage (Christ and his church)—and the former is the trailer for the latter.

This connection is reflected throughout the Bible. Song of Songs uses the mutual delight and intimacy of a husband and wife to reflect the delight of Christ in his people. The prophets frequently use marital language to describe God’s relationship with his people; he is the groom, and they are the (frequently wayward) bride. Jesus picks up this language in the Gospels, describing himself as “the bridegroom” (e.g., Mark 2:19–20). Paul teaches the Corinthians that just as a man and his wife become one flesh, those who join themselves to Christ become “one in spirit” with him (1 Cor. 6:16–17). And in Ephesians 5:31 he goes on to say that the mystery behind human marriage is—as we now see it’s always been—Christ’s relationship to the church.

Human marriage, then, reflects the big story of the Bible—the big thing God is doing in the universe: making a people for his Son. And this story provides the key to understanding our sexuality.

What Marriage Is For 

It also accounts for why the Bible defines marriage as between one man and one woman, rather than two persons of the same sex. In Matthew 19:4–5, Jesus connects the phenomenon of marriage with the fact of our having been created male and female. Marriage is predicated on gender difference; it’s because we’re male and female that we have this thing called marriage. Jesus then goes on to show that the only godly alternative to marriage is singleness. When the disciples balk at the intended lifelong implications of marriage (v. 10), Jesus points them to the example of the eunuchs—the long-term singles of his day (vv. 11–12). If marriage is too much commitment, there’s the option of celibacy. Jesus gives no third alternative, whether cohabitation or some alternative construal of marriage.

For marriage to be a parable of Christ and the church, it must be between like and unlike, male and female. Change this arrangement, and you end up distorting the spiritual reality to which it points. Alter marriage, and you end up altering a picture of the gospel itself.

Jesus gives no third alternative, whether cohabitation or some alternative construal of marriage. . . . Alter marriage, and you end up altering a picture of the gospel itself.

This vision of marriage helps us keep it in healthy perspective. Grasping what it points to means we won’t demean or trivialize it, and it also means we won’t idolize it. Marriage is not ultimate, but it points to the thing that is. Marriage itself is not meant to fulfill us, but to point to the thing that does.

What Singleness Is For 

So if this is the ultimate purpose of marriage, where does that leave singleness? Are those of us who are celibate wasting our sexuality by not giving expression to our sexual desires?

It means singleness, like marriage, has a unique way of testifying to the gospel of grace. Jesus said there will be no marriage in the new creation. In that respect we’ll be like the angels, neither marrying nor being given in marriage (Matt. 22:30). We will have the reality; we will no longer need the signpost.

By foregoing marriage now, singleness is a way of both anticipating this reality and testifying to its goodness. It’s a way of saying this future reality is so certain that we can live according to it now. If marriage shows us the shape of the gospel, singleness shows us its sufficiency. It’s a way of declaring to a world obsessed with sexual and romantic intimacy that these things are not ultimate, and that in Christ we possess what is.

If marriage shows us the shape of the gospel, singleness shows us its sufficiency.

This doesn’t mean our sexual feelings are redundant, dangling unfulfilled like the equivalent of an appendix. The consummation our sexual feelings long for can (if we let them) point us to a greater consummation to come. They remind us that what we forego on a temporal plane now, we will enjoy in fullness in the new creation for eternity. Sexual unfulfillment itself becomes a means of deepening our sense of the fuller, deeper satisfaction we await in Jesus. It helps us to hunger more for him. We skip the appetizer, but we await the entrée.

Celibacy isn’t a waste of our sexuality; it’s a wonderful way of fulfilling it. It’s allowing our sexual feelings to point us to the reality of the gospel. We will never ultimately make sense of what our sexuality is unless we know what it is for—to point us to God’s love for us in Christ.

Sam Allberry is an editor for The Gospel Coalition, a global speaker for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, and a pastor based in Maidenhead, UK. He is the author of a number of books, including Is God Anti-Gay? (Good Book, 2013), James For You, and most recently Why Bother with Church. He is a founding editor of Living Out, a ministry for those struggling with same-sex attraction. You can follow Sam on Twitter.

by Sam Allberry at August 26, 2016 05:00 AM

Worship Should Leave You Unsatisfied

Article by: Staff

“At the end of every worship service, a part of us should be saying, ‘Is that all?’ Something about the way we worship the triune God should move within us a great anticipation for the future.” — Scotty Smith

Workshop Leader: Scotty Smith

Date: April 22, 2009

Event: The Gospel Coalition 2009 National Conference, Chicago, Illinois

Scott Smith is the founding pastor of Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tennessee, and is now teacher in residence at West End Community Church. He is a TGC blogger and the author, most recently, of Every Season Prayers (Baker).

You can listen to this episode of The Gospel Coalition podcast here.

by Staff at August 26, 2016 04:59 AM

Workout: August 26, 2016

3 rounds: As many rounds and reps as possible in 2 minutes of: 50 double-unders Max wallball shots in remaining time (20/14lb.-10/9 ft.) Rest 2 minutes As many rounds and reps as possible in 2 minutes of: 6 – 25 ft. shuttle sprints Max burpees in remaining time Rest 2 minutes As many rounds and […]

by Crystal at August 26, 2016 01:46 AM

August 25, 2016

Daniel Lemire's blog

Faster dictionary decoding with SIMD instructions

A particularly fast and effective compression technique is dictionary coding. Intuitively, it works as follow. Suppose you are given a long document made of millions of words, but containing only 65536 distinct words. You can create a map from words to short integers or indexes (in [0,65536)). So the word “the” might be replaced by 0, the word “friend” by 1, and so forth. You then replace your document with an array of 16-bit integers. So you use only 16 bits per word.

In general, given a dictionary of size N, you only need ceil(log2(N+1)) bits to represent each word. Your dictionary can be implemented, simply, as an array pointers (using 64 bits per pointer).

It may help reduce memory usage if words are often repeated. But it can also speed up processing. It much faster for a processor to seek out a given integer in a flat array than it is to seek a given word.

You can also use nice tricks to pack and unpack integers very fast. That is, given arrays of 32-bit integers that fit in b bits, you can quickly pack and unpack them. You can easily process billions of such integers per second on a commodity processor.

In my example, I have used the notions of document and word, but dictionary coding is more often found in database systems to code columns or tuples. Systems like Oracle, Apache Kylin, and Apache Parquet use dictionary coding.

What if you want to reconstruct the data by looking it up in the dictionary?

Even if you can unpack the integers so that the processor can get the address in the dictionary, the look-up risks becoming a bottleneck. And there is a lot of data in motion… you have to unpack the indexes, then read them back, then access the dictionary. The code might look something like this…

unpack(compressed_data, tmpbuffer, array_length, b);
for(size_t i = 0; i < array_length; ++i) {
    out[i] = dictionary[tmpbuffer[i]];
}

Surely, there is no way around looking up the data in the dictionary, so you are stuck?

Except that recent Intel processors, and the upcoming AMD Zen processors have gather instructions that can quickly look-up several values at once. In C and C++, you can use the _mm_i32gather_epi64 intrinsic. It allows you to drastically reduce the number of instructions. You no longer need to write out the unpacked indexes, and read them back.

So how effective is it? The answer, unsurprisingly, depends on the size of the dictionary and your access pattern. In my example, I assumed that you had a dictionary made of 65536 words. Such a large dictionary requires half a megabyte. It won’t fit in fast CPU cache. Because dictionary coding only makes sense for when the dictionary size is less than the main data, it would only make sense for very large data. If you have lots of data, a more practical approach might be to partition the problem so have many small dictionaries. A large dictionary might still make sense, but only if most of it is never used.

I have implemented dictionary decoding and run it on a recent Intel processor (Skylake). The speed-up from the SIMD/gather approach is comfortably a factor of two.

Number of CPU cycles per value decoded
dictionary size (# keys) scalar SIMD (gather)
512 3.1 1.2
1024 3.1 1.2
2048 3.1 1.2
4096 3.3 1.3
8192 3.7 1.7

2x is a nice gain. But we are only getting started. My Skylake processor only supports 256-bit SIMD vectors. This means that I can only gather four 64-bit values from my dictionary at once. Soon, our processors will benefit from AVX-512 and be able to gather eight 64-bit values at once. I don’t yet live in this future, so I put AVX-512 to the test on high-throughput Intel hardware (Knights Landing). Short story: you gain another factor of two… achieving a total speed-up of almost 4x over the basic code.

While the benefits are going to be even larger in the future, I should stress that benefits are likely much smaller on older processors (Haswell or before). For this work, technology is still fast evolving and there are large differences between slightly recent and bleeding-edge processors.

What is optimally fast on today’s hardware might be slow on tomorrow’s hardware.

Some relevant software:

Further reading:

Credit: Work done with Eric Daniel from the parquet-cpp project.

by Daniel Lemire at August 25, 2016 10:48 PM

John C. Wright's Journal

Writing is a Great Profession

Writing is a great profession! All you have to do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until your eyes bleed, and write a story — compared to lumberjack, ditch-digger, farmhand, truckdriver, mafia hitman, or any honest labor requiring skill and effort, being a bard is the bomb!

The muse does all the hard parts, and you work for bosses, the readers, who by definition can never be wrong.

How many jobs are there were the worker loves his boss? I love my readers.

They take money that could be used for finer and nobler things, beer or poker, first-person-shooter games or renting DEADPOOL, and give it to you instead.

Wow. What a racket.

All you have to do is play play-pretend like you did when you were a kid.

And think through the implications of both factual and counterfactual science and history and human and alien institutions, laws, customs, habits, psychology, art forms.

And make engaging yet three dimensional characters locked in a heart-wrenching struggle with both personal and public happiness at stake, and tell the same in a well-paced, properly grounded, utterly fantastic, and thoughtfully articulate series of plot events using word that are both clear and poetical, memorable yet unobtrusive.

And then do that all without allowing the reader to perceive the tropes and tricks being played on him to mesmerize his imagination.

And write engaging descriptions of scenery that are not too intrusive (which is harder than it seems).

While added necessary exposition and backstory indirectly and engagingly while seemingly writing about something else happening in the foreground for another reason.

Throw in some action and wise observations about the human condition that only you and a few sages have ever put into words.

Throw in some humor.

And voila! It is as easy as baking a cake.

A cake of gunpowder. With a flamethrower. On a unicycle. On a highwire. With a unicorn. Above a tank full of radioactive sea bass with lasers in their skulls. While solving three Rubik’s cubes. That you are juggling. While on fire. Blindfolded. Before deadline.

Still, it beats honest labor.

by John C Wright at August 25, 2016 10:17 PM

Market Urbanism

Episode 01: Announcing the Market Urbanism Podcast!

Citysape

Phew! It’s finally here. After spending a good chunk of my summer researching podcasting, reaching out to potential guests, and recording my first few episodes, I am excited to announce the launch of the Market Urbanism Podcast.

You can currently find the podcast on Soundcloud and PlayerFM. It will be available within the next few days on iTunes, Stitcher, and TuneIn. If there are other podcasting services you would like me to plug the RSS feed into, please let me know in the comment section below.

Below, you can find a transcript. Given the amount of extra time it takes to transcribe the typical 30 minute episode, this probably won’t be a regular occurrence. That said, if anyone is interested in taking up this job, and getting some credit as an official member of the Market Urbanism Podcast team, message me on Twitter at @mnolangray.

Stay tuned next week for a discussion with Emily Hamilton on the relationship between land-use regulation and housing affordability.

Enjoy the show!

Welcome to the Market Urbanism podcast, where we’re liberalizing cities from the bottom up. I’m your host Nolan Gray, a writer for Market Urbanism and a graduate student in urban planning. In this first episode I’d like to welcome you to the podcast by answering three questions you’re probably already asking yourself: First, what market urbanism? To give you the short answer, market urbanism is the synthesis of classical liberal thought with urban planning and policy. On the market side of the term, we place a lot of value on empowering individuals, recognizing the importance of economic liberty, and celebrating the complex spontaneous orders that organize human life. On the urbanism side of the term, to put it simply, we love cities. We’re interested in understanding what makes for bustling streets, healthy neighborhoods, and prosperous cities.

So, on to our second question: what is it us market urbanists are trying to do? We’re interested in liberalizing cities from the bottom up. Many cities unfortunately remain subject to the kind of top-down, centralized management that has been thoroughly debunked in economic policy. Expert planners, under pressure from politicians, continue to hand down comprehensive planning documents that regulate and restrain the minutiae of urban life. Urban economic development still often comes in the form of targeted subsidies to businesses with political connections—otherwise known as crony capitalism—while urban entrepreneurs face more and more burdensome regulation. Transportation planners continue to prefer road and transit boondoggles, elbowing out the density needed for urban life and placing a tighter strain on city budgets. Predictably, in many cities, development restrictions have increased rents to unsustainable levels, economic growth remains uneven, and traffic continues to get worse.

The good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way. In cities across the world, people are rediscovering the wisdom of Jane Jacobs. Cities are too important for us to leave urban planning and policy as it is. By following Jane Jacobs in recognizing the importance of local knowledge, the power of decentralized planning, and the magic of spontaneous orders, we can build cities that offer freedom, opportunity, and choice for all residents. From trailer parks to transit projects, from food trucks to zoning, we’re interested in the policies that move our cities closer to this ideal.

Right, so what about the podcast? Over the next year, I’ll be talking to the scholars, writers, activists, and policymakers who are changing the conversation about cities. In biweekly conversations, a guest and I will explore the past, present, and future of cities and the policies that shape them. If you’re totally new to the subject, fear not. I’ll start conversations by starting with the basics and clarifying jargon as we move into a variety of fascinating, if complex, subjects. If you listen to the popular podcast Econtalk, you might have a general idea of what I’m going for. Of course, this won’t just be a one-way conversation. Each week, I’ll post links and articles related to our conversation on marketurbanism.com, where you can share your thoughts and give feedback on the show. As I’m sure you’ll be motivated to do, you can also tell me how great a job I’m doing on Twitter at @mnolangray. I’ll also make an effort to share my guest’s Twitter handle.

And with that, welcome to the Market Urbanism Podcast! Go ahead and click subscribe, and I’ll be back next week with guest Emily Hamilton to discuss the relationship between land-use regulation and rising rents.

by Nolan Gray at August 25, 2016 08:45 PM

Blog – Cal Newport

A Brief Note on Tenure

tenure-625px

I don’t like talking about myself (outside discussions of hyper-specific productivity techniques), so I’ll keep this announcement brief…

At some point early on in my graduate student career I set two somewhat arbitrary goals for my academic trajectory: to become a professor by the age of 30 and tenured by the age of 35.

I ended up starting at Georgetown at the age of 29, and earlier this summer I earned tenure at the age of 33 (though I since turned 34).

There are many factors that help fuel an academic career, and many fell outside my direct control.

But reflecting on these past five years, it’s easy for me to identify what was by far the highest ROI activity in my professional life: deep work.

I know I’ve said similar things a million times before. And it’s not sexy. And it’s not a contrarian “hack.”

But in my case, focusing intensely on hard things that people unambiguously value, day after day, week after week, was more or less the whole ball game.

by Study Hacks at August 25, 2016 08:10 PM

SMBlog -- Steve Bellovin's Blog

Once Again, Don't Panic

My Twitter feed is in an uproar over some newly discovered spyware that targets iOS with three zero-days. People are saying things like Patch your iPhone NOW!, everyone with an iphone should probably stop working and update to iOS 9.3.5 right now, iOS 9.3.5 is now out. Update like you've never updated before, and more. Yes, the flaws are serious. But for almost everyone, my advice is relax, don't panic, and wait a day or two to make sure that the patch doesn't have fatal flaws.

The flaws are indeed serious, but at least for the moment they're in the hands of a small group of attackers, principally governments. If you think that some government is targeting you because you're an investigative journalist, a human rights worker, an official of some other government who might have information of value, etc., then you should indeed update right away. Most of us aren't in that category. We have passwords, credit cards, and bank accounts, but ordinary phishers and scam artists don't have the attack tool yet and may never have it; the vulnerabilities alone are quite literally worth millions of dollars.

So: yes, you should update your iPhones, iPads, and the like. But it's probably not a crisis. (Why yes, journalists and activists are disproportionately represented in my Twitter feed. So are security people, who take things like this very personally…) Update soon, but for the average user it's probably not an emergency.

August 25, 2016 06:42 PM

Greg Mankiw's Blog

iOS 9.3.5 Patches Major Vulnerability

Nicole Perlroth:

One of the world’s most evasive digital arms dealers is believed to have been taking advantage of three security vulnerabilities in popular Apple products in its efforts to spy on dissidents and journalists.

Investigators discovered that a company called the NSO Group, an Israeli outfit that sells software that invisibly tracks a target’s mobile phone, was responsible for the intrusions. The NSO Group’s software can read text messages and emails and track calls and contacts. It can even record sounds, collect passwords and trace the whereabouts of the phone user.

Holy moly. Update today.

by Stephen at August 25, 2016 05:46 PM

A Few Thoughts on Cryptographic Engineering

Attack of the week: 64-bit ciphers in TLS

A few months ago it was starting to seem like you couldn't go a week without a new attack on TLS. In that context, this summer has been a blessed relief. Sadly, it looks like our vacation is over, and it's time to go back to school.

Today brings the news that Karthikeyan Bhargavan and Gaëtan Leurent out of INRIA have a new paper that demonstrates a practical attack on legacy ciphersuites in TLS (it's called "Sweet32", website here). What they show is that ciphersuites that use 64-bit blocklength ciphers -- notably 3DES -- are vulnerable to plaintext recovery attacks that work even if the attacker cannot recover the encryption key.

While the principles behind this attack are well known, there's always a difference between attacks in principle and attacks in practice. What this paper shows is that we really need to start paying attention to the practice.

So what's the matter with 64-bit block ciphers?
source: Wikipedia

Block ciphers are one of the most widely-used cryptographic primitives. As the name implies, these are schemes designed to encipher data in blocks, rather than a single bit at a time.

The two main parameters that define a block cipher are its block size (the number of bits it processes in one go), and its key size. The two parameters need not be related. So for example, DES has a 56-bit key and a 64-bit block. Whereas 3DES (which is built from DES) can use up to a 168-bit key and yet still has the same 64-bit block. More recent ciphers have opted for both larger blocks and larger keys.

When it comes to the security provided by a block cipher, the most important parameter is generally the key size. A cipher like DES, with its tiny 56-bit key, is trivially vulnerable to brute force attacks that attempt decryption with every possible key (often using specialized hardware). A cipher like AES or 3DES is generally not vulnerable to this sort of attack, since the keys are much longer.

However, as they say: key size is not everything. Sometimes the block size matters too.

You see, in practice, we often need to encrypt messages that are longer than a single block. We also tend to want our encryption to be randomized. To accomplish this, most protocols use a block cipher in a scheme called a mode of operation. The most popular mode used in TLS is CBC mode. Encryption in CBC looks like this:

(source: wikipedia)
The nice thing about CBC is that (leaving aside authentication issues) it can be proven (semantically) secure if we make various assumptions about the security of the underlying block cipher. Yet these security proofs have one important requirement. Namely, the attacker must not receive too much data encrypted with a single key.

The reason for this can be illustrated via the following simple attack.

Imagine that an honest encryptor is encrypting a bunch of messages using CBC mode. Following the diagram above, this involves selecting a random Initialization Vector (IV) of size equal to the block size of the cipher, then XORing the IV with the first plaintext block (P), and enciphering the result (PIV). The IV is sent (in the clear) along with the ciphertext.

Most of the time, the resulting ciphertext block will be unique -- that is, it won't match any previous ciphertext block that an attacker may have seen. However, if the encryptor processes enough messages, sooner or later the attacker will see a collision. That is, it will see a ciphertext block that is the same as some previous ciphertext block. Since the cipher is deterministic, this means the cipher's input (PIV) must be identical to the cipher's previous input (P' ⊕ IV') that created the previous block.

In other words, we have (P ⊕ IV) = (P' ⊕ IV'), which can be rearranged as (P ⊕ P') = (IV ⊕ IV'). Since the IVs are random and known to the attacker, the attacker has (with high probability) learned the XOR of two (unknown) plaintexts!

What can you do with the XOR of two unknown plaintexts? Well, if you happen to know one of those two plaintext blocks -- as you might if you were able to choose some of the plaintexts the encryptor was processing -- then you can easily recover the other plaintext. Alternatively, there are known techniques that can sometimes recover useful data even when you don't know both blocks.

The main lesson here is that this entire mess only occurs if the attacker sees a collision. And the probability of such a collision is entirely dependent on the size of the cipher block. Worse, thanks to the (non-intuitive) nature of the birthday bound, this happens much more quickly than you might think it would. Roughly speaking, if the cipher block is b bits long, then we should expect a collision after roughly 2^{b/2} encrypted blocks.

In the case of a 64-bit blocksize cipher like 3DES, this is somewhere in the vicinity of 2^32, or around 4 billion enciphered blocks.

(As a note, the collision does not really need to occur in the first block. Since all blocks in CBC are calculated in the same way, it could be a collision anywhere within the messages.)

Whew. I thought this was a practical attack. 4 billion is a big number!

It's true that 4 billion blocks seems like an awfully large number. In a practical attack, the requirements would be even larger -- since the most efficient attack is for the attacker to know a lot of the plaintexts, in the hope that she will be able to recover one unknown plaintext when she learns the value (P ⊕ P').

However, it's worth keeping in mind that these traffic numbers aren't absurd for TLS. In practice, 4 billion 3DES blocks works out to 32GB of raw ciphertext. A lot to be sure, but not impossible. If, as the Sweet32 authors do, we assume that half of the plaintext blocks are known to the attacker, we'd need to increase the amount of ciphertext to about 64GB. This is a lot, but not impossible.

The Sweet32 authors take this one step further. They imagine that the ciphertext consists of many HTTPS connections, consisting of 512 bytes of plaintext, in each of which is embedded the same secret 8-byte cookie -- and the rest of the session plaintext is known. Calculating from these values, they obtain a requirement of approximately 256GB of ciphertext needed to recover the cookie with high probability.

That is really a lot.

But keep in mind that TLS connections are being used to encipher increasingly more data. Moreover, a single open browser frame running attacker-controlled Javascript can produce many gigabytes of ciphertext in a single hour. So these attacks are not outside of the realm of what we can run today, and presumably will be very feasible in the future.

How does the TLS attack work?

While the cryptographic community has been largely pushing TLS away from ciphersuites like CBC, in favor of modern authenticated modes of operation, these modes still exist in TLS. And they exist not only for use not only with modern ciphers like AES, but they are often available for older ciphersuites like 3DES. For example, here's a connection I just made to Google:


Of course, just because a server supports 3DES does not mean that it's vulnerable to this attack. In order for a particular connection to be vulnerable, both the client and server must satisfy three main requirements:
  1. The client and server must negotiate a 64-bit cipher. This is a relatively rare occurrence, but can happen in cases where one of the two sides is using an out-of-date client. For example, stock Windows XP* does not support any of the AES-based ciphersuites. Similarly, SSL3 connections may negotiate 3DES ciphersuites. 
  2. The server and client must support long-lived TLS sessions, i.e., encrypting a great deal of data with the same key. Unfortunately, most web browsers place no limit on the length of an HTTPS session if Keep-Alive is used, provided that the server allows the session. The Sweet32 authors scanned and discovered that many servers (including IIS) will allow sessions long enough to run their attack. Across the Internet, the percentage of vulnerable servers is small (less than 1%), but includes some important sites.
  3. Sites vulnerable to the attack (source: Sweet32 paper).
  4. The client must encipher a great deal of known data, including a secret session cookie. This is generally achieved by running adversarial Javascript code in the browser, although it could be done using standard HTML as well. 
These caveats aside, the authors were able to run their attack using Firefox, sending at a rate of about 1500 connections per second. With a few optimizations, they were able to recover a 16-byte secret cookie in about 30 hours (a lucky result, given an expected 38 hour run time).

So what do we do now?

While this is not an earthshaking result, it's roughly comparable to previous results we've seen with legacy ciphers like RC4.

In short, while these are not the easiest attacks to run, it's a big problem that there even exist semi-practical attacks that succeed against the encryption used in standard encryption protocols. This is a problem that we should address, and papers like this one can make a big difference in doing that.

Notes:

* Note that by "stock" Windows XP, I'm referring to Windows XP as it was originally sold. According to Stefan Kanthak, Microsoft added AES support to SChannel via a series of updates in August 11, 2009. It's not clear when these became "automatic install". So if you haven't updated your XP in a long time, that's probably a bad thing.

by Matthew Green (noreply@blogger.com) at August 25, 2016 03:19 PM

Apple Rumored to be Looking at New Social Tools

Mark Gurman:

Apple Inc., seeking to capitalize on the popularity of social networks, is developing a video sharing and editing application and is testing new related features for its iPhone and iPad operating systems.

Oh dear.

by Stephen at August 25, 2016 03:09 PM

Crossway Blog

The Bible and the Religions of the World

This post is an excerpt written by Harold A. Netland for the ESV Study Bible.


The Intersection of the Bible and Other Religions

Although the Bible nowhere discusses “other religions” as such, much in it is relevant to the subject. The OT includes repeated references to the deities and religious practices of the Egyptians, Canaanites, Philistines, and Babylonians. The NT world was populated with “many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’” (1 Cor. 8:5) and characterized by religious syncretism. But the religions of the ancient world have been replaced today by the so-called major world religions.

Biblical Themes and Other Religions

Even a cursory survey indicates that there are some similarities between Christian faith and other religions. Islam and Christianity, e.g., both believe in an eternal Creator God and a judgment to come after death. Both Jesus and Confucius taught a version of the Golden Rule, and both Christianity and Confucianism teach respect for one’s parents. Such similarities are not surprising and can be understood in light of the biblical teaching that all people, including adherents of other religions, have been created by God in his image (Gen. 1:26–27; 5:1–2) and that God has revealed himself in a general manner to all peoples through the created order (Ps. 19:1–4; Acts 14:15–17; 17:22–31; Rom. 1:18–32; 2:14–15).

But the differences between Christian faith and other religions are greater and more significant than any similarities.

1. God

The Bible teaches that there is one eternal Creator God who has created all else that exists (Genesis 1–2). Hinduism has theistic traditions, but it also includes polytheistic, monistic, and atheistic traditions. Confucianism’s views on the religious ultimate are unclear, and Buddhism explicitly denies the existence of an eternal Creator.

2. Death

Hinduism and Buddhism both accept the idea of multiple rebirths regulated by karma. The Bible, by contrast, teaches that there is only one life, after which all persons face judgment before God (Heb. 9:27; Rev. 20:11–15).

3. Sin

Many religions, particularly Hinduism and Buddhism, identify the root problem afflicting humankind as ignorance about the true nature of reality. But the Bible teaches that the problem is not ignorance but sin, that is, deliberate rejection of God and his ways (Isa. 59:2; Rom. 3:9–26). Moreover, contrary to Confucianism, the Bible teaches that after the fall of Adam and Eve all humankind has been corrupted by sin infecting their moral nature, so that people are not inherently good but sinful (Genesis 3; Rom. 3:9–20; 5:12–14).

4. Soul

Buddhism teaches that there is no enduring, substantial soul that passes from one life to another. But the Bible teaches that there is an immaterial dimension of the person, created by God, which continues to exist after death (Matt. 10:28; Rev. 6:9; 20:4).

5. Salvation

Although some forms of bhakti Hinduism and Pure Land Buddhism do teach that salvation cannot be attained through one’s own efforts but rather is a gift from another being, Islam, along with most other religious traditions, teaches that salvation is based on one’s own deeds. But the Bible clearly states that salvation is not something that human beings can earn through their own efforts; it is the gift of God’s grace, which is to be accepted by faith (Rom. 3:20, 28; Eph. 2:8–9).

6. Christ’s Incarnation

The Bible teaches that the eternal Creator is a tripersonal Being, and that the second person of this Trinity, while remaining fully God, became a man (John 1:1–14; Rom. 1:3–4; Phil. 2:7–8; Col. 2:9). In a unique onetime event, the Son of God became incarnate as the historical person Jesus of Nazareth. The Hindu notion of avatar, by contrast, concerns multiple manifestations of Vishnu as both humans and animals, and involves legendary figures such as Krishna, not actual historical persons. In fact, no other world religions teach that the eternal Son of God became a true man.

7. Christ’s Preeminence

Jesus is not just another great religious teacher. The truth of Jesus’s teachings cannot be separated from its grounding in the person of Christ as the incarnate Word of God, the eternal, omnipotent Son of God who shares fully in all the attributes of God. It is because of who he is and what he has done on the cross that Jesus is himself the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6), the only Savior for all humankind (Acts 4:12).

8. Christ’s Substitution

The Bible teaches that salvation is based on the sinless life (Heb. 4:15) and the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ on the cross, as he took upon himself the punishment for the sins of the world (Rom. 3:25–26; 1 Pet. 3:18; 1 John 2:2). There is nothing like this teaching in Hinduism, Buddhism, or Confucianism, and it is explicitly denied in Islam.

9. Christ’s Resurrection

The Buddha, Confucius, Muhammad, and Jesus all died, but there is no reliable historical record of any—apart from Jesus—being resurrected after death (1 Cor. 15:1–8). It is because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ that we, too, can have victory over sin and death and anticipate our own resurrection to eternal life with God (Rom. 8:11; 1 Cor. 15:20–22, 54–58).


Harold A. Netland (PhD, Claremont Graduate School) serves as Professor of Philosophy of Religion and Intercultural Studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He is the author of numerous publications, with areas of expertise including religious pluralism, epistemology of religion, apologetics, and missions in East Asia. He and his wife, Ruth, live in Vernon Hills, IL.

by Crossway at August 25, 2016 02:24 PM

Zippy Catholic

Metaevolution, or, the evolution of evolution

Like all dynamic things which persist over long periods of time, evolution has had to adapt to survive.

Darwin: Very gradual change combined with natural selection sufficiently explain the origins of new cell types, organs, tissues, and species.  (Falsified by scientific evidence).

Neodarwinian synthesis: Random mutations in the genome combined with natural selection sufficiently explain the origins of new cell types, organs, tissues, and species.  (Falsified by scientific evidence).

Stanley Miller: Lightning strikes catalyzed the production of amino acids into ponds of primordial soup, which organized themselves into the first cells.  (Cool story bro).

Haeckel: Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. (No it doesn’t).

John Scopes: Teaching kids evolution forms them into better and more critical thinkers. (This is far from clear).

Gould: Gradual changes plus selection cannot explain the origins of new cell types, organs, tissues, and species.  (True).  Radical and fast changes – saltation – actually occurred and this occurrence is supported by the fossil record. (Probably true: see e.g. the Cambrian Explosion. However, what is descended from what in the fossil record is not established either by fossil or genetic methods).

Margulis: New cell organelles originate when one life form colonizes another.  Example: mitochondria are the vestigial remains of ancient prokaryotes which colonized host cells. (Makes a nice story.  Might even be true in some cases).

Dawkins: Material cause and effect alone explain the origins of new cell types, organs, tissues, and species. (Statement of religious/metaphysical faith).

Behe: Mutation and selection are insufficient to explain the origins of irreducibly complex biological structures such as bacterial flagella and the blood cascade. (True). This leads us to conclude that these were the product of ‘design’ understood as something at least analogous to human beings designing artifacts.  (Metaphysical/religious claim).

Kenneth R. Miller: Legitimate practice of science requires the adoption of methodological naturalism in order to demarcate scientific knowledge from other knowledge. (False). Methodological naturalism is not incompatible with belief in God. (Keep telling yourself that). Methodological naturalism is rationally coherent. (False).  If we are critical of evolution we won’t get invited to cocktail parties with respectable people. (Probably true: ask Michael Behe).

Bioinformatics: Database driven statistical correlations in gene sequences strongly imply similar protein structures (could be), biological functions (also could be), and phylogeny (cool story bro).

Evolutionary psychology: The stories we tell about how certain human behaviors might have supported the successful reproduction of previous generations of human beings explain the psychology of human beings today. (Probably belongs in the literary class ‘historical fiction’).


My comment: One question is whether anything important about evolution has survived other than the label and its associated self-congratulatory attitude.


by Zippy at August 25, 2016 01:30 PM

Beeminder Blog

Team Black vs Team Yellow: The Two Styles of Beeminding

Karate kick in black and yellow

This is a guest post by Oliver Mayor, an avid Beeminder user for going on four years. He’s a software developer who’s interested in human-behavior-shaping technology and often has pretty deep insights related to Beeminder. We were especially impressed with his thoughts on the different modes of beeminding (and the black vs yellow characterization) and asked if he’d like to expand on it here, along with some of the story of his own Beeminder journey. We’re still thinking about what this means for how Beeminder should present itself to new users, and in terms of the new premium plans, which could be seen as paving the way for more emphasis on Team Yellow.

Although Beeminder was built on the ideas of Behavioral Economics, it supports both pledge-driven and more purely gamified ways of tracking and pursuing goals. Beeminder uses pledges to keep your goals on track. But I’ve talked to a bunch of people who don’t like that.

“Losing money just makes me want to quit!” a few friends told me.

I could be tapping into a biased sample, but it makes sense that the prospect of losing money could scare people off. Emotionally, it’s hard to get around the feeling that losing money equals losing in general. At the same time, these are competitive and often numbers-driven people. They want to get to 10,000 steps on Fitbit today before their other friends, they want to log so many dozens of pomodoros this week, they want to hit their goal of X miles in RunKeeper. And these same friends of mine gladly pay for other services and apps they think help their goals along.

They sound like Beeminder users to me. So what gives?

“Beeminder’s core tracking functionality is powerful even without pledges”

Pledges and commitment contracts rightly get front billing when explaining Beeminder. But Beeminder has some other core aspects that folks might not understand at first glance. In my own handful of years experimenting with tracking my goals with Beeminder, these other aspects became important in guiding how I formulated goals, and structured my life in general. For me, these were more important than pledges.

I joined Beeminder back in the day because I was pretty desperate for anything that would help me make progress in my life. The idea of having something on the line sounded sort of neat, and dramatic, and the people behind Beeminder seemed pretty smart and relatable (in the best nerdy way possible).

So I gave it a try. And I lost a fair amount of money in pledges. (I won’t say exactly how much.) But despite the misteps, I felt that lessons I had learned, on top of the progress I had made, justified the expenses. I kept tweaking my goals. I would look at things like: Is it reasonable to expect myself to do this much reading every day? What do I need to do to make sure I can meet my Japanese audio quota for the day? Eventually, I became pretty good at specifying goals so I could stay in the game. I stopped derailing and having to pay the pledges so often.

But over time, I began to see that not losing at my own goals was becoming more important on a daily basis than the threat of paying up when I derailed. This seems to puzzle some of my fellow Beeminder users who really love the commitment contract aspect. I offer the heresy that Beeminder’s core tracking functionality is powerful even without pledges. By the end of this, I hope to lay out the case that Beeminder is much more than “losing money when you fail”.

Beeminder Without Penalties

Here, I’m hoping to take a decent look at some beneficial concepts Beeminder embraces and promotes that don’t have to do with commitment contracts.

Beeminder breaks down goals for you, keeps you engaged, and keeps you focused on day-to-day actions. It makes sure those actions are concretely linked to your long term progress. When you track something, it updates to reflect what you’ve done, and what you still need to do. By creating and adjusting Beeminder goals, you improve your overall goal design skills and become more adept at structuring and navigating your life. I see it as a game framework, but it’s not a stretch to call it a coaching aid.

Here are a few other things Beeminder does:

  • Tells you exactly how much you need to do every day, and how much more you need to do if you want to get a day or two or six ahead
  • Lets you track your progress in dozens of different ways, from dozens of different devices and services
  • Friendly support for when you have a problem, or if you’re confused about something
  • Provides fancy statistics on your progress so far, things like daily averages and 90% variance
  • Keeps your data for you, so you can export it and analyze it later

That’s a lot of stuff already — much more than penalizing you when you fail. But I did say I would talk about pledges. How might those fit in to this picture?

Something at Stake

“Putting a nominal price on a goal reminds me to take the larger picture into account”

Beeminder can do all these great things for your goals without demanding a single pledge. I think the core Beeminder FAQ and other blog posts have illustrated the Behavioral Economic side — the case for commitment contracts and the power of loss aversion — quite extensively. I want to talk about why pledges can still be valuable to people like me, for whom the tracking and game-like aspects of Beeminder goals are almost sufficient.

Pledges help me be cognizant and deliberate about my commitments. A lot of my goals are added-value things: from an outside perspective, I wouldn’t intrinsically lose anything if I called it quits. I have the tendency to get excited about potential change, and commit to too many things. But pursuing goals takes resources. I’d say that even setting goals takes resources, in terms of anxiety and regret. Part of the reason I reached out for tools like Beeminder was the weight of the graveyard of incomplete projects and unfulfilled promises I’d created in the preceding years.

Somehow putting a nominal price on a goal or an aspect of a goal reminds me to take the larger picture into account. It helps me to devote more time and attention to the fewer goals that are really worth sticking by. And it helps give me the courage to pursue riskier, more challenging goals, because I have a better idea of what I’m willing to put at stake.

Black & Yellow: Two Paths for Beeminder Success

Despite all that I’ve said, the prospect of, say, giving up $30 when I could instead take two minutes to practice typing before midnight motivates me too sometimes. Beeminder is a very flexible tool that supports a lot of use cases, and whole different use-philosophies. These could differ from person to person. (And maybe also from goal to goal.) I wanted to make the case for another way to approach and use Beeminder, one that debunks the myth that Beeminder is just about losing money when you fail. That doesn’t make the traditional, behavioral economics way of looking at Beeminder any less valid, and I don’t think the option (via premium subscription) to create pledgeless goals decreases its effectiveness for people who create goals with pledges.

Along this pledge/pledgeless axis, I see Beeminder as a multi-paradigm tool that supports both of these patterns. I’ve wondered what would happen if you emphasized two distinct paths when people first sign up:

  1. Do you love commitment contracts and Behavioral Econ? Does having to pay a fine for getting off-track really motivate you? Beeminder was created around those principles, with exponentially increasing pledges (though you can cap them). And you can try this out for right now — just create an account, put down a pledge and get to tracking. We only charge you when you legitimately fail to meet your goal.

  2. Beeminder is a tracking and accountability tool. It tells you just how much you need to do Right Now to stay on track for your goal. It features a graph that shows moving averages and trends to show how your daily actions affect your long term progress. Beeminder lets you track and collect your data from dozens of services and devices. It has reminders that help you stay on track every single day. We think having something at stake still helps, but you can track and analyze your goals with an auto-canceling subscription. Subscribing also lets you create an unlimited number of goals and unlocks special goal types.

  3. = 1 + 2… of course, combine them! Beeminder does both things very well. We believe that commitment contracts and powerful tracking tools are best friends!

Beeminder’s animal mascot has two colors: black and yellow. Let’s use them as team colors for the different kinds of Beeminder users.

Black Team: Pledged Commitment Contract Warriors. Harness the threat of penalties as their source of power. Their raiment is black, showing their fearlessness and relentlessness.

Yellow Team: Elite Tracking Quantifiers. Wizards of planning and goal construction, they can engineer tracking and accountability schemes to surmount obstacles. Yellow is the color of their order, symbolizing the bright light of their ambitions and devotion to constant learning and improvement.

(Or something like that.)

But the point is that Beeminder is a flexible, multifaceted tool. Most often it’s described as tracking and commitment contracts. But there are many reasons to try it out even if that doesn’t sound so exciting. I consider it a game framework for helping you solve problems, create new habits, and chase opportunities for growth.

Beeminder has reshaped the way I approach challenges and ambitions. I’ve learned a lot from using it, and I’m glad to be part of a community so enthusiastic about finding new creative ways to make changes in our lives.

by Oliver Mayor at August 25, 2016 12:59 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

8 Ways to Have More Time

I’ve always wanted to be one of those people who needs only four or five hours of sleep a night. Unfortunately, I’m not—without a consistent minimum of 6-8 hours, and usually on the high side of that range, I don’t perform very well.

If you’re like me and need your sleep, and if you’re not otherwise superhuman, you may need to hack your way to greater time and productivity. Many of us are constantly looking for more time. These 8 tips might help.



  1. Don’t let other people schedule your life

First and foremost, do everything you can to remain in charge of as much of your schedule as possible. Learn your most productive periods and schedule your work around them. If you do any kind of creative work, you need to find a way to reserve time and space for your projects in a comfortable environment and on the schedule that works best for you.

Sure, you probably don’t have complete autonomy over your life, but that’s okay. Wherever you do have autonomy, or wherever you can reclaim it, assert your independence and make your own choices.


  1. Decide what’s important and do it first every day

In our modern age, there’s always one more thing that can be done. To battle against the limitless options, decide from the very beginning what’s most important. Then before you move on to everything else, tackle that task.

I usually choose 2-3 things that are “most important,” and I’ve noticed a recurring pattern: getting one of those things done is no problem. Getting two of them done is usually feasible. I can also get plenty of other things done throughout the course of any given day—but trying to do three big things is often a challenge for me.

I’m not sure why, but for whatever reason I work best with a combination of “two big things + other small stuff” every day. Since I know that about myself, I try to work with that combination as much as possible.


  1. Pay close attention to what makes you happy

If you work on things you enjoy, you’ll complete them faster and be less tired. With the extra time, you can move on to other tasks—because there’s always more work to be done—or you can do something else.

Consider it bonus time! Oh, and you’ll also be happier.


  1. Stop watching TV

I don’t actually think watching TV is terrible. If you have a favorite show on Netflix—no big deal. If you have six favorite shows on Netflix, however, that might be a problem.

Use TV or other entertainment as rewards for completing tasks. When you finish that big important thing on your day’s task list, spend half your lunch break watching an episode of that show. But otherwise, keep your head down.

We all make time for what’s important to us. What’s most important to you?


  1. Schedule your breaks and enjoy them

Break time is important, and none of us can focus forever. If you don’t allow yourself to slow down, your body and mind will mutiny on you and force the slowdown. Better to be in control of the process, and better to enjoy the down time instead of just sitting in a slump and trying to plow through something that isn’t working.

Just as you give yourself a “most important” assignment every day, give yourself at least one long break or two short breaks every day.


  1. Look through your calendar and cancel things you aren’t excited about

You know how sometimes you agree to something you don’t have a good feeling about? Whenever possible, avoid going through with it. This is a great way to free up hours, blocks of time, or whole evenings from your life.

Cancel that appointment or opt out of a group activity you’re dreading. Then, to avoid getting in these situations in the first place, see tip #1.


  1. If you keep putting something off, just let it go

There are two great ways of dealing with that thing that you’re procrastinating over:

a. Just get it done (AKA “push through the pain”)

b. Give up

Either of these ways are preferable to the choice that many of us make: to just keep deferring the item, leaving it on our list or in our mind, taking up space and draining energy that could be put to much better use elsewhere.


  1. Before you go to bed, decide on tomorrow’s most important action

Ask yourself, “What’s the big thing for tomorrow? If nothing else gets done, what’s the #1 action that will get me closer to my goals?”

The next morning, start working on that thing that you’ve prepared. Then when you watch Netflix later, or do whatever it is that serves as your escape, instead of feeling regret you’ll feel the satisfaction of having done something important.

And you’ll also have more time, even with sleeping at least 6-8 hours every night.

###

Images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, & 6

by Chris Guillebeau at August 25, 2016 12:56 PM

The ryg blog

How many x86 instructions are there?

It’s surprisingly hard to give a good answer (the question was raised in this article). It depends on how you count, and the details are interesting (to me anyway).

To not leave you hanging: Intel has an official x86 encoder/decoder library called XED. According to Intel’s XED, as of this writing, there are 1503 defined x86 instructions (“iclasses” in XED lingo), from AAA to XTEST (this includes AMD-specific extensions too, by the way). Straightforward, right?

Well, it depends on what you wanted to count. For example, as per XED, ADD and LOCK ADD are different “instruction classes”. Many assembly programmers would consider LOCK a prefix and LOCK ADD an addition with said prefix, not a distinct instruction, but XED disagrees. And in fact, for the purposes of execution, so do current x86s. An atomic add does very different things from a regular add. The prefix thing crops up elsewhere: is say MOVSD (copy a single 32-bit word) a different “instruction class” from REP MOVSD (block copy several 32-bit words)? XED says yes. But it doesn’t handle all prefixes this way in all contexts. For example, the operand-size prefix (0x66) turns integer instructions operating on 32-bit registers into the equivalent instruction operating on their lower 16-bit halves, but unlike with the REP or LOCK prefixes, XED does not count these as separate instruction classes. If you disagree about any of these choices, your count will come out different.

Mnemonics

It all depends on how precisely we define an instruction. Is it something with a distinct mnemonic? Let’s first look at what the article I quoted above says is by far the most common x86 instruction, at 33% of the total sample set: MOV. So let’s look up MOV in the Intel Architecture manuals. And… there are 3 different top-level entries? “MOV—Move”, “MOV—Move to/from Control registers”, “MOV—Move to/from Debug Registers”. The latter are sufficiently distinct from “regular” MOV to rate their own documentation pages, they have completely different instruction encodings (not even in the same encoding block as regular MOV), and they’re privileged instructions, meaning lowly user-mode code isn’t even allowed to execute them. Consequently they’re also extremely rare, and are likely to account for approximately 0% of the test sample. And, sure enough, XED counts them as separate instruction classes (MOV_CR and MOV_DR).

So these instructions may be called MOV, but they’re weird, special snowflakes, and from the processor’s point of view they’re entirely different instructions in a different part of the encoding space and with different rules. Calling them MOV is essentially nothing but syntactic sugar in the official Intel assembly language.

And on the subject of syntactic sugar: some mnemonics are just aliases. For example, SAL (shift arithmetic left) is a long-standing alias for SHL (shift left). Both are just bit shifts; there is no distinction between “arithmetic” and “logical” left shifts like there is between arithmetic and logical right shifts, but the Intel manuals list SAL (with an encoding that happens to be the same as SHL) and all x86 assemblers I’ve ever used accept it. Hilariously, in official Intel syntax, we’re simultaneously miscounting in the other direction, since at least two mnemonics got assigned twice: we already saw the “copy” variant of MOVSD (which has no explicit operands), but there’s also MOVSD as in “move scalar double” (which always has two explicit operands) which is an entirely different instruction (XED calls it MOVSD_XMM to disambiguate, and the same problem happens with CMPSD).

There’s also SSE compares like CMPSD (the two-operand one!) and CMPPS. XED counts these as one instruction each. But they have an 8-bit immediate constant byte that specifies what type of comparison to perform. But disassemblers usually won’t produce the hard-to-read CMPSD xmm0, xmm1, 2; they’ll disassemble that instruction as the pseudo-instruction CMPLESD (compare scalar doubles for lesser-than-or-equal) instead. So is CMPSD one instruction (just the base opcode with an immediate operand), is it 8 (for the 8 different standard compare modes), or something else?

This is getting messy. AT&T syntax to the rescue? Well, it solves some of our problems but also introduces new ones. For example, AT&T adds suffixes to the mnemonics to distinguish different operation widths. What Intel calls just ADD turns into ADDB (8-bit bytes), ADDW (16-bit “words”), ADDL (32-bit “long words”) and ADDQ (64-bit “quadwords”) in x86-64 AT&T syntax. Do we count these as separate? As per Intel syntax, no. As per XED instruction classes, also no. But maybe we consider these distinct enough to count separately after all? Or maybe we decide that if our definition depends on the choice of assembly syntax, of which there are several, then maybe it’s not a very natural one. What does the machine do?

Instruction bytes

Note I haven’t specified what part of the machine yet. This is thorny too. We’ll get there in a bit.

But first, instruction bytes. Let’s look at the aforementioned manual entry for real now: “MOV—Move”. If you check that page out in the current Intel Architecture Software Developer’s Manual, you’ll find it lists no less than thirty-four encodings (not all of them distinct; I’ll get to that). Some of these are more special, privileged operations with special encodings (namely, moves to and from segment registers). This time, XED doesn’t seem to consider segment register loads and stores to be special and lumps them into plain old MOV, but I consider them distinct, and the machine considers them distinct enough to give them a special opcode byte in the encoding that’s not used for anything else, so let’s call those distinct.

That leaves us with 30 “regular” moves. Which are… somewhat irregular: 10 of them are doing their own thing and involve moves between memory and different parts of the RAX (in 64-bit mode) register, all with a special absolute addressing mode (“moffs”) that shows up in these instructions and, to my knowledge, nowhere else. These instructions exist, and again, pretty much nothing uses them. They were useful on occasion in 16-bit mode but not anymore.

This specialness of the accumulator register is a recurring theme in x86. “op (AL/AX/EAX/RAX), something” has its own encoding (usually smaller) and various quirks for a lot of the instructions that go back to the 8086 days. So even though an asssembly programmer might consider say TEST ebx, 128 and TEST eax, 128 the same instruction (and the XED instruction class list agrees here!), these have different opcodes and different sizes. So a lot of things that look the same in an assembly listing are actually distinct for this fairly random reason. Keep that in mind. But back to our MOV!

The remaining 20 listed MOV variants fall into four distinct categories, each of which has 5 entries. These four categories are:

  • “Load-ish” – move from memory or another same-sized register to a 8/16/32/64-bit register.
  • “Store-ish” – move from a 8/16/32/64-bit register to either another register of the same size, or memory.
  • “Load-immediate-ish” – load an integer constant into a 8/16/32/64-bit register.
  • “Store-immediate-ish” – store an integer constant to either a 8/16/32/64-bit memory location, or a register.

All processor have some equivalent of the first three (the “store immediate” exists in some CPU architectures, but there’s also many that don’t have it). Load/store architectures generally have explicit load and store instructions (hence the name), and everyone has some way to load immediates (large immediate constants often require multiple instructions, but not on x86) and to move the content of one register to another. (Though the latter is not always a dedicated instruction.) So other than the fact that our “load-ish” and “store-ish” instructions also support “storing to” and “loading from” a register (in particular, there’s two distinct ways to encode register-register MOVs), this is not that remarkable. It does explain why MOVs are so common in x86 code: “load”, “store” and “load immediate” in particular are all very common instruction, and MOV subsumes all of them, so of course you see plenty of them.

Anyway, we have four operand sizes, and four categories. So why are there five listed encodings per category? Okay, so this is a bit awkward. x86-64 has 16 general-purpose registers. You can access them as 16 full 64-bit registers. For all 16 registers, you can read from (or write to) their low 32-bit halves. Writing to the low 32-bit half zero-extends (i.e. it sets the high half to zero). For all 16 register, you can read from (or write to) their low 16-bit quarter. Writing to the low 16-bit quarter of a register does not zero-extend; the remaining bits of the register are preserved, because that’s what 32-bit code used to do and AMD decided to preserve that behavior when they specced 64-bit x86 for some reason. And for all 16 registers, you can read from (or write to) their low 8-bit eighth (the lowest byte). Writing the low byte again preserves all the higher bytes, because that’s what 32-bit mode did. With me so far? Great. Because now is when it gets weird. In 16-bit and 32-bit mode, you can also access bits 8 through 15 of the A, B, C and D registers as AH, BH, CH and DH. And x86-64 mode still lets you do that! But due to a quirk of the encoding, that works only if there’s no REX prefix (which is the prefix that is used to extend the addressable register count from 8 to 16) on the instruction.

So x86-64 actually has a total of 20 addressable 8-bit registers, in 3 disjoint sets: AL through DL, which can be used in any encoding. AH through DH, which can only be accessed if no REX prefix is present on the instruction. And the low 8 bits of the remaining 12 registers, which can only be accessed if a REX prefix is present.

This quirk is why Intel lists all 8-bit variants twice: once without REX and one with REX, because they can access slightly different parts of the register space! Alright, but surely, other than that, we must have 4 different opcodes, right? One each for move byte, word, doubleword, quadword?

Nope. Of course not. In fact, in each of these categories, there are two different opcode bytes: one used for 8-bit accesses, and one for “larger than 8-bit”. This dates back to the 8086, which was a 16-bit machine: “8-bit” and “16-bit” was all the distinction needed. Then the 386 came along and needed a way to encode 32-bit destinations, and we got the already mentioned operand size prefix byte. In 32-bit mode (handwaving here, the details are a bit more complicated), the instructions that used to mean 16-bit now default to 32-bit, and getting actual 16-bit instrutions requires an operand size prefix. And I already mentioned that 64-bit mode added its own set of prefixes (REX), and this REX prefix is used to upgrade the now default-32-bit “word” instructions to 64-bit width.

So even though Intel lists 5 different encodings of the instructions in each group, all of which have somewhat different semantics, there’s only 2 opcodes each associated to them: “8-bit” or “not 8-bit”. The rest is handled via prefix bytes. And as we (now) know, there’s lots of different types of MOVs that do very different things, all of which fall under the same XED “instruction class”.

Maybe instruction classes is the wrong metric to use? XED has another, finer-grained thing called “iforms” that considers the different subtypes of instructions separately. For example, for the just-discussed MOV, we get this list:

  XED_IFORM_MOV_AL_MEMb=804, 
  XED_IFORM_MOV_GPR8_GPR8_88=805, 
  XED_IFORM_MOV_GPR8_GPR8_8A=806, 
  XED_IFORM_MOV_GPR8_IMMb_C6r0=807, 
  XED_IFORM_MOV_GPR8_IMMb_D0=808, 
  XED_IFORM_MOV_GPR8_MEMb=809, 
  XED_IFORM_MOV_GPRv_GPRv_89=810, 
  XED_IFORM_MOV_GPRv_GPRv_8B=811, 
  XED_IFORM_MOV_GPRv_IMMv=812, 
  XED_IFORM_MOV_GPRv_IMMz=813, 
  XED_IFORM_MOV_GPRv_MEMv=814, 
  XED_IFORM_MOV_GPRv_SEG=815, 
  XED_IFORM_MOV_MEMb_AL=816, 
  XED_IFORM_MOV_MEMb_GPR8=817, 
  XED_IFORM_MOV_MEMb_IMMb=818, 
  XED_IFORM_MOV_MEMv_GPRv=819, 
  XED_IFORM_MOV_MEMv_IMMz=820, 
  XED_IFORM_MOV_MEMv_OrAX=821, 
  XED_IFORM_MOV_MEMw_SEG=822, 
  XED_IFORM_MOV_OrAX_MEMv=823, 
  XED_IFORM_MOV_SEG_GPR16=824, 
  XED_IFORM_MOV_SEG_MEMw=825, 

As you can see, that list basically matches the way the instruction encoding works, where 8-bit anything is considered a separate instruction, but size overrides by way of prefixes are not. So that’s basically the rule for XED iforms: if it’s a separate instruction (or a separate encoding), it gets a new iform. But just modifying the size of an existing instruction (for example, widening MMX instructions to SSE, or changing the size of a MOV via prefix bytes) doesn’t.

So how many x86 instructions are there if we count distinct iforms as distinct? Turns out, an even 6000. Is that all of them? No. There are some undocumented instructions that XED doesn’t include (in addition to the several formerly undocumented instructions that Intel at some point just decided to make official). If you look at the Intel manuals, you’ll find the curious “UD2”, the defined “Undefined instruction” which is architecturally guaranteed to produce an “invalid opcode” exception. As the name suggests, it’s not the first of its kind. Its older colleague “UD1” half-exists, but not officially so. Since the semantics of UD1 are exactly the same as if it was never defined to begin with. Does a non-instruction that is non-defined and unofficially guaranteed to non-execute exactly as if it had never been in the instruction set to begin with count as an x86 instruction? For that matter, does UD2 itself, the defined undefined instruction, count as an instruction?

Instruction decoders

But back to those iforms: 6000 instructions, huh? And these must all be handled in the decoder? That must be terrible.

Well, no. Not really. I mean, it’s not pleasant, but it’s not the end of the world.

First off, let’s talk about how x86 is decoded in the first place: all x86 CPUs you’re likely to interact with can decode (and execute) multiple instructions per cycle. Think about what that means: we have an (aggressively!) variable-length encoding, and we’re continually fetching instructions. These chips can decode (given the right code) 4 instructions per clock cycle. How does that work? They’re variable-length! We may know where the first instruction we’re looking at in this cycle starts, but how does the CPU know where to start decoding the second, third, and fourth instructions? That’s straightforward when your instructions are fixed-size, but for x86 they are most certainly not. And we do need to decide this quickly (within a single cycle), because if we take longer, we don’t know where the last instruction in our current “bundle” ends, and we don’t know where to resume decoding in the next cycle!

You do not have enough time in a 4GHz clock cycle (all 0.25ns of it) to fully decode 4 x86 instructions. For that matter, you don’t even have close to enough time to “fully
decode” (what exactly that means is fuzzy, and I won’t try to make it precise here) one. Two basic ways to proceed: the first is simply, don’t do that! Try to avoid it at all cost. Keep extra predecoding information (such as marking the locations where instructions start) in your instruction cache, or keep a separate decoded cache altogether, like Intels uOp caches. This works, but it doesn’t help you the first time round when you’re running code that isn’t currently cached.

Which brings us to option two: deal with it. And the way to do it is pretty much brute force. Keep a queue of upcoming instruction bytes (this ties in with branch target prediction and other things). As long as there’s enough space in there, you just keep fetching another 16 (or whatever) instruction bytes and throw them into the queue.

Then, for every single byte position in that queue, you pretend that an x86 instruction starts at that byte, and determine how long it is. Just the length. No need to know what the instruction is. No need to know what the operands are, or where the bytes denoting these operands are stored, or whether it’s an invalid encoding, or if it’s a privileged instruction that we’re not allowed to execute. None of that matters at this stage. We just want to know “supposing that this is a valid instruction, what is it’s length?”. But if we add 16 bytes per cycle to the queue, we need 16 of these predecoders in parallel to make sure that we keep up and get an instruction length for every single possible starting location. We can pipeline these predecoders over multiple cycles if necessary; we just keep fetching ahead.

Once our queue is sufficiently full and we know that size estimate for every single location in it, then we decide where the instruction boundaries are. That’s the stage that keeps track. It grabs 16 queue entries (or whatever) starting at the location for the current instruction, and then it just needs to “switch through”. “First instruction says size starting from there is 5 bytes, okay; that means second instruction is at byte 5, and the queue entry says that one’s 3 bytes; okay, third instruction starts at byte 8, 6 bytes”. No computation in that stage, just “table lookups” in the small size table we just spent a few cycles computing.

That’s one way to do it. As said, very much brute force, but it works. However, if you need 16 predecoders (as you do to sustain a fetch rate of 16 bytes/cycle), then you really want these to be as dumb and simple as you can possibly get away with. These things most certainly don’t care about 6000 different iforms. They just squint at the instruction just enough to figure out the size, and leave the rest for later.

Luckily, if you look at the actual opcode map, you’ll see that this is not all that bad. There’s large groups of opcodes that all have basically the same size and operands, just with different operations – which we don’t care about at this stage at all.

And this kind of pattern exists pretty much everywhere. For example, look at that conspicuous, regular block of integer ALU instructions near the top of the opcode map. These all look (and work) pretty similar to the CPU. Most of them have essentially the same encodings (except for a few opcode bits that are different) and the same operand patterns. In fact, the decoder really doesn’t care whether it’s an OR, an ADD, a CMP, or a XOR. To an assembly-language programmer, a compiler, or a disassembler, these are very different instructions. To the CPU instruction decoder, these are all pretty much the same instruction: “ALU something-or-other mumble-mumble don’t care”. Which one of these gets performed will only be decided way later (and probably only after that operation make it to the ALU itself). What the decoder cares about is whether it’s an ALU instruction with an immediate operand, or if it has a memory operand, and what that memory operand looks like. And the instructions are conveniently organized in groups where the answers to these questions are always the same. With plenty of exceptions of course, because this is still x86, but evidently it can be made to work.

Further down the pipe

Instructions really don’t get decoded all at once, in one big “switch statement”, and after that they go to disjoint parts of the chip never to meet again. That’s not how these things are built. There’s plenty of similarity between different instructions, and the “understanding” of what an instruction does is distributed, not centralized.

For example, for the purposes of most of the instruction decoder, the SSE2 instructions ADDPS, SUBPS, MULSD and DIVPD are all pretty much the same thing. They’re FP ALU instructions, they accept the same types of operands, all of which are in the same place.

Some of these instructions are so similar that they’re almost certain to never fully get “decoded”. For example, for IEEE floats, a subtraction is literally just an addition where the sign bit of the second operand is flipped. If you look at the opcode table, the difference between the encoding for ADDPS and SUBPS is precisely one flipped bit: that bit is clear for ADDPS and set for SUBPS. Literally all you need to do to support both instructions is to decode them the same, make sure to grab that one bit from the instruction, and then feed it (along with the original second operand sign bit) into a single XOR gate in front of the FP adder. That’s it. You now support both floating point addition and subtraction.

Some of these differences matter more. For example, FP multiplies go to a different functional unit than FP adds, and they have a different latency. So the data needs a different routing, and the latency for say an add and a multiply is different, which the schedulers care about. If there’s a memory load involved, then the load unit needs to know what size of access, and what part of the operand bypass network to send the results to (integer, float/SIMD?). So there’s a bunch of control signals computed eventually that express the differences between all these instructions. But a lot of it happens really late. There’s certainly no big monolithic 6000-case “switch statement” anywhere.

And then there’s further differences still. For example, MOV elimination. Many x86s can in many cases avoid real execution of register-register MOVs altogether. They just resolve it as part of their register renaming. Likewise, zeroing a register by XORing it with itself (something the author of the original article I linked to) gets resolved by renaming that register to point to a hard-wired zero register and likewise doesn’t actually take any execution resources (even though it still needs to decode).

Where does that fit in our taxonomy? MOV rax, rbx will most often take 0 cycles, but sometimes take 1 cycle due to various reasons. Does the 0-cycle version, when it happens, count as a special instruction? Is XOR rax, rax (which goes down the magic implicit zeroing path and takes 0 cycles to execute) a different instruction from XOR rax, rcx which is encoded essentially the same way? These two instructions differ by exactly 1 bit in both the assembly-language source file and the assembled object code, yet execute in drastically different ways and with different latencies. Should that make them a separate instruction or not? The most useful answer really depends on what part of the pipeline you’re interested in. If you’re designing a CPU core, they pretty much are separate instructions. If you’re writing a disassembler, they are not.

In conclusion…

So, is there a point to all this? I wrote it because I think it’s fun, but is there something to learn here?

I think so. It makes a wonderful example for a general phenomenon I’ve encountered in a lot of different situations: questions to which a ballpark answer is fairly easy to give, but that keeps getting gnarlier the more you try to pin it down. It’s essentially an instance of the “coastline paradox“: the closer you look, the more detail you see, and the more the answer changes.

Suppose I ask you “where am I?”, and I’m okay with getting an answer that’s within about 10 meters or so. If you have a handheld GPS unit, you can just hand it to me, and if I look at the display I’ll get an answer. If I ask “where am I, down to the millimeter?”, things get a lot more complicated. Specifying the position of a person down to a meter or so makes sense, but specifying it down to a millimeter does not. Position of what exactly? My center of gravity? The position of my center of gravity, projected onto the ground? The position of the tip of my nose? The center point of the hangnail on my left pinky? You can’t answer that question precisely when the uncertainty inherent in the question is so much larger than the level of precision you’re aiming at.

And by the way, I used x86 as an example here, but don’t believe for a second the same thing doesn’t apply to, say, the ARM chip in your phone. Modern ARM chips support multiple encodings and also rank over 1000 instructions if you count them at the same level of granularity as XEDs “iforms”. In fact it’s pretty easy to get high instruction counts on any architecture as soon as any kind of vector/SIMD instruction set is involved, since most of them basically come in the form of “instantiate these 40 instructions for 10 different data types” (with lots of special magic that is either typeless only works on certain types, of course). And yeah, x86 has plenty of historical warts in its encoding, but so does ARM – many of them on display in the current generation of chips, where chip makers have the pleasurable task of designing 3 distinct instruction decoders: old-school 32-bit ARM or “A32”, the more compact but variable-size Thumb-2 or “T32”, and the fixed-size-again 64-bit “A64” encoding.


by fgiesen at August 25, 2016 10:35 AM

Table Titans

Tales: With This Ring

Back in the day there were no spells to tell you what a magic item did. The only way to discover its properties was to experiment with the thing, which could lead to disaster.

After a hard-won battle, we acquired a ring we were certain had powerful magical properties. It had survived the…

Read more

August 25, 2016 07:00 AM

Justin Taylor

Why the Critic of the Diet-Pill Pyramid Scheme Can Never Win

61778494The conservative commentator David French:

There are few things in life more frustrating than watching your friends become victims before your very eyes and being powerless to stop it.

The Kentucky church my wife and I frequented early in our marriage was one of the best churches I’ve ever attended. Never before or since have I seen such zeal for the Gospel or such a desire to reach the most desperate and vulnerable members of society.

It wasn’t a wealthy church. I was the only lawyer in the congregation, and there was only one doctor. Many people struggled to make ends meet. Sadly, that rendered them vulnerable to scams, and when a diet-pill pyramid scheme started racing through the congregation, I was aghast. People were spending money they didn’t have to join networks and create “down lines,” firmly believing that economic salvation was at hand. The sales pitch was slick, but the pills scarcely disguised the pyramid. One presenter even said, “You can get rich without even selling any pills.”

I’d worked on consumer fraud cases before, and I thought that I could help stop the madness. I went to the presentations, I researched the materials, and then I started talking to friends.

Some listened, but most got mad and a few got furious. To this day, those are some of the most painful conversations I’ve ever had, and I realize now why:

My friends were hearing two voices.

One of them was speaking authoritatively about numbers and dollars and selling hope.

The other was speaking with the same degree of assurance about numbers and dollars but was instead trying to extinguish hope.

I never stood a chance.

Yes, voters have a responsibility to exercise good judgment. But the greatest responsibility lies with the con artist and his knowing enablers. Trump — like Obama before him — is selling hope. But that hope is a false hope, and all those “establishment” figures who scorn the alleged “moral preening” of Never Trump know it. They’re aware of the pyramid scheme, and they choose to further it anyway, like the minions who circulate to cheap hotels across the land, pitching scams in meeting rooms. They’re co-conspirators. No one likes to be told they’re wrong. But it is, in fact, wrong to support Trump, and when I see a member of the GOP establishment selling the Trump brand, I’m transported back to Kentucky, watching a huckster exploit people I love.

For the full context, you can read the whole thing here.

Update: Note that French is mainly talking about Trump support among the GOP Establishment. He undoubtedly thinks it’s wrong for anyone to vote for Trump. I’d qualify this a little and say that though I disagree with those who will vote for Trump, I understand the reasoning of some.

The best thing I’ve read on Trump support by evangelicals, which captures my sentiments precisely, is this piece by David Bahnsen. Here’s a lengthy excerpt:

There are three categories of Trump supporters on the right. . . .

First, there are the people who were early adopters, those who actually jumped on his bandwagon well before there was any remote reason to do so.  They are his apologists.  They either ignore or shrug off his comments on McCain/POW record, his mocking a disabled person, and his inability to so much as name a major player in the global terrorist Jihad.  On the low brow, pedestrian punditry level, they include Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Ann Coulter.  There are others too.  The rather lengthy list here includes a lot of people I didn’t care for before the election, and I certainly have no use for them now.  I suspect for them, Trump had them the second he said “Mexican immigrants are rapists” – illegal immigration is their one-trick pony.  And Trump “tapped into something” with them (perhaps the worst and most brainless cliché to have come out of the 2016 election).

Then there is category two Trump supporters, and this is the list that has by far caused me the most grief the last eight months.  It is a list that has forced hours of soul-searching upon me, and frankly created an entirely new formulation of who I respect in conservative leadership.  These are the people that well before Trump had sewn up the nomination, well before we were stuck with the “Trump or Hillary” dilemma, as a pure result of seeing him as a front-runner, not only threw in the towel and began to cozy up to him, but began a totally unforgivable process of rationalizing his perverse behavior and reconciling his ideological heresies through unrelenting gymnastics that still do not make any sense whatsoever.  This list is massive, and I mean truly massive.  I actually have a list.  I am not kidding.  It has many, many public figures on it, and it has caused me to lose immense respect for people you all know, and people you do not know.  This list is not populated with people that “Trump tapped into.”  It is not filled with people who “saw the light on the plight of the white middle class in rural and rust belt America.”  It certainly is not filled with people who realized that “Trump alone can defeat ISIS.”  It is filled rather with people who, I firmly believe, lacked the courage of their own convictions.  It is a sad list, for it is people who absolutely should have known better.  From Mark Steyn to Newt Gingrich to Ben Carson to Bill Bennett, and just innumerable others I can’t bear to list by name, this is the list that enabled Trump.  And it has been painful to watch.

The third category is . . .  the “look, Trump was not my guy, but I now have to support him because he’s certainly better than Hillary” camp.  I strongly suspect the bulk of you reading right now are in this camp.  Few category 1 and category 2 Trumpkins read my writings, and the sentiment embedded in category 3 is entirely understandable.

However, before I can present my response to this camp and discuss the “what now” of the U.S. Presidential election, I want to split category 3 up into two groups.

I will call the first “category 3a”, and they are those who were not enablers of Trump but now are prepared to support him to stop Hillary, but in doing so, have decided to actually defend much of the indefensible about him. 

Category 3b is, in my estimation, more benign.  It essentially is the group of people who really find Trump nauseating, and while they may hope he surprises them in a positive way, they are disheartened that he is the candidate, but simply cannot stomach the thought of a Hillary Presidency.

In other words, category 3a are those lying to themselves and others because they hate Hillary so much; category 3b are those who are telling the truth, and simply dealing with a painful electoral reality.

My response to 3a is this: Please join category 3b.  It is not necessary to sell your soul to go to the “stop Hillary” level of thinking, and you lose all credibility when you accompany your “stop Hillary” thinking with a retroactive defense of that which is indefensible.  Trump has not “tapped into something” on minimum wage, trade deals, ISIS, law and order, or how bold it is to insult disabled people and mock POW’s.  His warm and fuzzy comments about Vladimar Putin and Saddam Hussein are not cute, and they actually reflect the intellect of a total dunce.  He is a fine marketer and he has tremendous enablers in the press, but that does not mean it is “Reaganite” to have absolutely no policy depth (or employed policy advisors).  It’s frankly shameful.  It will likely cost him the election against the second most unpopular person in America.  But you can go to category 3b without the corrosive sell-out actions of category 3a, so please resist that temptation.

Bahnsen then goes on to address category 3b supporters. It’s worth a read.

 

by Justin Taylor at August 25, 2016 06:58 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Meet a Reformed Arminian

Article by: Jeff Robinson

The first time I heard Matt Pinson speak, he repeatedly dropped a term that rolled around in my mind for several days: “Reformed Arminian.” Such a phrase seems an oxymoron along the lines of jumbo shrimp, heated ice, or left-wing conservative.

As a trained church historian, I was fairly certain that by “Reformed Arminian” he meant one who affirms the teaching of Jacob Arminius, a figure who arose out of the Protestant Reformation, a figure whose theology departs at numerous key points from much popular Arminian theology today. Was I correct? I had to know more, and the interview below is a product of my query. 

Pinson, president of Welch College in Nashville (a Free Will Baptist school), is a graduate of Yale Divinity School and holds a PhD from Vanderbilt University. He is the author or editor of numerous books including Perspectives on Christian Worship (B&H Academic), Four Views on Eternal Security (Zondervan), and, most recently, Arminian and Baptist: Explorations in a Theological Tradition (Randall House).

We discussed how one could claim to be Reformed and Arminian, contrasted contemporary Arminian doctrine with that of Arminius, and more.  

What does “Reformed Arminian” mean?

A growing number of Arminians are embracing a non-Wesleyan variety of Arminianism that’s coming to be known as “Reformed Arminianism.” The mainstream of this movement in the United States is found in the Free Will Baptist denomination, the origins of which date back to the English General Baptist movement of the 17th century. Early proponents of this approach include 17th-century English figures such as Thomas Helwys and Thomas Grantham. Twentieth-century proponents include Free Will Baptist scholars Leroy Forlines and Robert Picirilli, who see themselves as representing a type of Arminianism more like the theology of Arminius than most modern Arminianism. Forlines and Picirilli have also found much in common with scholars from outside the General/Free Will Baptist tradition like Thomas Oden.

A growing number of evangelicals fit a unique profile in the Calvinist-Arminian conversation: They see Scripture as not supporting a traditional Calvinistic view of predestination, grace, and human freedom. Yet they disagree with most Arminians’ rejection of the Reformed doctrines of total depravity, penal substitutionary atonement, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness of Christ in justification, and progressive (as opposed to entire) sanctification. For these individuals, and for the entire Calvinist-Arminian conversation, this Reformed Arminian stream of thought offers fruitful possibilities.

Do you find a majority of Reformed evangelicals unacquainted with the writings of Arminius? How might it change our view of Arminianism were we better acquainted with his works?

I find most Calvinistic evangelicals are not at all acquainted with the writings of Arminius, just as most Arminian evangelicals aren’t acquainted with Calvin’s writings. This is a shame, and it wasn’t always this way. It seems there’s a lot more insularity these days in the evangelical community—a lot less getting beyond your soteriological tribe to really understand others. It’s odd that I can have so much in common with some Calvinists with regard to the person and work and gospel of Christ, justification, sanctification, Christian worldview, apologetics and epistemology, cultural engagement, eschatology, and so on (and even views on baptism and charismatic gifts). But all those commonalities are often disregarded because of one fact: I’m not a Calvinist; I don’t believe in unconditional election.

But it’s not only Calvinists who can be this way. Arminians can be just as insular. It’s funny that Arminians (or Calvinists) can work together with fellow Arminians (or Calvinists) who differ with them on whether infants should be baptized, the timing of Christ’s return, and charismatic gifts, and yet Calvinism and Arminianism has become a litmus test for evangelical fellowship in those same circles. This situation is precisely what keeps people from understanding and reading authors from the other side, which is unhealthy.

I think if Calvinists read Arminius himself, they would see someone whose heartbeat for the gospel was much like the older Calvinists they read and quote. They’d encounter someone whose spirituality and doctrinal beliefs—on what it means to be a totally depraved sinner with no help outside of divine grace, what it means to be justified by the imputed righteousness of Christ through faith alone, what Christ’s penal substitutionary atoning work is all about, how a believer grows in grace and is sanctified, legalism vs. antinomianism, and so on—are more like theirs than they had imagined. As Timothy George said of my recent book, Arminian and Baptist, in Reformed Arminianism Calvinists find “a set of first cousins they never knew they had.” This is what I think most Calvinists will discover about Arminius if they read him, even though they’ll wish he were more Calvinistic on predestination and related issues.

Your college is associated with the Free Will Baptists. What are their distinguishing marks?

Historically, in addition to the above emphases, the Free Will Baptists have had slight differences with most other Baptists on the doctrine of the church. These include, for instance, stronger interdependence among local churches in conferences or associations, sharing the Lord’s Supper with gospel believers who have not been immersed (though we do require immersion for membership), and more liturgical rites such as anointing the sick with oil, washing the saints’ feet, and (more historically than now) laying hands on newly baptized believers. But to my Calvinist friends, I always explain that these rites aren’t as weird as they might at first seem to those unfamiliar with them. In fact, they’re found in the books of worship of most denominations, whether Protestant, Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox.

What are the major differences between Wesleyan Arminian theology and Reformed Arminian theology?

Reformed Arminian soteriology diverges from Wesleyan and Holiness models of Arminianism by embracing the more Reformed categories of Arminius. Unlike Wesleyan-Arminian theology as it developed in the Holiness movement, Reformed Arminianism holds the traditional Reformed notion of original sin and radical depravity that only the grace of God via the convicting and drawing power of the Holy Spirit can counteract. It puts forward a thoroughgoing Reformed, penal-satisfaction view of atonement. This entails that Christ’s active and passive obedience are imputed to the believer in justification.

Reformed Arminians differ strongly from the perfectionism, entire-sanctification, and crisis-experience orientation of much Arminianism. They also believe Christians persevere in salvation through faith alone. While believers can apostatize from salvation wrought once for all in Christ and be irremediably lost, this apostasy comes about only through defection from faith. This has practical ramifications for assurance of salvation: Reformed Arminianism’s understanding of apostasy veers from the Wesleyan notion that individuals may repeatedly fall from grace by committing individual sins and may be repeatedly restored to a state of grace through penitence.

I believe Reformed Arminianism can reinvigorate the current Arminian-Calvinist dialogue (or lack of dialogue). It’s a more grace-oriented appropriation of Reformed teaching on the nature of atonement, justification, sanctification, and spirituality, combined with its Arminian stance on predestination and freedom (before and after conversion) to resist divine salvific grace. It provides a unique Arminian via media rooted in the theology of Arminius himself.

Do you think much popular-level evangelical Arminianism more closely reflects the beliefs of Wesley or the Holiness movement than of Arminius?

Yes. Unfortunately, most popular Arminianism is semi-Pelagian, closer to Finney than Wesley. Even though Wesley is further from Reformed theology than we would be, he wasn’t as far as Finney and much of the Holiness movement as it developed in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Wesley rejected a full-orbed penal substitutionary atonement and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the believer. He taught believers could lose their salvation over and over again through impenitence. His view of sanctification and spirituality was much more about crisis experiences and perfection; in my opinion, he veered toward legalism in his reaction to antinomianism. Yet he still was more like the Reformers than the later Finney and reacted against Pelagianism in important ways, especially in his view of original sin. The fact so many Calvinists love to sing the gospel-rich hymns of Charles Wesley, which John loved and printed and commended and sang, shows what Wesley meant when he said he was within a “hair’s breadth” of Calvinism.

Sometimes I distinguish the more Reformed elements of my Arminianism so sharply from that of Wesley that some get the idea I don’t like Wesley. But I love Wesley just as I love Calvin! I’m thinking about getting two large framed prints of the two of them and hanging them side by side in my office. Charles Spurgeon once said that, despite Wesley’s theological errors,

it will be time for us to find fault with John and Charles Wesley, not when we discover their mistakes, but when we have cured our own. When we shall have more piety than they, more fire, more grace, more burning love, more intense unselfishness, then, and not till then, may we begin to find fault and criticize. . . . For my part, I am as one who can see the spots in the sun, but know it to be the sun still, and only weep for my farthing candle by the side of such a luminary.

You read many contemporary and historical writers and theologians in the Calvinistic Reformed tradition. Why do you enjoy them so much?

I do love to read historical Calvinists like Calvin, Owen, Bunyan, Edwards, Hodge, Spurgeon, and Kuyper just as I love to read modern Calvinists like J. I. Packer, Carl F. H. Henry, Timothy George, Russell Moore, Michael Haykin, Mark Dever, Harry Reeder, David Dockery, Ligon Duncan, Al Mohler, Ronald Nash, Carl Trueman, Nathan Finn, Vern Poythress (I’m currently loving his book The Lordship of Christ), Phillip Jensen . . . where do I stop? It’s because they value the rich heritage of historic Protestant orthodoxy, have a Reformed view of what it means to be justified and sanctified, extol a rich evangelical spirituality, believe the ordinary means of grace are still sufficient in the ministry of the church, practice and teach a Reformed epistemology/apologetic, believe in the importance of a well-articulated Christian worldview and engaging culture with that worldview, and are committed to the Great Commission.

Who are some Arminian pastors and theologians that Reformed pastors ought to be reading? How can Reformed Christians avoid building unfair caricatures of Arminian theology and of our brothers and sisters in Christ who espouse it?  

I could name lots of solid Arminian pastors and theologians whom Reformed pastors ought to be reading, but let me mention my favorites: Leroy Forlines, Robert Picirilli, and Stephen Ashby (Reformed Arminians). But I don’t want to fail to mention my favorite living Wesleyan authors: Ajith Fernando, Thomas Oden, Robert Coleman, and Timothy Tennent. These men would all have in common with the Calvinist authors listed above the characteristics mentioned. I think reading authors like these, as well as historical Arminian authors all the way back to Arminius himself, is the best way for Calvinists to avoid unfair caricatures of Arminianism.

Jeff Robinson (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is a senior editor for The Gospel Coalition. He also pastors a church plant in Louisville, Kentucky, and serves as senior research and teaching associate for the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies and adjunct professor of church history at Southern Seminary. Prior to entering ministry, he spent nearly 20 years as a newspaper journalist in Georgia, North Carolina, and Kentucky, covering various beats from politics to Major League Baseball and SEC football. He is co-author with Michael Haykin of the book To the Ends of the Earth: Calvin’s Mission Vision and Legacy. Jeff and his wife, Lisa, have four children. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Jeff Robinson at August 25, 2016 05:03 AM

Help Me Teach the Bible: Rosaria Butterfield on Teaching with Openness, Unhindered

Article by: Nancy Guthrie

In this episode I sat down with Rosaria Butterfield, formerly a tenured professor of English at Syracuse University and now a pastor’s wife, homeschool mother of four, author, and good neighbor. She tells about her experience and provides wisdom for those teaching the Bible to people like she once was—angry and skeptical, yet wanting to discover if the Bible is credible, what has to say, and what it demands.

Both of Butterfield’s books are excellent resources for thinking about how to discuss the Bible with a confirmed yet curious skeptic:

You can stream the episode here.

Nancy Guthrie teaches the Bible at her home church, Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Franklin, Tennessee, as well as at conferences around the country and internationally, and through books and DVDs in the Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament series. She offers companionship and biblical insight to the grieving through Respite Retreats that she and her husband, David, host for couples who have faced the death of child, through the GriefShare video series, and through books such as Holding on to Hope and Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow.

by Nancy Guthrie at August 25, 2016 05:02 AM

When My Parents Left Me at Hardee’s

Article by: Bethany Jenkins

When my parents drove me to college, they left me at Hardee’s. For three hours. And I was the only other person in the car. 

The morning I left for Baylor University, I was incredibly sad. After saying goodbye to my two younger brothers, my cat, and my best friend who’d spent the night, Mom, Dad, and I climbed into the minivan to make the 12-hour drive from Pensacola, Florida, to Waco, Texas. I was leaving everything familiar and venturing into the unknown—college, dorm life, strangers, and Texas.

We left home at 6 a.m. on a Sunday, and I was groggy. You know that kid in high school who pressed snooze 20 times? Yeah, that was me. I hated my alarm. At one point, I moved it across my room to force myself to wake up—until I realized I could get up, take my bedding with me, turn off the alarm, and fall back asleep on the floor. You could say I wasn’t a morning person.

So when we got in the car, I was sad and groggy, and in a bad mood. I didn’t want to talk with anyone. I just wanted to sleep and cry.

An hour into the drive, just west of Mobile, Alabama, we stopped at Hardee’s for breakfast. I said no to almost everything. “Do you want to go in?” “No.” “Do you need to use the restroom?” “No.” “Do you want us to get you anything?” “No . . .  well, yeah, a biscuit and orange juice.”

On second thought, I do need to use the restroom, I said to myself as I opened the door, tossed my backpack and blanket on my seat, and headed inside. I didn’t tell Mom and Dad because I didn’t see them.

When I returned to the van, it wasn’t there. I looked around and saw it up the hill, pulling out of the parking lot and heading to the interstate. Are they trying to teach me a lesson? I wondered.

Ten minutes later, I knew it wasn’t a lesson. They had forgotten me. I was alone with no money, wearing my pajamas.

No one had cell phones in 1995. My parents had a car phone, but there wasn’t good service in most places. They had also gotten a toll-free number for our house so I could call home.

“Hello?” my brother answered. “Hey, Zach, it’s me. Mom and Dad left me at Hardee’s. I need you to call them on their car phone.” He tried but couldn’t reach them. I called him back. We did this multiple times until he—my only lifeline—said, “I don’t know what you want me to do about it. I have to go to church.” My situation, which was already lonely, sad, and desperate, had just become worse.

When Zach got to church, he approached his Sunday school teacher, a close family friend. “Mary Lou, how do you call long distance from the church phone?” “Why do you need to call long distance, Zach?” “I need to call Bethany. Mom and Dad left her at Hardee’s along I-10.”

Her eyes were like saucers.

An adult finally knew. And she was going to do something about it.

My parents still had no idea. They were past New Orleans and thought I was sleeping in the seat where I’d placed my backpack and blanket. (Two decades later, I’m still unsure how a backpack and blanket is confused for a 5’10” daughter, and what happened to the biscuit and orange juice.)

Mary Lou called my parents, and they flipped. Dad immediately turned the car around and broke all sorts of speeding laws. But when he finally arrived to Hardee’s, Mom wasn’t in the car. “Where’s Mom?” I asked. Dad replied, “She had to go to the bathroom a few stops back, but the line was so long I left her. We’ll pick her up along the way.” So at one point, we were at three different spots along I-10.

Later friends sent me cards, joking, “We’re sorry your parents don’t love you. We’ll adopt you.” Since Home Alone had just come out, someone drew a cartoon of me at Hardee’s with the caption, “Hardee’s Alone starring Bethany Jenkins.” One of my mom’s friends sent her Stein Mart’s list of “100 Things to Bring to College,” adding “#101—your daughter.”

Mom and Dad felt terrible. They told me I could have whatever I wanted. “My own car,” I answered, but I settled for circus peanuts and a Coke.

What happened at Hardee’s would happen to me over and over again my first year of college—the realization Mom and Dad couldn’t be there for me at all times and in all places.

At the time, I had no understanding of God’s sovereignty or the expansiveness of his love. It wasn’t until years later, when a friend encouraged me to read Romans 9, that I came to grasp God’s providential care and electing love.

We Still Feel Lonely

Today, as a single woman in her late 30s in New York City, I often feel alone. It’s hard to be so far from my parents and with no one as invested in my life as I am, no one who is affected by my decisions as much as I am. Even with a strong church community, like I have at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, it sometimes feels like I’m sitting on the curb of that parking lot again. Alone. No cell phone. No money. In my pajamas.

All of us feel lonely at times, when we think everyone has forgotten us—even our closest friends and family. And in the end, we will be alone, for each of us dies alone.

Yet there are moments—moments more frequent than the lonely ones—when I know there is One who is with me. They often happen when I read morning prayers, like John’s Baillie’s A Diary of Private Prayer: “I thank Thee for the blessed assurance that I shall not be called upon to face [the interests of another day] alone or in my own strength, but shall at all times be accompanied by Thy presence and fortified by Thy grace.”

And they also happen when I look upon the cross, meditating on the loneliness Jesus felt when he left his Father’s side in heaven, lived on earth without a place to sleep, talked with people who misunderstood him, and walked the road to Golgotha to be killed. He was alone, penniless, naked, and dead. Everyone—even the Father—deserted him (Matt. 27:46).

And the most astounding thing is that, unlike when I was involuntarily left by my parents, Jesus chose it. For me. And for you.

Seeing the gospel doesn’t wash away our loneliness, but it does usher us into the loving arms of the One who embraced loneliness for us. In Christ, we have a Father who welcomes us into the triune love of God, a love that’s better than the love of a friend because nothing can separate us from it—not even death itself (Rom. 8:38–39). As Sam Allberry says, reflecting on Psalm 23:4, “There’s only so far even the closest earthly friend can go with us. Only Jesus can go with us beyond that point.”

It’s comforting to know, even when we feel lonely, we are not alone. We have a Father who never lets us out of his sight, never leaves us out of his care. He’s there for us at all times and in all places.

Bethany L. Jenkins is the Director of The Gospel Coalition’s Every Square Inch, the Director of Vocational & Career Development at The King’s College, and the Founder of The Park Forum. She previously worked on Wall Street and on Capitol Hill. She received her JD from Columbia Law School and attends Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, where she is a current CFW Fellow and a former Gotham Fellow through the Center for Faith & Work. You can follow her on Twitter.

by Bethany Jenkins at August 25, 2016 05:00 AM

eagereyes

Stacked Bars Are the Worst

bars-stacked

Bar charts are great. They always work. They're always the safe choice. Right? Well, no. Stacked bar charts are deceiving because we think they work just like regular bars, when they're really pretty terrible.

Some Examples

Look at the following chart, showing unemployment numbers for Bavaria. The total height of the bars is easy enough to compare, but how about the blue bars at the top? Are those getting longer or shorter? How sure are you?

bars-stacked

Wikipedia has the following chart comparing pie and bar charts, which is used in teaching visualization to show how bad pie charts are. Compare the green segment in the pie charts and the bar charts. Clearly, pie charts are much more difficult to read.

piecharts-wikipedia

But is the comparison fair? The bars are next to each other, they're easy to compare. Stacked bars are actually much more like pie charts.

The Obligatory Cleveland and McGill Section

While this doesn't seem to be widely known, it's not new. In their seminal paper on graphical perception, Cleveland and McGill compared stacked bars with other ways of doing bar charts. Here are the five kinds of bar configurations they compared.

bar-chart-types

The little dots indicate what to compare. Types 4 and 5 are the stacked bar charts. Type 4 is similar to my example above, where you're looking at bars that sit on top of other bars. In Type 5, you're comparing lengths that are stacked rather than next to each other. The results show that these are the most difficult, producing the highest error.

Here are confidence intervals (same thing I've used in the recent pie charts postings) for error. Check out types 4 and 5!
results-bars-only

The latter are clearly worse than the first three. The confidence intervals clearly don't overlap. The error metric used in the paper is also based on the logarithm, so the differences here are pretty large.

But Cleveland and McGill also tested pie charts. Let's see how pie charts do in comparison. I've highlighted them in the full version of the results.

results-all

Stacked bar charts have higher error than pie charts (angle condition, even though we now know that it's not angle)! The basic bar charts are clearly better than pie charts, but stack them and they're worse! Both stacked configurations are worse than pie charts, but especially the one where you're comparing bars that sit on top of each other.

There are also other studies that have found the same or similar results. One example is the Mechanical Turk study on square pies I wrote about recently.

It's Not That Simple

Nobody ever got fired for using a bar chart, right? Well, it's not quite that easy. Even though many charts seem really simple, making small changes to them can have a significant impact on their readability.

There is also more to it than just the chart type. If the differences in the values are large, you'll be able to tell which way things are going even if you can't read the values with much precision. Depending on the use case, that can be good enough. But when the numbers are similar or there is no clear trend, they get harder to see and you need a more robust way of showing the data.

Stacked bars are particularly problematic because they have the air of precision, when they're really poor. They can be useful when the point is to show that a value is the sum of other values, but you're only interested in comparing the totals. They also work if you only need to show one section and can make that the one on the bottom. Then the bars are comparable and work well.

But just throwing values into a stacked bar chart is a bad idea. Just like people tend to misuse pie charts, most uses of stacked bars I see are really poorly done. People don't pick up on that even when they will immediately ridicule you for using a pie chart. Things are a bit more subtle than bar chart good, pie chart bad, however.

by Robert Kosara at August 25, 2016 04:21 AM

Workout: August 25, 2016

Every 2 minutes, for 5 sets: 4 touch and go power cleans 3 rounds: 6 muscle-ups 18 dumbbell/kettlebell clusters (50/35lb.) 36 box jump-overs (24/20 in.)

by Crystal at August 25, 2016 01:15 AM

Reformedish

Mere Fidelity: On Plagiarism w/ Justin Taylor

Mere FiThis last couple of weeks (and even years) has seen a number of high-profile instances of plagiarism at both academic and popular levels among Evangelical writers and theologians. We thought it would be a good idea to have someone who knows the publishing industry both as a writer as well as a publisher, so we invited Justin Taylor, VP at Crossway books. So we had him on to chat about plagiarism, not only in publishing, but also in preaching too. Also, Matt gets into a fight with the rest of us about the issue of self-plagiarism. So that was fun.

We hope you enjoy the discussion, since we had a lot of fun in it.

Soli Deo Gloria


by Derek Rishmawy at August 25, 2016 12:43 AM

August 24, 2016

Zippy Catholic

This is why we can’t have nice things

blackhole

Proposal: modern politics is analogous to a black hole, because at its very center is a self contradictory logical singularity where all reason breaks down.

The model is incomplete (as we should expect), and far from perfect.  I’m not really sure what I think of it myself, even though I drew it. But in the Internet age folks seem to like diagrams as a basis for discussion: I remember seeing question-begging text based libertarian diamond diagrams on Usenet way back in the late eighties or early nineties, years before the first web browsers.

Because modern politics – liberalism – is insane and self contradictory, it can be very difficult to describe as an objective phenomenon situated in reality.  This is mostly a description of how things look from various positions inside the modern mind trap. Locally, politics looks kind of like a spectrum from left to right.  When left liberals look to the right they see through the translucent right liberals to the nazis beyond.  When right liberals look left they see through the translucent left liberals to the Stalinists beyond.   What you see when you look around depends very much upon where you stand.

And just about everyone is trapped in the inescapable gravity well.

 


by Zippy at August 24, 2016 10:39 PM

Karen De Coster

They Gotta Regulate People Helping People

The “Cajun Navy” is … voluntary diversity. People having each other’s backs. Saving lives. Helping others because they want to do the heroic thing. Making the world a better place, in the moment, for folks facing terrifying situations in flooded New Orleans. They are unusual angels using their own time, money, and efforts to conduct rescues. But now the government wants to keep these guys from helping others until they sign up for the government monopoly on helping people.

The government is going to regulate people helping people so that people can no longer help other people. The sickness of the government monopoly on everything aims not to support citizens, but to oppress them. As always, this insane attempt at regulation is couched in terms of “we’re doing it to help.”

Some of those Good Samaritans, a loosely-organized group called the ‘Cajun Navy,’ are being interviewed by media around the country, but that attention is nowhere near the pushback lawmakers are discussing when it comes to possibly breaking the law in the future if they save lives again

… Republican State Senator Jonathan Perry of the Vermillion, Lafayette area, is working on legislation that could require training, certificates and a permit fee to allow these Good Samaritans to get past law enforcement into devastated areas.

by Karen De Coster at August 24, 2016 10:24 PM

Workout: August 24, 2016

Bulgarian split squats 10-10-10-10-10 Rest 2 minutes between sets 4 sets: 50 ft. heavy sled push 100 ft. farmer carry 10 romanian deadlifts 33X0

by Crystal at August 24, 2016 07:33 PM

SMBlog -- Steve Bellovin's Blog

Does Apple's Cloud Key Vault Answer the Key Escrow Question?

In a recent talk at Black Hat, Apple's head of security engineering (Ivan Krstić) described many security mechanisms in iOS. One in particular stood out: Apple's Cloud Key Vault, the way that Apple protects cryptographic keys stored in iCloud. A number of people have criticized Apple for this design, saying that they have effectively conceded the "Going Dark" encryption debate to the FBI. They didn't, and what they did was done for very valid business reasons--but they're taking a serious risk, one that could answer the Going Dark question in the other way: back-up copies of cryptographic keys are far too dangerous to leave lying around.

Going Dark, briefly, is the notion that law enforcement will be cut off from vital sources of evidence because of strong encryption. FBI directory James Comey, among others, has called for vendors to provide some alternate way for law enforcement--with a valid warrant--to bypass the encryption. On the other hand, most non-government cryptographers feel that any possible "exceptional access" mechanism is unreasonably dangerous.

The problem Apple wanted to solve is this. Suppose that you have some sort of iToy--an iPhone, an iPad, etc.-- or Mac. These systems allow you to back up your keychain to Apple's iCloud service, where they're protected by your AppleID (an email address) and password. If you buy a new device from Apple, your keychain can be downloaded to it once you log on to iCloud. (Note: uploading keys to iCloud is optional and disabled by default, though you are prompted about enabling it during device setup.)

That's a fine notion, and very consumer-friendly: people want to be able to back up their devices securely (remember that iToys themselves are strongly encrypted), and recover their information if their device is lost or stolen. The trick is doing this securely, and in particular guarding against brute force attacks on the PIN or password. To do this, iOS uses a "Secure Enclave"--a special co-processor that rate-limits guesses and (by default) erases the phone after too many incorrect guesses. (The details are complex; see Krstić's talk for details.) The problem is this: how do you ensure that level of protection for keys that are stored remotely, when the attacker can just hack into or subpoena an iCloud server and guess away. Apple's solution to this problem is even more complex (again, see Krstić's talk), but fundamentally, Apple relies on a Hardware Security Module (HSM) to protect these keys against guessing attacks. It's supposed to be impossible to hack HSMs, and while they do have master keys that are written to smartcards, Apple solved this problem very simply: they ran the smartcards through a blender…

So: it would seem that this solves the Going Dark problem. Instead of destroying these smart cards, suppose that Apple stored one copy in Tim Cook's safe and another in James Comey's. Problem solved, right? Not so fast.

Unfortunately, solving Going Dark can't be done with a simple piece of code in one place. It's many different problems, each of which needs its own secure solution; furthermore, the entire system--the set of all of these solutions, and the processes they rely on--has to be secure, as well as the code and processes for combining them.

The first part is the cryptographic protocols and code to implement the key upload functions. As I mentioned, these mechanisms are exceedingly complex. Although I do not know of any flaws in either the protocols or the code, I won't be even slightly surprised by bugs in either or both. This stuff is really hard to get right.

The next step is protecting the master keys. Apple's solution--a blender--is simple and elegant, and probably reliable. If we want some sort of exceptional access, though, we can't do that: these smartcards have to exist. Not only must they be protected when not in use, they must be protected when in use: who can get them, what can be decrypted, how the requests are authenticated, what to do about requests from other countries, and more. This isn't easy, either; it only seems that way from 30,000 feet. Apple got out of that game by destroying the cards, but if you want exceptional access that doesn't work.

There's another risk, though, one that Apple still runs: are the HSMs really secure? The entire scheme rests on the assumption that they are, but is that true? We don't know, but research suggests that they may not be. HSMs are, after all, computers, and their code and the APIs to them are very hard to get right. If there is a flaw, Apple may never know, but vital secrets will be stolen.

Was Apple wrong, then, to build such an elaborate system? Clearly, no lesser design would have met their requirements: being able to recover old backups with just a password as the only authentication mechanism, while keeping a strict limit on password-guessing. But are those requirements correct? Here's where life gets really tricky. Apple is a consumer device company; their prime goal is to make the customers happy--and customers get really unhappy when they lose their data. There are more secure designs possible, if you give up this remote recovery requirement, but those are more appropriate for defense gear, for situations where it's better to lose the data than to let it be compromised by the enemy. Apple's real problem is that they're trying to satisfy consumer needs while still defending against nation-state adversaries. I hope they've gotten it right--but I won't be even slightly surprised if they haven't.

August 24, 2016 05:38 PM

John C. Wright's Journal

Superluminary, Episode 15, Blind Jump

Superluminary, Episode 15, BLIND JUMP, is posted on Patreon:

Episode 15 Blind Jump

In this exciting episode, in order to escape the sudden and berserk attack of the undead monstrosities of Alpha Centauri, Aeneas Tell and his two stowaways are forced to engage the warpcore without any navigational calculus, to re-emerge into timespace at a random point. They are more thoroughly lost than any other human beings have ever been.

 

Our Story so Far:

Episode 01 Assassin in Everest

In which Aeneas Tell, the youngest member of the Imperial family of mad scientists who rule the solar system with an iron fist, is decapitated by a high-tech vampire.

Episode 02 The World of Death

In which Aeneas Tell is flung in his pajamas onto the surface of planet Pluto.

Episode 03 The Dark Tower

In which Aeneas breaks into the forbidding and forbidden tower looming above the ices of Pluto, and finds it void of living things, but not uninhabited nor unguarded.

Episode 04 The Technology of Tyranny

In which Aeneas, paralyzed, falls facefirst into the plutonian secret it is death to glimpse: a raging singularity at the engine core of the very antique superspaceship his grandfather once used to conquer to Earth!

Episode 05 The Many Murders of the Mad Emperor

In which the helpless Aeneas delays his death sentence to sate his lonely  captor’s curiosity, and his own. Lord Pluto reveals the startling truth of their family’s bloody past. Was the Emperor a savior? Or a maniac?

Episode 06 Deathstorm

In which Aeneas, paralyzed and on fire, plunge down and down toward the death-energy powered warp singularity at the base of the dark tower of unseen Lord Pluto, while all the undead vampires unleash a ghastly barrage of negative life energy no ordinary organic life can withstand!

Episode 07 Moon of Murder

In which Aeneas is blasted by an interplanetary strength particle beam weapon issuing from the Sea of Tranquility on the Moon to his position hiding behind a rapidly melting satellite in rapidly degenerating orbit.

Episode 08 Mistress of Dreams and Delirium

In which Aeneas spars with his cousin Lady Luna, his savior or captor, trying to discover her motive and role in recent events, while she discovers his. He declines to speak the truth, and is betrayed.

Episode 09 The Battle in the Garden of Worlds

In which Aeneas and the Lords of Creation do battle.

Episode 10 The Madness of Tellus

In which Aeneas Tell is on trial for his life by his cruel and crooked relatives.

Episode 11 The Abomination of Desolation

In which the discovery is made that the Sun is primed to ignite into a nova-explosion.

Episode 12 Defusing the Supernova

In which Aeneas, whose very own mother imposed on him the neuropsionic process that robs a brain of its ability to disobey orders, is commanded to destroy himself.

Episode 13 Ripping the Fabric of Reality

In which Aeneas flings experimental warpcore lab in which he is imprisoned across timespace, far beyond the range of any earthly rescue, with frees himself from the control of his three evil uncles.

Episode 14 Strange Fires of Strange Suns

In which Aeneas finds a hideous and ultra-powerful undead civilization occupying megascale structures orbiting Alpha Centauri. It is an empire of vampires. And he is not alone.

by John C Wright at August 24, 2016 05:05 PM

New Apple

Today marks the fifth anniversary of Tim Cook becoming CEO of Apple. There’s a lot of coverage today, following Cook’s big interview 10 days ago.

There’s a phrase that’s been thrown around a lot in the years since Steve Jobs died.

The New Apple.

In different contexts, it means different things: the more open nature of the company and its executive team, the dedicated focus to advancing human rights, the push into mobile computing or China or India.

On Episode 124 of The Talk Show, both Jason Snell and John Gruber remarked that they liked “Old Apple” better. The smaller, leaner company that was encouraging people to Think Different about computers. When I heard the comment, I nodded along in agreement.

It’s easy to see the past with rose-colored glasses, especially when you spend so much time writing about it.

I first used a Mac in 2001, my sophomore year of high school. In 2001, Apple was crawling out of the pit it found itself in during the 1990s. I was able to watch the company bring the iPod to market, and begin to make the transition from a computer to a consumer electronics company.

To some of you reading this, the early 2000s feel like New Apple, and that’s completely fair. However, there’s no doubt the Apple we see now is different then it was when Jobs was in his heyday.1

Whatever era Apple was in when you first showed up, the Apple of today is different. It’s not only one of the world’s largest companies, it’s been that way for some time. Employee head count has swelled and the company is pushing into services more than ever before, all while juggling more products than ever.

There have been growing pains in New Apple. Maps sucked at launch. iOS 7 had stability issues. The iPhone 5c didn’t perform as well in the market as hoped. The iPad market is still struggling to find level ground. The App Store has a laundry list of issues. Professionals who rely on the Mac have been frustrated by the lack of updated hardware at times.

At times, I think Cook and his team put too strong of an emphasis on hitting price points. Sometimes, they put design — and even manufacturing — higher on the list of priorities than they should be. I question several of (seemingly all-powerful) Jony Ive’s decisions, especially in terms of user interface.

It’s easy to forget the complaints we had about 2000s Apple. People wanted the iPod to be more user serviceable. Early versions of OS X were plagued with performance issues, and some G3 and G4-era Macs had mind-boggling limitations.2

(Go back even further and this entire blog post would be a rant about the Performa line of Macs.)

Five years in, New Apple is here to stay. It’s traded some of the old problems for new ones, and while I may personally identify more with a smaller company with more fight in it, it’s impossible to deny that New Apple is a greater force for good in the world. We have Tim Cook to thank for that. His unwillingness to conform to Jobs’ image has proven to be his greatest strength, and one that I think Steve himself saw and appreciated.

Cook was a good choice. He’s no bozo.


  1. I’ve been watching a lot of old keynotes in completing research for a book I’m writing. No one has the stage presence Jobs had, and I miss seeing him announce products. Also, I think I just announced a book in a footnote… 
  2. My favorite is that the iBook G4 was limited to mirroring to an external display only. A third-party hack was required to enable extending to a second display, and it worked just fine. The PowerBook G4 (even the 12-inch model) didn’t ship with this limitation. 

by Stephen at August 24, 2016 02:30 PM

Crossway Blog

Calvinism, Hyper-Calvinism, and World Missions

This post is adapted from Andrew Fuller: Holy Faith, Worthy Gospel, World Mission by John Piper.


Natural Inability and Moral Inability

In his most famous work, The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, Andrew Fuller piles text upon text in which unbelievers are addressed with the duty to believe.[1] These are his final court of appeal against the High Calvinists, who use their professed logic to move from biblical premises to unbiblical conclusions.

But he finds Jonathan Edwards very helpful in answering the High Calvinist objection on another level. Remember, the objection is that “it is absurd and cruel to require of any man what is beyond his power to perform.” In other words, a man’s inability to believe removes his responsibility to believe (and our duty to command people to believe). In response to this objection, Fuller brings forward the distinction between moral inability and natural inability. This was the key insight which he learned from Jonathan Edwards, and he gives him credit for it on the third page of The Gospel Worthy.[2]

The distinction is this: Natural inability is owing to the lack of “rational faculties, bodily powers, or external advantages”; but moral inability is owing to the lack of inclination because of an averse will. Natural inability does in fact remove obligation. Fuller cites Romans 2:12 as a pointer to this truth: “For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.” In other words, there is a correlation between what you will be held accountable for and what you had natural access to.

But moral inability does not excuse. It does not remove obligation. And this is the kind of inability the Bible is speaking about when it says, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14; cf. Rom. 8:8). Fuller writes:

There is an essential difference between an ability which is independent of the inclination, and one that is owing to nothing else. It is just as impossible, no doubt, for any person to do that which he has no mind to do, as to perform that which surpasses his natural powers; and hence it is that the same terms are used in one case as in the other. [3]

In other words, it is just as impossible for you to choose to do what you have no inclination to do as it is to do what you have no physical ability to do. But the inability owing to physical hindrances excuses, while the inability owing to a rebellious will does not.[4] This kind of reasoning was not Fuller’s main reason for rejecting High Calvinism and Arminianism. Scripture was. But Edwards’s categories helped him make more sense of what Fuller saw there.

The Practical Upshot: World Evangelization

The all-important conclusion from all this exegetical, doctrinal, theological labor and controversy was the enormously practical implication for evangelism and world missions:

I believe it is the duty of every minister of Christ plainly and faithfully to preach the gospel to all who will hear it; and, as I believe the inability of men to [do] spiritual things to be wholly of the moral, and therefore of the criminal kind—and that it is their duty to love the Lord Jesus Christ, and trust in him for salvation, though they do not; I therefore believe free and solemn addresses, invitations, calls, and warnings to them, to be not only consistent, but directly adapted as means, in the hand of the Spirit of God, to bring them to Christ. I consider it as part of my duty that I could not omit without being guilty of the blood of souls.[5]

Fuller’s engagement at this level of intellectual rigor, as a pastor and a family man, may seem misplaced. The price was high in his church and in his family. But the fruit for the world was incalculably great. No one else was on the horizon to strike a blow against the church-destroying, evangelism-hindering, missions-killing doctrine of High Calvinism. Fuller did it, and the theological platform was laid for the launching of the greatest missionary movement in the world.

Notes:
[1] See Fuller, Works, 2:343–66, where most of these texts are explained. See, for example, Ps. 2:11–12; Isa. 55:1–7; Jer. 6:16; John 5:23; 6:29; 12:36. Fuller aligns himself, at this point, with John Owen, who wrote, “When the apostle beseecheth us to be ‘reconciled’ to God, I would know whether it be not a part of our duty to yield obedience? If not, the expectation is frivolous and vain” (quoted in Fuller, Works, 2:353).
[2] Referring to himself in the third person as the author, Fuller writes: "He had also read and considered, as well as he was able, President Edwards’s Inquiry into the Freedom the Will . . . on the difference between natural and moral inability. He found much satisfaction in the distinction as it appeared to him to carry with it its own evidence—to be clearly and fully contained in the Scriptures. . . . The more he examined the Scriptures, the more he was convinced that all inability ascribed to man, with respect to believing, arises from the perversion of his hear." (Ibid., 2:330)
[3] Ibid., 2:377.
[4] “He that, from the constitution of his nature, is absolutely unable to understand, or believe, or love a certain kind of truth, must of necessity, be alike unable to shut his eyes against it, to disbelieve, to reject, or to hate it. But it is manifest that all men are capable of the latter; it must therefore follow that nothing but the depravity of their heart renders them incapable of the former” (Ibid., 2:378).
[5] Morden, Offering Christ, 106.


John Piper is the founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and the chancellor of Behlehem College & Seminary. He served for thirty-three years as the senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and is the author of more than fifty books, including his most recent, Andrew Fuller: Holy Faith, Worthy Gospel, World Mission.

by Crossway at August 24, 2016 02:00 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Travelers: 100,000 Point Signup Bonus Is Now Available

Link: 100,000 Point Bonus (!): New Chase Sapphire Preferred Reserve Card

Big news: my favorite credit card for travelers has been upgraded and now offers a huge 100,000 point bonus. The original card is still available (and it’s still great), but for many people, this new one is even better.

You’ll receive the 100,000 points bonus after completing a $4,000 minimum spend in four months. There’s a $450 annual fee, but this is offset by a $300 credit for anything you spend on travel—and you can earn the credit every calendar year, meaning that in the first year you’ll essentially get a $600 credit.

Additional benefits include:

  • Earn 3x points for all travel and dining spend (normally 2x for the Chase Sapphire Preferred)
  • Complimentary Priority Pass membership, getting you into more than 900 airline lounges worldwide
  • Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check credit, up to $100 every four years
  • Reimbursement of up to $500 when your flight is delayed by at least six hours
  • Primary car rental insurance coverage (i.e. never get upsold again)

This isn’t an affiliate promotion, and I don’t receive any compensation for it at all.

The only downside is that if you’ve been getting a lot of cards recently, you may not be eligible for this one. Chase recently introduced a requirement that new cardholders can’t have applied for more than 5 cards in the past 24 months. This “5/24 rule” is definitely a challenge for many of us.

Since the new Reserve card is, well, new, no one is entirely sure if the 5/24 rule applies to it—but the initial reports are that it does. Therefore, if you’re like me and have had a bunch of applications in the past two years, it might be better to wait a bit and see how this shakes out. This new card isn’t going to disappear, and I don’t think the 100,000 points signup bonus will go away for at least several weeks at minimum.

If you haven’t applied for 5 cards in the past 24 months, the signup bonus alone is an amazing offer that you should definitely take advantage of.

Again, there’s no affiliate link for this offer (or at least I don’t have one)—it’s just a great deal! Let me know if you’re able to get it.

Link: New Chase Sapphire Reserve (100,000 point bonus, $450 annual fee)

Link: Original Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (40,000 point bonus, no annual fee for first year)

###

Images: 1 & 2

by Chris Guillebeau at August 24, 2016 12:11 PM

Greg Mankiw's Blog

Summer Readings

Here are some of the books I have read this summer, all recommended.
  1. Nobody's Fool by Richard Russo
  2. Success and Luck by Robert Frank
  3. The Upside of Inequality by Edward Conard
  4. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

by Greg Mankiw (noreply@blogger.com) at August 24, 2016 08:56 AM

Table Titans

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Our Faith Is Historically Verifiable—Or It’s Nothing

Article by: Kathy Keller

Doveryai, no proveryai is a Russian proverb that’s probably more famous in translation than in its original language. “Trust, but verify” was used extensively in various international negotiation settings, and continues to be trotted out as needed. It’s not a bad idea. Trust is good; proof that your trust isn’t unfounded is even better.

Where does this proverb apply in the life of a people of faith? Some equate faith with the phrase “leap of faith,” or, as Mark Twain is reputed to have said, “Faith is believing in what you know ain’t true.” Though cleverly put, I doubt that’s true of any person of faith, however untutored. There’s nothing to be gained by clinging to a myth, a falsehood, or a lie. When life is raw and wretched, the only stability to be found is the truth, wherever it exists.

When life is raw and wretched, the only stability to be found is the truth, wherever it exists.

Not a Fairy Tale

I thought of this recently as I mused on the necessity of historical, verifiable fact as the foundation for the Christian faith. Of all belief systems, Christianity is the only one that insists its truths must be founded on the historical existence of a person named Jesus, and that further, he historically said and did the things claimed of him. Most importantly, if Jesus didn’t die (really die, dead-as-a-doornail die) and rise again (in a physical body, one that walked, talked, ate, and resumed relationships with his friends), then, as Paul told the Corinthians, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. . . . If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:17, 19).

Why pitied? “If believing in Jesus is what gets you through the day,” as many a skeptic has told me, “then good for you. We all have our lucky rabbit’s foot to comfort us; if Jesus is yours, then fine. Just don’t push it on me.” The problem with this argument is that our faith is in things Jesus did; and if he didn’t do them, then the whole thing is useless. Every other faith system—even faith in science, or education, or political power—draws its significance from the good advice it provides its adherents. If you live a certain way, observe a number of important rules, act in accord with these precepts, well, life will be good to you. You will be respected, and possibly revered, for making a difference in the progress of civilization. If not now, definitely later, in another realm where you will get your reward (Islam) or in another incarnation (Hinduism) or in the peace of non-existence (Buddhism) or in your laudatory obit in The New York Times.

A Christian’s faith, however, isn’t in the ethical teaching of the Bible (though it’s there, and not wildly different from that of other faiths, as C. S. Lewis demonstrated at the end of his brilliant book The Abolition of Man). Rather, the Christian places his faith, her hope of renewal, his confidence in forgiveness, in the actions of someone else—in Jesus Christ. If he didn’t live as he lived, die as he died, and rise as he promised, then we Christians are spending our lives chasing a fairy tale. Childish! Stupid! Pitiable!

Beethoven and the Eyewitnesses

It’s for this reason Paul, in that same passage of Corinthians, lists the eyewitnesses of the resurrection as his sources. He was a hardheaded, Roman-educated Jew, conversant in philosophy as well as the Scriptures. But he relied on none of that training. He drew his assurance from the people who saw with their own eyes.

Interestingly, as I was considering these things, my Bible reading took me to the end of Matthew, the resurrection of Jesus—a story so familiar that I thought I couldn’t learn anything new from reading it. However, and I apologize for the digression, I’ve been listening to Beethoven’s Egmont Overture as I walk on an older treadmill (one that doesn’t have a TV screen to distract me with cooking shows during my 40 minutes of walking-to-nowhere). The Egmont is one of my favorites. I’ve always imagined the triumphant conclusion of the piece would’ve been a good soundtrack to the resurrection—the angel rolls away the stone and Jesus walks out, joyous, in his resurrected body, the Savior of mankind and firstfruits from the dead. Cue the brass.

This time through Matthew, I noticed something. Though it does indeed say an angel came and rolled back the stone (it would’ve been several tons, designed to roll into a declivity in front of the entrance and therefore unmoveable by human agency), to my surprise it does not say “then Jesus walked out of the tomb.” The angel informs the women who have come to visit that “he is not here” (Matt. 28:6), and, in fact, is already on his way to Galilee ahead of them (Matt. 28:7).

In colloquial terms, Elvis had already left the building. Jesus didn’t have to wait for the angel to move the stone. He was a real, physical being, but one who could pass through grave clothes without disturbing them, as well as through locked doors (John 20:19). He didn’t need angelic help to get out of the tomb.

Why, then, roll away the stone at all? Imagine if the angel had just arrived and sat on the stone, without moving it, and delivered the same message: “He is not here; he is risen, just as he said.” Would the women have believed him? Maybe, maybe not. An angel is probably pretty persuasive. But what about everyone else? Without an open, visibly empty tomb the resurrection was not verifiable. People who claimed to have seen the resurrected Jesus could have been hallucinating. After all, the body was still in the tomb, wasn’t it?

To my surprise, I realized the stone needed to be rolled away not to let Jesus out, but to let us in. Trust, but verify. The resurrection needed to be verified by eyewitnesses, who could testify to the empty tomb and empty clothes. Ours is a faith founded on an event that occurred in space, time, and history, and it began with an angel politely opening the tomb so we could look into the empty space and see he was no longer there.

To my surprise, I realized the stone needed to be rolled away not to let Jesus out, but to let us in.

So ask your questions, raise your doubts. Christians have nothing to fear from questions, however searching, or doubts, however scathing. History is on our side. It really happened. That changes everything.

Editors’ note: This article appeared in the August issue of the Redeemer Report

Kathy Keller serves as assistant director of communications for Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. She is the author of Jesus, Justice, and Gender Roles: A Case for Gender Roles in Ministry and co-author with her husband, Tim, of The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God.

by Kathy Keller at August 24, 2016 05:03 AM

Why You Need a Church (Not Just a Campus Ministry)

Article by: Russell Moore

It’s August, which means that all across the country, thousands of incoming freshmen are waving goodbye to hometowns and leaving for college. This includes many Christians, for whom a move to a new city means a move away from the familiarity of their home church. For many, campus ministries will step in to naturally fill the void.

A campus ministry can be unmatched in helping students connect with other likeminded believers, especially in an ideologically hostile academic or social setting. A good one will help equip Christian students to defend the faith, serve the poor, and be held accountable to each other.

A good campus ministry is a gift from God. But it is no church.

Flesh and Bones 

The reason many students identify primarily with a campus ministry rather than with a church isn’t because of any flaw in most campus ministry organizations. It’s because, too often, we evangelicals have a deficient view of the church. We assume it’s any gathering of people who believe in Jesus and who do churchly things. Many Christians assume the church exists simply to help us learn more about Christ and pool our resources for missions.

If that’s all a church is, a campus ministry can do all those things, and more.

But the Scriptures tell us the church is much more than that.

In the Bible, a local church—with all its ridiculous flaws—is an unveiling of the mystery of the universe (Eph. 3:6). She is in a one-flesh union with Jesus such that, as in a marriage, everything that belongs to him belongs to her (Eph. 5:22–33). A congregation, in covenant with one another as an assembly of Christ’s people, is a colony of the coming global reign of Christ (Eph. 1:22–23), a preview of what his kingdom will look like in the end (1 Cor. 6:1–8). Where there is a covenant among believers—a disciplined community of faith—the Spirit of Jesus is present among them, just as God was present among the people of Israel in the temple of old (Matt. 18:15–20).

A local church—with all its ridiculous flaws—is an unveiling of the mystery of the universe. . . . It is a colony of the coming global reign of Christ, a preview of what his kingdom will look like in the end.

When the church judges a repentant sinner to be a genuine believer, the congregation is speaking with the authority of Jesus when they plunge him beneath the waters (Matt. 28:18–19). When the church judges an unrepentant sinner to be persistent in his rebellion, it’s with the authority of Jesus that the congregation pronounces him to be a stranger to the people of God (1 Cor. 5:4–5; Matt 18:15–20). When we gather for worship as a congregation in covenant with one another, we’re not simply fueling our individual quiet times with praise choruses. We’re actually ascending to the heavenly places together, standing before Christ and all of his angels on Mount Zion (Heb. 12:18–29).

The Scriptures reveal to us what we would never discern on our own. The church—not an ideal congregation but the real one you go to every week, with the lady who smacks her gum and the man with the pitiful combover hair and the 1970s-era audio system and the kids banging Tonka trucks on the back of the pew in front of you—is the flesh and bones of Jesus. It’s his body, he tells us—inseparable from him as your heart and lungs and kidneys and fingers are from you (Eph. 5:29–30; 1 Cor. 12:12–31).

Saying “I love Jesus but not the church” is as irrational as saying to your best friend, “I like you—I just can’t stand being around you.” Your attitude toward the church reveals your attitude toward Jesus.

Saying ‘I love Jesus but not the church’ is as irrational as saying to your best friend, ‘I like you—I just can’t stand being around you.’

Avoid Unchurched Spirituality 

It’s easy for a campus ministry to seem more “spiritual” than a local congregation. Sometimes a campus ministry is filled with people more zealous for the mission of Christ than some church members. Sometimes young Christians mistake youthful idealism and, frankly, erotic charge for the spiritual gravity of a moment. A church made up of people from all different life stages, economic classes, and racial backgrounds is bound to have friction. And a church not aiming to “reach” a particular age group is bound to seem, as often as not, sluggish, dull, or misdirected to people in that age group.

Does the centrality of the church mean that campus ministry is irrelevant or redundant? No indeed. Should you be involved with a campus ministry in college? Yes indeed. So how do you avoid the spiritual dangers of an unchurched spirituality? Here are five suggestions.

Firstresist the temptation to keep your membership in your home church. Join a church in your college town, as soon as you find one with a commitment to Christ and the Scripture.

Second, find a church where some people will know your name, and will know if you aren’t present. Find a place where someone will kindly ask “Where were you?” if you miss a week.

Third, spend some time with people in your congregation who aren’t in the same place in life as you—a lonely senior adult, a harried 30-something mom, a sarcastic 14-year-old kid.

Fourth, humbly pester the leaders of the church for some way for you to exercise your gifts in the congregation—and let the leaders recognize and encourage your gifts. This means submitting yourself to serve the body in whatever way the church deems necessary. Most often, this will be something more Christlike than glorious, such as cleaning toilets or serving in the nursery.

Fifth, find a campus ministry that seeks to work alongside the church. Look for a ministry that wants to enhance what’s already happening in your life in discipleship and spiritual growth and mission in your congregation. Be very wary of a campus ministry that isn’t constantly asking you, “Where are you in church—and what’s happening there?” And be very, very wary of a campus ministry that seems to resent the time you spend with your church as “competing” with their ministry.

There are lots of good campus ministries. Be sure you find one. Be sure you pour yourself into whatever ministry your campus group can empower you to lead or serve. Be sure you and your fellow campus ministry group members are out among your unsaved fellow students with dynamism and compassion. But be sure that you are, first of all, an active, identified, and accountable member of a local church.

It may seem a little slower-paced than your campus ministry. It may not seem relevant to 21st-century culture. But it’s part of the unfolding mystery of the universe. And Jesus is there.

Related:

Editors’ note: A version of this article appeared at russellmoore.com. Register to hear Russell Moore speak at The Gospel Coalition 2017 National Conference, April 3 to 5 in Indianapolis.

Russell Moore is president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, a TGC Council member, and author of the book Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel (B&H, 2015). He blogs at Moore to the Point and you can follow him on Twitter.

by Russell Moore at August 24, 2016 05:00 AM

When Churches Split, No One Wins

Article by: Staff

“There’s conflict all around us. We would hope that the church is one place we could go to where there would be peace. . . . But there are times when that is not the case.” – Bert Daniel

Text: 1 Corinthians 3:1–9

Preached: March 20, 2016

Location: Crawford Avenue Baptist Church, Augusta, Georgia

Bert Daniel is the lead pastor of Crawford Avenue Baptist Church. He has served since 2002 as pastor of Berea Bapist Church, which merged with Crawford Avenue in 2015. 

You can listen to his episode of TGC Word of the Week here.

by Staff at August 24, 2016 04:59 AM

Workout: August 23, 2016

8 sets: Run 400m 5 push Jerks (185/125lb.) Max unbroken handstand push-ups Rest same as work

by Crystal at August 24, 2016 12:25 AM

August 23, 2016

Aaron M. Renn

Hillbilly Elegy: Culture, Circumstance, Agency

hillbilly-elegy-coverHillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
by J.D. Vance

The book of the moment is JD Vance’s memoir Hillbilly Elegy, currently residing at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list.

Vance’s story has hit a nerve by providing a compelling lens through which those appalled by the popularity of Donald Trump in working-class circles can understand his improbable rise. Who are these Trump voters? Vance, a son of Appalachian hillbillies who ended up graduating from Yale Law and now works for a Peter Thiel founded investment fund in San Francisco, says they are his people. By telling his story he hopes to help us understand them. And to understand that while they have suffered external economic blows, ultimately their inability to respond positively to them is a result of their own failed culture.

The book is a fantastic read and highly recommended. But I find it puzzling that this book has so received so many positive reviews and so little substantive critique in light of its flaws and limitations.  To remedy that I wrote a long review of the book that is now online at City Journal called “Culture, Circumstance, Agency.”  In it I recognize the virtues of Vance’s account, but also take him to task in some areas.  Here is an excerpt:

He then applies to and is accepted at Yale Law School, where the cultural gulf between his hillbilly upbringing and the American elite first comes into full relief. He discovers the role that social capital, mentors, and connections play in success. One of his professors at Yale, Amy Chua, of Tiger Mom fame, becomes a key advisor and advocate for him. He struggles in settings upper middle class students would navigate with ease. He spits out sparkling water in disgust and surprise the first time he drinks it. When a law firm takes him to an upscale restaurant for dinner, he has to call Usha, then his girlfriend, to ask how to use the silverware. At Yale, he discovers that he must not just reject the toxic elements of his old culture but also embrace this new one to get anywhere.

The social deficiencies of the working class are under-appreciated by those who never suffered them. I also came from a working-class background. After flying to a job interview in Chicago in college, I didn’t know how to take a taxi and was too ashamed to ask. I tried getting in a cab dropping off passengers; the driver was kind enough to tell me where the cabstand was without humiliating me. I didn’t know how to use chopsticks. I didn’t know the way much of the professional world functioned. And a lot of those things I didn’t know that I didn’t know. I estimate that I started out five to 10 years behind those who came from upper middle class homes in important ways. I’ve heard the same from others of similar origins.

E.D. Hirsch talks about the “core knowledge” every kid must learn. For those with above-average intelligence, knowledge is relatively easy to acquire if you don’t have it. But there’s also a set of core social knowledge and experiences needed to function effectively in educated society. This can be more challenging to obtain, especially without a mentor. Vance illuminates this oft-overlooked aspect of upward mobility.

Click through to read the whole thing.

I have a number of further observations on Vance and this book that I may put up in a follow-up blog post.

Homepage cover image via City Journal

by Aaron M. Renn at August 23, 2016 09:37 PM

Instapaper Sold to Pinterest

From the Instapaper blog:

Today, we’re excited to announce that Instapaper is joining Pinterest. In the three years since betaworks acquired Instapaper from Marco Arment, we’ve completely rewritten our backend, overhauled our mobile and web clients, improved parsing and search, and introduced tons of great features like highlights, text-to-speech, and speed reading to the product.

All of these features and developments revolved around the core mission of Instapaper, which is allowing our users to discover, save, and experience interesting web content. In that respect, there is a lot of overlap between Pinterest and Instapaper. Joining Pinterest provides us with the additional resources and experience necessary to achieve that shared mission on a much larger scale.

Unlike almost everyone else my age, I’m not super familiar with Pinterest, but I hope this is a good thing for my favorite read-it-later service.

by Stephen at August 23, 2016 06:39 PM

JB's Circuit

Increasing Power Density of Electric Motors Challenges IGBT Makers

Mentor Graphics answers questions about failure modes and simulation-testing for IGBT and MOSFET power electronics in electronic and hybrid-electronic vehicles (EV/HEV).

By John Blyler, Editorial Director

Most news about electric and hybrid vehicles (EV/HEV) electronics focuses on the processor-based engine control and the passenger infotainment systems.  Of equal importance is the power electronics that support and control the actual vehicle motors. On-road EVs and HEVs operate on either AC induction or permanent magnet (PM) motors. These high-torque motors must operate over a wide range of temperatures and in often electrically noisy environments. The motors are driven by converters that generally contain a main IGBT or power MOSFET inverter.

The constant power cycling that occurs during the operation of the vehicle significantly affects the reliability of these inverters. Design and reliability engineers must simulate and test the power electronics for thermal reliability and lifecycle performance.

To understand more about the causes of inverter failures and the test that reveal these failures, I presented the following questions to Andras Vass-Varnai, Senior Product Manager for the MicReD Power Tester 600A , Mentor Graphic’s Mechanical Analysis Division. What follows is a portion of his responses. – JB

 

Blyler: What are some of the root causes of failures for power devices in EV/HEV devices today, namely, for insulated gate bipolar transistors (IGBTs), MOSFETs, transistors, and chargers?

Vass-Varnai: As the chip and module sizes of power devices show a shrinking tendency, while the required power dissipation stays the same or even increases, the power density in power devices increases, too. The increasing power densities require careful thermal design and management. The majority of failures is thermal related, the temperature difference between the material layers within an IGBT or MOSFET structure, plus the differences in the coefficient of thermal expansion of the same layers lead to thermo-mechanical stress.

The failure will develop ultimately at these layer boundaries or interconnects, such as the bond wires, die attach, base plate solder, etc. (see Figure 1). Our technology can induce the failure mechanisms using active power cycling and can track the failure while it develops using high resolution electric tests, from which we derive thermal and structural information.

Figure 1: Cross-section of an IGBT module.

Blyler: Reliability testing during power cycling improves the reliability of these devices. How was this testing done in the past? What new technology is Mentor bringing to the testing approach?

Vass-Varnai: The way we see it, traditionally the tests were done in a very simplified way, companies used tools to stress the devices by power cycles, however these technologies were not combined with in-progress characterization. They started the tests, then stopped to see if any failure happened (using X-ray microscopy, ultrasonic microscopy, sometimes dissection), then continued the power cycling. Testing this way took much more time and more user interaction, and there was a chance that the device fails before one had the chance to take a closer look at the failure. In some more sophisticated cases companies tried to combine the tests with some basic electrical characterization, however none of these were as sophisticated and complete as offered by today’s power testers. One major advantage of today’s technology is the high resolution (about 0.01C) temperature measurement and the structure function technology, which helps users to precisely identify in which structural layer the failure develops and what is its effect on the thermal resistance, all of these embedded in the power cycling process.

The combination with simulation is also unique. In order to calculate the lifetime of the car, one needs to simulate very precisely the temperature changes in an IGBT for a given mission profile. In order to do this, the simulation model has to behave exactly as the real device both for steady state and transient excitations. The thermal simulation and testing system must be capable of taking real measurement data and calibrating the simulation model for precise behavior.

Blyler: Can this tester be used for both (non-destructive) power-cycle stress screening as well as (destructive) testing the device all the way to failure? I assume the former is the wider application in EV/HEV reliability testing.

Vass-Varnai: The system can be used for non-destructive thermal metrics measurements (junction temperature, thermal resistance) and also for active power cycling (which is a stress test), and can track automatically the development of the failure (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Device voltage change during power cycling for three tested devices in Mentor Graphics MicReD Power Tester 1500A

Blyler: How do you make IGBT thermal lifetime failure estimations?

Vass-Varnai: We use a combination of thermal software simulation and hardware testing solution specifically for the EV/HEV market. Thermal models are created using computational fluid dynamics based on the material properties of the IGBT under test. These models accurately simulate the real temperature response of the EV/HEV’s dynamic power input.

Blyler: Thank you.

For more information, see the following: “Mentor Graphics Launches Unique MicReD Power Tester 600A Solution for Electric and Hybrid Vehicle IGBT Thermal Reliability

Bio: Andras Vass-Varnai obtained his MSc degree in electrical engineering in 2007 at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics. He started his professional career at the MicReD group of Mentor Graphics as an application engineer. Currently, he works as a product manager responsible for the Mentor Graphics thermal transient testing hardware solutions, including the T3Ster product. His main topics of interest include thermal management of electric systems, advanced applications of thermal transient testing, characterization of TIM materials, and reliability testing of high power semiconductor devices.

 

by jblyler at August 23, 2016 05:28 PM

Kbase Article of the Week: Sherlock, Sherlock 2: Finding Invisible Files or Folders

This article explains how to use Sherlock or Sherlock 2 to find invisible files or folders.

You know, if you’re running Mac OS 8.5, 8.6 or 9.

by Stephen at August 23, 2016 03:43 PM

Crossway Blog

10 Things You Should Know about Union with Christ

This is a guest post by Marcus Johnson, author of One with Christ: An Evangelical Theology of Salvation. This post is part of our 10 Things You Should Know blog series.


1. The Bible contains an astonishing number of terms, expressions and images that bear witness to the reality of our being made one with Christ Jesus.

In the Newer Testament we find literally hundreds of references to the believer’s union with Christ. To cite merely a few examples, believers are created in Christ (Eph. 2:10), crucified with him (Gal. 2:20), buried with him (Col. 2:12), baptized into Christ and his death (Rom. 6:3), united with him in his resurrection (Rom. 6:5), and seated with him in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:6); Christ is formed in believers (Gal. 4:19) and dwells in our hearts (Eph. 3:17); the church is the body of Christ (1 Cor. 6:15; 12:27); Christ is in us (2 Cor. 13:5) and we are in him (1 Cor. 1:30); the church is one flesh with Christ (Eph. 5:31–32); believers gain Christ and are found in him (Phil. 3:8–9).

Furthermore, in Christ we are justified (Rom. 8:1), glorified (8:30), sanctified (1 Cor. 1:2), called (1:9); made alive (Eph. 2:5), created anew (2 Cor. 5:17), adopted (Gal. 3:26), and elected (Eph. 1:4–5). Whew! All this without reference to the Gospel and letters of John! Suffice it to say, union with Christ is an absolutely fundamental gospel conviction of the Apostles—dear to them because it was so dear to their Lord.

2. When we are joined to Jesus, we are included in the greatest mystery of the universe—the incarnation of God.

C.S. Lewis calls the incarnation of God the Son the “central miracle” of Christianity. He is right. The redemption, restoration, re-creation, and reconciliation of sinners—and all of creation besides—depends entirely on the supreme fact that God, without ever ceasing to be fully who he is, became fully who we are in and as Christ Jesus. Why did God do this? Why is it, in other words, that the “Word became flesh”? The principal reason underlying all the other magnificent reasons that God the Son united himself to our humanity is this: that by the Holy Spirit we may be united to Christ and so enjoy his fellowship with the Father forever. This is eternal life (John 17:3).

3. Our union with Christ is profoundly real and intensely intimate.

Union with Christ is not a sentiment, metaphor or illustration, or even primarily a “doctrine”. Nor is it a way of speaking about something else—whether justification, sanctification, or any other benefit of Christ (even if it includes all of these and more!). Our union with the living Christ is the essential truth of our new and eternal existence. In a way that gloriously transcends our finite understanding, we are really and truly joined—spiritually and bodily—to the crucified, resurrected, incarnate person of Christ. There is no better news than this.

4. Because union with Christ is so central to the gospel, it has resonated in the teaching and preaching of the Church throughout the ages.

Unsurprisingly, given the ubiquity of the theme in the Scriptures, there is a massive chorus of churchly voices who have emphasized the significance of being united to Christ. This historic theological chorus includes the likes of Irenaeus, Athanasius, Augustine, Cyril of Alexandria, Bernard of Clairvaux, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Cotton and Jonathan Edwards (to name but a few).

According to Calvin, our union with Christ is to be accorded “the highest degree of importance.” Why? Because being joined to Jesus is the whole point of the gospel: “For this is the design of the gospel, that Christ may become ours, and that we may be ingrafted into his body.”

5. Justification is a magnificent benefit of being united to Christ.

We are not united to Christ because we have been justified. It is quite the other way around: we are justified because we have been united to Christ, who is himself our justification (1 Cor. 1:30). We receive Christ’s benefits precisely and only because we receive Christ. Martin Luther knew this well: “But so far as justification is concerned, Christ and I must be so closely attached that He lives in me and I in Him. What a marvelous way of speaking! Because He lives in me, whatever grace, righteousness, life, peace, and salvation there is in me is all Christ’s; nevertheless it is mine as well, by the cementing and attachment that are through faith, by which we become as one body in the Spirit.”

6. Sanctification is a magnificent benefit of being united to Christ.

Christ is our justification, and he is no less our sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30). Thus, united to him, we are not only forgiven and accounted righteous, we are also transformed into his holy image. In giving us himself, Christ will no more leave us condemned and guilty (unjustified) than he will leave us corrupted and depraved (unsanctified). This is because, as Calvin so incisively put it, “Christ cannot be divided into pieces.” Jesus is not a partial Savior of a piecemeal gospel. When we are joined to Christ, we receive all of who he is for us.

7. Adoption is a magnificent benefit of being united to Christ.

Christ’s self-giving is extravagant. He binds us so completely to himself that we come to share in all that he is as Savior. The gift of sharing in his sonship (adoption) is perhaps the most extravagant gift of them all. When we are joined to Christ by the Spirit, we come to share in the love between the Father and the Son—the very same love the Father has for his beloved Son (John 17:23). As such, God the Father loves us no less than he does his own eternal Son. This love is the love of all loves: it is indissoluble, it brooks no opposition, and is endlessly and everlastingly life giving and joyful. In Christ, we really and truly are the sons and daughters of God forever.

8. The Church is constituted by her union with Jesus Christ.

The reality of salvation and the reality of the church are in fact one and the same reality. To be united to Christ is what it means to be saved. At the same time, to be united to Christ is what it means to be the church: the church, after all, is the body and bride of Christ. A distinction, therefore, between a doctrine of salvation and a doctrine of the church can only be but artificial. There is no salvation outside the church, historic evangelicals have always asserted, just exactly because there is no salvation outside of Christ. We are saved in Christ, and we are the church in Christ. It is the same wonderful gospel.

9. Baptism is God’s pledge to us of our union with Christ.

In the waters of baptism, God impresses upon our bodies the truth and reality of our incorporation into the death, burial and resurrection of the living Christ. Baptism, in other words, is a visible and tangible experience of the exceedingly good news (gospel) that we have been crucified in Christ’s death and raised to new life in Christ’s resurrection. Baptism is the sacrament (“mystery”) of our new crucified and resurrected identity in Christ Jesus. Baptism is the “gospel in water,” allowing us to experience in our bodies the truth that we are immersed forever into Jesus Christ.

10. The Lord’s Supper is God’s pledge to us of our union with Christ.

In the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper, God impresses in our bodies the truth and reality of our ongoing participation in the living Savior. The Lord’s Supper, in other words, is a visible and edible experience of the exceedingly good news (gospel) that Christ dwells in us and that we dwell in him. Christ brought us into the eternal life that he is by giving us himself, and he continues to nourish and sustain us through his real presence. We have really and truly become one with Christ through his gospel, and we continue to receive Christ through the gospel of bread and wine that he has ordained as means of his ongoing presence to his body and bride. “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16). Yes, indeed. His body and blood, our salvation.


Marcus Peter Johnson (PhD, University of Toronto) is assistant professor of theology at Moody Bible Institute. Along with writing his doctoral dissertation on union with Christ in the theology of John Calvin, he is also the author of One with Christ: An Evangelical Theology of Salvation and the coauthor (with John C. Clark) of The Incarnation of God: The Mystery of the Gospel as the Foundation of Evangelical Theology. He and his wife, Stacie, live in Chicago with their son, Peter, and are members of Grace Lutheran Church.

by Crossway at August 23, 2016 02:51 PM

How True Change Happens

This post is adapted from You Can Change: God's Transforming Power for Our Sinful Behavior and Negative Emotions by Tim Chester.


How Are You Going to Change?

“Please forgive me and set me free.” I don’t know how many times I’ve prayed this prayer; it must be in the hundreds. “Father, here I am again, confessing the same sin to you again.” Every time I have to remind myself of God’s merciful character and gospel promises. I am forgiven. But I also really want to change.

Have you despaired of ever changing? Do you think you’re a lost cause? Maybe you think it’s different for you. Other people can change, but your history or temptations or problems make it different for you.

The glorious good news of Jesus is that you and I can change.

Part of the problem is we often try to change in the wrong way.

It seems our first instinct when we want to change is to do something. We think activity will change us. We want a list of do’s and don’ts. In Jesus’s day, people thought they could be pure through ceremonial washing. Today it can be spiritual disciplines or sets of laws. I’ve tried these approaches. I’ve written out little rituals to perform every morning. I’ve tried to regulate my behavior with lists. Many of these things are good in themselves, and we’ll discover the role they can play in helping us grow in holiness. But our rituals and disciplines can’t change us.

Change Is God’s Work

It is God himself who sanctifies us (1 Thess. 5:23). Other therapies can modify behavior. Drugs can suppress the more extreme symptoms of some problems. But only God can bring true and lasting change. And that’s because only God can change our hearts.

John the Baptist said, “I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Mark 1:8). He was talking about Jesus. John knew he could only make people outwardly clean. But Jesus changes us on the inside through the Holy Spirit. He transforms, cleanses, and changes hearts. John was proclaiming the fulfillment of an Old Testament promise:

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezek. 36:25–27)

Jesus does what legalism can never do: he gives us a new heart and a new spirit. Without this inner transformation, we can never please God. People aren’t changed by therapy or analysis—not even biblical analysis. They are changed by God. God is in the business of change.

The Liberating Work of the Spirit

Transformation is the special work of the Holy Spirit. God chose us “to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thess.2:13). We have been chosen “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood” (1 Pet. 1:2). There was a time when labels on electronic toys often said, “Batteries not included.” You opened your long-awaited Christmas present only to find you couldn’t make it work. The gospel is a gift that comes with “batteries included.” God gives us power through the Holy Spirit to make our new life work. John Berridge put it like this:

Run, John, and work, the law commands,
Yet finds me neither feet nor hands;
But sweeter news the gospel brings,
It bids me fly and lends me wings.[1]

Our sanctification begins with the Spirit’s work of regeneration or rebirth (John 3:3–8). The Spirit gives us new life. It’s the Spirit’s life in us that enables us to trust in Jesus as our Savior (faith) and submit to Jesus as our Lord (repentance). And it’s the Spirit’s life in us that enables us to grow in our faith and obedience. The great Puritan John Owen puts it like this: “Regeneration is the putting into the soul of a new, real spiritual law of life, light, holiness and righteousness, which leads to the destruction of all that hates God. . . . Regeneration produces an inward miraculous change of heart. . . . Our minds now have a new, saving supernatural light to enable them to think and act spiritually.”[2]

I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. (Gal. 5:16–17; see 5:13–25; Rom. 8:1–17)

The Spirit gives us the desire to do what is right and opposes our old sinful desires to do what is wrong. Our job is to follow the Spirit. Imagine a child being taught to paint by her father.[3] Her father wraps his hand around hers, guiding each stroke of the brush. The Spirit is God’s guiding hand in our lives. Whenever we want to do the wrong thing or react in the wrong way, the Spirit opposes those wrong desires. And we should be led by the Spirit. Whenever we want to do the right thing, that is the Spirit at work. We should be led by the Spirit even though the sinful nature doesn’t like it. When you feel this conflict, go with the Spirit. Walk in step with the Spirit. Follow those Spirit-prompted desires.

It’s as simple as that. Often I get nervous as I entrust young Christians to the Spirit’s promptings. I’m not sure it’s good enough. I want to give them some rules or wall them in. But that’s legalism. That’s why Paul reminds us that “if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Gal. 5:18). Some ethical issues are complicated, but most of the time it’s clear what’s wrong (“sexual immorality, impurity,” and so on) and what’s right (“love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control”) (vv. 19–23). Love is the summary of it all (v. 14). The Christian life is not as complicated as we sometimes make it. Only two commands matter: to love God and to love others (Mark 12:28–31; Rom. 13:8–10). Everything else is there simply to flesh out what this love involves. The Spirit gives us a desire to love and opposes our selfish desires.

Notes:
[1] This verse is often attributed to John Bunyan, but Charles H. Spurgeon ascribes it to John Berridge, a preacher during the Great Awakening, in The Salt-Cellars (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1889), 200.
[2] John Owen, The Holy Spirit, abridged and simplified by R. J. K. Law (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1998), 48.
[3] J. I. Packer, A Passion for Holiness (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1992), 173.


Tim Chester (PhD, University of Wales) is a pastor of Grace Church, Boroughbridge, and curriculum director of the Acts 29-Oak Hill Academy, which provides integrated theological and missional training for church leaders. He is the coauthor (with Steve Timmis) of Total Church and is the author of over twenty books, including You Can Change, A Meal with Jesus, and Good News to the Poor.

by Crossway at August 23, 2016 02:51 PM

Market Urbanism

How The Housing Market Works

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[Editors note: Sandy Ikeda was an original Market Urbanism writer and is now a regular columnist for the Foundation for Economic Education, or FEE.org. FEE has offered republishing rights, so Sandy’s past work will be appearing here every Tuesday at 10am eastern time]

People sometimes argue that we need substantial housing subsidies in some very expensive cities because “the cost of building new housing is greater than what most people can afford.”

It’s certainly true that families earning low or moderate incomes have a hard time buying or renting brand-new housing. But that’s not only the case today; it’s been true throughout the history of civilization, from Uruk to New York.

The ABCs of Housing

The housing market is subject to the same forces of supply and demand as any other market, although of course there are things that distinguish it from, say, the market for fast-food. For instance, unlike a hamburger, a house is durable: it’s not consumed all at once. It also depreciates: the average house in the United States, for example, has a useful life of about forty to sixty years before major renovations become necessary.

Let’s say there are 3 categories of housing – A, luxury housing; B, middle-income housing; and C, low-income housing – and that houses are continuously built, age, and wear down. In the real world there are of course many more than 3 categories but let’s assume for simplicity that there are only these three.

Now, this is very much like the market for automobiles, which are also durable. In the new-car market you have at the high-end the Mercedes S-Class Sedan, while at the low-end the Ford Fiesta, and in the middle there’s the Honda Accord. And within each category there’s an array of prices depending on initial quality, age, and condition. It’s the same in the housing market.

Filtering

A house depreciates because of wear-and-tear, competition from new supply, and changes in the demand for houses. It may then fall from category A to B or even C. Throughout history, as long as there is no government intervention, expensive, well-built residences sink over time within their original category or drop into a lower category – or “filter” – to families living on lower and lower incomes.

For instance, fancy apartment buildings built in the Bronx along the Grand Concourse a hundred years ago are now home to some of the poorest families in New York. Similarly, although I can’t afford a new Mercedes today, I might be able to buy that same car eight or ten years from now.

People currently living in houses in lower categories rarely buy new products in the higher categories. And the less-well-off families tend not to buy the newest, most expensive construction even within their own categories. So, to argue that the poorest people in a city cannot afford the most expensive housing currently being built is to state the obvious.

What if mostly luxury housing is being built?

This process would operate, though perhaps not as well, even if developers build mostly A-level housing. Instead of new housing filtering down within each category and then eventually dropping into the lower category, only new houses built in category A would filter down to B and C. That means that B and C housing would tend to be older and in greater need of repair and refurbishing than otherwise.

However, a family may buy a relatively run-down home and then renovate it gradually over time as they can afford to do so. Still, the less-well-off in each category could afford decent housing – especially if regulations allow old A and B housing to be divided into smaller units – in the same way that it’s possible for them to afford a decent used car.

On the other hand, a family who can afford A housing, other things equal, could also afford to buy B or even C housing. Sometimes a family will buy in a lower category because it may want to spend more of its budget on something else, say education, entertainment, or health care.

So if the government artificially constrains the supply of A housing – perhaps because of a misplaced concern that only “the rich” get new houses – high-income families have the option of buying or renting at the B level. That, in turn, increases the demand for and the prices of B houses. Middle-income families then, faced with higher prices, will now search more heavily than they would have among C houses, and that would increase the competition for and the prices of housing for the least well-off, who have the hardest time in any case affording a home.

The solution to high-housing prices is not to pass a law to force people to build B- and C-level housing, or to impose price-controls on housing. The result of all of these would again be less housing and higher prices overall. That’s because such regulations reduce the expected returns on investment for potential developers and landlords. Consequently, they may decide to invest less in housing altogether, which would hurt everyone, but especially those least-able to afford housing.

Costs don’t determine value

There also seems to be a basic economic confusion at work here. Let’s say I invest a lot of capital in a mansion on the coast of Newport, Rhode Island at a cost to me of $30 million. Will someone then pay me at least $30 million for that mansion because I spent so much to build it? Um, no.

On the other hand, if I strongly expect that someone would be willing to pay at least $30 million for a mansion at that location, that might give me an incentive to bear those costs. In other words, the expected demand for a product determines how much I’m willing to invest in it, but my costs will have no significant influence on the price people are willing to pay.

So to argue that new construction in A housing is driving up prices, is to confuse cause with effect. As with any other commodity, people in a market don’t increase their costs of production because they want to drive the price of that commodity up. On the contrary, people will spend on inputs only if they believe the demand for what they can produce with them will be high enough to cover those costs. If you don’t think the price of luxury housing will be high enough to cover your costs, you’ll find someplace else to invest.

In other words, it’s not the entrepreneurs, developers, architects, and construction companies that build very expensive housing in cities like New York that drives up housing prices! Indeed, those people are responding to what they believe buyers are willing to pay, and if they are prevented from building those units the result will be higher prices for everybody. And if you observe housing prices rise despite increasing supply, that probably indicates demand is currently increasing faster than supply. Prices, however, would have been even higher were the government to undertake policies that restricted supply.

Building new housing, even units that many could not conceivably afford to pay, takes pressure off the demand and keeps prices lower for all.

Sandy Ikeda


Sandy Ikeda

Sandy Ikeda is a professor of economics at Purchase College, SUNY, and the author of The Dynamics of the Mixed Economy: Toward a Theory of Interventionism. He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

by Sandy Ikeda at August 23, 2016 02:00 PM

The Finance Buff

HSA Transfer To Saturna Brokerage Services

When I did the paperwork to move part of my IRA from Vanguard to a credit union, I also did the paperwork to move my Health Savings Account (HSA) to Saturna Brokerage Services. My previous HSA provider requires a minimum balance in a low-yielding savings account or else there would be a monthly maintenance fee. By moving to Saturna I’m able to invest everything in the HSA with no maintenance fee.

Unlike some other providers who offer a savings account and a linked investment account, Saturna Brokerage Services offers the HSA in a pure brokerage account. The brokerage account is serviced by Pershing, which is part of Bank of New York Mellon.

The commission schedule is very straight forward, basically $15 per online trade for mutual funds and stocks or ETFs; add $10 fee for some funds such as Vanguard. Dividend reinvestment is free for mutual funds; $1 per event for stocks or ETFs.

Among index funds, Vanguard Admiral Shares funds and Fidelity Premium Class funds are available. For some reason the all-in-one Fidelity Freedom Index Funds are not available. You can buy a Vanguard Target Retirement fund instead.

If you contribute once a year and you only make one trade, you just pay $15 (or $25 if you buy a Vanguard fund). As long as you make one trade per calendar year, there is no account maintenance fee, or else there would be an inactivity fee.

Saturna has all the forms necessary to open the HSA and transfer your existing HSA on its website. I sent them these in one big envelope:

  1. Brokerage account application
  2. A copy of driver’s license
  3. HSA Application form
  4. IRS 5305-B form (included in the HSA application PDF above)
  5. HSA Transfer form (included in the HSA application PDF above)
  6. A copy of the account statement of the current HSA to be transferred
  7. Online Account Access Form
  8. Electronic Funds Transfer/ACH form, to link the HSA with a checking account

The brokerage account application form is very long, but it’s still not that bad. I selected Retirement in Step 1, Hold and FDIC Insured Deposit in Step 7 for the sweep option, and Credit in Step 12 for how to receive interest and dividends.

Before I put the forms in the mail, I sold everything in the investment part of my HSA and I moved the money back to the savings account part. Ten days later, I saw the savings account was closed. Another few days later I saw the money in the Saturna brokerage account.

Other than the time spent on filling out the forms, the transfer process went smoothly without any intervention.

Operation-wise Saturna is a bit old school and white glove, which some people may actually prefer. After the account was set up, when I called them for a question, someone picked up on the first ring. There is no checkbook or debit card for the HSA. After you link your checking account to the HSA for ACH transfers, you still don’t see it online. To actually move money into or out of the HSA, you call them or send them a letter. They will do it for you. Because I only contribute once a year and withdraw once a year, doing it by phone or by mail works for me just fine.

Refinance Your Mortgage

Mortgage rates hit new lows. I saw rates as low as 3.25% for 30-year fixed, 2.625% for 15-year fixed, with no points and low closing cost. Check mortgage rates in your state.

HSA Transfer To Saturna Brokerage Services is copyrighted material from The Finance Buff. All rights reserved.

by Harry Sit at August 23, 2016 01:54 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Will Travel For Food: One Man’s Journey to Rediscover a Lost Love

This is a reader profile. (Read others or nominate someone to be featured.)

After ten years in the restaurant industry, Drew Seaman had lost his passion for food. With the long hours, he also barely saw his wife. When the opportunity to move to London presented itself, they both jumped at the chance to remake their lives.

Here’s his story:

I’m Drew, half of the Drive on the Left team, along with my wife, Julie. We moved to London from New York City in the autumn of 2013, full of nerves and anticipation. A new country, a new role for Julie in her marketing company, and an undecided future for me.

SAMSUNG CSC

I had spent the previous ten years in restaurant management, slogging through long, stressful days and nights, managing teams, placating customers, and slowly losing my passion for what I once considered one of the most exciting and innovative industries around. I needed a break. I needed a change.

At that point I had been married for five years and rarely had valuable time with my wife. I would sneak in late at night from work, and the next morning, Julie would sneak out to avoid waking me. It was not a path for long-term happiness.

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Time for a change

When Julie called me about the offer to move to London (yes, she called, because we so rarely had time for conversations in person), I was immediately on board. For someone who is risk averse, that was a big step. But I understood that without a major ‘reason to leave,’ inertia and fear of the unknown would carry me towards a future I knew I didn’t want.

Walking into the office and resigning without an idea of my next move was terrifying. But, resigning because I was literally moving out of the country, well, that seemed easy.

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Falling in love with food. Again.

With my newfound freedom outside the confines of a restaurant, I’ve started exploring different corners of the world through its food, a love that had been dulled over the years due to the daily grind of the restaurant business.

During my first visit to Italy, a food lover’s paradise if there ever was one, my passion was reignited. Within minutes of entering the vast indoor market of Florence, surrounded by fresh pastas, aged vinegars, oils, fresh meats, produce, and fruit, I knew that I was home. I rushed up and down the aisles, tasting and smelling, dizzy with the abundance. And I felt it immediately—the reverence and adoration of a culture deeply in love with its food.

Food markets continue to be my favorite places to uncover a new culture. Recently, I was at a market in Slovenia and saw several vegetables that were unfamiliar to me. I had my phone out, trying to translate the names back to English, and some locals saw me and came over to help. Lots of gesturing ensued and we found ourselves laughing about the absurdity of it all. Who knew that a unique variety of squash could be the bridge to better cultural understanding?

With that, I set out on a personal journey to discover cultures through food – that essence of life that is deeply rooted in place, the subtleties of which are worth a lifetime of exploration.

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Be Yourself

When I left the restaurant industry to move abroad, my enthusiasm for food was at an all time low. Years of working deep in the industry had dulled my love for the key role it plays bringing people together. What was a real passion had become an endless spreadsheet of costs and profits.

Pulling myself out of the trenches with the move abroad gave me a much-needed change of perspective.

I no longer had to slog back and forth to the same restaurant, spending 12-14 hours overseeing service and filling out reports, while everyday getting further and further away from the main reason I got into the hospitality industry in the first place: my love for food. With a brand new start in an exciting new city, I could feed my interest in food and cultures without restrictions, allowing me to indulge in what I truly cared for.

I admit it took a while, but I’m now able to enjoy a lovely meal in a cafe or restaurant without my critic’s hat on. I can enjoy a drink at a bar even if there is a light out, or the menu has a misprint, or the glasses aren’t sparkling to my old standard.

More importantly, I can focus on what’s in front of me, tempting treats from new places, a lively conversation with new friends, or a quiet moment with my wife, without distraction. Whereas I used to walk into a restaurant with an eye to what needed to be fixed, I can now see the charm in the imperfect.

Learn more about Drew on his website, and follow him on Facebook.

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by Chris Guillebeau at August 23, 2016 01:40 PM

Market Urbanism

Cities And The Growth Of Our Collective Brain

map-of-internet

In his famous 2010 Ted Talk Matt Ridley points out that a growing human population has facilitated increasing standards of living because more people means a faster growth rate of innovation. He explains that humans’ propensity to exchange means that as a society we all benefit from each other’s ideas. No single person knows how to make a pencil from scratch, but we can all benefit from pencils (and much more complex tools) because collectively we have the knowledge to produce them.

Ridley describes technological progress as a product of the collective brain — the space where our “ideas have sex.” Ideas “meet and mate” perhaps most obviously on the Internet, where the best encyclopedia in human history is crowd-sourced. This process is constant in the analog world also. The story of Microplane — a company that went from making printer parts, to woodworking tools, to kitchen gadgets and instruments for orthopedic surgeons — illustrates the innovations that come from ideas meeting and mating across entirely different industries.

Cities provide the ideal location for these meetings because they bring together people from varied industries, backgrounds, and priorities. In The Death and Life of Great American CitiesJane Jacobs identifies four qualities that are necessary for diverse neighborhoods:

  • At least two primary land uses;
  • Small blocks;
  • Buildings of diverse ages and types; and
  • A high density of buildings and people.

These characteristics facilitate an urban environment in which people of different professions, interests and income levels come into contact with one another as they go about their daily routines. In turn, this human contact puts people in an ideal position for innovation and entrepreneurship. Sandy Ikeda describes the entrepreneur’s environment as the “action space.” Today, an action space could be in a suburban home for an entrepreneur who creates a digital product that’s sold online. While action space doesn’t necessarily need to be a place of high density, this face-to-face element remains a key part of the world’s most productive action spaces.

Firms reveal the importance of the urban action space by paying a premium to their workers who live in expensive cities. They could relocate to a less expensive place to save money on wages and rent, but their workers wouldn’t be as productive without the opportunity to innovate based on what they learn from fellow city residents within their industry and other industries. Efforts to restrict population density and city size impoverish us by reducing this potential for connectivity.

Well-known cluster economies demonstrate the importance of geographic proximity for innovation. For example, the Homebrew Computer Club played a crucial role in the development of personal computers. The group started in 1975 as an outlet for computer tinkerers. The programmers, engineers and inventors who attended the club’s early meetings would go on to revolutionize computing by taking what they learned from one another back to their companies. The club was only possible because these enthusiasts all worked for semiconductor companies that had attracted them to the Bay Area, enabling their proximity.

As transportation costs have fallen and telecommunications have made long-distance collaboration easier than ever, some theorists argue that “distance is dead.” In the face of these improvements, however, firms and individuals are demonstrating their willingness to pay increasing premiums to locate in large, dense cities. This is because face-to-face communication carries more information than any other form of communication.  We’ve evolved to gain information through being in the same space as others and by seeing their facial expressions. Because cooperation and trustworthiness are essential to success within a firm and in transactions between individuals, face-to-face reduces transaction costs and facilitates exchange.

Economists Ed Glaser and David Mare posit that cities create learning environments that are particularly attractive to highly-skilled young people. They find that young people, particularly those with college degrees, choose to live in cities because they have the opportunity to grow more quickly in their careers when they’re surrounded by other educated people. Some have predicted that the technology that makes email and video chats possible will cause the decline of cities as productive centers. According to this hypothesis, people will find it less valuable to locate in cities over time. However, Glaeser and Mare’s findings provide reason to believe that as employment in knowledge-based jobs increases, the returns to living in cities and benefiting from tacit knowledge spillovers will increase for firms and individuals.

In addition to providing the best possible action space for innovation by facilitating face-to-face interaction, cities also facilitate trust, which is a crucial component of successful exchange. In The Economy of Cities, Jane Jacobs explains that residents of diverse cities gain extensive experience interacting and transacting with out-groups. The environment that brings diverse people together creates the chance for positive interactions with members of out-groups, creating a population with higher levels of social trust.

Evidence on patent use shows the importance of cities in facilitating the space for entrepreneurship. American patents are more likely to be cited by firms within the same state and within the same Metropolitan Statistical Area. People and firms located near one another are more likely to learn from one another through casual interactions and labor market mobility. The positive externalities that firms provide within a metro may explain why individuals and businesses pay this urban premium.

San Francisco, San Jose, and New York City are the most productive cities in the country, but housing supply restrictions in all three cities mean that their population growth is restricted. By preventing people from living where they can be most productive, rules that limit urban growth also limit the growth of our collective brain.

by Emily Hamilton at August 23, 2016 08:30 AM

Table Titans

Tales: Under the Table Action

I'd recently started DM'ing for a new group of players that wanted to try out D&D. After spending an hour or so rolling out characters, they set to work on their first campaign--Keep on the Shadowfell.

Following a brief spat with some kobolds outside Winterhaven, the group decided to rest for…

Read more

August 23, 2016 07:00 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

The FAQs: What You Should Know About Human-Animal Hybrids

Article by: Joe Carter

What’s the story?

Earlier this month the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced it is planning to lift its ban on federal funding of some research that creates chimeras by injecting human stem cells into animal embryos.

According to The New York Times, there are two types of experiments being considered for funding: (1) adding human stem cells to the embryos of animals before the embryos reach a stage when organs are starting to develop, and (2) adding stem cells into embryos of animals (other than rodents) where the cells could get into and modify the animals’ brains.

Because nonhuman primates like monkeys and chimpanzees are so genetically close to people, the Times notes, researchers working with such primates who want NIH funding would have to wait until an embryo was further developed before adding human stem cells.

What are chimeras?

Chimeras are animals composed of cells that originate from two or more different species. To create a chimera, scientists introduce cells from one species into the developing embryo or fetus of another. (The name chimera comes from Greek mythology and describes a creature with the head of a lion, the body of a goat, and the tail of a serpent).

What are stem cells?

In the human body there are around 200 different cells. Most cells are a particular type (such as the ceruminous gland cell) and have a specific function (in the case of the ceruminous gland cell, producing earwax). Stem cells differ, though, in that they are relatively undifferentiated and unspecialized—they have not yet obtained a special structure and function. These cells are either multipotent, meaning they can give rise to several other differentiated and specialized cells of the body (for example, liver cells, kidney cells, brain cells) or pluripotent, can give rise to all of the cell types that make up the body. All specialized cells arise originally from stem cells, and ultimately form a small number of embryonic cells that appear during the first few days of development.

Embryonic stem cells are stem cells that have been taken from the inner cell mass of a blastocyst, an embryo of about 150 cells that has not yet implanted into a woman’s uterus. (“Embryo” is the term for humans and other mammals in the stage of development between fertilization and the end of the eighth week of gestation, whereupon the being is referred to as a fetus until the time of birth.)

Are human-animal chimeras already being created?

Yes. Chinese scientists began in 2003 by fusing human cells with rabbit eggs to produce the first human-animal chimeras. A few years later researchers at Mayo Clinic created pigs with human blood in their veins and scientists at the University of Nevada created sheep whose livers and hearts are largely human.

Why would scientists want to expand human-animal chimeras into these new areas?

According to the NIH, animal-human chimeras hold “tremendous potential for disease modeling, drug testing, and perhaps eventual organ transplant.”

What are the ethical concerns about funding chimera research?

There are two overlapping but distinct areas of concern. The first involves government funding of the controversial research. For example, many citizens (rightly or wrongly) find such research objectionable or even repugnant and would prefer their tax-dollars not pay for it. But regulatory agencies have increasingly taken a “we know what’s best” approach and have been dismissive of taxpayer concerns. (By law, the NIH is required to accept comments from the public for 30 days. But almost no one thinks the comments will divert the policy from taking effect this fall.) Societal consent does not determine whether research is morally acceptable, of course. But we should have more input, ideally through our elected representatives, about taxpayer funding of such research.

The second area of concern is more ambiguous. For decades researchers have inserted human genetic material into animals to for the purposes of creating treatments (e.g., insulin) and engaging in xenotransplanation, that is, transplanting nonhuman tissues or organs into human recipients (e.g., pig skin grafted onto burn patients). Many Christian bioethicists consider such uses to be morally legitimate, though a few believe it violates the species barrier instituted by our Creator.

The creation of chimeras, however, is more broadly problematic. As the Christian Medical and Dental Association (CMDA) notes, there are several compelling moral reasons to refrain from applying biotechnology to create chimeras or hybrid organisms that are partly human and partly nonhuman. For instance, we should not be creating intermediate or indeterminate species sharing human and animal genetic material (1 Cor. 15:38-40).

And as David Prentice and Chuck Donovan explain, the intermixing of genetic material becomes more morally problematic when it is done at the embryonic stage:

The problematic aspect is that when added so early in development, the human cells could end up, well, anywhere in the developing animal. In the worst case, the human cells could end up in gonadal tissue and form human gametes (eggs or sperm) within the animal’s body.

Additionally, the human genetic material could affect the brains of the animals:

The breeding of new forms of life—human-animal hybrids—could then be in view, or even the development of an animal with a largely human or fully human brain. NIH’s answer to objections like these seems to be to preclude such animals from breeding (this would likely not be 100 percent effective—just ask anyone who has run an animal facility).

There are also other ethical problems to be concerned about. As Jeffrey Keenan, president and medical director of the National Embryo Donation Center, says, “This technology also runs the risk of violating the principle of informed consent on human subjects” and “could even enable animals to contract human infections and diseases, and vice versa.”

Should Christians completely reject this type of research?

In deciding whether to reject this research Christians should become generally informed about the issues involved (as this article briefly attempts to do), process this information through a biblical framework (for this step see this post and the CMDA’s ethics statement), and then follow the leading of their conscience as guided by the Holy Spirt. 

After following this process many Christians will likely be able to follow the CMDA’s lead in endorsing ethical chimeric and hybrid research and technology designed for the benefit of humankind, provided that “these are safe and do not degrade the unique status of humankind” while simultaneously opposing chimeric and hybrid research and technology that “fundamentally alters human nature as designed by God.”

Joe Carter is an editor for The Gospel Coalition, the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible, and the co-author of How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History’s Greatest Communicator. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Joe Carter at August 23, 2016 06:05 AM

Zondervan Academic Blog

Should Christians Defend Jesus’ Virgin Birth?

9780310520924_image“The notion that Jesus was born to a young Galilean girl who was still a virgin has proven to be one of the most objectionable and mocked beliefs of the Christian faith” (99), Michael Bird contends in his new book What Christians Ought to Believe.

Even a Christian pastor once suggested that it should make no difference to our faith if archaeologists found definitive, biological, DNA proof that Jesus had an earthly father named Larry.

“And yet,” Bird continues, “there it is right in front of us, right there in the Apostles’ Creed, to be confessed by Christians as part of our holy faith.” (99)

What are we to make of this stanza from our creed: “[Jesus] was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary”? Is it truly necessary to believe in Jesus’s virgin birth? If so, what does it mean?

Like every other chapter in his introduction to the Apostles’ Creed, Bird walks us through the critical historical, biblical, and theological issues surrounding this contested facet of our faith to help us understand what Christians ought to believe about Jesus’s virgin birth.

Two Critical Issues about Jesus’s Virgin Birth

Without getting bogged down canvasing the critical, contested historical issues of Jesus’s virgin birth, Bird does offer a few short comments to help us understand these issues’ significance. Two particular issues stood out to me: importance and historic parody.

First, Bird helps us gain some perspective on how important the issue is for mapping Jesus’ identity by explaining it only has “relative” importance. That’s not to say Jesus’ virgin conception is unimportant or irrelevant, “but only that it has relative importance within the wider topic of the person and work of Jesus Christ.” (102) Bird points to the christology of Mark, John, Paul, and the writer of Hebrews to underscore his point, insisting its absence in these narratives would make them deficient. Bird is “inclined to understand the nativity stories as a clarification to Jesus’ divine sonship rather than the necessary grounds for it.” (102)

Second, Bird rejects attempts to make the virgin birth story “a late creation intended as a christological parody of stories about ancient persons who were supposedly born of strange and supernatural circumstances.” (102) Some would compare Jesus’ birth narrative to that of the Romans emperor Augustus, who was thought to have been conceived through his mother being impregnated by Apollo. Yet Bird notes that Jesus was accused of being a mamzer, Aramaic slang for an illegitimate child, revealing there was something suspicious surrounding his birth. “An accusation of illegitimacy of course does not prove the virgin conception but it is certainly consistent with it.” (102) Add to this the distinctive Palestinian flavor and the Jewishness of the nativity accounts, and it’s not easy to dismiss them “as adaptations of pagan myths by a gentile-dominated church late in the first century.” (102)

The Meaning of Jesus’ Virgin Birth

Bird is less interested in the merits of demythologizing Jesus’s virgin birth and more interested in engaging its meaning and function for understanding God, Jesus, and humanity. Before launching into what it means, Bird clarifies what it doesn’t mean: the virgin birth is not about sinlessness. Bird explains:

there is nothing in the nativity accounts that suggests that Jesus’s sinlessness is at stake. In addition, we know that children receive DNA from both of their parents, mother and father, and Jesus evidently possessed human DNA at least from his mother. So a virgin conception cannot be a necessary requirement for apprehending a mode of humanity partitioned away from human fallenness since biology teaches us otherwise. (104)

Bird quotes from Mark Strauss to further his point, emphasizing the importance of the virgin birth wasn’t about sinlessness but salvation: “What is certain from the text is that the conception of Jesus was a supernatural act of God, confirming that God himself was about to accomplish the salvation which no human being could achieve.” (Four Portraits, 415)

Bird offers five more salient points, which I’ve included in brief. The virgin conception:

  1. “makes it clear that Israel was the vehicle by which God’s deliverance was brought into the world” (105)
  2. “underscores the dominant role of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’s ministry” and him bringing about redemption (105)
  3. “provides clarification to Jesus’s identity as the preexistent and eternal Son of God made flesh” (106)
  4. “means that God’s new world was at last becoming a reality” (106)
  5. “teaches us about the victory of God and the vanquishing of Satan” (107)

***

“The Christian faith is a Christmas faith,” Bird concludes, “celebrating the fact that God became one of us through the Holy Spirit overshadowing Mary’s body. It is a glorious story about God’s Spirit, Mary’s womb, God’s Word made flesh, and angels singing, ‘Peace on earth.’” (107)

A glorious story, indeed—one Bird invites you to discover by exploring What Christians Ought to Believe through the Apostle’s Creed.

9780310520924_imageOrder your copy of What Christians Ought to Believe today at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or ChristianBook.com.

by Jeremy Bouma at August 23, 2016 05:15 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Growing Solid Churches on Africa’s Ivory Coast

Article by: Stephen L. Woodworth

On the western edge of Africa lies a country long known for civil war and elephant poaching. Referred to by early explorers as the Côte d'Ivoire, or Ivory Coast, the land proved bountiful in natural resources. But the country has been hindered by political unrest and remains in a perpetual state of poverty and instability.

Yet Christianity is growing here, especially in the north.

Foreign missionaries began arriving in Ivory Coast as early as the 17th century, and the fruit of their work ripened slowly until the 1800s. Today, the southern region of the country is home to a Christian community composing nearly 30 percent of the population.

Life in the northern region, however, paints a different picture: Islam, folk religion, and animism dominate. In the city of Korhogo there remains a forested park surrounded by walls, with an archway inviting religious pilgrims to enter the “sacred forest” and participate in the ancient practice of animal sacrifice.     

Training Church-Planting Pastors

Despite the spiritual climate in northern Ivory Coast, Christianity is growing at an unprecedented rate. This is due in no small part to the Institut Biblique Bethel (IBB/Bethel Bible Institute) in Korhogo. The school opened in 1991 but was forced to close after civil war tore through the country in 2002. A year later, Christian leaders recognized the need to continue the work and reopened the doors to train a new generation of pastors.

The school trains a small number of pastors who, over the last decade, have been instrumental in planting hundreds of churches. But like many Christian institutions in Africa, IBB suffers from a severe famine of biblical resources.

Ian Shearer, pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Millinocket, Maine, visited IBB in 2014. “Students own very few books other than their Bible,” he observed. “Because of the high cost and difficulty of obtaining theological books, all texts are owned by the school and used by students only for the duration of a class.”

In addition to teaching a course at IBB, Shearer partnered with TGC International Outreach (TGC IO) to bring students and local pastors materials to anchor them in Christ-centered theology. One recipient said the resources encouraged him to champion grace: “The gospel alone changes people, not rules. When people understand the gospel, their lives will change.”

Far from Complete

While the body of Christ in northern Ivory Coast continues to grow, Sunni Muslims, folk religion, and animism pose a constant threat. The churches need capable leaders who will strengthen a new generation of Christians with sound theology and biblical preaching.

Thanks to training centers like IBB and resources from TGC IO, Ivory Coast churches have the potential to care for new believers—including those who live in the shadow of a “sacred forest” that reminds them their work is far from done.

Stephen L. Woodworth is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and associate coordinator of the International Theological Educational Network (ITEN). You can follow him on Twitter

by Stephen L. Woodworth at August 23, 2016 05:02 AM

Keller, Moore, DeYoung on How to Speak to Our Culture About Sex

Article by: Ryan Troglin

It’s no secret Western culture is shifting fast, particularly in the realm of sexual ethics. What was unfathomable just 30 years ago is normal today.

How should Christians engage our neighbors who think differently? How can pastors equip Christians to talk about these things in a way that’s loving, winsome, and compelling?

In a new roundtable video, Tim Keller (TGC vice president, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, and author of Center Church), Russell Moore (president of the ERLC and author of Onward), and Kevin DeYoung (pastor of University Reformed Church and author of What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality?) sit down to tackle such questions. Moore encourages us not to panic, since we’re not facing unfamiliar opponents to the gospel. DeYoung counsels us to see people as people and to be conscious of our words. Keller stresses the value of laying theological and philosophical foundations of freedom and identity before addressing sexual morality.

Together they offer us prudent ways for subverting the cultural narrative and for helping lead those in darkness toward the marvelous light of Christ. We may not finally be persuasive, but we can be confidently faithful as we speak into the cultural conversation. 

Ryan Troglin (MDiv, Southern Seminary) serves as an assistant editor for The Gospel Coalition and as an editorial assistant in the office of the president at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also teaches English at Providence Classical Christian School in Northwest Arkansas. He and his wife, Stacey, are members at University Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas. 

by Ryan Troglin at August 23, 2016 05:00 AM

August 22, 2016

Zippy Catholic

“For God and Profit” by Samuel Gregg: a brief review of Chapters 1-3

If you are one of the folks who purchased For God and Profit by Samuel Gregg of the Acton Institute in the hope of receiving a fair hearing on the subject of usury, you will unfortunately be disappointed.

To all appearances[1] the book provides an interesting review of economic history in general, and more specifically of the Catholic contribution to entrepreneurship and economic life as a positive endeavor which contributes to the flourishing of individuals and the common good.

Unfortunately, when it comes to usury specifically the text is most notable for what it misapprehends and leaves out.  In particular, while selectively curated arguments of this individual or that about extrinsic titles and the like feature throughout the first three chapters dealing with the history of usury in the Church, actual citations of the Magisterium are thin on the ground.

Perhaps this is because the author does not own or have access to a copy of Denzinger. He writes:

In the first place, there appears to have been no significant effort by the Church to define what constitutes a loan, let alone the specific characteristics of different types of loans.

If the author had access to a copy of Denzinger he would be aware that the Magisterium actually has done this.  But you won’t find citations of Regimini Universalis (or Cum Onus, for that matterin this book.

Nor does even Vix Pervenit, the papal encyclical equivalent to Humanae Vitae on the subject of usury, show up when I search my Kindle version of the text.  Gregg makes the usual mistake of distinguishing a mutuum from other kinds of loans based on the kind of property which is lent.  But if he had read Vix Pervenit he would know that the distinction between usurious loans and licit contracts for profit is not in the nature of what is lent: it is in the nature of the contract:

We exhort you not to listen to those who say that today the issue of usury is present in name only, since gain is almost always obtained from money given to another. How false is this opinion and how far removed from the truth! We can easily understand this if we consider that the nature of one contract differs from the nature of another. – Vix Pervenit (Emphasis mine).

The author cites Aquinas as approving of some extrinsic titles on mutuum loans (e.g. damnum emergens, as I mention in the Usury FAQ).  This is I suppose a way of rhetorically putting the weight of the Dumb Ox behind the book’s liberal presentation of usury as something manifest, not in objective behaviors, but in bad intentions.  Notably absent is Aquinas’ unequivocal condemnation of contractual profit on mutuum loans — loans of any kind of property whatsoever, not just ‘consumables’.

This is not to say that this book has no value.  Like the author, I see two trends in Christian thought when it comes to money, investment, and property: there are those who see property and commerce as mostly evil, and those who see it as mostly good.  Most of this is based in incomprehension, as the author notes:

But how do we determine when a particular burden of debt accumulated by an individual, business, or government has become morally problemmatic?[2] … In many instances, the rhetoric of some Christians concerning money and contemporary finance is long on indignation but short on how, for instance, particular financial instruments work.

What makes this ironic is that the author himself does not appear to know precisely what kinds of profits the Church has and has not condemned – indeed, he openly[3] denies that the Magisterium has even made clarifying pronouncements.  I suppose that isn’t too surprising given that he appears to be unaware of specific Magisterial pronouncements on precisely that point.

But our mutual agreement that most commentators on usury have no idea what they are talking about – don’t understand financial reality or the way various kinds of public and private financial securities work – is about as far as it goes.  When it comes to usury this book is just another exercise in avoiding moral clarity.

[UPDATE 8-23-2016: Post lightly edited.]


[1] As of this writing I have read the first three chapters, in which Gregg discusses the history of usury as the centerpiece of his overall thesis.

[2] I’ll note just in passing the focus on the borrower here, as opposed to the lender.

[3] And oddly.  It seems more than a little strange for a Catholic scholar recounting the history of usury to avoid even mentioning Vix Pervenit.  That would be like a Catholic scholar recounting the history of contraception while avoiding all mention of Humanae Vitae.  But I suppose that is how the memory hole works.


by Zippy at August 22, 2016 05:39 PM

Market Urbanism

Why Is The Left Bashing Uber?

(While Bernie Sanders was criticizing Uber, his campaign workers were using the service to get around).

(While Bernie Sanders criticized Uber, his campaign workers used the service to get around).

 

Recently we’ve heard about the supposed malevolence of Uber, a smart phone app that provides private taxi services to users at competitive prices. Uber has been attacked by many government jurisdictions worldwide–most notably in Austin–and their government monopoly taxi companies. They claim that Uber is unsafe and dangerous because it is “unregulated” and “unlicensed.”

Do these politicians have a point?

No. Uber is far from a threat to our society and the economy. In fact, it is a positive development that has given countless people affordable and efficient transportation options while providing an income to as many drivers.

When the government throws accusations of a new and promising venture being dangerous because it is unlicensed,” this is code for “they didn’t pay us our kickback.” Governments across the world license an innumerable amount of professions and activities, and the taxi industry is no exception. Uber has provided a way around these archaic licensing laws, by allowing people to become drivers with relative ease and without needing to go through a burdensome, bureaucratic, and expensive licensing process.

This government licensing process works by taking natural rights away from individuals and then selling them back to said individuals, calling it a “license.” At the same time, governments build a support network of individuals and organizations who benefit from the weakened competition under this license system. These vested interests are essentially purchased votes who work hard to prevent any legal changes. In Uber’s case, the biggest of these groups have been the government taxi companies and the taxicab unions, while the political forces supporting them have been Democrats, including the candidates at the tippy top of the party’s pyramid.

Democratic presidential candidate and limo connoisseur Hillary Clinton, for example, recently derided Uber and the entire Sharing Economy (which she calls the “gig economy”). She claimed at a speech in New York:

“Many Americans are making extra money renting out a spare room, designing websites, selling products they design themselves at home, or even driving their own car..”

Apparently viewing all these occupations–and the services they generate–as a bad thing, she continued:

“…it’s also raising hard questions about workplace protections and what a good job will look like in the future.”

untitled uber Uber and Innovation...The Left's Worst Nightmares untitled

Workplace conditions? Is it so terrible that someone can drive another person for money without getting government approval? Licensed taxi drivers are notoriously shady and rude; it’s hard to believe that an unlicensed Uber driver who has to work to maintain a good reputation would be worse. Are drivers or riders being exploited by Uber? Well, if drivers felt they weren’t being paid enough or their work was unsafe, they’d cease driving, and if riders felt the prices were not reasonable or conditions unsafe, they’d cease hailing. Neither is happening and Uber continues to grow, with a valuation that has now reached $66 billion.

In my home city of New York, which has been central in the Uber debate, prices for New York City taxi medallions (licenses) have been falling. Prior to Uber, the prices for such medallions topped $1 million. Now that Uber has made it possible for anyone to become a driver with relative ease, the price for these medallions have dropped and hopefully will continue doing so. Their depreciation in value represents the decline of the local taxi monopoly, which is finally facing competition.

All this innovation of the so-called “Sharing Economy” is nothing more than the free market at work. Through market competition, incentives are created to innovate and improve your product or service. If an economic actor fails to do this, they fold up. Government monopolies have no such incentives to improve, as they are tax-funded and will be bailed out after failing.

This isn’t the full picture though. At the heart of the ongoing war against Uber is an underlying fear among the left about the rise of free-market capitalism. When people can get cheaper and better service from an Uber driver than government transit, they will question why they are paying taxes to support the latter. Indeed, such examples chip away at the left’s presumption that government must provide everything, and that markets are exploitative. The left thus opts to attack market innovation before it gets going. Uber is just the latest target.

[This post originally appeared on TheLibertyConservative.com]

by Gavin Wax at August 22, 2016 04:28 PM

Aaron M. Renn

As Gasoline and Electricity Performed Their Miracles

640px-The-Magnificent-Ambersons-1The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington won the Pulitzer Prize for best novel in 1919. It’s on the Modern Library list of top 100 English language novels of the 20th century and was made into a film by Orson Welles.

Tarkington was from Indianapolis, which is the fictionalized setting of the book. I recently read the book for the first time, and it’s very good, even today. Tarkington, of whom I knew little, appeared to be a critic of industrialization. The book’s story arc takes place as Indianapolis is being transformed by the massive waves of technological, industrial, and demographic change of the late 19th and early 20th century.

Here’s an extended passage of the book that gives us a contemporary account (albeit from a novel) from someone not entirely enamored of it, particularly the environmental consequences. (The paragraphing may be off as I had to reformat it).

[The city] was heaving up in the middle incredibly; it was spreading incredibly; and as it heaved and spread, it befouled itself and darkened its sky. Its boundary was mere shapelessness on the run; a raw, new house would appear on a country road; four or five others would presently be built at intervals between it and the outskirts of the town; the country road would turn into an asphalt street with a brick-faced drugstore and a frame grocery at a corner; then bungalows and six-room cottages would swiftly speckle the open green spaces—and a farm had become a suburb which would immediately shoot out other suburbs into the country, on one side, and, on the other, join itself solidly to the city. You drove between pleasant fields and woodland groves one spring day; and in the autumn, passing over the same ground, you were warned off the tracks by an interurban trolley-car’s gonging, and beheld, beyond cement sidewalks just dry, new house-owners busy “moving in.” Gasoline and electricity were performing the miracles Eugene had predicted.

But the great change was in the citizenry itself. What was left of the patriotic old-stock generation that had fought the Civil War, and subsequently controlled politics, had become venerable and was little heeded. The descendants of the pioneers and early settlers were merging into the new crowd, becoming part of it, little to be distinguished from it. What happened to Boston and to Broadway happened in degree to the Midland city; the old stock became less and less typical, and of the grown people who called the place home, less than a third had been born in it. There was a German quarter; there was a Jewish quarter; there was a negro quarter—square miles of it—called “Bucktown”; there were many Irish neighbourhoods; and there were large settlements of Italians, and of Hungarians, and of Rumanians, and of Serbians and other Balkan peoples. But not the emigrants, themselves, were the almost dominant type on the streets downtown. That type was the emigrant’s prosperous offspring: descendant of the emigrations of the Seventies and Eighties and Nineties, those great folk-journeyings in search not so directly of freedom and democracy as of more money for the same labour.

A new Midlander—in fact, a new American—was beginning dimly to emerge. A new spirit of citizenship had already sharply defined itself. It was idealistic, and its ideals were expressed in the new kind of young men in business downtown. They were optimists—optimists to the point of belligerence—their motto being “Boost! Don’t Knock!” And they were hustlers, believing in hustling and in honesty because both paid. They loved their city and worked for it with a plutonic energy which was always ardently vocal. They were viciously governed, but they sometimes went so far to struggle for better government on account of the helpful effect of good government on the price of real estate and “betterment” generally; the politicians could not go too far with them, and knew it. The idealists planned and strove and shouted that their city should become a better, better, and better city—and what they meant, when they used the word “better,” was “more prosperous,” and the core of their idealism was this: “The more prosperous my beloved city, the more prosperous beloved I!”

They had one supreme theory: that the perfect beauty and happiness of cities and of human life was to be brought about by more factories; they had a mania for factories; there was nothing they would not do to cajole a factory away from another city; and they were never more piteously embittered than when another city cajoled one away from them.

What they meant by Prosperity was credit at the bank; but in exchange for this credit they got nothing that was not dirty, and, therefore, to a sane mind, valueless; since whatever was cleaned was dirty again before the cleaning was half done. For, as the town grew, it grew dirty with an incredible completeness. The idealists put up magnificent business buildings and boasted of them, but the buildings were begrimed before they were finished. They boasted of their libraries, of their monuments and statues; and poured soot on them. They boasted of their schools, but the schools were dirty, like the children within them. This was not the fault of the children or their mothers. It was the fault of the idealists, who said: “The more dirt, the more prosperity.” They drew patriotic, optimistic breaths of the flying powdered filth of the streets, and took the foul and heavy smoke with gusto into the profundities of their lungs. “Boost! Don’t knock!” they said. And every year or so they boomed a great Clean-up Week, when everybody was supposed to get rid of the tin cans in his backyard. They were happiest when the tearing down and building up were most riotous, and when new factory districts were thundering into life. In truth, the city came to be like the body of a great dirty man, skinned, to show his busy works, yet wearing a few barbaric ornaments; and such a figure carved, coloured, and discoloured, and set up in the market-place, would have done well enough as the god of the new people.

Such a god they had indeed made in their own image, as all peoples make the god they truly serve; though of course certain of the idealists went to church on Sunday, and there knelt to Another, considered to be impractical in business. But while the Growing went on, this god of their market-place was their true god, their familiar and spirit-control. They did not know that they were his helplessly obedient slaves, nor could they ever hope to realize their serfdom (as the first step toward becoming free men) until they should make the strange and hard discovery that matter should serve man’s spirit.

“Prosperity” meant good credit at the bank, black lungs, and housewives’ Purgatory. The women fought the dirt all they could; but if they let the air into their houses they let in the dirt. It shortened their lives, and kept them from the happiness of ever seeing anything white.

by Aaron M. Renn at August 22, 2016 04:11 PM

Deck Chairs

John Kheit at The Mac Observer:

Now that Apple is done planting trees in its stores, fixing punctuation, and creating new titles for the same old jobs, perhaps they can get back to actually making and shipping some new products. Hopefully Apple’s recent housekeeping is the end of a transition that will bring more coherently named and more regularly released product offerings.

It’s a real shame that Tim Cook pulled engineers off of their hardware projects to renovate Apple Stores. While it is past time for some new Macs, Kheit’s entire article is ridiculous.

by Stephen at August 22, 2016 03:42 PM

Crossway Blog

A Final Sneak Peek at 'The Biggest Story: The Animated Short Film'

We Come to a Manger in the Little Town of Bethlehem

Today, we're excited to reveal the third and final sneak peek into The Biggest Story: The Animated Short Film—chapter 8.

We trust you will enjoy this sneak peek highlighting the story of Jesus's life and death and anticipate viewing the rest of the film! You can also preview the first chapter, which highlights the story of creation and the fall, and the second chapter, which tells the story of Noah and the ark.

Learn more about the film (DVD, digital download), the audio book (CD, digital download), and the book.

Enter to Win The Biggest Story: The Animated Short Film

Fill out a brief survey to enter to win a free copy of both the DVD and the book.

by Crossway at August 22, 2016 02:56 PM

Looking Back at iOS Accessibility’s Biggest Milestones

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by my friend Steven Aquino. He is a freelance tech journalist based in San Francisco, CA, where he covers all things Apple accessibility. His work has appeared in iMore, TechCrunch, Macworld, and more.


The iPhone has been such a revolutionary, life-changing device that remembering what life was like before it existed feels almost like trying to imagine the Stone Age. The advent of the iPhone in 2007 was a seminal moment in technology history; it’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime product that redefined not only smartphones but computers in general. Almost ten years later, it still never ceases to amaze me that everyone nowadays carries with them a lightweight, always-connected supercomputer everywhere they go. A supercomputer, to paraphrase John Gruber, in our freaking pockets!

Everyone knows how big the iPhone is, but for as much impact as it has had on society and culture at large, I’ve long believed it’s been equally as game-changing for people with disabilities.

The combination of its Multi-Touch interface and iOS software — particularly its Accessibility features — has opened up a world of possibilities like never before.

As a person with disabilities, I can attest to the iPhone’s influence on my life. iOS has empowered me to do more than I ever did on a traditional computer, even a Mac. The 12.9″ iPad Pro is my “laptop” of choice for these reasons. Put simply, tap-and-swipe beats point-and-click for me.

With the final release of iOS 10 drawing near, it’s fun to marvel at just how mature the operating system has become since its inception. The App Store, app extensions, third-party keyboards, widgets, and more — these all are features that have come since the early days of “iPhone OS 1.0.” As someone who’s been using iOS every day for the last nine years, it’s been exciting to watch the OS evolve over time.

As iOS has evolved, so too has its accessibility features. What started as a small feature set has grown into a comprehensive suite that has won Apple critical acclaim as the best in the industry for its remarkable breadth and depth.

With this sentiment in mind, here’s a look at what I consider to be five milestone iOS accessibility features.

VoiceOver

VoiceOver is perhaps the canonical accessibility feature. It’s the most well-known and typically the first that third-party developers support in their app(s).

VoiceOver has been around for a long time, but it hasn’t been around since the beginning. Believe it or not, the first two generations of iPhone, the original and the 3G, had no accessibility features whatsoever. It wasn’t until the iPhone 3GS shipped in June 2009 (with VoiceOver) that iPhone OS started becoming accessible. Along with VoiceOver, iPhone OS 3 also included features such as Zoom and Mono Audio.

Although VoiceOver was included with the iPhone 3GS, its roots trace back to the buttonless iPod Shuffle.

Launched in March 2009, a mere three months prior to the iPhone 3GS’s debut, Apple described the third-generation iPod Shuffle as “the first music player that talks to you” by way of its “revolutionary new VoiceOver feature.”

In short, VoiceOver was able to read song titles and names of artists and playlists.

Given VoiceOver’s importance and reverence, it’s hard to believe the screen reader has only been around for seven of the iPhone’s nine years of existence. While I don’t need to use it, I have a ton of respect for VoiceOver. It’s great, and Apple deserves all the kudos for continually supporting and improving on such a crucial part of iOS for so many people.

Guided Access

Guided Access, a feature whereby certain interface elements (e.g., the Home button) can be disabled in order to restrict user input in apps, is notable in two ways.

First, it’s one of the few accessibility features to receive prominent stage time at an Apple keynote. (The other, to my knowledge, is watchOS 3’s “wheelchair mode” at WWDC this year.) Guided Access was introduced by Scott Forstall at WWDC 2012 as a “tentpole” feature of iOS 6. Forstall explained Guided Access as being two things: (1) a tool for children with autism; and (2) a de-facto “single app mode,” useful in situations such as test-taking and using kiosks in museums.

Secondly, I can directly relate to Forstall’s comment about children with autism. As someone who spent nearly a decade working with preschoolers with special needs, I spent many days using an iPad to augment the curriculum with our students, many of whom were on the autism spectrum. Before iOS 6, keeping students focused and on-task was difficult because oftentimes they would “escape” to play Angry Birds or some other game. Thus, Guided Access was our savior.

Once set up, we could provide students a structured, predictable environment — something that’s essential to anyone with autism, but is especially true of young children — while simultaneously keep them engaged in learning in a fun and interactive way.

Large Dynamic Type

Introduced with iOS 7, Large Dynamic Type is a feature that allows users to set a text size that applies system-wide. The idea is it’s easier to set text size globally than it is to manually fiddle with a text slider in each individual app. Apple supports Dynamic Type in several of iOS’s built-in apps, including Mail, Messages, and Notes.

Large Dynamic Type is arguably my favorite feature of iOS. It’s convenient, yes, but what I love most about it is there’s a public API for it. That means developers can support Dynamic Type in their own apps. As a user, what that means for me is show notes and episode descriptions in Overcast are easier to read; likewise with the chatter in Slack and my to-do list in 2Do. Sadly, however, not every app supports Dynamic Type. Instagram and Uber are two apps I use regularly that don’t, but really should. Dynamic Type makes the app experience appreciably better because of big text’s increased legibility.

Considering the usability gains I get from Dynamic Type, I strongly believe every developer should adopt it right away if they aren’t already supporting it. Text is a basic part of any piece of software, and I’m surely not the only person with low vision (or tired/aging eyes, for that matter) who benefits immensely from larger text.

Switch Control

Like Large Dynamic Type, Switch Control debuted in iOS 7. Switch Control allows users with limited (or no) range of motion in their fingers to control an iOS device withswitches. A switch — or, as it’s colloquially known in special education circles, a Big Mac, due to its resemblance to the burger — is effectively a giant button that uses a wired or Bluetooth connection. In this context, switches are used to control an iOS device, but they’re capable of controlling pretty much anything electronic, including kitchen appliances like blenders.

What makes Switch Control a noteworthy addition to iOS is that its made iOS devices more accessible to a wider range of people. In the same way wheelchair mode in watchOS 3 makes the Activity app accessible to wheelchair users, Switch Control makes iOS devices accessible to people who rely on switches.

A perfect example of this is the story of Ian Mackay, a self-professed cyclist and birder, who suffered a spinal cord injury as a result of a cycling accident. Mackay recently told Mashable’s Katie Dupere about how technology has helped him maintain an active lifestyle in spite of his injury. A heavy user of Switch Control, Mackay says before it came along, he was “very reliant on someone using the phone for me or navigating a GPS for me.” This sense of empowerment and independence is exactly what Switch Control (and the purpose of any accessibility feature, really) is designed to do.

Magnifier

Magnifier is a new accessibility feature in iOS 10, but I want to include it here because of the noticeable effect its already had on my daily life. Because of this, I think Magnifier will be a hit with everyone, regardless of ability.

I’ve been using the iOS 10 public beta on my iPhone 6s Plus throughout the summer, and Magnifier is one of my favorite features. For the uninitiated, Magnifier is built into the Camera app. It uses things like the LED flash and filters to adjust the lighting and contrast, respectively, of objects as you zoom in. Apple gets knocked around at times for its software quality, but Magnifier is further proof the company remains skillful. It’s exceptionally thoughtful and well done.

The reason I’m so effusive about Magnifier is the handiness of it. So often, I’m reading a restaurant menu or looking at price tags in the grocery store, and the print in set in small font. Where previously I would strain my eyes in order to see, now all I need to do is pull out my phone and triple-press the Home button to launch Magnifier. It makes my life much easier, insofar that small print is readable and that I needn’t carry a physical magnifier, as I did for many years. (Yes, there are magnifier apps on the App Store, Lumin being one, but I love that there’s now a built-in solution.)

While the overhauled Messages in iOS 10 gets all the glory, it’s my opinion that Magnifier is right up there as one of the best enhancements to iOS this year. And I’m not alone in that view. In time, I think we’ll see Magnifier as a standout addition to iOS because of its practical nature. It’s beneficial to not only low vision users, but anyone who wants to get closer to anything, such as a coin collection.

by Stephen at August 22, 2016 02:15 PM

Stratechery by Ben Thompson

Note to Readers

Stratechery is on its annual summer break. There will be no Daily Updates or Weekly Article. Stratechery will return on August 29. All memberships initiated this week will be changed to an August 29 start-date. Thanks for your support and see you next week.

by Ben Thompson at August 22, 2016 01:45 PM

Reformedish

The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures ed. D.A. Carson

enduring authorityD.A. Carson has spent his career studying and teaching the Bible, with work spanning across a wide range of commentaries, monographs, and articles. He has also been defending its authority as Christian Scripture, God’s Word, for the whole of that time, with multiple individual works and co-edited monographs like Scripture and Truth Hermeneutics, Authority, and Canon.

Well, he’s apparently not done, as earlier this year witnessed the release of his massive edited volume (1240 pages!) entitled The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures. Which makes sense given the reality that controversy surrounding the subject continues unabated. Indeed, it seems to only progress in the level of sophistication and the scope of issues involved.

To get the job done, Carson enlisted the talents of 37 different Evangelical scholars across a wide range of disciplines and competencies in order to critically examine and defend the “formal principle” of Evangelical Protestantism. Within its pages, you’ll find essays on key historical figures and periods (Calvin to Roman Catholicism), theological principles (accommodation and inerrancy), specific textual challenges (OT history & myth), and sundry other questions you may never have thought to ask. It’s really a stunning piece of work.

Now, I have to admit, I’m writing this quasi-review having only read a couple hundred pages of the work, as I have been slowly picking at it essay by essay. But since I wanted to make notice of it this year, I figure I’ll note some high points, how the volume can be used, and one gap I would have liked to see filled.

Fun Essays

I have to say, given my own interests of late, I’ve had a fun time cruising through the historical essays featured in this volume. This is especially the case since it’s so common nowadays to have criticisms of Evangelical views of Scripture’s authority, inerrancy, and so forth come in some version of the form, “Well, you know that the (Fathers, Medievals, X other communion) doesn’t look at Y (inerrancy, accommodation, authority) that way. It’s just those modernist Evangelicals (ie. your Sunday School teacher).”

For that reason, I found Charles Hill’s essay “‘The Truth Above All Demonstration’: Scripture in the Patristic Period to Augustine” well worth the time. He helpfully charts the views of authors East and West on various issues like inspiration, authority, and inerrancy, providing large quotes and contextualized discussions that hew away from simple cherry-picking.

Another gem in the historical section is Tony Lane’s essay on “Roman Catholic Views of Biblical Authority from the Late Nineteenth Century to the Present.” What was so illuminating about the work was his demonstration of the clear doctrinal development that’s taken place over the last couple hundred years. While current, Post-Vatican II views are much more fluid, open to historical criticism, and so forth, statements from Trent, Vatican I, and earlier documents paint a different story. Pope Leo’s statement in Providentissimus Deus 1893 basically out-Warfields Warfield on inspiration and inerrancy, giving the lie that this is some uniquely Evangelical doctrine.

Of course, Kevin Vanhoozer’s got an essay in the mix, this time dealing with the controversial issue of doctrinal development. “May We Go Beyond What is Written After All?” This is a perennially relevant issue for Protestants who must think through what it means to be “biblical” in our theology, even while we acknowledge that key doctrines (Trinity, Chalcedonian two natures, etc.) are conceptual developments of biblical material, rather than direct quotes from Scripture. Plus, it’s Vanhoozer, so he always makes it fun.

I would go on, but I’ll just emphasize again that there are solid bunch of scholars covering a wide range of issues. Henri Blocher has an essay on dual authorship, both human and divine. Graham Cole reflects on the nature and arrangement of the canon. Bruce Waltke has an essay on myth and history (which should maybe be read in tandem with Glenn Sunshine’s essay on accommodation). Mark Thompson covers the clarity of Scripture. Craig Blomberg tackles Jesus’ use of the Old Testament. James Beilby has an essay on religious epistemology (and there are more in this section). The list just keeps going.

One Thing I’d Have Liked To Have Seen

When it comes to ecumenical discussions, Evangelicals have been typically concerned with two groups: liberals and Roman Catholics. And this book seems to have the issues raised by both covered fairly well. What we haven’t concerned ourselves with enough (in my humble opinion) is Eastern Orthodoxy. This is partly because of the little contact we have typically had with the tradition due to simple geography as well as formation of the Reformation tradition in the West.

Understandable as that is, I think this is a gap because Orthodoxy, first of all, is still a major theological tradition. Second, it has been slowly but surely been exerting greater theological influence worldwide and in the North American academy. It even seems to have a unique appeal for a certain type of younger Evangelical, especially once they encounter their somewhat distinct, non-Roman Catholic, yet non-Protestant position and critique of Protestant views of Sola Scriptura. A survey and analysis of Eastern Orthodox views of Scriptural authority, especially in relation to tradition, would have been helpful for remit of defending the “formal principle” of Evangelicalism as well as in filling out the already broad range of engagement.

That said, on the defensive end, a judicious study of the patristic essay, understanding the actual positions of the Reformers, the clarity of Scripture, doctrinal development, and so forth covers a good many of the issues.

How to Use the Book

Let’s be honest, the odds are that you’re not going to read the book cover to cover. This is so just because of the length as well as because some of the essays probably won’t strike you as immediately interesting. What I would recommend, then, is one of two things.

First, if you kind of already know some issues you’re interested in (say, Karl Barth’s view of Scripture), just cruise through the table of contents and read whatever you like.

If you’re not quite as sure, though, read Carson’s introductory essay (you should probably read it anyways), and then jump to the back. There you’ll find an article by Carson which basically summarizes a great deal of the content of the various essays in short responses to frequently asked questions and challenges. This is so helpful because (a) it’s a bit of a preview of what you’re getting, (b) you start to get a feel for where and when this sort of information is useful, and (c) they’re just good summaries that are immediately useful.

In sum, this is a magnificent piece of scholarship that I’m sure will be a great resource for pastors and scholars in the coming years.

Soli Deo Gloria 


by Derek Rishmawy at August 22, 2016 12:42 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

Ellipsis’ Ugly Head (John 12:7) —Monday’s with Mounce 254

We don’t talk much about ellipsis in first year Greek, but it is a grammatical fact that occurs more than you might think.

An ellipsis is when words are left out, and the assumption is that the context is sufficient to fill in the gaps. It especially happens in the second of two parallel thoughts, words from the first assumed in the second.

But John 12:7 gives us a good example of ellipsis when there is no parallel. Mary anoints Jesus’ feet, Judas objects, and Jesus responds, “Leave her alone…. It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial” (NIV). ἄφες αὐτήν, ἵνα εἰς τὴν ἡμέραν τοῦ ἐνταφιασμοῦ μου τηρήσῃ αὐτό. In other words, the words “It was intended” is the NIV’s guess as to what “should” have been before the ἵνα.

The problem of course with “it is intended” is that the current day is not the day of Jesus’ burial; that was the next. And “intended” sounds like she is a puppet of fate. So in what sense should Judas leave her alone so that she would have the perfume for the day of the upper room?

You can see the other translations making their guess. The ESV is pretty non-sensical. “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial.” But she had just poured it out! Judas leaving Mary alone could not have had the purpose (ἵνα) of keeping it for the next day; it was already gone. (This was a change from the RSV’s comma splice: “Let her alone, let her keep it for the day of my burial.”)

The NRSV supplies the idea of a purchase: “She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial.”

The NLT says, “Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial.” The meaning may be right, but it is really hard to get “did this” from τηρήσῃ. They do see, however, that ἐνταφιασμός can mean “burial” or “preparation for burial” (BDAG).

NET has, “She has kept it for the day of my burial.” The TEV has, “Let her keep what she has for the day of my burial,” which I assume means Mary had not poured all of it out (see Bernard), although she had poured it all out (see Morris).

I think it is safe to say that either we translate ἐνταφιασμός as “preparation for burial,” or we understand Jesus to say that the events that would most certainly end in his death had already been put in place.

I prefer the guess that Mary had been keeping the perfume for some reason, but in a deeper sense, she had been keeping it for this night in which Jesus’ death had begun (see Burge).

Don’t you love John and his deeper meanings!

_____________________

William D. [Bill] Mounce posts about the Greek language, exegesis, and related topics on the ZA Blog. He is the author of numerous works including the recent Basics of Biblical Greek Video Lectures and the bestselling Basics of Biblical Greek. He is the general editor ofMounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words. He served as the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version Bible translation, and is currently on the Committee for Bible Translation for the NIV.

Learn more about Bill’s Greek resources at Teknia.com and visit his blog on spiritual growth atBiblicalTraining.org/blog/life-journey.

by Bill Mounce at August 22, 2016 12:00 PM

Table Titans

Tales: If You Give an Adventurer a Detail

I run a game in a homebrew setting, and the players are discovering the lore as they adventure.

During an expedition through an extensive and ancient mausoleum, they fought a few skeletons that became animated. After the simple fight, they asked why only *some* of the skeletons had animated.

Read more

August 22, 2016 07:00 AM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Why Jonathan Edwards Saw Economic Justice As a Gospel Concern

Article by: Greg Forster

Jonathan Edwards made economic justice a vital concern in his pastoral ministry, because he saw it as necessary to the proclamation of the gospel of salvation in Christ. Historical memory tends to neglect this aspect of his story. But at critical moments in Edwards’s pastoral career, concerns about economic justice played a pivotal role in his ministry—motivated by his desire for faithful and fruitful proclamation of the gospel.

Today, even those who affirm the need for both gospel proclamation and concern for justice often view them as competing priorities. More attention to one must mean less attention to the other, right?

We would benefit from a fresh encounter with Edwards’s confidence that these two imperatives cannot be separated, and his courage in living out that connection in a costly way.

Economic Justice and Revival

Though revival was always one of Edwards’s main concerns, few moments can begin to rival in importance the revival known as the Great Awakening. Edwards’s community in Massachusetts was part of an international religious phenomenon. His sermons stoking the fires of revival and his books describing its progress were being read on both sides of the Atlantic.

At the height of the Great Awakening, Edwards gave a sermon on how to have “spiritual discoveries.” It is a window into his pastoral priorities. What does he choose to focus on, at such a pivotal moment, as key to fueling and sustaining revival? When his people are finally asking how to have spiritual discoveries, where does he point them?

He points them to economic justice.

“To be much in deeds of charity,” he preaches, “is the way to have spiritual discoveries.” Edwards applies the phrase “deeds of charity” almost exclusively to working with the economically poor. He cites as examples the widow’s mite (Mark 12:42–43); the generosity of Cornelius to those in need; Paul’s statement that for those who give little, even what they do give testifies more to their covetousness than generosity (2 Cor. 9:5); a passage from Isaiah about economic poverty (Isa. 58:7–11); and the economic poverty of Christ himself.

Here it’s not hard to see the connection to the gospel: Economic justice promotes the “spiritual discoveries” that drive gospel revival. He emphasizes union with Christ and grace-based holiness as connections between economic justice and the gospel:

If we will be kind to Christ and entertain him well, and when we see him hungry will feed him and thirsty will give him drink, that is the way to be rewarded with much of his company.

He even goes so far as to say Matthew 9:13 teaches that charity to the poor is “more important than outward acts of worship”!

Edwards is careful to note we cannot earn union with Christ or moral perfection through these good works. He also notes that only regeneration can resurrect our dead hearts for true good works. Yet he simultaneously argues that good works have evangelistic value. They are valuable for the faithful in their own right, as the path to increasing godliness, and also for bringing the gospel to the unfaithful—individually and in communities.

Economic Justice and the Church

Another keynote of Edwards’s pastoral career was controversy over church boundaries. Edwards was removed from his post in Northampton for insisting full church membership should be only for the regenerate. But Edwards had a longer history of conflict with leaders in his church, dating before the Great Awakening, and in those conflicts the church’s holiness was usually the central issue.

One of the sharpest disputes between Edwards and other church leaders concerned a change in pew policy when a new meeting house was built in 1737. By a longstanding tradition stretching back to the Middle Ages, pews were assigned to parishioners in order of social rank. The order was determined by a mixture of seniority, service to the community, and monetary donations to the church. In the new building, the role of monetary donations in determining seating was greatly increased relative to the other factors.

Edwards was livid. He saw the new policy as flagrant idolatry of money. He fought tooth and nail against it, and lost. On the first Sunday in the new meeting house, the author of “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” summoned his powers and delivered a blistering hellfire sermon on the idolatry of money. And he made sure to mention the pew policy:

Some have more stately houses than others, and some are in higher office than others, and some are richer than others and have higher seats in the meeting house than others; but all graves are upon a level. One rotting, putrefying corpse is as ignoble as another; the worms are as bold with one carcass as another.

Northampton’s wealthiest had paid for front-row seats to their own spiritual evisceration.

Edwards preached this memorable sermon—worm-ridden corpses and all—on Christmas Day. Who among us would be bold enough to try that kind of thing now?

Historian Ronald Story argues the pew conflict should be seen as a pivotal moment in Edwards’s pastoral ministry, and an important window into the conflict that would eventually get him fired. It was a clear and early demonstration that Edwards’s vision of what the church should be didn’t align with that of many others.

Economic Justice and Missions

When Edwards was fired from the church, he faced one of the most important decisions of his life. At the time a conflict over economic justice was breaking out in the mission to Native Americans in Stockbridge, which Edwards had supported from Northampton for years. Edwards took over the Stockbridge mission largely because he wanted to change the way it was run in order to serve the native population more justly and to promote both economic development and evangelization.

In the 1740s the Stockbridge mission professed allegiance to the gospel and purported to teach it, but did not treat native peoples in a manner congruent with it. The local native population donated both land and labor to the construction of the mission. In return, the English missionary promised the mission would serve them. But the promise wasn’t kept; the missionary focused on serving the nearby English town, and treated the teaching posts in the mission schools as cushy patronage positions. He even left the native community and moved into the English town.

Edwards moved the missionary residence back into the native community and worked tirelessly to advocate for better treatment. But he had to fight with various authorities to get permission to make changes. Historian Gerald McDermott writes:

Edwards spent hours patiently listening to the broken English and sign language of Indian children and asking questions in broken native language, so that he could accurately report to Boston Commissioners that his Indian scholars did not have enough blankets or food, that some boys had no breeches and many were going ragged to meetings, and that all the boys were being forced to work six days per week.

Foremost in his appeals to the authorities was the mission’s credibility among those it sought to reach. A mission cannot swindle people and then evangelize them. Edwards’s efforts on behalf of the poor and marginalized were rewarded with vicious personal slanders.

Edwards also saw economic development as a gospel imperative. The renewing of our hearts and lives by the Holy Spirit ought to result in an intense concern for both spiritual and physical improvement of others’ conditions. Edwards’s advocacy for better services to the natives in Stockbridge didn’t compartmentalize the desire to evangelize and the desire to help them build a better economic life. For him, this was all gospel love.

Haunting Questions

Jonathan Edwards considered it a central part of a pastor’s job, for the sake of the gospel, to exhort people to charitable economic works, to confront economic injustice, and to promote economic development. Of course there will always be strains and difficult choices. But we are in need of a fresh encounter with the potential harmony of the gospel and economic justice in pastoral ministry.

American evangelicals today are tempted to feel smug when looking back on the church that fired Edwards for insisting that all church members must be regenerate. But what about a pastor who insisted all church members must be generous and just? How many pastors today, if asked to explain how people can have “spiritual discoveries,” would even mention working with the poor—much less make it the top item on the list, as Edwards unashamedly did?

Such questions ought to haunt us. Edwards’s dedication to keeping the gospel and economic justice together, even at great cost to himself, exposes the superficial quality of dedication to both gospel and justice in too many churches today.

Greg Forster (PhD, Yale University) is the director of the Oikonomia Network, a visiting assistant professor of faith and culture at Trinity International University, and the author of numerous books and articles.

by Greg Forster at August 22, 2016 05:03 AM

Not Two Kingdoms, But Two Ages

Article by: Jonathan Leeman

For centuries Christians have considered different ways of relating the church and the world, particularly with respect to the God-established authorities in each domain. Well-known proposals include Augustine’s “two cities,” Gelasius’s “two swords,” Luther’s “two kingdoms,” and Kuyper’s ideas about sphere sovereignty, which operate inside of what might be called a “one-kingdom” framework.

I would like to offer an alternative that learns from each of these, but that also draws on the last half-century of New Testament theology. In a nutshell, I would propose that the Spirit-given power of the new covenant requires a doctrine of two ages. A doctrine of two ages or inaugurated eschatology is a popular way among New Testament theologians for characterizing how creation history and redemptive history bifurcated when Christ’s kingdom was inaugurated but not consummated through the giving of the new covenant. The history of new creation began even while the history of the old creation continued. Oliver O’Donovan helpfully transplants this New Testament conversation into the domain of political theology: “The passing age of principalities and powers has overlapped with the coming age of God’s kingdom.”

Forced Logic of Two Kingdoms

A doctrine of two ages is diachronic and derives from the Bible’s covenantal framework, unlike Luther’s two kingdoms, which is synchronic and is built on a logical formulation. So Luther begins, biblically enough, with Augustine’s two cities, which refers not to two governments but two communities of people: those who submit to God and those who do not. But then Luther places two governments over those two communities, one being the state, the other being the Word and to some measure the church.

The two-kingdoms formulation is logically tidy, and it has much explanatory power, but it doesn’t quite fit with Scripture’s institutions. The Bible doesn’t exactly place the church and Word only over God’s people and the state over the rest of humanity. It’s a forced parallel. The Bible and church have things to say for all humanity. And the state rules over God’s people.

Luther’s two kingdoms also divides the person between inner and outer, and places a spiritual government over one and a secular government over the other. But does the Bible divide things so cleanly?

Life in the Spirit vs. Life in the Flesh

A doctrine of two ages, on the other hand, doesn’t start with a contrast of two governments and the division of a person’s life between different domains (spiritual/secular; inner/outer). It starts with a contrast between two whole stories or ages, which effectively divides two kinds of life right where the Bible divides them—life in the flesh versus life in the Spirit.

The key anthropological division, then, isn’t between the inseparable inner and outer person, but between the Pauline “old man” and “new man.” And the term to be contrasted with secular isn’t sacred or spiritual, but eternal. One age and its rulers are passing; the other is not. The existential line between the two ages, in fact, is death. Everything to which new covenant renewal has come will not die. Everything else, still under the curse, does.

Two Heads, Powers, and Authorities

Both ages possess a representative head: two individuals who emerge from the Bible’s covenantal structure and who typologically correspond to Paul’s “old man” and “new man,” namely, Adam and Christ. One brings condemnation and death; the other brings justification and life (Rom. 5:12–19).

Both ages are animated by different powers. One is animated by the Spirit. The other by the world, the flesh, and the devil (Eph. 2:1–3).

And both ages possess their own institutional authorities. The creation age possesses marriage, the family, and the state. The eschatological age possesses the church and ordained elders. The institutions of both ages rely on biblically authorized means to accomplish their respective mandates: the state, for instance, relies on the coercive powers of metal and money, while the church relies on Word and the keys of the kingdom.

Two Ages as Simultaneous—Hence Sinful and Justified

What’s important to recognize, then, is that a doctrine of two ages layers the new creation on top of the old creation so that they are simultaneous. It presents a picture of the whole person (mind and body) living within the legitimate but fallen institutional structures of creation (family, state, and so on); and simultaneously a picture of the whole person, once regenerated, living by the power of the Spirit within the institutional structures of the new creation (church, ordained elders). Indeed, it’s because these two ages move simultaneously in the present that the Christian struggle between the “old man” and the “new” is so well captured by Luther’s formulation simul justus et peccator.

Christians are capable of acting both according to the flesh and according to the Spirit. Which further means, activities of the flesh and Spirit will inform the activities of both creation institutions and new creation institutions. Hence, churches remain capable of sinful err, while Christian members of governments will be capable of making Spirit-informed decisions about the course of righteousness and justice. And vice versa.

Institutions of Each Age Serve the Other

These institutions of family and state may occupy a different age than the church and its elders. But the present simultaneity of the ages means that God often employs the institutions of one age to serve the institutions of the other, whether in direct or typological fashion. The state exists to provide a platform for the church’s work of redemption, while the righteousness and justice of the church serves as a prophetic witness for the state.

The love and faithfulness of a Christian husband and wife serve as a symbol of Christ’s love for the church, while the elders of a church should present an example of patient instruction for parents.

More broadly, we can say that new covenant members still belong to creation and the present age. So they should submit to the institutions of the present age, and they should employ, when occasion permits, the divinely authorized institutional mechanisms of this present age like the sword or child-bearing for the purposes specifically given to those institutions.

Institutions of Present Age to Pass

At the same time, new covenant members anticipate that, upon the consummation of the present age and the full coming of the final age, the institutions of the present age will pass, or at least radically change form. Marriage, says Jesus, will not continue beyond the resurrection as the shadow gives way to the substance (Matt. 22:30). And presumably some sort of governance will continue in the final age as the saints share in the rule of Christ, but the rule of the tax-collecting and judgment imposing governments of Genesis 9:5–6 and Romans 13 will come to an end, or at least be transformed beyond imagination (see Matt. 17:24–27).

Finally, we can say that the church possesses authority not over “religion” or the “inner/private person,” but over the “new man” as he can be discerned in the whole man. And the state possesses authority not over “politics” or “the outer/public person,” but over the “old man,” again, as he can be discerned in the whole man.

The governments of this world, meanwhile, are thrust into a peripheral role, authorized to keep the peace by rendering judgment against transgressors. Caesar must be rendered honor, not because he can accomplish salvation, but because he uses the sword of judgment to serve God’s greater purposes of providing a space for the gospel to go forth.

Editors’ note: Taken from Political Church: The Local Assembly as Embassy of Christ's Rule by Jonathan Leeman. Copyright (c) 2016 by Jonathan Leeman. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515, USA. www.ivpress.com

Jonathan Leeman is an elder at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., editorial director of 9Marks, and author, most recently, of Don’t Fire Your Church Members: The Case for Congregationalism (B&H Academic, 2016) and Political Church: The Local Assembly as Embassy of Christ’s Rule (IVP Academic, 2016). You can follow him on Twitter.

by Jonathan Leeman at August 22, 2016 05:02 AM

Analyzing Power and Privilege in ‘Ben-Hur’

Article by: Brett McCracken

This year has been big for Jesus on screen. There was Risen and The Young Messiah in the months leading up to Easter. Then there was the Ewan McGregor-as-Jesus art film, Last Days in the Desert (read my TGC review). The Coen brothers even made a Jesus film of sorts with Hail, Caesar! which is in part a send-up of the 1959 Ben-Hur epic.

And now we have a new version of Ben-Hur, a film that’s about Jesus while not exactly starring him. 

The full title of the 1880 novel on which the film is based is Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. That the subtitle is absent in this most recent cinematic remake isn’t surprising, jittery Hollywood marketing logic being what it is. Nevertheless, the film very much tells “a tale of the Christ,” one that’s occasionally insightful but often disappointingly cheesy. 

Produced by faith-based entertainment power couple Mark Burnett and Roma Downey (Son of God, Little Boy, Woodlawn), it seems reasonable to ask: Why was Ben-Hur made again? The 1959 Charlton Heston version, directed by William Wyler, was a box office and critical bonanza. This version, directed by Timur Nuruakhitovich Bekmambetov (of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter fame), is neither. Yet one could argue the film’s themes, supported by a story that seeks to understand Jesus by examining the politics and power structures of the Mediterranean world, have never been more relevant.

Indeed, setting aside the fact that Ben-Hur suffers from many faith-based genre pitfalls—on-the-nose dialogue, unsubtle “cross” imagery and parallelism, saccharine endings—it’s worth considering how Ben-Hur presents some of the religio-political dynamics of Rome-occupied Jerusalem in the days of Jesus, and why those dynamics could be important for us today.

Jesus on the Margins

The story follows a wealthy Jewish prince, Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston), and his longtime friend Messala (Toby Kebbell), a Roman Gentile. Both men seek honor for themselves and stability for their people. But when the interests of Rome clash with the interests of Roman-ruled Jews in Palestine, their bond is strained. Ben-Hur and Messala’s friendship, tested by betrayal and revenge and a climactic chariot deathmatch, provides a symbolic test case for how the gospel of Jesus can bring reconciliation to the charged identity politics and cultural pride of the day.

However clunkily, Ben-Hur captures aspects of Christianity’s birth rarely seen in popular culture. Jesus cannot be understood apart from his religious and political context of Second Temple Judaism, and Ben-Hur recognizes this point. The film realizes that the Roman occupation mixed with Jewish messianic hopes like oil and water, even culminating in violent, zealot-led rebellions. It also places the values of honor and glory in their proper cultural forefront. All of these details, in the film’s world, provide keys to understanding Jesus. Though he’s decidedly on the margins if we’re talking simply in terms of screentime, Jesus looms large, and his countercultural message is amplified by its juxtaposition with the cycles of violence, revenge, and injustice that dominate the plot.

Heavy-Handed, Yet Appreciated

Despite spending most of his time on the margins, when Jesus (Rodrigo Santoro) is present, he’s present through his teaching; this perspective contrasts rather obviously with the original, in which Jesus’s face is never even seen. Instead, Bekmambetov has given his Jesus several scenes and one-liners that intersect with the primary plot. All seem to happen at convenient moments, capturing a sort of “greatest hits” of Jesusy sentiments (“love your enemies”) and actions (coming to the defense of would-be stoning victims). This is doubtless heavy-handed, yet I couldn’t help but appreciate the freshness to the film’s context-minded perspective on Jesus.

For example, I appreciated the extent to which Ben-Hur captures the bloodlust and violence that pervaded ancient Roman culture, albeit in a PG-13, heavily CGI sort of way. This helps audiences grasp just how revolutionary Jesus’s vision of “blessed are the peacemakers” and “turn the other cheek” really was. To be sure, Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ was memorably bloody, but the cultural role of violence in the world of Jesus wasn’t foregrounded.

Power and Privilege

One way Ben-Hur offers relevant commentary on today’s world is in its analysis of power and privilege. Characters betray relationships and communities and convictions out of a desire either to accrue more power or not lose existing power. As a wealthy Jew seeking to maintain his comfortable life in Jerusalem, Ben-Hur struggles when others around him seek to overthrow the Romans. He doesn’t want to jeopardize his privilege by critiquing the Romans’ tactics or undermining their authority, even when he knows it’s wrong. In fact, he only does so after he’s lost everything anyway. His position is contrasted with Jesus, whose cross-bearing suffering is chosen rather than forced on him. Jesus redefines power as voluntary service on behalf of the weak and helpless.

Do we celebrate power this way today? Do we have a “maintain your privilege and protect your comfort” view of power? Or do we have a “forsake your privilege and humbly wash the feet of others” view? If nothing else, this American political season should especially lead us to reflect on these questions, as our Christian witness often rises or falls based on how it intersects with power.

Though I’d recommend Last Days in the Desert for a superior recent “Jesus film” (on a much smaller budget too!), Ben-Hur is worth seeing and discussing, especially for those who are unfamiliar with the story and will realistically never watch Heston’s four-hour version. It doesn’t have the striking visuals of Exodus or the auteurist vision of Noah, and it lacks aesthetic sophistication (the saccharine ending is especially egregious), but Ben-Hur does offer a perspective on Jesus worth contemplating.

Brett McCracken is a film critic for Christianity Today and the author of Gray Matters: Navigating the Space Between Legalism and Liberty and Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Brett McCracken at August 22, 2016 05:00 AM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Weekly review: Week ending August 19, 2016

I bought a second-hand Manduca carrier. It’s been a comfortable and secure way to carry A- on our many walks this week. I don’t worry about A- slipping out of it, as I sometimes did with the ring sling. I’m back to holding hands with W- on walks, whee! (It’s all about the little things in life…) The carrier came in handy when Jen and Ewan pinged me for a walk in the park, and when I visited them to help out with E-.

We’ve settled into routines for enjoyable mealtimes with A-. She sits in her high chair and eats at the table, and I can usually wrangle all the things needed so that she and I eat at roughly the same time. The self-feeder that W- got for her has been great for avocado, peaches, and plums, and we’ve been loading purees and mashes onto spoons for her too.

I’ve been staying up to 2 AM or 3 AM, since that usually gives me a few decent chunks of focused discretionary time. I used a few of those chunks to code an add-on for my consulting client, and now I’m waiting for feedback from them. That worked out well, although the downside of coding late at night is that my brain gets a little squirrelly and takes some time to settle for sleep. Drawing and writing work out a bit better, and stretching would probably work out well too.

There’s been a hiccup with the Assistive Devices Program funding for A-‘s ocular prosthesis. The program will cover 75% of the expense, but they require the signature of a family doctor or opthalmologist to certify that the prosthesis is medically necessary. I asked A-‘s primary care provider to sign the form, but it turns out pediatricians are no-go. Weird! Anyway, I’ll work on getting this straightened out next week. We’ve got home visits from CNIB and the Healthy Babies Healthy Children program, too.

I was getting a bit stressed over travel insurance and pre-existing conditions, but I was probably just being too anxious and things will work out just fine. Ah well, them’s the breaks.

2016-08-21c Week ending 2016-08-19 -- index card #journal #weekly output

Blog posts

Sketches

Focus areas and time review

  • Business (4.7h – 2%)
    • Earn (4.5h – 96% of Business)
    • Build (0.1h – 2% of Business)
    • Connect (0.0h – 0% of Business)
  • Relationships (12.2h – 7%)
    • ☑ Set up RESP
    • ☑ Simulate A-‘s RESP choices
    • ☐ Check on RESP to see if it’s been set up; transfer if so
    • ☐ Figure out ADP form signing
    • ☐ Pick up A-‘s Canadian passport
  • Discretionary – Productive (5.5h – 3%)
    • Drawing (3.9h)
    • Emacs (0.6h)
    • Coding (0.7h)
      • ☑ Check free space on server, consider backup solution to there
      • ☑ Set up lastpass authenticator
    • Sewing (0.3h)
    • Writing (0.0h)
  • Discretionary – Play (0.7h – 0%)
  • Personal routines (25.4h – 15%)
  • Unpaid work (61.1h – 36%)
    • Childcare (53.4h – 31% of total)
  • Sleep (58.5h – 34% – average of 8.4 per day)

The post Weekly review: Week ending August 19, 2016 appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at August 22, 2016 04:19 AM

Blog – Cal Newport

Email is Most Useful When Improving a Process that Existed Before Email

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Connectivity Contradictions

Recently, I’ve been collecting stories from people who held the same type of job before and after the introduction of email. Something that struck me as I sorted through these recollections is their variety.

Email was a miracle to some.

For example, I talked to a woman who has spent many years in mergers and acquisitions. These deals, it turns out, require large contracts to be received and sent with urgency at unexpected times.

Before email, this meant weekends camped out at the office.

“If I was expecting a new version of a merger agreement, I would have to stand outside the fax room waiting for my 200-page document and then call to ask the other side to re-fax any missing pages,” my source recalled.

“If there was even a possibility that I would be needed, it made no sense to go home…people would sleep at the office.”

With email, these same urgent documents could suddenly reach her anywhere — greatly reducing time wasted squatting by the warmth of a fax modem and increasing time with her family.

“Email has been a plus,” she concludes.

But email was also a curse to many others. 

One teacher I spoke with, for example, told me about how the arrival of email made teachers at her school suddenly available to parents in a way they never had been before.

The school eventually instituted a policy that all such emails must be answered within 48 hours.

“Email exploded,” my source recalled. “My planning period was spent reading and answering emails…forget planning. [It became] a huge distraction from the already very difficult job of teaching.”

A Useful Heuristic

How do we make sense of these contradictions?

As I sorted through more stories like the above an interesting pattern emerged.

Email seems to be at its best when it directly replaces a professional behavior or process that existed before email’s rise.

For example, in mergers and acquisitions, the urgent and hard to predict delivery of complicated contracts has long been a necessary and important behavior. Sending these documents by email is much easier than relying on fax machines.

On the other hand, email seems to be at its worst when it helps instigate the sudden arrival of a new behavior or process that didn’t exist before.

In teaching, for example, pre-email parents didn’t have nor did they expect ubiquitous access to their children’s teachers. There was no pressing pedagogical or parental need for such access.

Once teachers got email addresses, however, this new behavior emerged essentially ex nihilo and began to cause problems.

On reflection, this heuristic makes sense…

  • If a behavior or process has been around for a long time in a given profession, it probably serves a useful purpose. Therefore, if a technology like email can make it strictly more efficient/easy, then it’s a clear win.
  • By contrast, when email helps instigate a new behavior or process, this development tends to occur in a bottom up fashion. That is, no one identifies in advance the new behavior or process as being something that’s useful — it’s instead driven by in-the-moment convenience and happenstance. (For more on this idea of unguided emergence see Leslie Perlow’s discussion of “cycles of responsiveness” in Sleeping with Your Smartphone.) This is not a great way to evolve professional practices, so we shouldn’t be surprised that the results are often exhausting and counterproductive to those forced to live with them.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t develop new behaviors and processes in our professional lives. But we should be wary of those that emerge without our explicit consent. Email, in this accounting, should be a source of concern not because it’s intrinsically bad, but because it’s so easy and convenient that it tends to encourage the emergence of these new unguided and often draining behaviors.

by Study Hacks at August 22, 2016 12:52 AM

August 21, 2016

John C. Wright's Journal

The Morlock Morlocks More

It is a pleasure to be alive during the last days of Social Justice Fandom. These creatures, by and large, are old, sickly and obese, and playing little more than a delaying game against time, hoping that the friendly press will keep the buying public in ignorance, deceived by hoopla, one year more, one month, one day, one hour.

However, anyone can read ‘Cat Pictures Please’ by Naomi Kritzer and compare it with ‘The Star’ by Arthur C. Clarke, with ‘Or All the Seas with Oysters’ by Avram Davidson, ‘Flowers for Algernon’ by Daniel Keyes, ‘The Dragon Masters’ by Jack Vance, ‘No Truce with Kings’ by Poul Anderson.

Likewise, anyone can read Alfred Bester’s THE DEMOLISHED MAN or Robert Heinlein’s HAVE SPACE SUIT WILL TRAVEL, or Roger Zelazny’s LORD OF LIGHT and compare it to what is winning these days. If you notice the modern works have a certain political and philosophical bent, and all the same message, this is not a coincidence. 

Anyone, that is, who has the sense to read what he is reading. Some lack the talent. They can only see before them what their fevered imaginations present, and make judgments before inspecting evidence, not after, so as to be unbiased by facts.

Once such is Damien Walter of the Guardian, who holds forth his opinion about the Hugo Awards: https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2016/aug/20/hugo-awards-reading-the-sad-puppies-pets 

I need say nothing new about Damien Walter: my previous remarks about him suffice. He is a professional ignoramus who has continually failed to finish a novel the Queen’s loyal taxpayers in England are forced to pay him to write. An ox giving advice to a bull.

I could gratuitously add that the man has a tin ear when it comes to prose, and yet poses as a judge of lyricism; the thing speaks for itself.

Rejoice. These folk consider themselves to be the wave of the future, but the future will not contain them. The fever shall pass, and sanity return, in due time.

He belittles Larry Correia, or attempts to do so, but mocking his lean, fast paced, and well-told tales of intrigue, action and adventure as lowbrow. And by lying lies. Mr Walter’s review consists of a verbal spew of girlish flailing and a misstatement of the plot of the first of Larry Correia’s plethora of works.

I note that Mr Walter is canny enough not to quote Mr Corriea’s opening line:

On one otherwise ordinary Tuesday evening I had the chance to live the American dream. I was able to throw my incompetent jackass of a boss from a fourteeth story window.’

The thing speaks for itself, and Mr. Corriea speaks for himself, with verve and zest. Read his take down of this twerp here

Aw, The Guardian’s Village Idiot Remembered My Birthday!

Mr Walter next belittles me, or attempts to do so, with the following words:

Within the Puppy movement, John C Wright is considered to be its resident intellectual colossus and was nominated three times for the 2015 best novella category (which eventually went to no one). He is hugely influenced by the Inklings, particularly CS Lewis. But in comparison to Lewis, whose metaphysical investigations were built up from wide-reading during a lengthy education, Wright reads like a first-year humanities undergrad who refuses to read beyond a small pool of comforting favourites, writing essay after essay (or novel after novel) only to demonstrate how much he knows.

Consider this dialogue from Wright’s The Phoenix Exultant:

Rhadamanthus said, ‘There is a tension between the need for unity and the need for individuality created by the limitations of the rational universe. Chaos theory produces sufficient variation in events, that no one stratagem maximises win-loss ratios. Then again, classical causality mechanics forces sufficient uniformity upon events, that uniform solutions to precedented problems is required. The paradox is that the number or the degree of innovation and variation among win-loss ratios is itself subject to win-loss ratio analysis.

This goes on, for page after page. The characters are no more than ciphers for Wright’s ranting, and what story exists is only glimpsed in momentary fragments between diatribes. After long enough reading Wright, you start to suspect that he, like most of these authors, simply can’t help himself, vomiting on to the page whatever passes through his head.

My comment:

Everything from identifying my influences to listing the number of pages the dialog runs is not only a falsehood, but a lazy falsehood, that is, he has formed and impression of my work not by reading it but by skimming online articles penned by likeminded Morlocks. He does not list Jack Vance as an inflence, even though I wrote a short story for the prestigious tribute antholog SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH edited by George R.R. Martin;  nor A.E. van Vogt,  even though I wrote the authorized sequel to WORLD OF NULL A; nor William Hope Hodgson, despite my critically acclaimed work in his background.

Instead, Mr Walter notes one novella I wrote in homage to a whole body of British children’s fantasy literature that I wrote when I was an atheist, or, rather, read online comments from the shallower readers of it, and selects C.S. Lewis as my exemplar, even though my style, purpose, point and theme of that story have nothing of Lewis about it at all.

The passage he quotes is from a superintelligent computer who is speaking in technical language about the central theme of the book, which is the need of a society for stability versus the need of the individual for nonconformity, if he is to be creative. If it seems dry and didactic, perhaps slightly opaque, that is by design.

By way of comparison and contrast, here is a passage from ‘Cat Pictures, Please’ which won the Hugo Award for this year, the selfsame award Mr. Walter is defending from the allegedly poor writing of the Sad Puppy authors. By good fortune, the passage is on the same topic and theme, a supercomputer holding forth on the topic of morality:

Anyway, for ethical guidelines, I tried the Ten Commandments, and concluded they were mostly inapplicable to me. I don’t envy anyone their cat; I just want pictures of their cat, which is entirely different. I am not sure whether it is in any way possible for me to commit adultery. I could probably murder someone, but it would require complex logistics and quite a bit of luck. The Eightfold Path was marginally better, but the problem is, moral rules written for humans are clearly designed to be used by individuals with bodies. Since all humans have bodies, it shouldn’t have surprised me that human ethical codes take them into account, but still: problematic for me. I broadened my considerations, and took a look at Asimov’s Laws of Robotics. They’re not part of a religion, but at least they were explicitly written for AIs.

Not harming humans is fairly straightforward. However, not allowing a human being to come to harm through inaction is quite a bit less so. Especially since I’d concluded by then that revealing my existence too quickly might go very badly for me (see “Skynet,” above) and I don’t have a body, so it’s not like I can run around grabbing people off the edges of cliffs.

My comment: Apparently these are not passages with ciphers for characters, serving only as an excuse for the author’s ranting opinions.

The reader may compare the passages and say which sound more like an emotionless superbeing of pure intellect thinking seriously and soberly about morality.

For the record, the steps of the Eightfold Path, for those of you who are not serious and sober, are Right Understanding, Right Aspirations, Right Speech, Right Action, defined as nonexploitive or nonharmful actions. The next are Right Livelihood, Right Diligence,Right Awareness, and Right Commitment or Single-mindedness. All these fall into categories a things a computer can do and can avoid, such a lying or deciding not to lie to lure a preacher into a homosexual lifestyle.

Dismissing all this abruptly on the basis of the lack of a physical body does not strike me as an accurate depiction of a superhuman intellect, rather than of a graying spinster.

In the passage quoted by Mr. Walter, who omits mention of the context, the computer is meant to sound over-educated and a trifle dry. The computer sees human morality in terms of game theory.

Mr. Walter also introduces the opening of the passage but not the conclusion. This is like repeating the straight line of a joke but omitting the punchline in order to show a comedian is not funny.

One wonders why Mr. Walter quotes a passage from the middle of the second volume in a trilogy, which touches on the central theme of the work, and uses this as an example of undisciplined writing. One would think undisciplined writing would be writing unrelated to the theme of the work. Perhaps, in addition to misunderstanding the passage, he missed the theme of the work, despite how obvious I made it.

Let us quote the opening, which is meant to introduce the reader to a strange, posthuman world:

It was a time of masquerade.

It was the eve of the High Transcendence, an event so solemn and significant that it could be held but once each thousand years, and folk of every name and iteration, phenotype, composition, consciousness and neuro-form, from every school and era, had come to celebrate its coming, to welcome the transfiguration, and to prepare.

Splendor, feast, and ceremony filled the many months before the great event itself. Energy-shapes living in the north polar magnetosphere of the sun, and Cold Dukes from the Kuiper belts beyond Neptune, had gathered to Old Earth, or sent their representations through the mentality; and celebrants had come from every world and moon in the Solar System, from every station, sail, habitat and crystal-magnetic latticework.

No human or post-human race of the Golden Oecumene was absent from these festivities. Fictional as well as actual personalities were invited. Composition-assisted reconstructions of dead or deleted paladins and sages, magnates and philosophers, walked by night the boulevards of the Aurelian palace-city, arm-in-arm with extrapolated demigoddesses from imagined superhuman futures, or languid-eyed lamia from morbid unrealized alternatives, and strolled or danced among the monuments and energy-sculptures, fountains, dream-fixtures, and phantasms, all beneath a silver, city-covered moon, larger than the moon past ages knew.

And here and there, shining like stars on the active channels of the mentality, were recidivists who had returned from high trans-human states of mind, bringing back with them thought-shapes or mathematical constructions inexpressible in human words, haunted by memories of what the last Transcendence had accomplished, feverish with dreams of what the next might hold.

It was a time of cheer. And yet, even in such golden days, there were those who would not be satisfied.

My comment: Mr Walter did not quote this as an exhibit of evidence to prove mine and those of the other nonconforming writer work to be the sloppy sentences of a hacks.

He concludes by saying it is our poor writing skills, and not our politics, which excludes us from Hugo consideration. Then he says it is our politics.

Logic is not a Morlock virtue.

Envy is. I suspect Mr. Walter, who cannot finish a novel, is a wee bit jealous. The green eyes do not see clearly.

This is the give away: Wright reads like a first-year humanities undergrad who refuses to read beyond a small pool of comforting favourites.

This is the so called small pool of comfortable favorites who I read in undergrad: http://www.scifiwright.com/2012/06/the-great-books-online/

Perhaps I am not an intellectual colossus, but I am the very model of a modern major general, for I know the croaking chorus of the FROGS of Aristophanes: Βρεκεκεκέξ κοάξ κοάξ

Which I can quote in Greek. You see, Mr. Walter wishes to dismiss Mr. Correia as lowbrow, because Mr. Correia is popular. But it is time to dismiss me as lowbrow, he cannot do it, because my education is a finer and deeper than his own, so all he can say is that my education is of the wrong kind, consisting of a small pool. On the other hand, I have a doctorate in law. It is not the most trenchant critique of my work, but the Narrative demands it, and so Mr Walter says it, truth be damned.

I repeat the above comments from Mr. Walter as a badge of honor. Whatever chokes Gollum is most likely elfin waybread, instinct with the magic of the Golden Wood, and touched by starlight.

by John C Wright at August 21, 2016 11:33 PM

Roads from Emmaus

Are Christians Allowed to Doubt?

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost / Ninth Sunday of Matthew, August 21, 2016 I Corinthians 3:9-17; Matthew 14:22-34 Rev. Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. What happens if I doubt my Christian faith? To some, ... READ MORE ›

The post Are Christians Allowed to Doubt? appeared first on Roads from Emmaus.

by Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick at August 21, 2016 10:06 PM

Workout: August 22, 2016

1 round: 30 overhead squats (95/65lb.) 30 chest to bar pull-ups 2 rounds: 15 thrusters (95/65lb.) 15 chest to bar pull-ups 3 rounds: 10 squat clean thrusters (95/65lb.) 10 chest to bar pull-ups Time cap: 18 minutes   4 rounds: 25 anchored/weighted sit-ups 10 supermans

by Crystal at August 21, 2016 10:05 PM

Note App Vesper Shuttered

Brent Simmons, announcing the end of Vesper:

Sync will be turned off Aug. 30 at 8pm Pacific. We’ll destroy all the data, and neither we nor anyone else will be able to recover it.

The app will be removed from the App Store on Sep. 15. Until then, starting now, it’s free — since you can’t create new sync accounts, and it wouldn’t be fair to charge new users if they can’t sync.

Props to Q Branch for putting time into a dying app to make it possible to export user data. Too many apps and services don’t get that part right.

I’m sad — but not shocked — to see the lights going off at Vesper HQ. It’s a beautiful app, but it existed in a crowded market that was turned upside down with the overhaul Notes.app got last year.

by Stephen at August 21, 2016 09:17 PM

Feed Hawk

I use Unread coupled to Feedbin to read RSS items on my iPhone and iPad.

As great as Unread is, it can’t be used to add a subscription to my Feedbin account. If I come across a website that I want to add to my RSS feeds, I have to log in to Feedbin to do so.

Feed Hawk is a new app that makes this easy. It sits in the share sheet and can be used to find and subscribe to a site’s RSS feed from right within Safari. It works with a bunch of services: BazQux Reader, Feed Wrangler, Feedbin, FeedHQ, Inoreader, Minimal Reader, NewsBlur, or The Old Reader.

I like iOS apps that patch a hole in my workflow, and Feed Hawk fits that bill.

by Stephen at August 21, 2016 07:37 PM

Natural Running Center

Honoring Bikila- The Man Who Changed The World On Olympic Marathon Day

Abebe Bikila in Rome 1960 Leesburg 20k on Olympic Marathon Day. Correct Toes are great product if you have foot deformities caused by modern shoes. In 1960 Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia became the first Olympic Champion from Sub-Saharan Africa and the first to win the race barefoot.  Over the last 50 plus years the East […]

by MarkC at August 21, 2016 06:52 PM

John C. Wright's Journal

Pulp is Back

A comment by Jeffro Johnson that bears repeating and pondering:

the elevation of Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein to the status of “the big three” is basically a repudiation of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Post-Christian sff is also post-romance. If you look at what actually fired the imaginations of sff game designers in the seventies, I think you can really see how irrelevant the “serious” and “respectable” sff really was.

A case in point for that would be in Traveller, which also came up last night. Who defined the future for Marc Miller? It wasn’t Asimov’s Foundation. It wasn’t Herbert’s Dune. It was H. Beam Piper, E. C. Tubb, Poul Anderson, and Jerry Pournelle. Tubb wrote in the tradition of Burroughs and Brackett and provided the independent worlds, the blades, the passage types, and the drugs. Meanwhile, Anderson and Pournelle laid the groundwork for Miller’s 3rd Imperium. Christianity was a first class element of its literary antecedent.

That was at the height of the New Wave.

Bringing this back around to the Puppies in general and to Castalia House in particular: the only person I’ve read that really has the same kind of punch as Edgar Rice Burroughs would be Larry Corriea. The only person I’ve read that is really doing anything remotely like Lord Dunsany is John C. Wright. Indeed, Wright writes as if the pulp era never stopped.

I see a lot of “Puppy” rhetoric that acts as if turning back the clock to Heinlein, Clarke, and Asimov is what we ought to be shooting for. But that’s not what’s actually going on here. Successful authors are actually regressing much harder than that!

The sort of people that would have endorsed this “Big Three” framework? That would be Joanna Russ.

My comment: He is quite right that John W Campbell Jr had his ‘big three’ in Sf, men who penned hard Sf, which was a new genre. Campbell’s editorial policy deliberately set its face again pulp fiction, with its colorful action, strong moral character, and Victorian elaboration of prose (often called purple prose, despite that the vocabulary was richer and more learned).

The prose of Heinlein and Asimov was a conscious imitation of Hemingway, who, in turn, attempted an experimental technique of minimalism. His prose reads like a telegram. The prose of pulp writers like HP Lovecraft and Clarke Ashton Smith reads like a Victorian love letter, such letters being composed and ornamented rather than jotted off.

by John C Wright at August 21, 2016 05:29 PM

Hugo Awards for 2016

The results are now in! This is what is being held up as the best science fiction of the year. Sic Transit Gloria Hugo.

The Fifth Season
N. K. Jemisin
Best Novel
Cat Pictures Please
Naomi Kritzer
Best Short Story
Folding Beijing
Hao Jingfang
Best Novelette
Binti
Nnedi Okorafor
Best Novella
Uncanny Magazine
Lynne M. Thomas, Michi Trota, Steven Schapansky, …
Best Semiprozine
The Sandman: Overture Deluxe Edition
Neil Gaiman, J. H. Williams III
Best Graphic Story
Mike Glyer
Best Fan Writer
Jessica Jones
Melissa Rosenberg, Scott Reynolds, Michael Rymer, …
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
Abigail Larson
Best Professional Artist
The Martian
Ridley Scott, Drew Goddard
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
File 770
Mike Glyer
Best Fanzine
Steve Stiles
Best Fan Artist
Ellen Datlow
Best Editor, Short Form
Sheila E. Gilbert
Best Editor, Long Form
While not official a Hugo award, the award for new writer, the Campbell, was given to Andy Weir for The Martian.

My comment: I wish to remind the reader that the Hugo purports to be the representation of the most popular and most well crafted of science fiction for the given year.
If these works are indeed the most popular among the fans of science fiction, and not merely the most popular among the fans of a political correctness that is bent on etiolating science fiction, then similar results should obtain among the Dragoncon Awards. We shall see.
For four years running, the Sad Puppies and their Rabid Cousins have attempted to place on the ballot, and win the award, based on the merit of the work, not on the political correctness of the author or the author’s work.
For daring to say that the award had been given for upwards of a decade now to less popular, less skillfully written, but more politically correct and more politically connected works, the Sad Puppies were savaged with a reckless disregard for the truth by all the usual suspects in the Guardian, i09, Gawker, and elsewhere in SJW-friendly sites.
In this case, Sheila Gilbert was up against Jerry Pournelle, a legend in the field and the editor of one of the most successful and longest running anthologies in SF;  N. K. Jemisin was competing against Jim Butcher and Neal Stephenson. The television show Jessica Jones was up against Grimm, Supernatural, and Dr. Who.
The candidates for best related work included
  • Between Light and Shadow: An Exploration of the Fiction of Gene Wolfe, 1951 to 1986 by Marc Aramini (Castalia House)
  • “The Story of Moira Greyland” by Moira Greyland (askthebigot.com)
  • “Safe Space as Rape Room” by Daniel Eness (castaliahouse.com)
  • “The First Draft of My Appendix N Book” by Jeffro Johnson (jeffro.wordpress.com)
  • SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down the Thought Police by Vox Day (Castalia House)
And all these were voted beneath NO AWARD.
In other words, the writings of Moira Greyland, revealing the horrible nature of the pederasty-ring run among the highest circles of the science fiction establishment, and covered up for years, was deemed unworthy of being a work related to science fiction, by these voters.
If that represents the general consensus of the science fiction field, the field has much to answer for. If it does not, then the award is a fraud, and representing nothing but the narrow interests of a WorldCon clique hellbent on excluding all nonconformists to their private cult.
There may be innocent eyes out there in the science fiction world who still regard the Hugo Awards as an honest barometer of science fiction fitness for consumption. Perhaps seeing these results, by themselves and out of context, will not convince the skeptic that rot has set in; perhaps the optimist is not convinced that the rot has reached incurable and unrecoverable levels.
But the weight of the evidence speaks for itself, and more loudly with each year. A time will come when the majority of science fiction fans will realize that political correctness and science fiction cannot coexist.
The saddest thing for me, personally, in all this Sad Puppies sadness is that I working with Jonathan Strahan in the past, and George R.R. Martin, Moshe Feder and Irene Gallo and liked working with them. Neither Strahan nor Martin gave me any bad advice nor made any missteps as editors, nor has Irene Gallo’s art department ever clothed my work with a bad cover. Also, in times past, I read with admiration and delight the work of Neal Gaiman and Kurt Busiek, whose imaginations awed and inspired me.
I have Mr. Martin’s DYING OF THE LIGHT on my bookshelf, which I read in magazine form under the title ‘After the Festival’ a sadly underappreciated work which I thought worthy of a Hugo. But the Hugo is no longer worth a Continental, if you catch my reference. When something is no longer backed by the value it represents, it ceases to represent it.
Continental Currency
It is unfortunate that all these talented folk decided to jump into a controversy on the side of the untalented second-raters, to believe libels and to spread them. For whatever reason, these talented folk decided either not looking into the facts was the best course, or acting in reckless disregard for the truth. By this, they act to alienate everyone who thinks, as we of the Evil Legion of Evil think, that conformity should not overrule, override, and exclude imagination.

We think science fiction was meant for better things than serving this season’s fashions in social engineering.

It is as if, from some high, dry safe shore, I looked down into a dark and troubled sea, and there I watched a sinking ship on whose deck drunk revelers and tipplers in masquerade were prancing eccentric jigs, having been told that the rising of the waters to claim them was a sign of affection from the sea, and I hear them cursing the lifeboats, which they scorn and ignite with fire.

by John C Wright at August 21, 2016 05:52 AM

Workout: August 21, 2016

5 sets: Max row for calories in 1 minute Rest 1 minute Max floor press reps in 1 minute (135/95lb.) Rest 1 minute   5 sets: 10 hanging hip touches 10 inverted hip touches or 25 ft. handstand walk

by Crystal at August 21, 2016 03:19 AM

Workout: August 20, 2016

Back squat 8-8-8-8-8-8-8-8 Rest 2 minutes 4 sets: 12 overhead walking lunges Max banded good mornings Rest 90 seconds

by Crystal at August 21, 2016 03:15 AM

August 20, 2016

John C. Wright's Journal

Newton Wrote in Latin, ergo Gravity is Unreal?

I see Dr. Andreassen has once again deigned to haunt my website. Sad experience has taught me that he has indeed, like the villains at the end of THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH, been reduced to the meat robot he says all men are. If you prove a point in debate with him, his brain mechanism conveniently erases it from his hard drive, so that the next time he speaks, he has been reset to the factory default, and one must raise the same point again.

Hence, I have no intention of responding to anything Dr. Andreassen says. It took me three years to realize that any words spent on him are wasted.

If any reader understands his argument, and wants to reword it, and pose it to me as a question, I will answer it. Otherwise I will not.

I will not take my time to respond to someone who refers to the statement that chess notation contains all the essential elements of a chessgame as ‘an outrageous lie.’

This is akin to saying that the statement that Newton’s Third Law of Gravity contains all the essential elements of solving two body problems is ‘an outrageous lie’ on the grounds that you don’t speak Latin and cannot grasp Newton’s PRINCIPIA.

However, for those not versed in the technical language of philosophy, the best way to explain the paradox of how mind and body can both exist, and be interrelated, without mind being made of body stuff or bodies being made of mind stuff, is by an analogy. In deference to the ghost of the human being Dr. Andreassen once was before the macrobes turned him into a meat robot, allow me to use Shakespeare, once again, in the analogy.

The relationship of God’s wisdom to human freewill is analogous to that of Shakespeare to Hamlet, or any author to his creations. Hamlet, from his own point of view, clearly is pondering a decision, for the whole driver of the plot is his indecisiveness in the face of a need to avenge his dead father. From his own point of view, he has free will and his story would not be a story without it. It is a story about a man wrestling with his free will.

However, from Shakespeare’s point of view, Hamlet’s fate is known. Shakespeare has it in mind before ever he take pen to paper.

Another analogy: a Historian ponders the moment when Washington decides to make a daring raid across the icy Potomac. From the Historian’s point of view, the event is history, hence fixed, settled, unchangeable. From Washington’s point of view, he, Washington, is the one who fixes that historical event into place. Washington sees the time line where he never crossed the Potomac as a closed door, but one he could have opened. The Historian (assuming he is not a politically correct historian who changes the past once a decade) sees it as a painted door on the backdrop of a stageplay set, something that never could have been opened at all. Since the argument is about doors that are never opened, and events that could have been but never have been, no examination of events, of physics, of real history can answer the question. It is a philosophical question, a question of metaphysics.

Now, which man is right, Shakespeare or Hamlet? Washington or the Historian? I propose that they are both right, in part, because they are both looking at the situation in a different aspect.

The paradox involved is one that exists in speech only, because, normally, when we speak, we make no distinction between symbol and object.

Reality itself is beyond the grasp of any depiction or description because the act of describing something, anything, is an act of abstraction, that is, a mental act of decided what is essential and what is accidental, and leaving out the accidental material to concentrate on the essential.

When a lawyer describes something, he leaves out the physics except in the case where ballistic evidence, or something of the sort, has a bearing on the events of the case. This does not mean the physical reality does not exist: it merely means the jury need not consider it.

If a lawyer were to ask whether Hamlet were responsible for the death of Polonius, the facts given in the play are sufficient for a conclusion, even though the Shakespeare gives neither the length of the blade used by Hamlet to strike through the arras, nor the mass nor the footpounds of pressure produced, nor even where the strike fell.

(Where the case tried under Anglo-American Common Law, the fact that Hamlet was mistaken in the identity of the man at whom he struck does not clear Hamlet of murder in the first degree. The malice aforethought is present, even in a case of mistaken identity. Danish law may differ).

When a physicist describes something, he leaves aside all talk of the intent or final cause of the inanimate objects involved. He likewise leaves out any statement that cannot be disproved by observation, that is, he leaves out all universal abstractions and unconditional statements.

This is by design.

The honest physicist never says, “It is a fact that the sun will rise tomorrow.” He says “Barring the interposition of an object that changes the rotation of the earth, it is a theory (strongly attested by many repetitions of the observation) that the sun will rise tomorrow.”

This is also by design. By leaving out metaphysical and philosophical matters, the physicist restricts his official statements only to what can be confirmed (or, at least, not disproved) through observation. Hence, if any man doubt him, the skeptic need only perform the experiment himself and make the observation. Nothing is taken on faith; nothing is taken for granted.

Hence, not physicist can make an official statement that confirms or denies any metaphysical proposition. All metaphysical propositions are universal. The statement “All life is an illusion” is a statement of metaphysics central to Buddhism. “All creation is God’s handiwork” is a statement of metaphysics from Christianity.

“All reality is either mental or physical in substance” is a statement of Cartesian dualism. “All reality if mental substance” is the belief of the idealism of Berkley. “All reality is material substance.” is the metaphysical statement of panphysicalism.

But if all reality were material, then all true statements would be statements of physics, and not statements of metaphysics, including this one: which is absurd.

If panphysicalism were true, physics could describe everything in the universe, in which case it would not need to exclude anything. Not only every science would be a branch of physics, so would all thought. Since it does indeed need to exclude certain real things by design, in order to be physics, therefore panphysicalism is not true.

If panphysicalism were true the symbol-to-object relation would be a physical and not a mental relation.

 

by John C Wright at August 20, 2016 11:56 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

“He didn’t have a death wish, he had a life wish”: The Risk-Taking Legacy of Evel Knievel

On a long flight recently I watched a fascinating documentary about Evel Knievel, the 1970s-era stuntsman who set out to jump the Grand Canyon in a motorcycle.

I was only going to watch a few minutes, but I got hooked and kept going. Without spoiling it for you, the greatest lesson I took from the film was that Evel Knievel wasn’t actually that great of a motorcycle rider. He was a decent rider who became an incredible stuntsman, marketer, and risk-taker.

That’s where the fame and fortune came from: he never won a lot of motorcycle races, but he took risks and attempted feats that no one else would dare. Being fearless can kill you, of course, but it also has its benefits.

Knievel had no idea if something would be possible before he promised it. Jump the Grand Canyon?! As a skilled publicity hound, he understand the universal appeal of such a feat right away. Only after he’d announced his ambition did he seek to understand if it could actually be done.

The U.S. government shut down the Grand Canyon plan, so he improvised. After scouting the country by helicopter, he found the Snake River Canyon in Idaho, then leased land on both sides of it. It was his land! No one could tell him not to pursue a crazy stunt that very well might be his last.

Here’s how it went down:

and here’s a more modern look at the Canyon:

Of course, great risk-taking can lead to great consequences. His body became worn down from injury after injury. Worse than the physical harm was the pain of ending the career of being a professional daredevil. “Civilization is a mundane bitch for a lot of people,” one of his friends observed, in what may be the most astute observation ever made about anyone who longs for something more from life.

“He didn’t have a death wish, like a lot of people said he did,” the friend continued. “He had a life wish.”

As you might guess, the story doesn’t end super well. When you spend your life chasing demons and constantly seeking another high, coming back to the mundane bitch of civilization can be quite a downer. But what a life it was until then!

Years later, his son Robby went back to the Grand Canyon and somehow got permission to make this jump.

Like his father’s feats before him, this jump by Knievel, Jr. was fraught with extreme risk. It was also something that he simply had to do, regardless of the danger, and regardless of what anyone thought.

###

Image: Teadrinker

by Chris Guillebeau at August 20, 2016 11:45 PM

John C. Wright's Journal

It is Darker Than You Think

Dave Truesdale, the editor of Tangent Online, was asked to moderate a panel on the state of short science fiction at MidAmericaCon II. He took the opportunity to introduce the topic of how political correctness is destroying the market, a topic that is no more controversial that talking about the hot weather in August. He attempted to read posthumous remarks written by the famed and well beloved editor at Tor book, David Hartwell, whose memory the fandom reveres and opinions all serious writers in the field respects.

Serious is not the term for a malignant strain of leftism called Social Justice Warriors. A member of the panel turned his chair to face backward, so as to show his disapproval of any criticism of political correctness. Audience members started shouting and carrying on. Mr. Truesdale was not able to proceed.

Instead of asking the disruptive members to leave, MidAmericaCon II expelled Dave Truesdale, on the grounds that his remarks caused discomfort and allergic reactions to badthink among the Morlock.

https://voxday.blogspot.com/2016/08/truesdale-expelled-from-worldcon.html

Vox Day reports that even hardcore SF-SJWs such as Jim Hines and Charles Stross are taken aback by the partisan injustice.

It is not, however, reported that the panel member who reversed his chair at any point rolled on the ground, soiled himself, and stuck his fingers in his ears, yodeling. The dignity and maturity displayed by Social Justice Morlocks is upheld by their great leader, Trigglypuff, also known as Tsathoggua the Toad God of lightless N’kai.

In a related story, the loathsome and abhorrent swine-people from the end of time, first described to modern researchers by the time traveling narrator of William Hope Hodgson’s HOUSE OF THE BORDERLAND, have been seen joining convention committees and leadership positions in the science fiction field for some time now.

The spokesman of the abominations, Tannakin Skinker, says that the Unspeakable Masters hope to tighten their stranglehold on science fiction as they have done in years past so successfully to academia, the press, the entertainment industry, and the judiciary, to leave the hale and sane men of this era, and any who do not bow to Nyarlathotep, or receive his mark on their brow or hand, nowhere to turn for relief, refreshment, imagination or hope.

DISCLAIMER: I was not at Mid-American Con, and did not myself see the panel here described. It is entirely possible that some other events happened not reported to me, such as Darrell Schweitzer was savaged by the thought police for the effrontery of holding panel on the topic of Howard Philips Lovecraft. So I cannot personally attest to the accuracy of the report.

However, the swine-people of the Great Inward-Facing House of the Ninth Dimension, of them I can speak with certainty and assurance, having seen their dark, hunched shapes snuffling and snorting near the windows of the nursery on those rare evenings when moonrise coincides with sunset, and the moon is red as blood.

On such evenings the Ulterior Gate opens, and black stars rise above Lake Carcosa in Hyades. Then the grunting and snorting swine men emerge from the angles of time to worship unholy Tsathoggua the Toad God in ancient and vile rites unspeakable. Then they congregate at the snack bar.

Surely you, dear reader, have seen the swine-men, wearing their cunning facial masks of wax and the hand-shaped prosthetic on their prehensile fore-paws at science fiction conventions?

They are the ones driving science fiction out of science fiction, in order to pour in political correctness and the dreary sermons about social justice, their dark idol to which all human things are sacrificed with shrill and witchy shrieks of mad laughter and insane self-righteousness.

*   *   *

UPDATE:  I have since heard from Mr. Truesdale that there was no commotion at the panel, indeed, the panel went well and there was applause at the end. A few pearl-clutchers heard Mr. Truesdale say that political correctness of the type that gets people fired from jobs or boycotted or loses gigs is having a chilling effect on newcomers and old hands alike. For this he lost his gig.

My own experience is that the Morlocks only come out and bare their teeth, not when they are “triggered” about some social injustice, but when and only when a bold man points out the powerlust involved, and the utter lack of concern for society, justice, social justice, a just society or any combination thereof.

The Morlocks only exercise their power to punish people against a man who says they only exercise their power to punish people. They do not love Muslims or gays or the poor or whoever. They do not give a tinker’s damn about their tokens. They don’t love them. They just hate you.

 

by John C Wright at August 20, 2016 10:32 PM

Karen De Coster

Detoit-Hipster Bubble Jeans?

Detroit Denim Company makes jeans by hand with an 87-step process in a factory that has been largely designed by art and design students. It’s all very cool, but the reality is evident.

The luxury jeans start at $250. Before you think that will burn a hole in your pocket, Yelsma said it’s worth the investment because they do free repairs for the lifetime of the jeans.

“Just like food is farm to table. We are more like table to body,” Owner Eric Yelsma said. He calls these “local jeans,” and the factory can make 10 pairs per day.

This is just nuts. As much as I promote all that has become great about Detroit, I stop where reality has entered the bubble economy. The company’s customers are the status kings in the hood and young Hipsters jacking up their credit cards, not the organic customer with a rising income stream with an abundance of disposable income who is willing to commit to jeans that cost 10x the norm. The owner says this:

I never could have started what I’m doing now anywhere else. In terms of finding real estate and setting up shop, there are far fewer hurdles here than in any other large city,” he says of Detroit as a place to do business.

Indeed, and that is what has made Detroit such a great, grass-roots entrepreneurial city that has been able to dismiss the old reputation as a one-product town. But when great entrepreneurs meet the economic bubble that has been teased by years of economic manipulation (think Quantitative Easing, Parts 1 through 999), look out. The tumble will be severe.

But then again, 2008 never happened.

by Karen De Coster at August 20, 2016 09:57 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Danger to California’s Christian Colleges Has Been Avoided—For Now

Article by: Joe Carter

The Story: A direct threat to Christian colleges and universities in California has been stopped—for now.

The Background: In June a California state senator proposed legislation that threatened to strip some private colleges and universities of an exemption that protects them from lawsuits and allows them to function as faith-based organizations. The law would have removed an exemption that allowed religious-based colleges from making distinctions based on religion or sexual orientation. The exemption is necessary since current state law prohibits postsecondary educational institutions that receive or benefit from state financial assistance or enroll students who receive state student financial aid, from discriminating based on religious or sexual orientation.

Losing the exemption would have radically affected the mission of the schools in numerous ways. For example, faith-based institutions in California would no longer have been able to require a profession of faith of their students or be able to integrate faith throughout the teaching curriculum.

On August 9, a group of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish leaders released a statement in defense of the religious freedom of private colleges and universities in California. A day later Senator Richard Lara, the author of the legislation, amended his bill to remove the requirement.

After Lara's announcement, the universities that had been opposing the legislation released a letter to Lara that said, “Pending review of this new language, we are pleased to change our position on this legislation from ‘oppose unless amended’ to ‘support.’”

While the change removed the existential threat to Christian colleges in California, the result may only be temporary: Lara has said he will pursue other legislation next year, possibly including the provision that was removed.

What It Means: Senator Lara has inadvertently provided the Christian community with a valuable opportunity. Had we claimed that Christian colleges were under threat of losing their religious exemption many people—including many Christians—would have claimed we were resorting to fear-mongering or engaging in slippery slope rhetoric. But by proposing his bill Lara signaled the danger was not only real, but also imminent.

Fortunately, there was enough time to mobilize opposition to the legislation, and the combination of national attention in the Christian community along with grassroots activism in the state proved to be highly effective. “I just think that this was a multifaceted effort that really showed what effective communication and strategy can result in,” ERLC’s Andrew Walker told The Daily Signal. “You get your national coalitions working with your people on the ground, coupled with strong messaging—and religious liberty, we found out, is not dead in California.”

And as John Jackson, president of William Jessup University, told The Daily Signal, “We were hearing from legislators who said that they had gotten hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of phone calls on just this one piece of legislation. And I think that’s a tremendous, tremendous encouragement to me for the health of our state.”

While the threat in California may only be delayed, it gives Christians in other states time to prepare. As we have seen repeatedly in American history, social legislation that originates in California eventually spreads to the rest of the nation. Rather than become complacent in thinking “it can’t happen here,” citizens in other states should begin identifying and contacting sympathetic legislators and asking them commit to opposing restrictions on religious colleges. By engaging in preemptive action we may still be able to prevent such anti-religious legislation from taking root.

Joe Carter is an editor for The Gospel Coalition, the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible, and the co-author of How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History’s Greatest Communicator. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Joe Carter at August 20, 2016 05:35 AM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Monthly review: July 2016

(Finally, a little time to catch up on my writing! =) )

Ah, July. Many of the medical uncertainties we’d been working on over the past few months were wrapped up, at least for now. A- got her first artificial eye – a scleral shell that will gradually be enlarged to help her skull grow symmetrically. The anomalous finding on her abdominal ultrasound turned out to be a benign hemangioma according to the MRI. Cardiology at Sick Kids got a closer look at her ventricular septal defect through an echocardiogram under sedation, and they’ll continue to monitor it along with our first cardiologist. It feels a little strange to have medical appointments scheduled months out instead of practically every week, and to not get a referral to yet another department, yet another section of the Hospital for Sick Children. In the five months that A-‘s been alive, there had been five weeks free of medical appointments, and even those were under the shadow of the next thing to research, plan for, and accept. It’s starting to feel like we have a bit of a handle on things.

We’re so lucky that parental leave was an option for W-. It allowed us to take shifts in consoling A- when the procedures upset her. W- made delicious dinners: pesto and bun from the summery abundance of our planter boxes, juicy rotisserie chicken when it was too hot to cook indoors, and even more yummy things I didn’t have the attention span to do. He even got into the habit of ironing and pre-folding the large flannel squares that we use as A-‘s diapers. That way, she wouldn’t be bothered by any doubled-up hems. Lucky girl, and lucky me.

I reacquired Philippine citizenship and included A-, so she has that option. I hope I don’t end up regretting the paperwork. Sometimes dual citizenship is helpful, and sometimes it makes things trickier. Anyway, might as well.

Lots of social stuff, too. Tita Gay and Tita Myra drove up from the US to meet A-, and it was great to catch up with them. I’ve been going to a peer nutrition program conducted in Tagalog in order to learn more about feeding the baby and also to find out about Filipino community resources. We met another family with a baby who has left-eye microphthalmia, and we swapped notes. Slowly making new parent friends!

A- has gotten much better at rolling, and she likes spending time on her tummy. She can reach her toys from the rocker’s reclined position. She loves playing with water from the hose or streaming down from a cup with holes. We’ve been introducing her to lots of different kinds of food, and she’s gotten quite good at putting things into her mouth. Growing growing growing!

2016-08-06b July 2016 -- index card #monthly #review output

Blog posts

Sketches

Time

Category Period 1 % Period 2 % Diff h/wk Diff h/wk
Business – Build 0.3 0.2 -0.0 0.4 -0.0
Discretionary – Play 1.0 0.5 -0.5 0.9 -0.8
Unpaid work 41.6 40.2 -1.3 69.9 -2.3
Unpaid work – Childcare 34.0 34.3 0.4 59.6 0.6
Discretionary – Social 2.3 1.5 -0.7 2.7 -1.2
Discretionary – Family 1.4 1.2 -0.2 2.1 -0.3
Sleep 33.4 36.8 3.4 63.8 5.7
Business – Connect 0.1 0.1 -0.0 0.2 -0.0
Business – Earn 2.4 1.4 -1.0 2.5 -1.6
Discretionary – Productive 5.8 4.8 -1.0 8.3 -1.8
Personal 11.8 13.1 1.3 22.8 2.3

The post Monthly review: July 2016 appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at August 20, 2016 05:06 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

3 Things to Learn from Olympians David Boudia and Steele Johnson

Article by: Davis Lacey

As the world bids farewell to the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, I’m reflecting on the ways God has been displayed through them.

On the one hand, he has been appealed to in countless prayers, affirmations, and sign-of-the-cross rituals—some sincere pleas for intervention, others likely superstitious attempts at divine brownie points. On the other hand, the tendency to replace God has been displayed over and over again, too—when athletes have suggested their significance is in their success or when personal identities have crumbled in the wake of defeat.

In my mind, nowhere has God been more uniquely displayed than in the testimony of divers David Boudia and Steele Johnson.

After clinching silver medals in the Synchronized 10m Platform Diving event, David Boudia and Steele Johnson were interviewed by NBC’s Kelly Stavast. There is no “newfound elation” brought on by victory, nor the deflated exasperation that often follows defeat. The two display satisfaction—satisfaction of a variety that seems to transcend any momentary circumstance. It doesn’t take long for the divers to identify the source of their joyful stability; each man insists his ultimate identity is not defined by performance or status, but rather is “rooted in Christ.”

Here are three things we can learn from the divers’ remarks.

1. It is good to enjoy God’s good gifts.

This may seem like a no-brainer, especially in light of Paul’s words: “I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself” (Rom. 14:4). Even so, some people tend to view meaningful involvement in sports, hobbies, and pastimes primarily from a viewpoint of skepticism and trepidation.

I confess I’m sometimes in this camp. As a student pastor who has the privilege of shepherding a number of 6th grade to 12th grade students (as well as their families), I’m met daily with the realization that the human heart is, as John Calvin called it, a “factory of idols.” I often see the same tendency in these young people that I remember living out during my own years as a student: setting goals in the realms of academics, college acceptance, athletics, Boy Scouts, and music. As a teen I thought, “If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I’ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure.” In a well-intentioned effort to shepherd believers away from building such false identities for themselves, I’m sometimes tempted to conclude we’d all be better off living lives free of commitment outside the realm of “formal worship.”

Boudia and Johnson present an alternate, biblical viewpoint. Johnson speaks plainly about the joy he derived from giving his best effort. These men show it’s possible (even good) for Christians to maintain a gospel identity while seeking and enjoying success in any number of earthly pursuits—and that doing so is actually a form of worship. As John Piper writes in Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: “The right use of your body and your mind may enable you to see so much of God that you would sacrifice your life for Christ.” Through athletics, academics, art, craftsmanship, gardening, cooking, or anything in-between, God can be glorified when we enjoy such pursuits for what they truly are: gifts of his grace, and opportunities for worship.

2. Jesus gives us a far better identity than we could give ourselves.

While enjoying God’s good gifts is a form of worship, dedicating our existence or defining our identity by such things is idolatry. The tendency to worship creation rather than the Creator is a clear and present danger for every believer. Boudia’s words ground us in the good news of the gospel: “When my mind is on [diving], and thinking I’m defined by [diving], then my mind goes crazy. But [Steel and I] both know that our identity is in Christ.”

Johnson adds, “The fact that I was going into this event knowing that my identity is rooted in Christ, and not what the result of this competition is, just gave me peace.”

Only the gospel frees us from “building our house on the sand” (Matt. 7:26–27). Rather than staking our sense of worth and identity on fleeting pleasures, fickle pursuits, or faulty self-made righteousness, our Savior invites us to be fully known and fully accepted exactly as we are. Jesus powerfully states that he knows us better than we will ever know ourselves: “I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father” (John 10:14–15). The beauty of the gospel is that, even knowing the darkest corners of our broken lives and twisted hearts, Jesus is pleased to do everything necessary to bestow on us an everlasting identity: “I know my own and my own know me . . . and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

Rather than working tirelessly for an identity of our own making, we can rest in the grace-bought identity that belongs to us through God’s Son.

3. Disciple-making matters.

Had it not been for spiritual multiplication, Boudia and Johnson’s interview may never have been a reality. But as he’s been pleased to do throughout his people’s history, God advanced the gospel message through the faithful investment of “older” generations of believers into “younger” generations. Boudia came to Christ through the witness of his college coach, and Johnson describes Boudia as his “mentor.” The sport of diving proved to be more than an enjoyable gift; it served as the setting for the making of a disciple (Boudia), who turned right around to shape a younger Christian (Johnson) in the faith.

Discipleship with any age group is often difficult and discouraging. People are flaky, feelings get hurt, and—spoiler alert—Christians have been known to speak and act like non-Christians. But praise be to God who not only promises to orchestrate gospel advance throughout the world, but also to bring such work to completion in his timing (Phil. 1:6). 

So let us be busy with the work of disciple-making, while enjoying God’s gifts and the identity he has bestowed on us through Christ Jesus. And let us watch and be amazed at the work God accomplishes through his Spirit, who is already at work within us.

Editors’ note: This article originally appeared at Rooted Ministry, an organization committed to advancing grace-driven youth ministry.

Davis Lacey serves as the student and early career pastor for Grace Fellowship Church in Kinston, North Carolina. He is also pursuing an MDiv through Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and his desire is to lead young people to pursue Christ above all else in life. He is fortunate to be married to his childhood sweetheart, Charis, and the two of them love having adventures with their adorable pet rabbit, Wilson.

by Davis Lacey at August 20, 2016 05:00 AM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Life as a 33-year-old

The first half of this year was like winding up a spring, and the second half was about letting it loose; pulling inwards and preparing, then A-‘s birth in February and an explosion of learning and activity.

2016-08-10a Life as a 33-year-old -- index card #yearly #review 2016-08-12b Delta between 32 and 33 -- index card #yearly #review

This time last year, I was heading into the second trimester of pregnancy. As nausea and vomiting receded, I regained a little energy. I helped W- tile the laundry corner and the bathroom in the basement. I sewed diaper covers and wet bags from PUL, and serged flats from thrift store flannel sheets. I filled the freezer with lasagna and lumpia.

When fatigue returned, I retreated into hermit mode: long walks, lots of video gaming, and generally luxuriating in the quiet and the autonomy. I got a lot of practice in saying no and going with what I felt comfortable with, and I found out that I liked it. =)

I used some of that time to sort out my tech, too. After finding out that Krita had all of the sketching features I needed, I switched back to Linux and started tweaking my setup. I won the Toronto Public Library hackathon with a tool for visualizing library search results on a map. I wrote little scripts to stalk videos at the library, check grocery flyers, visualize data, and automate other things. Also, John Wiegley asked me to start summarizing Emacs community updates, so I put together Emacs News: a filtered, categorized list of links from Planet Emacsen, Reddit, and other sources. That and consulting have been handy ways to keep a toe in the technical waters.

Consulting-wise, I turned over most of my tasks, and the team’s doing way better than I could have with my much fuzzier brain. I’m still working on migrating some old code into a few add-ons for them, but fortunately they’re super-accommodating in terms of time, and other people take care of the bits that require more attention or coordination.

I’m so glad I experimented with making my life more flexible in terms of time and energy. My time stats show that childcare now takes up ~34% of my time these days, or 57 hours a week. I still manage to get a little more than eight and a half hours of sleep, but it’s a bit more broken up and less under my control. Still, I don’t feel exhausted or too stretched out. Discretionary time is down to about 2 hours a day (which is still pretty good!), although that’s mostly just after she goes to bed, so that affects what I can do. I’ve been using it for keeping my journal up to date, and doing a little writing or coding when I can. I do a few hours of consulting a week, too. Anyway, lots of things are on hold. Past Sacha decided this was an excellent use of time, and I agree. It’s worthwhile and temporary. =)

Thanks to A-, I’ve been learning more about health and public resources. She was born with left-eye microphthalmia, with no vision in that eye, and she has adapted well to the prosthesis that will help her skull grow symmetrically. She also has a ventricular septal defect (a hole between two parts of her heart). It’s not quite large enough to clearly need surgery, but not small enough to rule surgery out, so we’ll just have to wait and see. Abnormal results from her liver ultrasound turned out to be a benign hemangioma instead of cancer (whew!), so that’s one concern off our list for now (although I think we’ll need to monitor it with an annual ultrasound). W- started parental leave in June, and that’s been wonderful for both the big medical things as well as the little moments and memories.

What’s the difference between 32 and 33 for me? There’s A-, of course, and the host of changes that accompany her. I’ve got a deeper appreciation for W-, and for various things (libraries! health care! the Internet! people!). I’ve had a lot of practice in equanimity and Stoic philosophy. I’ve seen lots of preparation paying off, and I have new plans to put into place. I’m learning a lot, and I’m looking forward to even more.

The post Life as a 33-year-old appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at August 20, 2016 04:44 AM

Weekly review: Week ending August 12, 2016

Somehow the following week ended up being too busy for writing, which is why I’m writing this entry almost a week late. Anyway, the week ending August 12 was one of checking things off and getting things done.

We bought a second-hand Tripp Trapp high chair in the hope that the flexibility will make it good long-term value. A- has been getting lots of practice in self-feeding. It’s still a super-messy process, but she seems to be getting better at manoeuvring the business end of the spoon into her mouth. We have a wipe-down ritual now, involving a small mixing bowl with warm water and a washcloth: wipe her face, let her wash her hands (and maybe do a little scrubbing for her), wipe down the chair, wipe the table, wipe whatever the cats haven’t eaten off the floor…

The twinginess in my wrist turns out to be de Quervain’s tenosynovitis, a condition so common among new mothers that it’s also known as mother’s wrist. I wasn’t too keen on the physiotherapist I saw, as he seemed more interested in selling me thrice-weekly ultrasound treatments and a custom brace than in discussing behavioural changes and self-care techniques, even though I mentioned that the pain was only mild and occasional and that I was more interested in making sure this didn’t get to be a problem in the future. Can’t blame him for trying to rustle up business, though. Anyway, I bought an over-the-counter brace from the drugstore, I’m using the non-prescription cream that my doctor recommended, and I’m being careful about the way I lift A- or use my thumb. So far, so good.

W- walked around with A- while I had that 45-minute assessment with the physiotherapist. I think she got a little anxious and overtired, as she cried all throughout the (thankfully short) walk home. Good thing I didn’t go for a massage.

Oh, and I turned 33! We’ve settled into a comfortable routine of not making a big fuss of our birthdays, although I took some time to reflect on the past year and draw a summary. I haven’t gotten around to writing it up yet. Coincidentally, the Ontario Early Years Centre that A- and I have been going to had organized a free field trip to the Art Gallery of Ontario, so we took advantage of the opportunity to wander around there.

We set up A-‘s college/university savings, booked flights to the Philippines, and applied for A-‘s Canadian passport. I decided to pay extra and take the time to apply in person so that we can pick up the passport in person, too, since personal experience has taught me that it’s a big hassle if Canada Post loses a passport. Anyway, I can always think of it as a small donation to the Canadian government. Slowly getting our act together!

2016-08-17a Week ending 2016-08-12 -- index card #journal #weekly output

Blog posts

Sketches

Focus areas and time review

  • Business (1.9h – 1%)
    • Earn (1.3h – 72% of Business)
    • Build (0.5h – 26% of Business)
    • Connect (0.0h – 0% of Business)
  • Relationships (11.1h – 6%)
    • ☑ Set up RESP
    • ☑ Book flight by calling the call center
    • ☑ Look for high chair
    • ☑ Apply for passport at the Victoria office
    • ☑ Call cardiology to check follow up date, appointment info
    • ☑ Contact Dr. Selvi’s office and see if we need to schedule a follow-up with her
    • ☑ Call in 72 hours to see whether bassinet has been approved
    • ☑ Ask about Living and Learning with Baby
    • ☑ Simulate A-‘s RESP choices
    • ☐ Check on RESP to see if it’s been set up; transfer if so
  • Discretionary – Productive (11.5h – 6%)
    • Drawing (8.5h)
    • Emacs (0.4h)
    • Coding (0.0h)
    • Sewing (0.3h)
    • Writing (1.5h)
  • Discretionary – Play (0.9h – 0%)
  • Personal routines (17.3h – 10%)
    • ☑ Book doctor’s appointment
  • Unpaid work (68.5h – 40%)
    • Childcare (57.9h – 34% of total)
  • Sleep (56.8h – 33% – average of 8.1 per day)

The post Weekly review: Week ending August 12, 2016 appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at August 20, 2016 02:49 AM

Market Urbanism

Market Urbanism MUsings August 19, 2016

legos

image shared on the Facebook group by Mark Frazier

 

1. This week at Market Urbanism

Buses and Trains: The Turtle and the Hare? by Asher Meyers

With buses a relatively safe, cheap and green form of travel, the wisdom of the government favoring trains at great public expense is dubious. This isn’t to say that trains are bad and buses are good—to each his own. But given the trade-offs involved, buses cannot be dismissed as inferior and obsolete—in the real world, budgets are limited and prices matter, so a small sacrifice of time and comfort is worth the savings.

Parking Requirements Increase Traffic And Rents. Let’s Abolish Them. by Brent Gaisford

Let’s get rid of parking minimums and allow new apartments to be built either without parking, or the reduced amount of parking preferred by developers. People without parking are less likely to drive, and less driving means less traffic. Plus, we’ll be one step closer to reducing our stratospheric rents.

2. Where’s Scott?

Scott Beyer is in Austin. His two Forbes articles this week were about how Washington, DC’s Zoning Regulations Target ‘Fast Casual’ Restaurants and Tokyo’s Affordable Housing Strategy: Build, Build, Build

The city had 142,417 housing starts in 2014, which was “more than the 83,657 housing permits issued in the state of California (population 38.7m), or the 137,010 houses started in the entire country of England (population 54.3m).” Compare this with the roughly 20,000 new residential units approved annually in New York City, the 23,500 units started in Los Angeles County, and the measly 5,000 homes constructed in 2015 throughout the entire Bay Area.

Scott’s previous article on Austin’s rail transit, already well-cited by local media, got additional coverage in the American Spectator.

3. At the Market Urbanism Facebook Group:

Adam Hengels on Stark Truth Radio with Robert Stark

Ahmed Shaker posted videos of pedestrian and street traffic in Chuadanga, Bangladesh

Roger Valdez wrote: Herbold’s New Red Line: Why Make It Harder To Build In Poor Neighborhoods? [Seattle]

Laura Foote Clark and The Yimby Party is organizing major canvassing in San Francisco

Roger Valdez wrote: Is Housing Displacement For New People, Jobs And Growth Really Happening?

Harriet Charlotte Gale announced, “Auckland Council today voted unanimously to remove Parking Minimums from Metro Centres, Town Centres, Mixed Use Zone, Terraced Housing/Apartment Zone & 1 Bedroom Studios for Mixed Housing Urban Zone.”

Andrew Atkin wrote: Isolating the Underclass – without money

Avery Hufford wants to know if you consider yourself a neo-liberal

via Adam Hengels: Why Tokyo is the land of rising home construction but not prices

via Nevram Norman, “Supply and demand running its course in LA.” As new apartments flood downtown L.A., landlords offer sweet deals

via Nick Zaiac, “David Boaz talked about zoning and accessory dwelling units here

via Mark Frazier: Zoning Has Had a Good 100 Years. Enough Already.

via Adam Hengels, “This Canadian site has an interesting way of presenting things.”

via Garlynn Woodsong: China’s urban policy unit just met for the first time in 38 years. Here’s what it recommended

via Matt Stauffer: Editorial: Foreign buyers tax rushed and reckless [Vancouver]

via Matt Robare: How does Montreal maintain its enviably low rents?

via Mark Young: San Francisco: A City of Bridges or Walls?

via Adam Millsap: A Sidewalk Vendor Amasses Books, Summonses and Lawsuits

via Matt Robare: Luxury Housing Isn’t The Problem

via Matt Robare: Palo Alto planning commissioner resigns because she can no longer afford Palo Alto also the letter via Rocco Fama

via Neal Connor: 10 of the Largest Captivating Private Cities

via Krishan Madan: Restaurateurs enraged as D.C. bars some fast-casual eateries

via Jon Coppage: Residents of Rio‘s famed slums are tougher and more self-sustaining than the Olympic games displacing them.

via Neal Meyer: Court of appeals rules in favor of Ashby high-rise developers [Houston]

via Michael Wilson, “Elderly people, especially women, working mothers and African-Americans generally have poor access to alternative transit services which is why we need to open the market place to alternative service providers.”

via Joe McKinney: Free Private Cities: The Future of  Governance is Private

via Borna Khoshand: It cost how much to park at the LA Rams game?!

via Randal John Meyer: When Over-Preservation Impedes City Growth

via John Coppage: Do (local) housing demand curves slope up?  (some good responses in the comments)

via Robert Stark: Dallas Plans to Deck Over a Highway — With a Parking Garage

via Rocco Fama: The case for making New York and San Francisco much, much bigger

via David Brickford: Goldwater Institute sues Chandler over business-sign regulations

via Garlynn Woodsong: How land use regulations are zoning out low-income families

4. Stephen Smith‘s tweet of the week:

by Adam Hengels at August 20, 2016 01:31 AM

August 19, 2016

Englewood Review of Books » ERB

ERB Weekly Digest – Fall Books Preview, Eugene Peterson, Stanley Hauerwas, Elaine Heath – August 19, 2016

 
 

Excellent Print Book Deals Under $2 from CBD!!!
Eugene Peterson, Robert Webber, Phyllis Tickle, MORE

 

SUPER Kindle ebook Deal…
The Cross-Shattered Church by Stanley Hauerwas.
Only $1.99!!!   [ Get your copy now!

 


 

Reviews, etc. posted this week on The ERB website:

  • Fall 2016 Books Preview for Christian Readers

    Tons of excellent books being released this fall… Here are 25 of our most-anticipated books, sorted by category: [ Top 5 ]     [ Theology ]       [ Future of Our Faith ] [ Novels ]   [ Christian Living ]  [ Christian History ] [ Gen. Nonfiction ]  [ Biography/Memoir ]   The […]
     
  • Elaine Heath – God Unbound [Feature Review]
    Faith Working Through Love   A Feature Review of  God Unbound: Wisdom from Galatians for the Anxious Church Elaine Heath Paperback: Upper Room Books, 2016 Buy Now: [  ] [  ]   Reviewed by Daniel Ogle.       The church is anxious. A large part of that, of course, is that the church is […]
     
  • 5 Essential Ebook Deals for Christian Readers – 19 August 2016
    Here are 5 essential ebooks on sale now that are worth checking out: ( Carl Honore, C.S. Lewis, Greg Boyd, MORE) Via our sister website Thrifty Christian Reader… To keep up with all the latest ebook deals, be sure to connect with TCR via email or on Facebook…    Carl Honore *** $1.99 *** NEXT EBOOK >>>>>
     
  • John Dryden – Three Poems
    TODAY is the birthday of the poet John Dryden, born 1631. In remembrance of the poet, we offer three of our favorite poems… On the Death of a Very Young Gentleman John Dryden   He who could view the book of destiny, And read whatever there was writ of thee, O charming youth, in the first opening […]
     
  • Stephen Binz – Transformed by God’s Word [Review]
    Tiptoeing Into Ancient Spiritual Formation  A Review of  Transformed by God’s Word—Discovering the Power of Lectio and Visio Divina Stephen Binz (icons by Ruta and Kaspars Poikans) Paperback: Ave Maria Press, 2016 Buy now:  [  ]  [  ]   Reviewed by C.S. Boyll   Catholic Bible scholar and speaker Stephen J. Binz, in Transformed by […]
     
  • Graham Hill – Global Church [Review]
    The Creativity and Diversity of God’s People in Mission A Review of  Global Church: Reshaping Our Conversations, Renewing Our Mission, Revitalizing Our Churches Graham Hill Paperback: IVP Academic, 2016 Buy now:  [   ]  [  ]   Reviewed by Carol Kingston-Smith   Effective discipleship requires a wholehearted embrace of a transformative process which impacts the […]
     
  • New Book Releases – D.L. Mayfield, MORE -Week of 15 August 2016
    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…) D.L. Mayfield   Read a review from Christianity Today… NEXT BOOK >>>>>
     

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by csmith at August 19, 2016 07:53 PM

John C. Wright's Journal

Parable of the Stopsign

A reader asked me about materialism and immaterialism.

It was not the absurdly dishonest Dr. Andreassen, also known as Mechanoshakespeare-Man, so I thought it no waste of time to answer and explain my reasoning.

In case any one of my readers is a masochist, or a new reader, or a student of philosophy interested in what is perhaps the most trivial question of philosophy imaginable (radical materialism, also called panphysicalism) here is yet another round of discussing a question I discussed extensively, beyond any possible curiosity or merit.

It is also the easiest of argument to solve, once the definitions are clear.

Sadly, clarifying the definitions is very difficult, because it requires anyone brainwashed by a modern education to enter into a whole new world of concepts never before imagined.

 

The human soul and its relation to the body is like the relation of the meaning or spirit of a book to a book, except, of course, that a book cannot rewrite its own story as the story is being told and the human can.

I do not believe that the body and soul are separate any more than the inside of a box is separate from the outside. However, in speech, we can make a separation, that is, speak about the inside of the box without talking about the outside.

Likewise, we can speak about the story without talking about the particular hardback or paperback book in whose pages we read the story. Albeit, obviously again, we could not read the story (which is immaterial) without using our material eyes to catch material photons bouncing from the material page, and then using our mind to associate the symbols seen with the objects those symbols represent.

Material objects have only material properties: mass, length, duration, temperature, current, candlepower, moles, and their derivations.  A material property is a measured multiple of a unit standard, as two feet are twice one foot in length. They have no meaning aside from comparison to a unit measure such as a yardstick, stopwatch, or balance scale.

Mental objects have only immaterial properties: true or false, valid or invalid, good or evil, fair or foul, beautiful or ugly, useful or vain, desired or feared, glorious or shameful, and on and on. An immaterial property is always in relation to some concept, idea, ideal or goal, as truthful statements approach absolute truth, valid statements adhere to the absolute rules of logic, good acts are aimed at absolute goodness, and so on.

Ideas and ideals are always ABOUT something. They REFER to something or POINT AT something. Every statement has a topic: “The sun is hot today” is about the sun. “Thou are fair of face, my beloved” is about your beloved’s face. “Unicorns have one horn” is about unicorns. “All mimsy were the borogroves” is about borogroves and their flimsy and miserable state. “Minimum wage laws produce unemployment” is about minimum wage laws. “Any statement that contradicts itself is not true.” is about statements, specifically statements of logic. “This statement has five words” is the curious case where the topic of the sentence is the sentence itself.

The weight of a brick or the duration of a solar eclipse or the temperature at which paper burns are not about anything. They do not refer or point to anything. They are facts: a brick weight five pounds. A solar eclipse lasts seven minutes and a half. Paper burns at 451 degrees Fahrenheit

Now, to be sure, the sun is a physical object, and so is your beloved’s face, but a unicorn or a borogrove is a chimera, an imaginary object made of the mismatch of physical objects, and minimum wages laws are not physical at all, they are instructions on human behavior tied to a penalty. Law is related to matters of fact only indirectly, in that it deals with the deeds and actions of men. The properties of logic and the number of words in a sentence are purely intellectual objects with no physical properties at all.

A fact is a fact. It is true regardless of the observer’s observation. An idea is the observer’s take on the facts.

Symbols are both material, when regarded from the point of view that ignores their immaterial properties, and immaterial, when regarded from the point of view that ignores their material properties. A symbol, such as a spoken word or a traffic sign, points to a thought but is not a thought. The words “I love you” are a sign of love but they themselves, by themselves, are not love itself. A red octagon with the letters STOP printed on it points to the imperative to halt your vehicle before proceeding through a crossroads, but it is not that imperative itself. It is a sign of the law, it is not the law. A vandal painting over the S would change the sign but not change the law.

The whole confusion of materialism is merely a confusion of words. They think the brain, which is an engine of signs, is the thoughts at which the brain points. They think the brain is a mind. Their philosophy is as stupid as if a madman were afraid to remember the sun out of fear he might go blind.

Let me try to answer the questions in order:

  1. Can one not argue that the general consciousness and ability to think we label as the mind is a byproduct of the various pieces of the brain?

Yes, certainly one can make that argument. It is the argument the materialists make. It is a remarkably bad argument, and no one, to my knowledge, has ever attempted to make a rigorous version of the argument.

In order for the argument to be true, immaterial properties, such as we see in the mind (ideas of truth, logic, goodness, beauty) must be a byproduct, that is, a derived property, of material properties, (mass, length, duration, temperature, current, candlepower, moles).

Now, at first this seems reasonable. Velocity is a derived from the units of duration and distance: meters per second. Acceleration is meters per second per second. Volume is cubic meters. Magnetic field strength is ampere per meter.

Surface tension is measured in terms of Newtons per meter and a Newton is the force needed to accelerate one kilogram of mass at the rate of one meter per second squared in direction of the applied force.

So far, so good. But in order for the mind to be a byproduct of the brain, then mental objects, such as truth, validity, virtue, beauty, must be in theory able to be derived from or measured in some combination of properties of the material properties, in the same way surface tension can be measured in terms of kilograms, meters, seconds.

Now, let us take some other concept, such as “checkmate” and reduce it to material unit measures.

Here is a description of the essentials of the oldest chessgame ever recorded:

Greco v Nn (Rome 1619)

1.e4 b6 2.d4 Bb7 3.Bd3 f5 4.exf5 Bxg2 5.Qh5+ g6 6.fxg6 Nf6 7.gxh7+ Nxh5 8.Bg6# 1–0

Please note that the entire chessgame, everything about it essential for the chessgame to be understood, can be expressed in chess notation.

Chess notation consists of eight small letters for ranks, eight numbers for files, five capital letters to represent the major chessmen, a cross, dagger and octothorp for capture, check, and checkmate, with additional signs for pawn promotion, castling, win, lose or draw.

For those of you who prefer the more obvious symbolism of the board, here is the same game, portrayed in a different way, a pantomime of figurines representing chessmen moving on a set of squares that represent the board.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HxOZ1yq-5mY&ab_channel=sundaychessTV
It is difficult for some people to grasp, but this representation of the board is just as much an abstraction, a set of wooden figurines used as symbols, as the line of algebraic notion above it. Neither one is the real chessgame. Both point to the chessgame, represent the chessgame, symbolize the chessgame. Both are descriptions of the chessgame.

Indeed, the whole of the materialist argument can only take place because the English language invariably uses the same word to refer to a thing that represents another as is used to refer to the thing being represented by another. The word ‘knight’ in chess refers both to a physical horse-headed figurine one can hold in hand, and the real hence nonphysical knight that the figurine represents. (Indeed, I can think of no example, outside of technical expressions in disciplines like philosophy or semantics where the distinction between the symbol and the thing symbolized occurs in the word itself.)

Moderns use the word ‘real’ only to refer to non-real and impermanent things, that is, objects of the senses, matter, and never to real and eternal things, that is, objects of the mind, ideas. This is the source of the confusion.

Now, please notice the first thing about either description: the size, shape, volume, weight, surface tension of the board is not part of the description. The newtons of force used to move the chessmen is not listed. The number of seconds between moves is immaterial.

Now, how would we reduce this description of this checkmate to an abstract description of checkmates in general, using only the SI Units, that is, using only concepts of mass, length, duration, temperature, current, candlepower, and moles?

We can deduce a large number of other material properties, like Newtons of force or measures of surface tension from the SI Units, but obviously we cannot describe this chessgame, or any chess concept, without a reference to the aim of chess moves.

Chessmen are moved to win the game by placing the opponent’s king in check.

Hence, in order to describe checkmate, we must describe the king.

He is the chessman who begins the game facing the enemy king on the first rank on the square opposite his own color in one of the two center files, and can move only one square in any direction, except when castling, but never move into check.

Notice please that the king is chess is described in purely formal terms, not physical. The ‘king’ is no more and no less than a set of allowed moves, and a move is a matter of pure form without any material components at all:

One does not need a physical chessman on a physical board at all, not in a blindfold chess match, or a play-by-mail game. The physical chessman of wood or marble, plastic or metal, or the letter K on a page is not the king. These are merely signs of the king in the same way the traffic sign is a sign of the imperative to stop at crossroads.

Indeed, the same game of Greco v Nn (Rome 1619) can be played on any board of any materials at any rate of speed, and it is still the same game.

Checkmate cannot be described in terms of merely material units because merely material units were designed deliberately by the philosophy of science to exclude all mention of intent, final cause, efficiency, and form. On the other hand, the notation used above for describing the chessmatch of Greco v Nn (Rome 1619) is deliberately made to exclude all mention of material things. Neither the temperature of the room in Rome, nor of the color of the table, nor the color of the iris of the eye of Greco, or any other thing is recorded.

We have two systems of description. One, the physical description, deliberately excludes the essentials of the other, the chessgame description. Physics cannot describe the chessgame in terms of material SI units for the same reason the chessgame notation cannot describe the temperature of boiling water or the weight of a red brick or the duration of an eclipse. The descriptive system is designed not to do so.

And I deliberately selected the easiest possible mental activity to reduce to a physical activity, which is chessgames. There are countless mental activities, from poetry-making to transcendental meditation, from prayer to despair, from solving logic puzzles to making birdcalls, some of which have rules for describing their essential features, and some of which do not.

If one cannot even reduce a chessgame to the descriptive limits of physics, then one cannot reduce all of the mental activity of man to such a description.

Now, at this point in the argument, the material would have to argue that he, by some brilliant acrobatic contortion of the mind, he could outsmart of the limits of physics, and somehow smuggle in concept like truth and logic, beauty and goodness, fairness and efficiency, and so on, and portray them as physical things, or describe them in terms of mass, length, and duration.

Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that everyone who told the truth was cooler in his blood than anyone who told a lie, so that the blood temperature, when spoken by a man who was attempting a deception, was 100 degrees, whereas the blood of a truthful man remained a calm 98.

Would this not do? Could I not say, “A truthful statement ‘Catwoman is sexy!’ is a 98 degree statement, whereas an untruthful one ‘Unicorns have two horns’ is a 100 degree statement!’

This of course does not do: my blood is likely to get hotter thinking about Catwoman, and, in any case, the statement is not a material thing, even if the blood temperature of the man who speaks it is a material thing. The connection between the mental properties of the statement, true or false, and the material properties of the blood, temperature, is the same relation that exists between the red octagonal traffic sign and the legal imperative to halt one’s motor vehicle at crossroads. The blood temperature points to the truth of the sentence, but it is not itself the truthfulness.

Many, many, many a modern or postmodern dunderhead would have us believe that the motions of brain atoms can do exactly the thing of which we speak, and give us a reduction of mental properties to material unit measurement. But this is no different from our hypothetical world where all lying provoked a rise in blood temperature. Even if we lived in such a world (and we do not) establishing a correlation between mental and physical phenomena does not allow a descriptive system like physics, which deliberately excludes mental properties, to describe mental properties.

No one imagines that everything under the sun can be described in terms of the six letters and eight numbers of chess notation. Chess notation only describe chess games. One cannot even describe a game of poker using chess notation.

So if someone wishes to claim that physics notation, which deliberately removes all non-material topics and intentions from consideration, can describe non-material phenomena, it is a sufficient answer to say that it was designed not to.

Now, if the description of physic notation cannot describe nonmaterial reality, then, no, there is no way, not even theoretically, that all mental intentions can be reduced to material phenomena.

  1. Does this not fit the best evidence we have available?

No. There is no fit at all. The idea is absurd on its surface. Even the act of asking the question proves that the being doing the asking is doing something that an inanimate material collection of atoms could not do.

  1. It seems to me that often times the ability of the “mind” is different from person to personas one “mind” is better able to perform a certain task than another. Does this not fit the evidence that the difference in pieces of the brain correspond to different abilities a person seems to be skilled at?

No, it does not fit the evidence at all. It is like saying that since one picture is better painted than the next, it must be heavier. Better is not the same as heavier. The mental ability to perform intellectual actions is described in terms like “stupid” or “illogical” or “evil” or “tedious” but not in terms of foot-pounds, inches, years, or amperes.

Physical damage to the brain, including drunkenness, sleep, or even anger, may indeed have physical properties in the same way a chessboard had a certain specific width and length, the squares are colored a certain specific color. But when we describe the actions of a drunk, a madman, or a lobotomy victim, or a dead man, it is never the material properties of his brain anyone mentions, but mental properties, such a drunk, deranged, damaged, or dead.

Certainly there is a relationship between the two. The chessgame includes both essential and nonessential elements. The astronomer’s observation of the eclipse contains essential and nonessential elements as well. If an eclipse happens to fall on the astronomer’s daughter’s birthday, he does not note this in his write up because it has no bearing on the duration of the eclipse.

All descriptions are partial descriptions of the complex unified enigma we call reality. Reality include both mind and body, both chess and astronomy, birthdays and raving drunks. A chessmaster can say he lost the game because he was drunk and did not foresee the result of using his knight in the seventh move to capture the queen. But his drunkenness is not noted in the chess notation because that is not what chess notation is for. Strong drink, a blow to the head, bad genes, or a mental disease can disorder the brain, or make one man better able to compose music or count numbers than another. But the mental description of the states of mind are qualitative, and the physical description of the brain states is quantitative. They are not used for the same purposes, and while correlations must be noted between one and the other, there is no way to explain the correlations, except as visible signs of invisible realities.

  1. I want to make it clear that I do in deed realize that the brain and the mind are obviously not the same thing as the brain is a collection of biological matter and the mind is certainly not a collection of biological matter although from what we can tell it appears to be the product of one.

With all due respect, the mind cannot appear to be a collection of biological matter because the mind is mental and matter is material. Mind and matter are as different from each other as chessgames and astronomy observations.

  1. That is the problem for me is the mind not merely the result of chemical reactions occurring in the brain thus making it contained within the brain?

Frodo Baggins, fine gentlehobbit with a cleft chin, is not himself physically contained within your copy of FELOWSHIP OF THE RINGS. The moved that lost the chessgame was not physically contained within the Queen who was sacrificed. The traffic law is not physically contained within the red octagon.

The physical ink marks that point to words that point to Frodo are inside the physical book. Frodo himself is imaginary. He has no location anywhere in time or space and hence cannot be inside or outside of anything.

The move that lost the chessgame was represented by the physical act of Greco’s opponent moving his hand to move the horse-shaped wooden figuring representing a chessman across the tiles representing chess squares one diagonally and one horizontally, and then picking up the crowned figurine and placing her back in the box, to represent a chessman being captured. The chessgame itself is purely formal, existing as a set of symbols in the mind. The foolish knight who lost the game has no location anywhere in time or space and hence cannot be inside or outside of anything.

The red octagon has white marks we use to represent letters. Those letters together represent a word, which represents a concept. More to the point that selfsame stopsign if placed in a student’s dorm room as a decoration no longer represents the terror and majesty of the law, because there is no longer an imperative sanctioned by the sovereign that all who see the sign obey its stern and curt command. But the command of the sovereign law is not “on” the stopsign. Only the marks representing the words are on the stopsign. The sovereign law has no location anywhere in time or space and hence cannot be inside or outside of anything.

  1. Perhaps I am misunderstanding a simple part of this argument and perhaps it makes no difference where what we label as the mind comes from but If you could clarify I would appreciate it greatly.

Well, I cannot tell what you misunderstand because I cannot tell whether I am being clear or not. To me, the matter seems simple enough, because I have read Aristotle, and he makes the distinction between efficient cause and final cause that I have been using throughout this discussion (albeit I did not use his terms, which are a bit technical). I have also read, A.E. van Vogt’s popularization of non-Aristotelian philosophy, which teaches that the map is not the territory and the word is not the thing it represents. I am also a Roman Catholic, so I have an innately sacramental view of life: I think that visible symbols can embody an invisible reality without any division between the two.

The typical modern student, on the other hand, by the time he is grown, has been exposed to Marxist, secular, materialist and anti-rational philosophical notions from kindergarten onward, and his brain was trained to avoid certain thoughts and to misunderstand others. The modern product of indoctrination been programmed and hypnotized. His thinking is a snarled mess. To unsnarl any tangle requires a lot of patience.

To sum up the argument a final time:

Physics is the abstraction of more complex things to measurements of their mechanical actions. By design, physics ignores anything that cannot be reduced to a unit measurement. Physics can tell you the mass, velocity, and vector of a bullet, for example, but not tell you, by any inspection of the physical properties of the bullet, whether it was shot from the rifle of a murderer, or a soldier, or a deerhunter.

In physics, all mechanical actions whatsoever can be described in terms of standard international units of measurement, that is, measured units of quantity. Hence, all mechanical actions of brain elements, which is the only aspect of the mind-brain reality physics addresses, can in theory be so described.

But in order for symbols, thoughts, ideas, word-meanings and other qualities to be so described, they too would have to be open to being described in terms of unit measurements. But not a single meaning can be reduced to such a description, for the simple reason that physics, by design, excludes all qualities.

If the mind were a byproduct of mechanical brain actions, it would be a mechanical brain action itself, and hence be open to be described in terms of measured units.

But a quality of meaning, such as truth, virtue, or beauty cannot be measured in inches, grams, or seconds. We do not speak of inches of truth, grams of virtue, or seconds of beauty not because these values exist and have not yet been discovered. We do not speak of them because we cannot: the words when placed together make no sense.

Panphysicalism, the metaphysical idea that all ideas can be reduced to physical components, is as self-contradictory concept, akin to speaking of a square containing no right angles. The concept panphysicalism is itself a concept that cannot be reduced to physical elements.

It is merely an insolent sophistry: a metaphysical postulate postulating that no metaphysical postulates exist; a man claiming to be a meat-robot.

by John C Wright at August 19, 2016 06:42 PM

Justin Taylor

Aaron M. Renn

Trump’s Pitch to Blacks

trump-antifa-rally-crowd1After Trump made a speech in Milwaukee earlier this week in which he directly asked for black votes, I was asked to write a about it. My piece is now online in City Journal and is called “Trump’s Pitch to Blacks.”

I personally doubt whether he’s really going after black votes (though of course he wouldn’t mind getting some). Rather, this is designed to polish his image as more inclusive. What’s more, his language of “law and order” seems more designed to appeal to whites, and he mentions nothing about black grievances with the police (in contrast to his previous rhetoric in which he labeled the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile “terrible” and “disgusting”).

He also talked about his economic policies, etc. But the focus of my piece was on his immigration pitch. Large scale immigration seems likely to downgrade black aspirations and social justice claims in the American political sphere over the long term:

As ethnic groups multiply and grow in America, often borrowing the template of the civil rights movement for their own goals, they dilute the claims of black Americans. A study by sociologists Mary C. Waters, Philip Kasinitz, and Asad L. Asad argued that “the increasing racial diversity of the population owing to immigration means policies that aim to promote racial equality but that are framed in terms of diversity often do not address the needs of native African Americans who, arguably, need such policies the most.” Diversity used to mean “black.” Now it can mean anything from a Mexican small-business owner to a Chinese software developer to a Pakistani doctor. Major Silicon Valley firms actually employ a lower share of whites than the population as a whole—and virtually no blacks.

Click through to read the whole thing.

I have generally been a proponent of immigration (or outsiders generally), arguing that a critical mass of outsiders is necessary to civic dynamism, and that we have actually sucked out many of the risk takers and entrepreneurs from Mexico.

But we can have too much of a good thing. Clearly, we’ve reached the point where the level of immigration is having socially destablizing consequences. Brexit is a perfect example. You can say that’s just racism or whatever. But even if it is, it doesn’t excuse Remainers who refused to make any changes from their share of the blame. Politics exists in the realm of human reality, not utopian ideals.

One likely consequence of US diversification resulting from the current immigration trend is that the claims of blacks will be downgraded in society. Black Americans are longstanding citizens who have suffered unique historic injustices and have yet to be integrated into the economic and cultural mainstream of the country. I believe that’s an urgent task. But it doesn’t seem likely that immigrants and their children will feel a special debt to black Americans in the way that whites – soon to be a minority themselves – do.

Indeed, immigration has already shifted demographics in some cities to make the prospect of future black mayors very unlikely. I highlight this in the piece with regards to Chicago:

Immigration has also badly diluted black voting power and political influence in many cities. In 1980, Chicago was about 40 percent black and 14 percent Hispanic. Blacks and lakefront liberals formed an electoral alliance to elect Harold Washington as the city’s first black mayor in 1983. Today, after black population losses and a doubling of Latino population share, the city’s one-third white, one-third black, and one-third Latino population produces a divide-and-rule dynamic benefiting white mayors like Richard M. Daley and Rahm Emanuel.

Again, read the whole thing.

Image at top my photo of an anti-Trump rally in New York. Cover photo by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 3.0

by Aaron M. Renn at August 19, 2016 04:35 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

What’s so good about being good? – An Excerpt from Introducing Christian Ethics

Introducing Christian Ethics: A Short Guide to Making Moral Choices is based on the best-selling college and seminary ethics textbook Moral Choices and distills nearly two decades of teaching and study into a succinct and user-friendly volume. In today’s excerpt, author Scott Rae explores moral being, the good life, and what it means to be human.

***

9780310521181_imageImagine that you live in a world where you can do anything you want, and no matter what you do, you will never get caught. Nor will you ever have to worry about any consequences for these actions. For example, you can rob a bank, cheat in school, take revenge on whomever you want to, commit violent crimes, lie whenever you want, go back on your word whenever convenient, or sleep with whomever you choose. Would you do any, or all, of those things?

I suspect many of you would be tempted to do at least some things commonly regarded as immoral, not to mention some of the illegal things. But I also suspect most of you would not do them. Why not? Although you might not be able to express it precisely, I would bet that many people would not do these things because they consider being a good person to be an important part of living a good life. That is, you consider it a good thing to be a good person.

MORALITY AND THE GOOD LIFE

But let’s think about that a bit more. What is it about morality, or virtue, that is bound up with living a good life? The ancient philosophers affirmed that being a good person and living a good life went together and that success in life was measured by what kind of person you were as opposed to what you accomplished or accumulated. For example, Aristotle connected happiness with being a good person. He said, “Happiness is an activity of the soul in accordance with virtue.” Epicurus put it this way: “It is not possible to live pleasantly without living prudently, honorably and justly.” This certainly reflects the teaching of Jesus himself when he said to his disciples, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul [a part of which includes their character]?” (Mark 8:36).

Even today, most people, at least intuitively, make that connection between good character and a good life. This is why we admire the moral heroes of our time, and conversely, why we look skeptically at someone who achieves much but is devoid of character. For example, Mother Teresa remains one of the most admired people in the world, even though she had little of what counts for success in our culture. On the other hand, the person who is at the top of his or her profession but who got there by running over people, has had multiple failed marriages, and is alienated from his or her children—we have a harder time thinking of this person as being successful in life. We often say of this person that “they got to the top of the ladder, only to realize it was leaning against the wrong wall.”

I heard a vivid example of this when I was a PhD student some years ago. It made an indelible impact on me, and I vowed not to repeat the mistakes I had learned about. I was the teaching assistant for a distinguished professor in our department, and part of that responsibility involved attending all the class sessions. On the final day of class for that term, the professor was making a point and used his personal life as an example. He told his students about how he had ordered his life early in his career, when his children were young. He spoke with great regret about how he had spent far too many evenings and weekends in his study, writing books and articles to establish himself professionally, at which he had succeeded, since he was well respected in his field.

But he also spoke of how he was alienated from all his children today, and it broke his heart to recognize that those two things were connected. I suspect he would admit that he was a professional success but that no amount of professional success compensated for his failures as a father. He realized that professional success and life success were two different things. I suspect he might have seen himself in Jesus’s statement, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”

WE ARE MORAL BEINGS

So we tend to connect being moral to having a good life. That’s a good reason to be moral. But that’s not the only reason to think morality is important. From a Christian worldview, morality is built into the fabric of the universe and is built into our constitution as human beings. It is an integral part of what it means to be human. This is certainly the idea of the moral law being written on our hearts, as described in Romans 2:14–15. Paul here is arguing for the pervasiveness and universality of sin by maintaining that we all violate God’s law, whether we have access to it or not: “Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.”

The point of the text is that the demands of morality are imprinted internally on each person, giving him or her an inherent sense of right and wrong. This is one way that God communicates the requirement of morality. As we will see in chapter 2, in the discussion of natural law ethics, God reveals his moral program for human beings in a variety of ways, both inside and outside the Bible.

Of course, this does not mean that everyone always sees morality the same way, since, in a Christian worldview, our moral constitution is also broken because of the reality of sin in the world. (We will discuss other ways of viewing morality, including relativism, in chapter 3.) But sin did not eradicate the moral sense of human beings; that moral sense remains part and parcel of what it means to be human. In this sense, asking the question, why be moral?

***

9780310521181_imageInterested in learning more about how to make moral choices? Buy your copy of Introducing Christian Ethics at Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Christian Book.

Teaching and study resources for the book, including additional video clips based on the questions corresponding to each chapter, make it ideal for use in the classroom as well as for pastors and for teaching settings within the church. Resources are available through www.ZondervanAcademic.com.

by ZA Blog at August 19, 2016 04:00 PM

The Mac OS Watch

To mark the release of System 7.5 — and to incentivize people to upgrade — Apple launched a gift program:

System 7.5 gift

From May 1 to July 31, 1995 users who upgraded to System 7.5 could choose between an Apple watch or a copy of Conflict Catcher 3.

One of those options is way cooler than the other, despite the “Mac OS” name not coming until 7.6:

Mac OS Watch

Mac OS Watch

Mac OS Watch

This watch showcases Apple’s colorful, chunky design it used in print and some interface elements at the time, including the canned Gizmo theme. The bright colors are offset by a gray band with Mac OS text running its full length.

It even looks good with my other nerdy watches:

Nerdy watches

by Stephen at August 19, 2016 03:31 PM

Greg Mankiw's Blog

Bible Reading Project

Crossway Blog

August's New and Notable Books

Below is a list of all of the new and notable books releasing this month. Be sure to check out all of our new titles from the last few months and browse by category, series, or author.


Being There
Dave Furman

Everyone has friends or family who suffer from sickness, disability, depression, or the death of a loved one.

Oftentimes, the people who love the hurting also struggle in their own unique ways. They tend to suffer in silence and without much support from others. Writing from the unique perspective of one who needs extra help on a daily basis, Dave Furman offers insight into the support, encouragement, and wisdom that people need when helping others. Furman draws on his own life experiences, examples from the Bible, and wisdom from Christians throughout history to address the heart and ministry of those who are called to serve others. Deeply personal and powerfully pastoral, this book points readers to the strength that only God can provide as they love those who are hurting. Afterword written by Gloria Furman, the author's wife.

“As a long-term chronic pain sufferer, a pastor to suffering people, and a friend of Dave’s, I highly recommend this book. It is deeply personal, painful, and, above all, hopeful, and I am so glad he has taken the time to share his experiences. This book will point professionals, husbands, wives, and the friends of those who suffer from long-term chronic pain to the glorious truths found in the gospel of Jesus. This is not a book that offers easy solutions, but instead brings Bible-centered counsel to bear on the dark moments of life.”
Mez McConnell, Senior Pastor, Niddrie Community Church, Edinburgh, Scotland; Director, 20schemes; author, Church in Hard Places

Learn More / Free Excerpt


Married for God
Christopher Ash

Many people get married without ever understanding the real purpose of marriage—which leads to disappointment, dissatisfaction, and conflict. This raises the obvious (but often unasked) question: What is the purpose of marriage? Helping readers reorient their view of marriage so that they see it as part of God’s grand plan for the universe, this book offers a refreshingly God-centered explanation of one of the most foundational human institutions that exists. Christopher Ash helps us see that personal fulfillment is not the goal of a good marriage, but rather the by-product of a union focused first and foremost on glorifying God in and through everything. Only then will husbands and wives truly experience the joy that comes from loving and serving God together.

“Ash’s book is one I use for premarital counseling. Concise, thoughtful, intelligent, biblical, and full of that increasingly rare commodity—common sense. I heartily recommend it as a book to read and also as a basis for framing and informing pastoral discussions with Christian couples who are looking toward marriage and want a realistic but encouraging picture of what to expect. A great book.”
Carl R. Trueman, Paul Woolley Professor of Church History, Westminster Theological Seminary; author, The Creedal Imperative and Luther on the Christian Life

Learn More / Free Excerpt


Andrew Fuller: Holy Faith, Worthy Gospel, World Mission
John Piper; Foreword by Michael A. G. Haykin

Missionary biographies often inspire enthusiasm, zeal, and urgency for missions among God’s people. But how do Christians give their lives to missions if they feel called to remain in their homeland? In 1792, British pastor Andrew Fuller formed the Baptist Missionary Society, an organization dedicated to the promotion of mission work both at home and overseas. In this concise biography, best-selling author John Piper introduces readers to this incredible Christian who—although he never served abroad himself—inspired the modern missionary movement that gave rise to such figures as William Carey and Hudson Taylor. Working tirelessly to raise funds for missionaries in the field and championing the importance of sound doctrine for fruitfulness in missions, Fuller stands as an example to all Christians eager to devote themselves to knowing, guarding, and spreading the true gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.

“May it not only inform the mind, but also enflame the heart!”
Michael A. G. Haykin, Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Learn More / Free Excerpt

by Crossway at August 19, 2016 01:22 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

Why learn Aramaic?

blue contrast with text

We recently looked at why you should learn Ugaritic. Today, we’re going to take a look at why you should learn Aramaic.

Who spoke Aramaic?

The short answer: just about everyone in the ancient world.

Aramaic was the lingua franca in the Ancient Near East for more than two thousand years. It was first spoken by the Arameans around 1,200 B.C. Then, when the Assyrians conquered the Arameans and brought them into captivity, they brought their language with them. From that point on, Aramaic replaced Akkadian as the language of commerce and government in Assyria and beyond.

After the collapse of the Assyrian empire, the Babylonians and Persians inherited the language. With each successive empire, Aramaic was exported throughout conquered territories and people groups.

As the economic and cultural influence of the empires spread, so did Aramaic, slowly replacing local languages in the subjugated territories.

This shift took place in Palestine beginning in the sixth century B.C. Although official business in Palestine was still conducted in Hebrew, most people began speaking Aramaic. This is why some of the newer texts from the Old Testament are written in Aramaic. Jesus and his disciples likely spoke Aramaic as well. (The Hebrew language saw a resurgence after the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.)

After the time of Jesus, Aramaic was widely spoken in the Middle East for several hundred years. It wasn’t until the rise of Islam in the seventh century that Aramaic finally ceased to be the dominant language in the region. By that time, it had morphed into numerous dialects and distinct languages.

Today, Aramaic is still spoken in a few communities in modern-day Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. There are also small pockets of Aramaic speakers who have immigrated to Australia, Sweden, and Turlock, California.

If you consider that texts of early English are virtually unrecognizable to modern speakers (for example, try reading lines 22 and 23 from Beowulf, written in English roughly a thousand years ago : “þæt hine on ylde eft gewunigen / wilgesiþas, þonne wig cume”), the longevity and importance of Aramaic in the ancient world is astounding. For two thousand years, it outlasted armies and emperors.

To be economically and socially connected in the ancient world was to know Aramaic.

Where is Aramaic found in the Bible?

For Christians and Jews, key Aramaic texts include portions of the Talmud and the Targums, as well as the Peshitta—the Aramaic translations of the New Testament, which remain important to scholars today for the value in historical and textual criticism.

The two most well-known sections of Aramaic in the Old Testament include Daniel 2:4b–7:28 and Ezra 4:8–6:18; 7:12–26.

But there are also two lesser-known instances of Aramaic in the Old Testament outside Daniel and Ezra:

  • Genesis 31:46–47 reads: “He said to his relatives, ‘Gather some stones.’ So they took stones and piled them in a heap, and they ate there by the heap. Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha, and Jacob called it Galeed.” The place name Jegar Sahadutha is an Aramaic word.
  • Jeremiah 10:11 contains an Aramaic sentence found in the middle of a Hebrew text: “Tell them this: ‘These gods, who did not make the heavens and the earth, will perish from the earth and from under the heavens.’”

In total, 269 verses in the Old Testament are translated from Aramaic or include Aramaic words in the original. This constitutes less than 2% of the entire Old Testament.

This may not sound like much.

However, consider that 269 verses are equivalent to:

You would not want to be without the required skills to faithfully interpret these portions of the biblical text.

The same is true of the Aramaic portions of Daniel, Ezra, Genesis, and Jeremiah.

It’s true, two percent may not seem like a big deal. But if your goal is to work with the original languages of Scripture, and if you take the view that every word of Scripture is important, then missing two percent of the Old Testament leaves a big gap in your understanding.

Your ability to work with the original languages of the Bible is incomplete without Aramaic.

Learning Greek and Hebrew is important.

But if you want to do serious work with the original languages of the Bible, make sure you learn Aramaic, too.

How to learn Aramaic

The best way to learn Aramaic is to sign up for the new Basics of Biblical Aramaic online course, taught by Miles Van Pelt. This is a full, graduate-level online course adapted from Dr. Van Pelt’s teaching experience and from the Basics of Biblical Aramaic grammar.

Here are four reasons why the Basics of Biblical Aramaic online course is the best way to learn Aramaic:

  1. You’ll learn from a seasoned teacher and scholar. The course is structured in a way to set you up for success. Dr. Van Pelt has taught this course for several years to students of all ages and abilities. He understands the challenges you’ll face, so the course follows a straightforward pattern. You’ll grasp each concept before you move on to the next one.
  2. You can work at your own pace. This is a self-paced online course, so you can pause and rewind videos to ensure you’ve heard and understood the lectures. Take as long as you need to work through the exercises. And do the readings at whatever pace helps you learn best.
  3. You’ll get access to the digital textbook. The digital textbook is included in the course, which means you don’t need to worry about switching between lectures, readings, and exercises. Every component of the learning experience is integrated together in an easy-to-use, intuitive platform.
  4. You’ll be able to read the Aramaic text of Scripture. We’ll walk you through everything, step-by-step, starting with setting up your keyboard and learning the alphabet, all the way to translating Scripture from Aramaic into English at the end of the course.

When you sign up, you’ll be on your way toward working with the Aramaic texts of the Bible. Sign up today!

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This post is adapted from materials found in the Basics of Biblical Aramaic online course and grammar. Photo credit: David Holt via Flick; original here.

by ZA Blog at August 19, 2016 12:00 PM

Table Titans

Tales: Sibling Rivalry

I am currently running a modified 3.5 campaign for my wife and two daughters. My wife has played before, so she dug out a Half-Elf Bard she had from another campaign, and my two girls decided to create characters from scratch. My eleven year old is a very girly-girl. She’s a cheerleader and loves…

Read more

August 19, 2016 07:00 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Welcome to the Most Exclusive Society in the World

Article by: Matt Dirks

In 38 years on this earth, I’d never once sat in first class. Then came those magical words from a gate agent: “Mr. Dirks, you’ve been upgraded. Enjoy your flight.” She directed me to the red-carpeted boarding lane; I tried to conceal my giddiness as I waltzed past the mob of tired and frustrated travelers in the economy class queue.

The flight attendant looked at my ticket, and smiled as she welcomed me and pointed me to the left. I’d never turned left before, and I couldn’t remember the last time a flight attendant smiled at me. I quickly found my wide leather seat, and couldn’t have been there more than 15 seconds when another attendant appeared to offer a pre-takeoff glass of champagne.

I was in.

We all want to be in somewhere. We’re all looking for approval. Even Harley-riding rebels who trumpet their independence through deafening exhaust pipes feel the need to wear matching leather vests as their herd ambles down the highway. It’s a basic human desire hardwired into us: We need to belong somewhere. But sometimes, we’re just not feeling it.

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Jesus addressed this reality the night before he was killed. He had only hours to live. The disciples, who’d given up everything in life to follow him, were about to lose their leader and watch their whole world collapse on them. Despite the danger and dread, Jesus wanted to spend the last few hours of his life teaching a theology class about the doctrine of the Trinity and its relationship to humanity.

When most Christians think about the Trinity, they come up with analogies to make sense of it: the parts of an egg, the different states of water, and so on. But Jesus never bothered trying to explain the structure of the Trinity. What’s most important about the Trinity is implied by the very names. It’s the relationships. A father is only a father if he has a son. And a son has to have a father. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have been enjoying one another forever. 

When Jesus prayed to his father that dark night, out loud in front of the disciples, he said, “Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (John 17:5). They learned God has been perfectly satisfied within himself forever. He didn’t create humans because he was lonely or bored. If that were the case, he should’ve just made puppies and quit while he was ahead. Puppies are a lot more fun and cuddly.

The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have always had perfect fellowship together, and the unbelievable thing—the really crazy thing—is we’re invited into that relationship too. Look at what Jesus prayed:

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:20–24)

Think about that for a minute.

Remember being in middle school, always wishing you could be part of the popular crowd? And if you were popular, wishing you could be part of the ultra-popular crowd? Some never shake that sensation for the rest of their lives. They always feel on the outside of things, never feeling accepted.

But Jesus says you’re not alone anymore. If you’re trusting in him, the Holy Spirit has brought you into the most exclusive society in the universe: the fellowship of the Trinity. The finest first-class cabin in the sky is a rusty tin can compared to this clubhouse.

Neglecting Our Membership Privileges

The problem is, most Christians don’t get that perspective. The disciples sure didn’t. Twenty-four hours after Jesus prayed these things, after he’d been executed and their world had imploded, they weren’t looking to deepen their relationship with the Godhead. They weren’t looking to cash in on their membership benefits. They were just looking to not die.

Maybe you’re in a place where it feels like your world is caving in on you. You’ve been stressed out at work, with your boss piling on project after project. All you can see in front of you are unreasonable deadlines and unmet expectations. Or you’re in a season of marriage where it’s just not working. You and your spouse bicker all the time for no good reason. You feel alone in the relationship.

Maybe you have small kids driving you crazy, and you’ve caught yourself daydreaming about dropping them off in the Salvation Army donation box. You’ve even calculated how many fruit snacks and sippy cups they’d need before the workers found them in the morning. You feel overwhelmed and alone in your struggles. You’re not thinking about the glorious Trinitarian fellowship you’ve been welcomed into; you’re just thinking about survival.

When we don’t embrace the love, acceptance, and affirmation of the Trinity that’s been extended to us through Christ, it’s easy for us to keep spiraling downward into anxiety, despair, inertia, and ineffectiveness. And when we fail to take advantage of our membership benefits, we’re not the only ones who lose out.

Why This Club Exists 

Jesus says a big reason why we’ve been brought into the fellowship of the Trinity is “so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:23). God loves us like he loved his Son so that the people around us will see it and seek the same love for themselves. Bizarrely, the mission of this hyper-exclusive club is to keep cramming more and more people onto its membership roll.

That’s why TGC Hawaii is planning a conference in Honolulu this October called “This Is Love.” Featuring speakers Paul Tripp, Eric Mason, J. D. Greear, Ryan Kwon, and Jeff Louie, we’ll spend a weekend drinking in God’s love for us and learning how to invite those around us into the same experience.

Our kids, neighbors, and coworkers are all counting on us to take full advantage of our membership.

Editors’ note: Join speakers Paul Tripp, Eric Mason, J. D. Greear, Ryan Kwon, and Jeff Louie for TGC Hawaii’s fall conference, October 28 to 29 in Honolulu. Spread the word and register today.

Matt Dirks is pastor for proclamation at Harbor Church in Honolulu, Hawaii, which he planted in 2005. He has helped launch church planting and pastoral training ministries across the Pacific Rim.

by Matt Dirks at August 19, 2016 05:02 AM

One of the Best Novels You’ve Never Heard Of

Article by: Karen Swallow Prior

Do not read this book if you’re homesick. 

Do not read this book if you’re homesick because you’ve been gone too many days and you’re on a plane, or a train, or anywhere in public, and you’re mortified at the thought of crying in front of strangers.

Do not read this book if your soul is pierced by slow-paced narratives, the mysteries found in ordinary things, and prose as sharp and clear and laden with weight as icicles formed by countless winter days.

Do not read this book if you’re prone to nostalgia for simpler, if harder times.

Perhaps, on second thought, these are precisely the conditions under which you should read Marilynne Robinson’s stunning novel Housekeeping.

Redemptive Reading 

Published in 1980, nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and garnering the prestigious PEN/Hemingway Award, Robinson’s first novel is a modern classic. Yet now Robinson is better known for her more recent novels, Gilead and Lila [review], and for her philosophical and theological treatise Absence of Mind, a skillful salvo aimed at the shallow scientism popularized by the New Atheists.

Christian authors need not, and probably should not, write for the approval of The New Yorker. It’s a good thing for the church, though, when a publication like that praises the work of a professing Christian by seeing—and receiving—the message of redemption, as did this review of Housekeeping:

Ruthie says of her grandmother that “the wind that billowed her sheets announced to her the resurrection of the ordinary,” and this kind of resurrection is as central to Robinson’s aesthetic sensibility as the Christian resurrection is to her spiritual one.

At the risk of setting expectations impossibly high, I will simply say Housekeeping is one of the best books I’ve ever read. (I’ve read a lot of books.) It’s the kind of book that must be read slowly, sentence by sentence, many of them demanding to be re-read, sometimes several times before going on, whether because of their depth of meaning or their astounding beauty or both. Consider, for example, this description of the main character’s grandfather:

He would pick up eggshells, a bird’s wing, a jawbone, the ashy fragment of a wasp’s nest. He would peer at each of them with the most absolute attention, and then put them in his pockets, where he kept his jackknife and loose change. He would peer at them as if he could read them, and pocket them as if he could own them. This is death in my hand, this is ruin in my breast pocket, where I keep my reading glasses.

Unbroken Family 

Told through the eyes of Ruthie, a young girl abandoned yet loved, albeit imperfectly, Housekeeping on the surface concerns a family that is dysfunctional without knowing it’s dysfunctional, in a time and place where such wasn’t even a word. But even a family shattered by death, disaster, and mental disease can testify to the power of familial bonds:

Families will not be broken. Curse and expel them, send their children wandering, drown them in floods and fires, and old women will make songs of all these sorrows and sit on the porch and sing them on mild evenings.

As Christians we can extol the natural, God-ordained, inseparable ties between mother and child on bumper stickers, in pro-life pamphlets, and at Christian conferences. But none of these can match the power of Robinson’s descriptions, woven throughout the pages of this novel, of women haunted by the ghosts of mothers and children, given and gone. “Of my conception,” Ruthie tells the reader, “I know only what you know of yours. It occurred in darkness and I was unconsenting.” Later, on one of many days spent skipping school, Ruthie seeks out imaginary children—unlike her, homeless; like her, motherless. “If there had been snow,” Ruthie says about that day,

I would have made a statue, a woman to stand along the path, among the trees. The children would have come close, to look at her. Lot’s wife was salt and barren, because she was full of loss and mourning, and looked back. But here rare flowers would gleam in her hair, and on her breast, and in her hands, and there would be children all around her, to love and marvel at her for her beauty, and to laugh at her extravagant adornments, as if they had set the flowers in her hair and thrown down all the flowers at her feet, and they would forgive her, eagerly and lavishly, for turning away, though she never asked to be forgiven. Though her hands were ice and did not touch them, she would be more than mother to them, she so calm, so still, and they such wild and orphan things.

Steeped in Scripture

Housekeeping is a book steeped in biblical imagery and Christian theology. The literalist unable or unwilling to distinguish between the language of divine inspiration and the language of human metaphor may stumble over passages like this, one that makes the heart of the poetry lover soar:

Cain murdered Abel, and blood cried out from the earth; the house fell on Job’s children, and a voice was induced or provoked into speaking from a whirlwind; and Rachel mourned for her children; and King David for Absalom. The force behind the movement of time is a mourning that will not be comforted. That is why the first event is known to have been an expulsion, and the last is hoped to be a reconciliation and return. So memory pulls us forward, so prophecy is only brilliant memory—there will be a garden where all of us as one child will sleep in our mother Eve, hooped in her ribs and staved by her spine.

The narrator’s slow revelation and realization of the precariousness of her family situation unfolds in the same way as does the reader’s awareness that we’re all dysfunctional, the human family, living as we do between the now and the not yet. Ruthie’s ruminations on her particular discontent express this universal condition of persistent longing and stubborn hope:

I hated waiting. If I had one particular complaint, it was that my life seemed composed entirely of expectation. I expected—an arrival, an explanation, an apology. There had never been one, a fact I could have accepted, were it not true that, just when I had got used to the limits and dimensions of one moment, I was expelled into the next and made to wonder again if any shapes hid in its shadows. 

And yet, even to have what we hoped for isn’t enough to fill the hole in the human heart:

To crave and to have are as like as a thing and its shadow. For when does a berry break upon the tongue as sweetly as when one longs to taste it, and when is the taste refracted into so many hues and savors of ripeness and earth, and when do our senses know any thing so utterly as when we lack it? And here again is a foreshadowing—the world will be made whole. For to wish for a hand on one’s hair is all but to feel it. So whatever we may lose, very craving gives it back to us again.

Transients Headed Home 

Ruthie’s final caregiver is, she slowly comes to understand, a transient one “unredeemed,” a hoarder for whom “accumulation” is “the essence of housekeeping.” And isn’t this true of us all? We’re all transients in this world, Housekeeping reminds us. “Every spirit passing through the world fingers the tangible and mars the mutable, and finally has come to look and not to buy.” The “sorrow,” Ruthie says, “is that every soul is put out of house.”

As desolate and lonely as the story appears, in uprooting the shallowly planted hopes we place in our earthly families and transitory homes (no matter how “functional” they might be), Housekeeping points us to the true hope we have in our final home, and the fact that we in Christ who yet wander in this world “will find a way home.” And there, Robinson writes, “the perished, whose lack we always feel, will step through the door finally and stroke our hair with dreaming, habitual fondness, not having meant to keep us waiting long.”

Marilynne Robinson. Housekeeping: A Novel. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1980. 219 pp. $15.00. 

Karen Swallow Prior is professor of English at Liberty University, research fellow with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and a member of the Faith Advisory Council of the Humane Society of the United States. She is the author of Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me and Fierce Convictions—The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More: Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist.

by Karen Swallow Prior at August 19, 2016 05:02 AM

The Most Boring—and Spiritual—Olympic Sport

Article by: Bethany Jenkins

Editors’ note: Give during the Olympics to help us expand our Portuguese-language web presence. We are hoping to raise $30,000 by the end of August to expand the reach of TGC’s Portuguese resources. Click here to learn more and give.

I can’t imagine an Olympic sport more boring to watch than the marathon, which takes place this weekend.* For more than two hours, runners slog through 26.2 miles—only to have an anti-climactic ending. (They’re not usually neck and neck, like in swimming or sprinting.)

Watching distance running on TV is so boring that someone argued, “Even Forrest Gump required a montage of the infamous running scene because seeing Tom Hanks travel on foot across the country in real time is not something people would pay to see.”

But TV doesn’t do justice to the physical intensity and endurance required to finish—let alone win—a marathon. 

Two weeks ago I ran one of the most difficult marathons in the world, the San Francisco Marathon—a fact that I didn’t discover until after I finished. Apparently it’s America’s toughest big city run, and The Wall Street Journal dubs it “the race even marathoners fear.” The course was breathtaking, but the hills were steep, and my quads were burning.

During training, especially on long runs, I had lots of time to think about life, faith, and running, and I came to realize that while the marathon may be the most boring sport to watch, it’s likely the most spiritually enlightening to do. Even Paul says that we—whether or not we’re runners—can learn a lot about the Christian life by looking at running (1 Cor. 9:23–26).

Run to Win

The apostle says we should have the motivation of a runner: to win. “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it” (1 Cor. ‪9:24). 

The problem, of course, is that very few runners run to win. Most of us are so far behind the elites that we don’t even see the awards ceremony. Far from hoping to be the “only one” to receive the prize, we’re just happy to get a finisher’s medal.

So what is our motivation?

While training for San Francisco, I had one goal—to train such that the race itself would be fun. If I wanted to enjoy it, I knew I needed to build endurance for the race and strength for the hills. My motivation wasn’t to beat the other runners but to beat the course.

My motivation wasn’t to beat the other runners but to beat the course.

This sense of winning is what Paul means. He wants us to win against the course and to finish well so that “race day” is enjoyable, not painful. He wants us to train with Olympic spirituality, as John Piper puts it. 

Plus, we know Paul doesn’t care about beating other runners since we know he wants them to win, too. As he tells the Philippians, he’d personally rather finish the race, but he’ll stay on the course to encourage and run with them (Phil. 1:23–25). In the same way, we run to win—even as we bring others along with us.

Exercise Self-Control in All Things

Paul also says we need a runner’s self-discipline: “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things” (1 Cor. ‪9:25). 

Training for a marathon is holistic. All sorts of non-running activities affect running. If your primary diet is junk food or you don’t drink enough water, you’re going to have a bad run. If you have a long run in the morning, you’re wise to go to bed early the night before. Marathon training changes your life for four months. 

Our faith, too, affects every aspect of our lives, not just our “spiritual” activities. In every sphere—from our motivations to our relationships to our work—we’re called to deny sinful impulses and cultivate godly ones so that our zeal for God endures.

“The serious athlete doesn’t ask about how to just get by in his training,” Piper says. “He asks about what will bring about maximum performance. So the mature Christian asks, What will stir up my zeal for God most? And this requires holistic discipline.

Discipline Your Body

Another aspect of running to emulate is its focus on the body. Paul says, “I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor. ‪9:27).

Get together with a group of runners, and the conversation quickly sounds like an orthopedic convention. Injuries are badges of honor, with each runner bearing his or her particular weaknesses. I have two chronic problems—pain in my right proximal hamstring and losing my toenails. Both gave me problems while training. 

But I didn’t stop. I pushed through them—even when there was so much pain I wanted to scream. Instead, my doctor gave me exercises and medications. I didn’t surrender to my body; I made it surrender to me.

In the same way, the body is our “base of operations” for life. We aren’t dualists who bifurcate mind and body. We know our body can be used for both godly and sinful purposes. We expect pain to come when we’re obedient and, therefore, we discipline it.

Unfading Wreath

So how do we get this motivation, self-control, and discipline?

We focus on the imperishable wreath. Paul says there’s one important distinction between the Christian life and running—athletes compete “to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable” (1 Cor. 9:25). Our finisher’s medal is eternal life, which Christ has already secured for us (Phil. 3:12).

When our eyes are fixed on Jesus, who for the joy set before him endured the cross (Heb. 12:1–2), we can run with endurance. He becomes our joy when we see that we became his. Then it will be said of us as it was said of Jacob: “So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her” (Gen. 29:20).

Christ becomes our joy when we see that we became his.

Marathon watching may be the most boring sport to watch on TV, but there’s hardly a sport more akin to the Christian life. May our hearts be so enthralled by Christ’s beauty that we run through the pain with endurance and joy, so that we may obtain the imperishable wreath of endless life.

*********

Editors’ note: Be sure to check out 6 Christian Athletes to Watch in Rio.

*The men’s marathon final is tomorrow. The women’s was last Sunday.

Bethany L. Jenkins is the Director of The Gospel Coalition’s Every Square Inch, the Director of Vocational & Career Development at The King’s College, and the Founder of The Park Forum. She previously worked on Wall Street and on Capitol Hill. She received her JD from Columbia Law School and attends Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, where she is a current CFW Fellow and a former Gotham Fellow through the Center for Faith & Work. You can follow her on Twitter.

by Bethany Jenkins at August 19, 2016 05:00 AM

God Has Mercy for Mules

Article by: Staff

“You can be very busy in God’s work without actually being close to God.” — Kathy Keller

Speaker: Kathy Keller

Date: June 16, 2016

Event: The Gospel Coalition 2016 National Women’s Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana

Kathy Keller is the author of Jesus, Justice, and Gender Roles: A Case for Gender Roles in Ministry and co-author (with her husband, Tim) of The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God [review] and The Songs of Jesus [interview]. Together, the Kellers founded Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.

You can stream this episode of The Gospel Coalition podcast here.

by Staff at August 19, 2016 04:59 AM

August 18, 2016

Workout: August 19, 2016

As many rounds and reps as possible in 40 minutes of: 5 strict pull-ups 10 push-ups 15 goblet squats (55/35lb.) Every 2 rounds, 200m burden run (55/35lb.)

by Crystal at August 18, 2016 11:32 PM

John C. Wright's Journal

Shanghaied Again!

Hey, Jagi, here.

A fan asked a while ago if John would clarify something about his Patreon account.  He hasn’t, so I will.

The pledge on Patreon is per month. Not per episode.

If you want to pledge $1 per month, that is $12 per year. That is what John asked for, because he figured it was the equivalent of a trade paperback.

However, some fans have objected that he is undervaluing his work and think that he should have requested $1 per episode, which would have been about $4 or $5 a month.

John, who is always delightedly amazed that anyone likes anything he writes, is too humble to point this out.

So, as a favor to those among you who requested that this info be shared, I have shanghaied this blog.

I am now returning it to our regular blog programming.

 

 

by John C Wright at August 18, 2016 07:28 PM

Aaron M. Renn

Why Private Prisons Are a Bad Idea

Image via Shutterstock

Image via Shutterstock

Once when I was on a panel discussing privatization, one person said a city should privatize sewers over water service because nobody cares what happens after they flush the toilet, making it an easier political sell.

I took the opposite view for the same underlying reason. Because people do care more about what comes out of their tap, there will be much more focus on holding any private vendor to account to actually deliver the service well.

Given the risk of corruption, bureaucratic ineptitude, etc., I’ve long said that privatization is best for highly visible assets and services the general public sees and users versus things that are out of sight out of mind.  This turns the public into an accountability layer and increases the political risk of privatization, making it more likely the politicians will stay on top of things.

Garbage collection, airports, roads and bridges, a parks conservancy, etc. – all of these are highly visible. The public will see and squawk if something goes wrong.

Prisons are about as far from this as you can possibly get. They are largely invisible to the general public, the “consumers” of the service have little ability to hold the operators accountable, and the public is generally primed to see bad things happening to those in jail as karmic justice.

What’s more, private prisons create a financially self-interested lobbying group in favor putting more people in prison to boost business – not a good idea.

So I’ve always thought privatized corrections was a bad idea. Apparently the federal government finally agrees, as it just announced it is phasing out the use of private prisons.

This is a good move. Whatever theoretical benefits of privatizing prisons, the risks outweigh the potential benefits. I wouldn’t necessarily object to a private company constructing and maintaining the prison building under some type of P3 deal – the risks are lower there – but not actually operating the prison itself.

 

 

by Aaron M. Renn at August 18, 2016 06:52 PM

The Tekserve Collection

Tekserve was an Apple dealer and service center dating back to long before the Apple Store. They have recently closed, and their Mac collection is up for auction. I won’t be bidding due to the price, but there’s some nice stuff in there.

by Stephen at August 18, 2016 05:50 PM

Greg Mankiw's Blog

Connected #104: Our Anniversary Birthday

This week’s Connected is special:

On the second anniversary of Relay FM, Myke and Stephen (who is suffering from a terrible case of laryngitis) talk about iPhone rumors before answering questions about the podcast network.

Come for the #RelayQA, stay to hear how much I sound like Batman.

A huge thanks to our sponsors:

  • Squarespace: Enter offer code WORLD at checkout to get 10% off your first purchase.
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  • Pingdom: Start monitoring your websites and servers today. Use offer CONNECTED for 20% off.

by Stephen at August 18, 2016 04:44 PM