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March 02, 2015

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

How to Memorize the Biblical Narrative (Part 1)

[Note: This is part 4 in a 5 article series on using memorization to increase knowledge of the Bible and develop a sanctified imagination. You can find part 1 here, part 2 here, and part 3 here.]

Christ can only be truly and properly known through the revelation presented in the entirety of God’s Word. The British theologian Alister McGrath notes that Scripture is regarded as a channel through which God's self-revelation in Jesus Christ is encountered. Faith accepts Scripture as a testimony to Christ, and submits to Christ as the one of whom Scripture speaks.

Too often, though, our faith is based on testimony about the testimony. We may be able to affirm that Scripture is, from Genesis to Revelation, where God's self-revelation in Jesus Christ is encountered without truly having encountered that revelation directly. Even if we have read the Bible in its entirety we may only have a general sense of how any particular book, much less all of Scripture, reveals Christ.

An aid to developing this understanding is to delve into Biblical theology, the discipline of understanding how the person and work of Christ are the center of all of God’s works in redemption and the end to which all of the Scriptures point. But it helps to have a mental framework in which to hang the insights we can glean from that field.

One practical and immediate way to prepare for study of Biblical theology and to develop a deeper appreciation of Scripture, to thread it into the warp and woof of our imagination, is to embed as much of the Biblical narrative into our minds as possible. By having a detailed overview of the entire Biblical narrative available for recall, we can better see what Graeme Goldsworthy calls the binding theme of the whole Bible, the kingdom of God, which he defines as “God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule.”

Narrative comprises the single most common form of writing in the Bible. These are the books that contain the main story line of the kingdom of God. Biblical narrative stories compose approximately forty percent of the Old Testament and a large part of the New Testament. The narrative based books would include: Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ruth, Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, Jonah, Haggai, some of the Prophetic writings, the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), and Acts.

Memorizing the Narrative of Genesis

In this article you’ll learn how to apply the techniques from the previous articles to create a detailed mental overview of these books. You’ll soon be on your way to knowing hundreds of people and events in the narrative books and where they fit into the story of the Bible. By the time you finish this exercise you should be able to correctly recall the following thirty events from the fifty chapters of Genesis

  1. God creates night and day
  2. God separates the water into atmospheric water and oceanic water
  3. God separates dry land from the oceanic waters and brings forth vegetation
  4. God reveals the sun, moon, and stars
  5. God creates birds and oceanic creatures
  6. God creates land animals
  7. God creates Adam and Eve
  8. God rests
  9. Adam and Eve eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and leave the garden
  10. Cain kills Abel
  11. Noah builds an ark
  12. Noah makes a covenant with Noah
  13. Tower of Babel
  14. God calls Abram to go to Canaan and Egypt
  15. Abram has a son, Ishmael
  16. God destroys Sodom and Gomorrah
  17. Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt
  18.  Sarah give birth to Ishmael, Hagar and Ishmael are sent away
  19. God calls Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, but provides a ram as substitute.
  20. Abraham's wife Sarah dies
  21. Isaac marries Rebekah
  22. Rebekah has Esau and Jacob
  23. Esau sells birthright for bowl of stew
  24. Jacob wrestles with the Angel of God
  25. Joseph angers his brothers and is sold into slavery
  26. Potiphar’s wife has Joseph thrown in jail
  27. Joseph interprets the dreams of Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker and then Pharaoh
  28. Joseph is made prime minister of Egypt
  29. Joseph’s brothers come to Egypt to buy grain
  30. Jacob dies and then Joseph dies

Having read the book of Genesis (hopefully several times) you are not unfamiliar with the story. Yet the task of memorizing these events still seems daunting, doesn’t it? Why start by memorizing the sequence of events of the fourth longest book of the Bible? Wouldn’t it be easier to start with a single verse from Scripture?

 Surprisingly, no, it wouldn’t. Most people will find that they are able to memorize these thirty events easier and faster than they would a thirty-word verse. You’ll soon see for yourself. In an hour, after you’ve read the following section and made a concerted effort to create the mental images, go back and read over the list and you’ll see that you can remember almost all of them. With only a little more practice you’ll soon be able to remember them with near perfect recall.

Let’s get started on what will be the first step in memorizing the story of the Bible, from the Garden of Eden in Genesis 1 to the city of New Jerusalem in Revelation 21. 

Memorizing the Narrative of Genesis

The book of Genesis begins with creation (Gen. 1:1) and ends with the patriarch Joseph in a tomb in Egypt (Gen. 50:26). To help us remember the sequence of events that occurs in between, we’ll create image pegs that can be placed in the nooks and locations of your memory palace (see article #3). Since the same memory palace can be used again and again for remembering different material (we’ll use the same locations for each of the narrative books of the Bible) it helps to have a “trigger” that reminds you of a particular sequence. A useful technique for the narrative is the first verse of the Bible: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” This will serve as the cue to recall the list of thirty items for this part of the Biblical narrative.

A Caution on Making Images to Represent God’s Actions

One of the challenges of making our unique and creative mental impressions is that significant parts of the Biblical narrative involve direct action by God. The Bible warns us, however, against making images of our Creator (Exodus 20:4-6). As R.C. Sproul explains, “God is spiritual and invisible; nothing, therefore, in the earth or in the heavens above corresponds with His nature. Nothing can adequately or comprehensively represent Him.” We must therefore be careful to distinguish between images that represent actions by God and images of God.

For instance, in creating images to represent the actions of God in Genesis I’ll recommend the use of a pair of hands that are doing the “creating.” These images—which I’ll repeatedly refer to as the Representative Hands—should be considered a representative abstraction used for the purpose of creating a memorable mental image and should not be taken to represent “the hands of God.” The distinction is subtle but necessary to avoid confusion about the intention of the imagery we are using for our model.

Let’s get started . . . 

Location 1 – Nook 1: God creates night and day

In the first nook of our first location, we want to represent the action of Gen. 1:3: “And God separated the light from the darkness.” Picture our Representative Hand –a pair of massive hands at least three feet long – pulling a huge, very bright light bulb out of a very large and extremely dark hole in the floor. It may help to imagine the words “day” and “night” written on the images.

Location 1 – Nook 2: God separates the water into atmospheric water and oceanic water

In the second nook, we want the same Representative Hands to be placed on the top (palm facing down) and the bottom (palm facing up) of an extraordinarily large drop of water that is floating in midair. When the hands pull the drop apart, the top half turns into series of fluffy clouds that bounce on the ceiling while the bottom half splashes onto the floor creating a waist deep expanse of ocean. Try to hear the sound of the ocean water splashing about and the clouds dripping rain into the water below.

Location 1 – Nook 3: God separates dry land from the oceanic waters and brings forth vegetation

In the third nook, the Representative Hands will reach into the ocean water (which has seeped over from nook 2) and wipe it away until a large section of dirt and land appears in the middle. Have one hand reach down into the dirt and quickly pull up a large fruit tree (Gen. 1:12), an action that causes some of the fruit to fall and bounce on the ground. As a hand pulls the tree to the ceiling, picture grass growing along the rest of the dirt and the ocean water lap around the edges of the dry ground.

Location 2 – Nook 1: God reveals the sun, moon, and stars.

Now let’s move on to your second location. For the first nook in this location, picture the Representative Hands reaching up to attach a comical-looking sun and moon being attached to hooks or beams (sunbeams and moonbeams?) on a black expanse of the ceiling. Picture the sun giggling as the moon tries to shield its eyes from the glare. Once the hand has the sun and moon firmly attached, it uses one of its fingers to poke holes in the dark ceiling, revealing the stars.

Location 2 – Nook 2: God creates birds and oceanic creatures.

In our next nook we are once again waist deep in ocean water with clouds above us. One of the Representative Hands reaches up into the clouds and pulls out a peacock (or other colorful bird that you find easy to remember) while the other reaches into the water and pulls out a great white shark. Picture the shark trying to take a bite of the peacock as the bird squawks and furiously flaps its plumage in an attempt to avoid being eaten.

Location 2 – Nook 3: God creates land animals

Next we move to the last spot in the location. Imagine the Representative Hand reaches into a relatively small burlap sack and pulls out three or four large land animals, like cows and elephants. The hand struggles to pull the various animals out of the sack and each land on the floor with a plop and annoyed grunt.

Location 3 – Nook 1: God creates Adam and Eve

We move on to our third location for the creation of our first parents. You likely have mental images of Adam and Eve already, so picture the hand reaching into a pile of dirt on the floor and pulling out a man. While one hands dusts him off, the other reaches into Adam’s ribcage and pulls out a woman.

Location 3 – Nook 2: God rests

On the seventh day, God rested. So to represent this action we’ll have the Representative Hands (which, keep in mind, are not God’s hands but mere abstract representations of his actions!) lie clasped on a pillow. The hands are emitting a deep and bellicose snoring sound.

Location 3 – Nook 3:  Adam and Eve eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and leave the garden

We don’t know what fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil looked like, so feel free to picture whatever image pops into your head when you hear the word “fruit.” For this example, we’ll use an apple. Picture Adam and Eve in a garden that is about waist high (it can be sitting on a table or other object in your location). As they share an apple they fall off the side of the garden and onto the floor (representing mankind’s fall from grace).

Location 4 – Nook 1:  Cain kills Abel

Even when we are familiar with the story of the first fratricide, it can be easy to forget which brother was the murderer and which was the victim. To help us remember, we’ll use terms that sound similar as a helpful mnemonic device. So for this visual picture a man holding a massive candy CANE in both hands (Cain) who is using it to bludgeon another man who is lying on the ground and not ABLE to get up (Abel).

Location 4 – Nook 2:  Noah builds an ark

Since the story of Noah is one of the most common in all of Western culture, you probably already have a strong visual you can place in this nook. If nothing else comes to mind, imagine an old man loading animals into an ark as the rain begins to fall.

Location 4 – Nook 3:  Noah makes a covenant with Noah

The two cues we will use and tie together for this part of the story are the burnt offerings and the sign of the covenant (i.e., the rainbow). Create a picture of Noah setting fire to the feathers of a live peacock (perhaps the one from Location 2 – Nook 2) and as he does, a rainbow shoots from the plumage and creates an arch of color. (Bird-burning can be disturbing image, so it might help to make the visual less violent—and more memorable—by making is somewhat cartoonish.)

That should be enough to get you started. Make sure all of these points re firmly ensconsed in your memory palace. In our next article we’ll add the rest of the events from the book of Genesis. 

Other Article in This Series

Part #1 – How Memorization Feeds Your Imagination
Part #2 – How to Memorize (Almost) Anything  
Part #3 – 4 Tips to Memorize (Almost) Anything  
Part #4 – How to Memorize the Biblical Narrative (I)
Part #5 – How to Memorize the Biblical Narrative (II) (Tues., Mar. 3)

by Joe Carter at March 02, 2015 07:50 AM

When You Are No Longer a Pastor’s Wife

I knew something had changed when he walked in the door. Avoiding my gaze, he walked through the kitchen into the dining room and sagged down into a seat in front of the baby’s high chair.

“How’d it go, today?” I asked, turning to stir the vegetables, ignoring his body signals.

Silence. And then a series of giggles escaped from the baby, happy at the sight of her daddy’s return home. When I turned to look at them, I saw my husband’s shoulders slumped forward.

His body was shaking from the sobs. As the tears rolled down his cheeks, he barely got out the words, “I was fired today.”

Former Pastor

My husband is—now—a former pastor; the words still seem surreal. Unfortunately, the term “former pastor” isn’t unique to our situation. Many men walk away, willingly or not, from the ministry (I am thinking of believers who, for a season or the rest of their life, turn from an earlier call of pastoral leadership for reasons other than gross misconduct). According to an article from 2012, nearly 800 Southern Baptist pastors are terminated each year; that is just one evangelical denomination. Paul Tripp has accurately labeled the pastorate a dangerous calling.

Since this situation affects so many ministers, my husband had many outlets to turn to: other pastors, his mentor, support groups for wrongly fired pastors, and historical precedents. He, like other men before him, could take comfort in thinking, Take heart, Jonathan Edwards was fired from his first pastorate, too.

Strangely, there are fewer avenues that address the proper response for the wife. Perhaps this is because the term “pastor’s wife” is nebulous and undefined in the first place. Initially, I bucked the phrase “pastor’s wife,” citing the ill-informed stereotypes. However, as the years have passed and the Lord has changed my heart, I have grown into the role. I thoroughly enjoy ministering to those in need and especially treasure the opportunity to teach, love, and share Christ with teenagers and children.

However, because we don’t share our husbands’ responsibilities or spend every day at the church, we don’t see or experience the less desirable things: the conflict, the emotions, or the sin in many of our churches.

So how should a pastor’s wife respond to his termination? In attempt to answer that question, I offer five observations.

1. Recognize the effects of the fall. 

A post-Genesis 3 world means that sin pervasively enters all aspects of life—even, sadly, churches. When Christ appoints a pastor as the under-shepherd to a church, he calls that man to love, protect, and minister to the flock. A minister of the gospel knows that this calling requires sacrifice: family, time, resources, and most of all, self. However, the pastor surrenders willingly because he loves the church body, the bride of Christ. A pastor’s family is implicated in this relationship as well: we care deeply for the people as family. When ties are severed and pastors are taken away, it isn’t merely an inconvenience, but a separation. It is like a divorce or a dissolution of a close familial relationship.   

2. Don’t give in to sin.

My initial response to my husband being fired was a strange mix of sin: anger and resentment against the church leadership, relief that God had finally and definitively closed the door, and fear at the loss. My second response? Mama-bear protection mode; give me a phone to tell “those” people just what I think of their actions. Neither response was appropriate. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit prevented me from acting on either. Instead he is convicting me of sin, constantly steering me away from the trap of bitterness.

3. Seek wise counsel. 

Our closest friends and family received the news first; they came alongside us with encouragement, support, biblical counsel, answers, and even gracious silence. While the counsel of friends is extremely helpful, I urge you to also seek advice outside your personal sphere. Other Christians love you, they hurt for you, but like a divorce when things get messy, ultimately they side with you as friends. Some of the best counsel we received came from a neutral party who had walked through a similar situation.

4. Know you are replaceable.

This statement really hurts. Thankfully it came from a wise and dear friend. The church continues. God’s kingdom will advance here on earth with or without our leadership. Christ promised Peter in Matthew 16, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” It does not depend on us.

5. Look to the promise of final restoration. 

Ultimately, we find hope in the promise that God is making his church more holy each day, as Ephesians 3:20-21 explains. We long for the true restoration, when all things will be made new, resting on Christ’s words, “Behold I am coming soon” (Rev. 22:7). We can then stand confidently alongside the past, present, and future church crying, “Come, Lord Jesus!” as we expectantly look for that day of renewal (Rev. 22:20).  

What’s the hardest part of this situation? The transition right now. Possessing neither the hindsight nor wisdom that accompanies time, we pray that together we might obediently walk upright through this trial, looking to Christ, so that in everything we might make much of him while turning aside from our own selfish desires. 

by Anonymous at March 02, 2015 06:01 AM

Welcome to ‘Ordinary Pastor’ Erik Raymond

Over the last five years at The Gospel Coalition we’ve gradually diversified efforts to fulfill our Theological Vision of Ministry and consider the implications of the gospel for arts and culture, faith and work, current events, and Christian living. But our first audience, and in many ways still our primary audience, has been pastors. The same goes for our regular contributors. We publish pastors. And not just our Council members and other high-profile leaders. We have featured hundreds of mostly unknown and lesser-known pastors laboring in diverse contexts with myriad challenges but buoyed by the same gospel, preached “not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Cor. 1:17).

For the last decade Erik Raymond has faithfully, regularly, and insightfully written about pastoral ministry and many other subjects for his blog, most recently titled Ordinary Pastor. With a name inspired by D. A. Carson’s memoirs of his pastor father, Ordinary Pastor captures our desire at TGC to make much of Jesus Christ and not ourselves, because when we are weak, Christ is strong (2 Cor. 12:10). For that reason we’re excited to welcome Erik and his blog to TGC. We know he will make a valuable contribution to our online community, because he’s already been serving us for years with articles and reviews that help Christians stay calibrated by the gospel and not the fads of pragmatic ministry or theological downgrade.

A Boston native, Erik is the senior pastor of Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha, Nebraska. He and his wife, Christie, have six children. We greatly admire his cooperative vision of ministry in Omaha, where he guides other pastors in adopting gospel-centered teaching and practices. Since the Lord gripped him with grace as a young man caught up in a lifestyle of open rebellion and hostility toward God and the church, Erik has demonstrated special passion and gifting for evangelism. You’ll want to pick up Erik’s new small-group curriculum, published by TGC and The Good Book Company, on Gospel-Shaped Outreach. Along with fellow TGC blogger Jared Wilson, who has written on Gospel-Shaped Worship, Erik is launching this major new multi-year initiative to help church leaders implement the values of our Theological Vision for Ministry in their various settings around the world.

Please join us in welcoming Erik to TGC and praying that God would uphold and equip him to steward his writing and thinking for the good of the global church.

by Collin Hansen at March 02, 2015 06:01 AM

Spurgeon’s Sorrows

Zack Eswine. Spurgeon’s Sorrows: Realistic Hope for those who Suffer from Depression. Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2014. 144 pp. $9.99. 

Only the grace of God can explain Charles Spurgeon.

In 38 years as pastor of Metropolitan Tabernacle (known as New Park Street Chapel during his early years), Spurgeon’s output was superhuman. He often preached 10 times per week at the Tabernacle and in other places. Spurgeon (1834–1892) led evangelistic activities between services on Sunday afternoons and weekday evenings. Then there were all the institutions and activities at the downtown London church that received input from the great pastor: an orphanage, a Colportage association, various almshouses, and numerous other gospel-driven social works. Spurgeon founded and lectured in Metropolitan Tabernacle’s Pastor’s College, where he interacted regularly with students. Both the church and college were active in missions activities in China, India, Africa, and other places.

Those facts are staggering, but they only scratch the surface.

Spurgeon weekly interviewed numerous prospective church members and anxious unregenerate souls under conviction of the Holy Spirit. He wrote more than 140 books, edited and published his sermon each Lord’s Day, and edited the monthly Sword and Trowel magazine from 1865 until his death. He also responded to some 500 letters per week. 

This prodigious output came despite living with a body that was often wracked with painful gout and various other physical maladies. Worse yet, he suffered perennially from deep, dark depression, a spiritual disease the Puritans and Spurgeon himself called “melancholy” or, more descriptively, the “dark night of the soul.” In his 2013 biography of Spurgeon, Tom Nettles called Britain’s greatest pastor “a living theology of suffering.” Indeed.

Spurgeon’s Sorrows

In his new book, Spurgeon’s Sorrows: Realistic Hope for Those Who Suffer from Depression, Zack Eswine outlines Spurgeon’s struggle with depression, quoting judiciously from his sermons and ultimately using the legendary pastor as a case study and manual for giving instruction on how to deal with this far-too-common ailment among God-called men.  

At 144 pages, the book is brief, but it’s packed with powerful, practical substance. Eswine, lead pastor of Riverside Church in St. Louis, spends the first third of the work diagnosing the problem, describing depression and how it tends to cling to those God has called to vocational ministry. There are essentially two types of depressed people, according to Spurgeon: those given to melancholy as a temperament and those driven to depression through difficult circumstances. “Some of us are marked by melancholy from the moment of our birth,” Spurgeon remarked. They are more difficult to cure, for “desponding people can find reason to fear where no fear is.”

One event loomed large on the landscape of Spurgeon’s life and ministry, an event that triggered what would become a decades-long inner war with anxiety. On October 19, 1856, the 22-year-old Spurgeon was preaching for the first time at the Music Hall of the Royal Surrey Gardens to accommodate the massive crowds that followed him. An attendee yelled “fire,” causing a stampede of people that left seven dead and 28 injured among a crowd of more than 7,000. Spurgeon was never the same. Parishioners and fellow elders reported that the incident had a serious affect on the “nervous system of our pastor.” From that point forward, Spurgeon suffered from bouts of deep depression until he was set free by death in 1892.

Eswine correctly ties Spurgeon’s dark night of the soul to that event and in the second chapter, mainly through Spurgeon’s sermons, he begins to build a practical theology of the role of suffering in the Christian life, beginning with the countercultural biblical claim that “grief is God’s gift to us.” Depression often results from grievous circumstances, and sometimes, Spurgeon said, it’s something a believer brings upon himself. Depression is not always, nor even usually, a sin. In the third chapter, Eswine gives an excellent discussion of the disease of melancholy, showing how it can be tied to bodily pain, as it often was in Spurgeon.

The second section helps readers comfort others suffering from depression. Spurgeon counseled thousands during his ministry at New Park Street and Metropolitan Tabernable, and his experience assisted him in that task. Spurgeon warns against “one size fits all” cures, provides a brief but insightful discussion of Scripture’s metaphors for suffering, and warns against giving shallow, unbiblical advice to depressed believers. Chapter 8 shows how Jesus wrestled with anxiety and depression as the shadow of Calvary increasingly loomed. “How completely it takes bitterness out of grief,” Spurgeon told his congregation, “to know that it was once suffered by him.”  

Healing Balm for Depression

The book concludes with three chapters that, like a Spurgeon sermon, provides biblical application to the problem of depression. Chief among the medicines Spurgeon took to regulate his melancholy was prayerful focusing on God’s promises in Scripture. In typically inimitable phraseology, the Prince of Preachers pointed his congregation to the Bible as a lighthouse illuminating the dark and wind-tossed harbor of the depressed soul:

I like in my time of trouble to find a promise which exactly fits my need, and then to put my finger on it, and say, “Lord, this is thy word; I beseech thee to prove that it is so, by carrying it out in my case. I believe that this is thine own writing; and I pray thee make it good to my faith.” I believe in plenary inspiration, and I humbly look to the Lord for a plenary fulfillment of every sentence that he has put on record.

Chapter 10 provides what Eswine calls “natural helps.” Here Spurgeon commends things like laughter, quiet hours, relaxing vacations, and in extreme cases when physical pain is pulling depression along in its train, medicine.

In the final chapter, Eswine and Spurgeon wrestle with the depression’s darkest dungeon: suicide. Spurgeon deals frankly with the issue and admits that genuine believers can become so downcast that they’re tempted to let go of the tether of hope. Such thoughts aren’t necessarily insane (Paul’s desire to depart in Philippians 1 demonstrates this, Spurgeon says), but he shows that ultimately the Christian is called to choose life, understanding that dark seasons will come to every person in a fallen world. This is a particularly important discussion since depression and suicide among pastors seems to be on a sobering uptick.

Church History Applied   

Eswine’s work demonstrates the value of reading biographies, old books, and sermons. Interacting with godly men and women from church history can be a vital aid to Christian maturity. He handles Spurgeon carefully, yet provocatively at points, and produces a volume that promises to help pastors and laypeople confront the sad terror of the dark night of the soul.

My main critique is minor: the book could stand a bit more biographical detail of Spurgeon’s life and ministry. It would have been even more powerful to sketch some of the events of Spurgeon’s life that put him under the yoke of melancholy. 

Spurgeon was a great lover of the Puritans in general and John Bunyan in particular. He often used characters from Pilgrim’s Progress as sermon illustrations. Having served as a pastor, I’ve been shackled in the dungeon of Doubting Castle under the baleful eye of Giant Despair, and thus I found Eswine’s tapping of Spurgeon’s life and sermons on depression deeply satisfying. If I could write a final page of take-home for pastors in 2015, here are four major lessons from Spurgeon’s war with depression:

  • If a man so great as Spurgeon suffered from depression, then many of God’s men today will likely be called to walk through the same treachorous valley.
  • Spurgeon is a prime illustration of A. W. Tozer’s famous words: “Before God uses a man greatly, he must first bruise him deeply.” If you desire to be used for God’s kingdom and glory, don’t expect your best life now.
  • Depression does not have to undermine a man’s ministry, but can become a significant catalyst to it. God gave Paul a thorn. Melancholy was Spurgeon’s thorn. It may be yours, too, but through it God’s strength can be showcased in your weakness. God draws straight lines with crooked sticks. 
  • Church history has great value for Christian living and maturity. We are not the first Christians to suffer, and many of those who have gone before us have thought deeply and biblically about life in a fallen world. They’ve left behind a wealth of sermons, books, and essays on how to cope with it to the glory of God. Hundreds of Spurgeon’s sermons are available online.

Every pastor should read Spurgeon’s sermons and mine them for practical help. For many years I have sought to read a sermon from Spurgeon or Martyn Lloyd-Jones each Lord’s Day, and I have reaped much fruit from it. If you have fallen into the Slough of Despond, as Eswine has shown in this helpful work, Spurgeon’s Christ-centered, gospel-driven life and ministry will provide solid ground for your soul.  

by Jeff Robinson at March 02, 2015 06:01 AM

Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy

Fr. Matthew Baker: Memory Eternal!

Friends, We just learned the very sad and shocking news that Fr. Matthew Baker, a promising, brilliant scholar and priest who has contributed a number of articles to this site and is the close friend of a number of us, passed away in a tragic car accident this evening while traveling home from his parish ... More ›

by Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick at March 02, 2015 02:36 AM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Weekly review: Week ending February 27, 2015

This week was about sewing. I made three tops, wow! I might go to the fabric store on Tuesday to see if there are other fabrics that I’d like to turn into tops using the same pattern.

Also, I made lemon meringue for the first time in ages. I tried another biscotti recipe, too.

My Samsung Galaxy S3 started power-cycling, so I replaced it with a Moto G. The Moto G is working surprisingly well. I thought I’d have problems with the small, non-expandable storage, but it works just fine. =)

2015-03-01a Week ending 2015-02-27 -- index card #weekly


Blog posts


Link round-up

Focus areas and time review

  • Business (26.5h – 15%)
    • Earn (10.7h – 40% of Business)
      • Earn: E1: 1-2 days of consulting
      • Prepare invoice
    • Build (3.5h – 13% of Business)
      • Drawing (1.4h)
      • Delegation (0.0h)
      • Packaging (0.0h)
      • Paperwork (0.8h)
        • File payroll return
      • Figure out why library isn’t renewing
      • Fix color detection
    • Connect (12.3h – 46% of Business)
  • Relationships (12.5h – 7%)
    • Help Sean with Emacs
    • Print tickets
    • Hang out with Linda and watch Gabriel perform
  • Discretionary – Productive (24.1h – 14%)
    • Emacs (1.6h – 0% of all)
      • Help Sean with Ruby environment
      • Choose additional fabrics for Sorbetto top
      • Get 1.5 yards of cotton shirting
    • Sewing
      • Print out Colette pattern
    • Phone
      • Figure out what’s going on with my phone
      • Set up new phone
      • Buy Moto G from Staples
      • Upgrade to Lollipop
    • Attend Sketchnote Hangout
    • Read synopsis for Die Walkure
    • Read chapter 4 of Intermediate Japanese
    • Review Createspace
    • Investigate Powershell
    • Writing (2.1h)
  • Discretionary – Play (9.0h – 5%)
  • Personal routines (21.6h – 12%)
  • Unpaid work (16.3h – 9%)
  • Sleep (58.1h – 34% – average of 8.3 per day)

The post Weekly review: Week ending February 27, 2015 appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at March 02, 2015 02:13 AM

CrossFit Naptown

Don’t Forget to Submit Your Scores!

Monday’s Workout:

Speed Work:
Every Minute on the Minute 8:00
10 Barbell Jump Squats (45/33)

10:00 As Many Reps As Possible
5 Back Squats (225/135) *from ground*
5 Hand Release Burpees
5 Deadlifts (225/155)


Post Your Scores!



So you did Open Workout 15.1 and 15.1A this weekend….now what? Make sure you go to the CrossFit Games site and submit your scores! We cannot submit your score for you so be sure to login to your account and go through the process of submitting your score. It is not that complicated but you have to do it before 8:00pm EST tonight for us to validate it and for it to actually count! Click on the photO above if you have any questions and you will find the answers there:)

Congratulations to everyone who took on the first Open WOD this weekend, both veterans and new comers alike! We are proud of each and every one of you and excited to have seen so many PRs and barriers broken. We hope that you had a blast and that you are excited for 15.2 to be revealed this Thursday at 8:00pm!

by Anna at March 02, 2015 12:45 AM

March 01, 2015

confused of calcutta

Be Not Alone

I became a grandfather for the first time last Friday night, and had the opportunity to welcome grandson number one Elijah Fenn to planet earth. One of the happiest moments of my life. It mattered to me in ways that may not make sense to others: my father never lived to see any of his … Continue reading Be Not Alone

by JP at March 01, 2015 10:42 PM


So You Want to Do an E-mail Blast

If you read the marketing blogs, they all say (and I agree) that your single best marketing tool, if you had to choose just one tool out of everything available to you, is your e-mail list.

You are building an e-mail list, right? To promote your book or your service (whatever it is)? If not, stop what you're doing right now and go create a free MailChimp account. Use their free tool to generate a newsletter sign-up form (like this one) and put it on your web site. Start adding names now. Don't wait until you're ready to release your book (or service). That would be, you know, kind of dumb. The time to get started is yesterday.

Okay, so, but: You have a mailing list. How do you do a mailing to it? You have several choices:
  • Use MailChimp to do a mailing to your MailChimp-hosted list: This is the usual best choice for most use-cases. The downside: You can mail only 2000 e-mails per month without upgrading. That's fine for most Small Time Operators, though. 
  • Automate a mail blast using Google Docs: The tutorial for how to send e-mails from a spreadsheet is here. It's not a bad solution (and requires relatively little technical expertise). However, you're limited to 500 e-mail recipients per day, unless you upgrade through Google Apps to a commercial account, and then it's 2,000 a day.
  • Set up an automated SES solution on Amazon's cloud: This is for über-geeks only, and you should know that while you can get a year's free services under a trial offer (for which you still need to provide a credit card, even though you won't be charged until you exceed a usage limit), you nevertheless need to prove that you own a web domain before you can go into production. (You need to associate a DKIM signature with your domain.) And then there are daily and monthly limits. Your sandbox limit is 200 per day (at a max rate of one e-mail per second). To get it raised, you have to get your kneepads on and ask Amazon. 
  • Send e-mails directly from an OpenOffice spreadsheet: Tomorrow, I'll provide code for this, and I'll try to explain it in a way non-geeks can understand. (Don't miss tomorrow's post. This is a fun little exercise, I promise.)
  • Create your own e-mailing web app using Mandrill: This is actually fairly cool, if you're geek enough to handle a little JSON and Ajax. Mandrill exposes a complete e-mail analytics API along with an interface to SMTP (and integrations with MailChimp) so that you can create multi-step, transactional e-mail workflows of your own, and track the results. (And you can get started for free.) The downside? No tutorial (that I could find, anyway), no "Hello World" app, no documentation other than API doc. You have to be geek enough to read the API doc and get started on your own without any hand-holding. Still, the service is RESTful and any web developer who's comfortable with Ajax concepts can be up and running with some amazingly powerful stuff in an afternoon.
If you're a programmer, you can, of course, create your own standalone program to do e-mail blasts, but the question then becomes: Which SMTP server should you use? Most mail servers are severely throttled and locked down against anonymous posting to prevent spammers from taking over the world. Still, there are plenty of SMTP providers, many of them free. One you might want to look into is Easy-SMTP.

Tomorrow, I'll have more on this subject. Specifically, I want to show how easy it is to automate the sending of e-mails directly from an OpenOffice/LibreOffice spreadsheet using a macro. It's a cool bit of hackery, if I do say so myself. (And I do.)

Have you added your name to our mailing list? What the heck are you waiting for, a personal invitation from @TheTweetOfGod? Also please visit and share the link with someone!

☙ ❧

I want to thank the following great tweeps (plus  and ) for retweeting me yesterday. May you all live long and prosper. (Please follow these guys. They retweet!)

by Kas Thomas ( at March 01, 2015 10:31 PM

Andre's Notes

Talking To My Neighbors

A Twitter feature I’ve wanted to see for a long time is the ability to geo-tag (assign a location) to my tweet and have it only be posted to people’s streams who are in that location.

That is, I tag my tweet for San Francisco and only people who follow me and have set their location for San Francisco can see my tweet.

The tweet should be viewable to anyone who were to look at my profile and it can be retweeted and favored like any other tweet. The difference is that it wouldn’t be posted to people’s streams that haven't chosen to listen to that location. Giving me comfort in knowing I’m not flooding people’s timelines in snowy New England with photos of another ridiculous California sunset.

Anyway, feature requests are really easy to throw out at teams building products when you aren’t inside. It’s just a feature I would love to see someday. Twitter has always operated on one level and I think it would be a nice option to have a second layer I could feel comfortable posting into.

by torrez at March 01, 2015 10:26 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

6 Discoveries from Near and Far: Volume XXXV


I. Around the World

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

II. On the Blog

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

III. A Blast from the Past

Something from the AONC archives.


Image: AussieMobs

by Chris Guillebeau at March 01, 2015 08:00 PM

Brewster Kahle's Blog

When I First Realized I was being Lied to…

When I first realized I was being lied to, systematically lied to, and by the government, I felt upset, then felt duped, and it started me thinking– how far does this lying go?

It was in the beginning of college and it was the government’s messages about the Vietnam war and marijuana.    I found out that it was not just a matter of point of view, of older-wiser people teaching lessons I was resisting.   No, it was flat out lies.   Things they knew were wrong, but were saying were true.    Lies.     It was hard to take.

This would have been 1978, and I was 18 years old when it felt like a light was turned on in the room.    It may sound like I was naive or unusually sheltered but I don’t think I was that abnormal.    I was taught that police were to be feared and respected, their tactics might be harsh, but it was a grownup world and their motivations were mature.

But it was the stinging realization that these lies made a big difference in people’s lives, my life, that made the lies stabbed me, then made me doubt, question, and distrust the powerful.   Shifting from thinking of power rather than maturity.

The drug messages in the 70’s was pervasive…   if you start with marijuana you will end up on heroin and in a gutter.   Marijuana made you crazy and would lead to birth defects.    It was the movies we were shown, it was on the tv news and in newspapers, it was in underground books that were circulated like “Go Ask Alice” that were lies all the way through.   And that was not all.

The Vietnam police action (it was not a war, they said) was necessary to stop a domino strategy of communist world domination.    Resisting was unamerican, and ungrateful for not fulfilling our social contract– not doing the Right Thing.    Vietnam was a puppet of China, we were always about to win, we don’t want our boys to have died in vein.   As I found it– I was being lied to.  Systematically, knowingly, and with grave consequences.

I started to, as they say, “Question Authority”, and I found more and more holes in the logic and rottenness in the motivations.    I looked for answers in philosophy classes, maybe they could help me figure out if I should register for the draft– I took a class on social contracts studying Hobbes Locke and Rousseau, but the Leviathan seemed to be a justification, and an a-historic justification for absolute monarchs.     I studied western religions at a divinity school, but those approaches did not seem to pass the logic tests.    Only Zen Buddhist practice seemed to avoid obvious shortfalls, but only gave general guidance.   Maybe that was the best we could do.

Reading real scientific studies of the effects of drugs on the brain was a way to find very different answers from those in Time magazine and the evening news that purported to be built on the same evidence.   Scientific writing, and the scientists behind them, while limited, seemed to at least not just be making things up to justify the agenda of the powerful.

Maybe this is just growing up, but I don’t think it has to be this way.   We do not need to have to teach our children from a young age that they are being consistently lied to by powerful entities, that they are being sold things that are bad for them, that they should fear the police and not believe them because the police are encouraged to lie to get confessions.

We can do better than this, we can build and live in societies where we do not have to constantly question secret motives.    We can dis-empower the institutional structures that profit through deception.    Large corporations and governments seem to have incentives to take shortcuts and deceive.   Maybe we could replace their functions with responsive and local organizations that are transparent and straightforward.   Invest in those we trust and teach our children that they do not need to accept deceit as “just the way it is.”

As a kid, being caught lying was a big deal that came with consequences.    Lets have that apply to grownups too.


by brewster at March 01, 2015 07:53 PM

Roads from Emmaus

Lenten Evangelism #5: “Come and See” (The Sunday of Orthodoxy)

Sunday of Orthodoxy, March 1, 2015 Rev. Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. “Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.'” This phrase, which we hear in today’s Gospel, has come to be something of an evangelistic watchword among English-speaking […]

The post Lenten Evangelism #5: “Come and See” (The Sunday of Orthodoxy) appeared first on Roads from Emmaus.

by Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick at March 01, 2015 06:00 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Urban Yoga Project Takes Flight in New York, Madrid, and Paris

I like yoga, which means I tell people I practice all the time, but in reality only go to class a couple times a month. When I saw these photos of Slovenian architect Anja Humljan, I was amazed.

Anja has taken her passion for yoga and movement into urban environments—a global experiment in how we connect with cities. Take a look for yourself.

UY_NYC_Jaka_Vinsek_07 UY_NYC_Jaka_Vinsek_02 UY_LJ_Primoz_Lukezic_01 UY_MAD_Emilio_P_Doiztua_01 UY_NYC_Jaka_Vinsek_03 UY_MAD_Emilio_P_Doiztua_07 UY_MAD_Emilio_P_Doiztua_10 UY_LJ_Primoz_Lukezic_02 UY_MAD_Emilio_P_Doiztua_12 UY_NYC_Jaka_Vinsek_01 UY_NYC_Jaka_Vinsek_06 UY_PAR_Antoine_Le_Grand_05

Anja’s Kickstarter project was successfully funded, and you can order the book (due out later this month) by writing to

Hat tip: PSFK, Photos – The Urban Project


by Chris Guillebeau at March 01, 2015 04:30 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

Prayer Is Powerful [Awakening Faith]

True worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. (John 4:23)

Prayer is the spiritual offering that has done away with the sacrifices of old. We are true worshipers and true priests. We pray in spirit, and so offer in spirit the sacrifice of prayer. Prayer is an offering that belongs to God and is acceptable to him: it is the offering he has asked for, the offering he planned as his own.

We must dedicate this offering with our whole heart, we must fatten it on faith, tend it by truth, keep it unblemished through innocence and clean through chastity, and crown it with love. We must escort it to the altar of God in a procession of good works to the sound of psalms and hymns. Then it will gain for us all that we ask of God. Since God asks for prayer offered in spirit and in truth, how can he deny anything to this kind of prayer? How great is the evidence of its power, as we read and hear and believe!

In former times, prayer was able to rescue from fire and beasts and hunger, even before it received its perfection from Christ. How much greater then is the power of Christian prayer? No longer does prayer bring an angel of comfort to the heart of a fiery furnace, or close up the mouths of lions, or transport food from the fields to the hungry. But it gives the armor of patience to those who suffer, who feel pain, who are distressed. It strengthens the power of grace, so that faith may know what it is gaining from the Lord, and understand what it is suffering for the name of God.



Awakening Faith DevotionalAwakening Faith: Daily Devotionals from the Early Church

by James Stuart Bell and Patrick J. Kelly

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by ZA Blog at March 01, 2015 02:00 PM


The Family, the Church, and the Kingdom: What Comes First?

Text: Luke 14:25-33

What if I told you that Jesus asks you to give up your family? What if I said he bids your family to come and die? Well, that’s exactly what he did say: “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26). And he didn’t talk like this just once. No, he seems to have poked people’s sensitivities on this point a few times. For example:

Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’  He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. (Matt. 10:34-37)

What does Jesus mean by talking like this, and what are we to make of it for our own families today? How does this teaching instruct us to go about making our priorities in life, and what does it mean for the church? Do we always need to put the family first, or are there other considerations?

Hate Your Family?

Hate your family? Those sharp words are meant to grab your attention in order to teach a deep spiritual truth. Jesus doesn’t mean that you have to dislike your family. You don’t have to have especially hostile feelings towards them. You don’t even have to try to do things which will show displeasure towards them. The point is that you have to be willing to put your faith ahead of all of your earthly possessions, commitments, and relationships, even your family. You must “hate” your family in the same way that you must “hate” your own life. Jesus means that you must be willing to sacrifice them if that’s what it takes to follow Him.

Notice how that verse connects to the parable of the great supper just above it:

A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, “Come, for all things are now ready.” But they all with one accord began to make excuses. …another said, “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.” So that servant came and reported these things to his master. …Then the master said to the servant, “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.” (Luke 14:16-24)

The fact that Jesus immediately follows this parable up with his statement about how we must be willing to forsake our commitments makes the connection plain. If we cannot “hate” our father, mother, brother, sister, wife, or children, then we are like those men who were unable to accept the invitation to the feast. We may want to go to the feast, but we can’t because we have important worldly obligations. Notice that one of the excuses is “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.” There it is—the man’s marriage got in the way. He could not be the master’s disciple. And Jesus then turns to his audience and says “Don’t be like those men.” If anything claims a higher allegiance in our lives, we must be willing to give them up.

Jesus Before the Family  

Conservative Reformed and Evangelical Christians—Christians like us—don’t have a big problem with general calls to forsake all and follow Christ. I can even tell you that you are called to sacrifice good things in life for the higher calling of Jesus and His ministry. That is all rather familiar, and we applaud it as noble and honorable. You will probably allow me to say that you must sacrifice popularity, respectability, money, and even certain freedoms and benefits, all for Jesus. But if I single out the family, as Jesus Himself did, and say that you must be willing to sacrifice your family for Jesus, then things get a little more difficult. Our hair bristles. Our backs arch. We don’t like it.

This really is an awkward point. After all, we have been emphasizing the importance of the family in this very sermon series. The family is very important, and in our day it is under attack on many fronts. It seems natural that we would rally around it and ask people to focus on it. But still, we need to make this point clear. The family is not the most important thing in life. The family is not the most important thing in your life. The family is not the most important thing in my life. Jesus is.

On one level, saying that Jesus is the most important thing is obvious. It’s the kind of answer that we are taught from our earliest ages. But we often do not “count the cost,” as Jesus instructs us in Luke’s gospel. We have a number of assumptions about what following Jesus will look like, and we usually form of a picture that includes comforting images of family, home, and tradition, all alongside Jesus and part of a unified program. We do not always take the time to consider that some of these things could themselves become competitors to Jesus, or, in the words of the Bible, idols.

Can the family really be an idol? We have said that the family is a Biblical concept, and that we are called to ordinarily make families, provide for them, and honor them. Nevertheless, we must understand that the family is an earthly thing. In a world without sin, the family would be an exclusively good thing, but of course, we do not live in that kind of world. In our world, families are fallen, and they are made up of sinners. Did you know that? Everyone in your family is a sinner? And this means that sometimes they will desire things that are not good. They will occasionally put their own interests ahead of the other members of their family. They will sometimes want things that aren’t even good for themselves! And so a kind and loving family-member must be able to repent of his own sins and call to correction those sins in his family. A kind and loving family-member must be willing and able to allow Jesus to correct and sanctify his family.

But there’s an even deeper level to all of this. In a perfect world, the family would still be earthly, by which I mean that it always is a created thing, created by God, and thus it always owes its allegiance and worship to God. It is also temporary. The family will come to its fulfillment and expire. “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven” (Matt. 22:30). This can be difficult to accept. I do believe that ties of love and affection will continue, however mysteriously, and yet, it seems clear enough that the family as we experience it now will be dramatically transformed and, in some ways, done away with once Jesus brings about the end of history. If this teaching gets under our skin, makes us greatly disappointed, or makes us angry, then we need to examine our hearts and consider our priorities. Over and against Mormonism, Orthodox Christianity has always denied that the family is eternal.

The reason that earthly families will be transformed and even partially done away with is because the earthly institution of the family is itself modeled after the divine family. Now, when I say “divine family,” I do not mean that the Trinity is a family. Not in any kind of human sense, anyway That would actually be polytheism. What I mean is that God is our universal father, and we are all His family. Consider these verses:

While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him. Then one said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.”

But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” (Matt. 12:46-50)

Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. (Matt. 23:9)

Now, obviously there is a sense in which our mother and brothers are, well, our mother and our brothers. And there is an equally obvious sense in which our earthly father is our father. But Jesus still makes a point to say that our spiritual father, and our spiritual brother, sister, and mother are more important. “There is one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Ephesians 4:6). Who is a son of Abraham? “Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham” (Gal. 3:7). And this is all true because were created by God and we were redeemed and adopted by Him:

…if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God… (Rom. 8:13-16)

God is our first father. Never forget that. Before you were children of your mother and father on earth, you were children of God, and after you cease to be children of your mother and father on earth, you will always be children of God.

The Family or the Church? Seek Ye First the Kingdom

Now, so far we have been talking about the family’s relationship to Jesus. It is a very different thing to talk about the relationship of the family to the church. There are some points of overlap, but there are also some big differences for the simple reason that the church is not Jesus. But Jesus did found the church, and He entrusted it with the ministry of His gospel and the proclamation of His kingdom. So when we ask about how the family should relate to the church, or which is more important, we need to keep in mind that there isn’t a competition between the two but rather the fact that both have to submit to Christ and His kingdom.

When we say “the church” we can mean a few different things. On the most basic level, “the church” means the people of God, all who believe. In this sense it is not institutional. But there is another sense in which “the church” applies to the formal gathering and organization of those people in specific places, to this church or that church. This is a legitimate definition of the church, and in this sense we have to keep in mind that churches always exist as specific and concrete groups. We shouldn’t mix things up and assume that “the church” as specific congregation is the same as the universal church or that it can do the things which the universal church does through other specific bodies. Our church is one thing, and it has its gifts and its limitations. I make this point just so that we are clear. Christ Church Lakeland should not just go around saying that it is “more important than your family.” That wouldn’t be correct. But, there are things which we do, gifts we are given, duties we are entrusted with, and a community and service to which we are called that are “more important than your family.” How can we tell the difference?

There are some basics here which are true for all times and places. The faithful preaching and teaching of the Word of God is more important than the family. This doesn’t mean that the preaching and teaching has to be 100% totally and exhaustively correct or even the best out there. All preachers have their shortcomings and flaws. But the preaching and teaching does need to be Biblical, honest, and consistent. A church with great programs, sports leagues, and lots of friends is still not a promoting the kingdom if it does not have biblical preaching and teaching.

I would also say that worship, including some of its particular styles and expressions, is more important than the family. The principal act of worship is worship, by which we mean the direction of our hearts and minds to God and His majesty. That’s the first thing, and it’s the first thing by a long shot. Whatever worship service you attend, it must have that as its chief goal. Any worship that is primarily man-focused, whether it be entertainment or activism, is not directing us to God. Any worship which panders to changing moods, trends, or even current events is in danger of missing this point. We can and should relate our current events and situations to God, David certainly did this in the psalms, but we need to make sure that we are actually offering them to God for Him to do as He pleases and that we are open to God changing us by them or using them for purposes which are bigger than our lives and our families.

And what we often call “the communion of the saints” is also more important than the family. This includes the fellowship, shared community-life, and even goods, money, and service of Christians in a particular place. This can and usually should include families, but it can also challenge the family from time to time. Consider the following scenario. You receive a bonus at work. You can use this money to take your family to Disney, or you can give to the church for a charitable fund. Which one promotes the kingdom of Christ? If you believe the charity is good and noble, then the choice ought to be obvious.

But I know that it’s not always black and white. And I know that you know that. Not every activity or self-proclaimed “ministry” a congregation does is really the best thing or necessarily more important than your family. Churches should not pile up lots of programs and activities which crowd out the family. Churches shouldn’t be focused on themselves either, but on helping and serving their members and those around them in need. So godly churches have to work to support and promote families and homes. There is a balance, but because we are typically more self-focused than we like to admit, we need to be very honest with ourselves when we come up with these balances. If one interest always seems to win out, then you have good reason to be suspicious.

There are two primary ways in which the family can seek to overshadow the church and keep you from your duties. The first is by being a homebody and never sharing your family with others. If all of your activities are at home, most everything you do is made up exclusively of family members, and you just don’t really give up your time and resources to others then you have a problem.

There’s an opposite danger too, that of perpetual busyness. If, in the name of giving your family the best of everything, you are running all over the state, finding the best sports leagues, going on exotic vacations, piling up clubs and parties and outings and events, and you never actually have any time to just slow down, sit with your neighbors, and build lasting and rooted relationships, then you are actually being just as self-focused as the homebody.

Families can be very happy, strong, and successful without being too busy. The strongest families are those who open themselves up to other families and other groups of people, especially those kinds of people who are not naturally attractive to them. A family that is seeking the kingdom is going to choose acts of worship, service, and Christian fellowship over recreation. Sometimes there are recreational activities which also promote Christian fellowship, and that is an ideal pairing, but sometimes we have will be called to prioritize something which will promote true Christian fellowship but not be as much fun or as successful as some other activity which we really like to do.


A good church ought to be family-friendly. We have made this point many times. A church which exhausts or swallows up the family with endless programs and insensitive and unhelpful projects is not seeking the kingdom. But a good family ought to be church-friendly as well. It ought to be willing to pitch in and share its time, its resources and it’s self, even in ways that stretch and challenge it. Seek ye first the kingdom.

A wise church knows that it isn’t everything. It should have some very simple and basic requirements which are absolutely essential. There can be a sort of spectrum of non-essential but still helpful and important things after that, but it needs to know its limits and not try to do everything. At the same time, our families and other worldly commitments need to be honest as well. We need to bring our priorities to the Lord and ask Him to sift through them and teach us our true calling. He gives you a cross, after all! Ask Him to show you how to bear it.

Jesus says you might have to hate your life. He says you might have to hate your family. It’s a cross you must bear if you follow Him. What do you really value in life? Where is your treasure? But the good news is that, if you do bear that cross, and if you do seek the kingdom first, then all the rest will be added to you.

Let us pray.

by Steven Wedgeworth at March 01, 2015 02:00 PM


peat: Pete and Repeat are sitting on a fence. …

Here’s a simple python tool that jumps into action when a file changes: peat.


peat is built to execute a command of your choosing, and requires only a list of files to watch as input. As you can see above, probably its most basic use is just to send a message to the screen to announce a change.

But it seems capable of executing almost anything as its target, so you could set it to clean up files, compile a code snippet and run it, or … something completely different.

The syntax to get peat running can be a small challenge; by default peat wants a list separated by whitespace. Check the flags if you want to feed it a list separated by newlines or blank spaces.

I should also mention that in Arch, peat wouldn’t run without calling specifically for python2. On the other hand, it seemed to run without any oddball dependencies or bizarre python libraries, so it may be that it will run well on a vanilla system with no added weight.

I feel like I should mention the long list of file event watchers that are available, so it may be that using python as the basis for a file watcher is still too cumbersome.

And given that their list of features is as wide and long as the list itself, the choice becomes a little more academic. peat is worth investigating if you are comfortable with python and if its advanced handling doesn’t intimidate you. But remember there are many others in the running.

Tagged: change, directory, event, file, folder, notify, update, watch

by K.Mandla at March 01, 2015 01:00 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Back to sewing!

I’ve been thinking a lot about clothes lately. This was partly motivated by a dress-up extended family dinner. W- dusted off the suit that he hadn’t worn in years. I realized I wasn’t happy with any of my cold-weather dress options, so we checked out the shops. Dealing with the overwhelming array of choices, none of which I liked, I realized five things:

  • Because it’s difficult for me to find simply-styled, good-fitting clothes in small sizes, I should buy them when I find them, even if they’re at full retail price because the season has just started
  • Likewise, it’s probably worth increasing my clothes budget, considering things even if they’re more than a hundred dollars a piece
  • If I shopped more frequently instead of waiting until I needed something, it might be less stressful
  • Medium-term, I should learn what alterations can do and how much they would add to the price of an item
  • Long-term, I’m probably best served by learning how to sew. Then I can make the basics of my wardrobe in whatever styles and colours I want.

2015-02-10e Shop or sew -- index card #clothing #sewing #shopping

2015-02-10e Shop or sew – index card #clothing #sewing #shopping

2015-02-11d Do I want to invest in clothes or in sewing -- index card #sewing #clothing -- ref 2015-02-10

2015-02-11d Do I want to invest in clothes or in sewing – index card #sewing #clothing – ref 2015-02-10

I ended up wearing my office clothes (a blazer, blouse, and black slacks) to the family event, and that worked out just fine. But I didn’t want to end up in this situation again, so I decided to work on desensitizing myself when it comes to this shopping thing. After all, I remember going from “Waah, this is overwhelming!” to “Actually, this is pretty interesting” in terms of shopping at Home Depot, so maybe I could do that with clothes as well.

While organizing my wardrobe, I realized that I had donated many of the T-shirts that I used to pair with skirts. I had a lot of technical tops, but they didn’t go with slacks or skirts. For example, I didn’t have anything to pair with the purple skirt I’d stored with my other summer things. I added T-shirts to my shopping list. When I saw a nice relaxed-fit pink V-neck shirt at Mark’s Work Warehouse, I figured it would go with the purple skirt, my brown skirts, and my jeans. I also picked up an aqua shirt, a light blue shirt, and some khakis. Still couldn’t find any other items I liked, though.

Although there are quite a few beginner and intermediate sewing classes in Toronto, I decided to see how far I could get by learning on my own. After all, I’d already made a couple of skirts and dresses I was passably happy with. If I got stuck, I could always check Youtube for tutorials or reach out to friends.

I remembered struggling with sewing before. Sometimes I’d do something incorrectly out of impatience or ignorance, and then I got frustrated trying to fix things. It was hard to pay enough attention to details. But I’d noticed myself mellowing out over time. I felt more patient now; I acted more deliberately and spoke more slowly than I used to. Maybe it’s growing older, maybe it’s because of the abundance of time in this 5-year experiment, maybe it’s because I stopped drinking tea… Whatever the reason, maybe sewing might work better for me this time around.

2015-02-11c What were the friction factors for sewing last time, and how can I improve -- index card #sewing #kaizen #reducing-friction

2015-02-11c What were the friction factors for sewing last time, and how can I improve – index card #sewing #kaizen #reducing-friction

I knew I’d enjoy things more if I could start with a small success, so I looked for a simple pattern: cotton, no buttons, no zippers, nothing finicky. None of my stashed sewing patterns met those criteria. I thumbed through the patterns at the Workroom (a small sewing studio near Hacklab), but they were more complex than I wanted to start with.

Eventually I found the free Sorbetto pattern from Colette, which also served as my introduction to downloadable patterns. I printed it, cut out my size, and doubled the pattern with newspaper so that I didn’t have to mess about with folds. I’d previously decluttered my fabric collection, but one of the remnants I’d kept was large enough for the pattern.

I deliberately slowed down while making it. Instead of cutting around the pinned pattern, I chalked the outline of the pattern first, and then I cut that. Instead of cutting on the basement floor (where cats would definitely interfere), I cut on the large square coffee table in the living room. Instead of trying to use the sewing machine’s guidelines for my seams, I chalked all my seam lines. Instead of eyeballing the darts, I chalked the dart lines and the centre lines. I cut and picked out the mistakes I made in staystitching or basting. I neatened the thread tails as I sewed. Instead of using store-bought bias tape, I made bias tape from the same fabric. I zigzagged the other edges instead of using my serger.

2015-02-23 13.48.13It took me a while, but it was a pleasant while, and now I have a top that I’m happy with wearing either on its own or over a blouse. More than that, I have a pattern for as many tops as I want, and the knowledge that that’s one less thing I have to worry about buying when the stores have the right style, the right size, and the right colour.

I think I’ll make this in:

  • black (to pair with a black skirt, if I need to be more formal),
  • white (to pair with everything),
  • red (because that’s fun),
  • and maybe some geeky pattern that’s in line with my interests, to wear to Hacklab and events as a conversation piece? Even better if I could wear it to the office and still blend in as I’m walking through the corridor. Maybe a subtle print? Spoonflower has lots of geeky patterns, but none of them particularly appealed to me because they signal geekiness without actually being my flavour of geekiness.
    • Not really me: chemistry, circuit boards, moustaches, hornrims, calculators, video games
    • More like me: Emacs, tracking, cats, cooking, doodling, blogging, Greek/Roman philosophy

So maybe I’ll stick with solids for now. =)

I turned some scraps into a hair clip, since that felt like a more restrained way to match things than to have a scarf of the same print. Matching things tickles my brain – my mom can tell stories about how I wanted dresses with matching bags when I was a kid. Even now, I like it when people echo colours in their accessories. I’m looking forward to playing around with that through sewing, although maybe with more solids rather than prints.


Related sketches:

The post Back to sewing! appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at March 01, 2015 01:00 PM

Bible Design Blog


Black-logo-with-wwith-website is an eBay for Bibles. It’s much more than that, too. Paul Tanca and Bobby Hanson, long-time members of our community of Bible enthusiasts, have helped connect a lot of people to the rare and out-of-print Bibles they’re seeking. Their contribution via the Bible Exchange group on Facebook has been a real help. Now they’re taking on a new venture, creating an online hub for fine Bibles the involves hosting auctions, providing educational resources, and even retail sales.

The site launches on March 1.

Over the past few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to talk to Paul and Bobby a couple of times both about their passion for fine Bibles and their shared desire to serve the growing community of collectors and readers. Hearing their plans, I couldn’t help getting very excited.

Bible Exchange screen shot
I clicked through a beta version of the site and it’s impressive. Taking on eBay sounds ambitious, but their lower fees and custom interface should be a help to sellers, while the knowledge base and the social component will be a plus for buyers. So do yourself a favor and check out Let Paul and Bobby know you’re rooting for them.

The post Introducing appeared first on Bible Design Blog.

by J. Mark Bertrand at March 01, 2015 12:00 PM

Jon Udell

Fringe benefits of the attention economy

A decade ago I captured the peak of my Internet fame in this screenshot:

That was near the end of an anomalous few years during which the top result, when searching Google for “jon,” was my blog. I enjoyed it while it lasted, knowing that Jon Stewart would inevitably eclipse me, as he did in 2005 and as many others have since.

I was among the first to write professionally for the web, so for a while many of the pages in Google’s index containing “jon” were mine. That was just a lucky first-mover advantage. I knew it would erode over time as, appropriately, it has.

I still enjoy some residual benefits, though. My blog’s popularity translated to Twitter when it appeared on the scene, and although my Twitter reach has grown only modestly since, I was recently reminded that it remains another kind of first-mover advantage.

When United charged me for an error it made on a recent flight reservation, none of the regular customer service channels were responsive. So:

And then:

I’m hardly a celebrity on Twitter, but airing my complaint in a way that 5000 people might notice got results. I was grateful, direct-messaged my thanks, and received this DM reply:

You’re welcome, be sure to tweet us if you need anything. ^HN

I certainly will. But your mileage will almost certainly vary. Of those who try this method, how many will have enough Twitter reach for United to worry about? When I mentioned that on Facebook, Tony Byrne said:

I’ve wondered a lot about the equity of this. Supposedly social customer supt costs 8x traditional cust supt but brands do it for precisely the reason you cite and they are very aware of your Klout score when you complain. Too many of us digerati remain too smug about this, as if we deserve special treatment for being active on Twitter…

There’s nothing new about the attention economy. But there are always new ways to unfairly distribute attention.

by Jon Udell at March 01, 2015 03:40 AM

CrossFit 204: Fitness in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Workout: March 2, 2015

A great effort from Emily!

A great effort from Emily!

Open competitors: Please note that all scores will be validated on Monday afternoon or early evening. If you have submitted your score already, that’s all you need to do.

21-15-9 reps of:

Power cleans (135/95 lb.)


50 double-unders

by Mike at March 01, 2015 03:00 AM

CrossFit Naptown

Open Gym 15.1 Make Up

Sunday’s Workout:

NapTown Rowing Club 10:00-11:00am

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


Open WOD 15.1:
9:00 As Many Reps As Possible
15 Toes-2-Bar
10 Deadlifts (115/75)
5 Snatches (115/75)
6:00 To Establish 1 Rep Max Clean and Jerk

Many people will likely be taking on 15.1 and 15.1A (Dave Castro must not have done well in Kindergarten) today for the first time or for another go-round. Please be respectful of everyone working out today (as it should be every week…). Communication is going to be key as people sort out heats, judges, and equipment throughout the day so come in ready to work with people! Most of all, have fun and cheer everybody on to make CFNT a happening and stellar environment for crushing open workouts.




by Anna at March 01, 2015 02:48 AM

Caelum Et Terra

Everything Is Relative

everything is relative

except the Absolute

by Daniel Nichols at March 01, 2015 02:44 AM

February 28, 2015

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

Live Long and Prosper

Leonard Nimoy has passed away. By portraying Mr Spock on Star Trek with such even tempered humor, so convincingly, he had an effect on me greater than any other imaginary character has had. He was the model I followed and still do, the example of how a rational man should act.

We have now seen other actors and actresses play Vulcans, a race that represents the paragons of logic, and Leonard Nimoy was the sole actor who carried it off convincingly and delightfully.


Contemplate for a moment how much acting craft it takes to portray a cold, reserved, remote and dignified person, not even a human, while wearing make-up that gives one an appearance either elfish or diabolical, and make the character one of the best beloved in the television.

Because I loved Spock. The concept of a man utterly devoted to reason, to truth, to matters of the intellect, battling forever his human side that tempted him into emotion, passion, confusion became the core concept of my childhood, and, I say without a blush, of my life.

A philosopher is nothing more or less than a Vulcan, that is, a man who puts human emotion aside to cleave to divine reason as if to a cold but beloved bride, forsaking all others. He lives by the icy light shed by his intellect alone, where all things are seen clearly and in proper proportion. A philosopher is someone who uses reason to ponder the nature of duty versus self indulgence, or of virtue versus vice, and, rejecting the false allure of vice, cleaves to virtue.

Every soldier and every saint has a bit of philosopher in him, because he also must put aside cowardice and doubt. The soldier puts aside the cowardice his discipline tells him is irrational and deadly, even as the saint puts aside the doubts his discipleship tells him is irrational and damnable. Both of them, in part, in this little way, are Vulcans.

Consider the shape of the world when Star Trek came on the scene. Self discipline was for squares. Philosophy was word games and rubbish. Logic was a swear word, because gushy and infantile emotions were the order of the day, and arms were for hugging and all you need is love (usually with a tilted heart for the letter o).

Leonard Nimoy’s portrayal of Spock was the only portrayal in popular media of what a man of virtue, a man of logic, a man of reason, was supposed to be. And, unlike some robot, his was portrayed as a constant struggle.

Now, the cold and utterly heartless scientific genius was a stock character ever since the days when Jules Verne penned Robur the Conqueror, or E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith introduced Blackie DuQuesne to the universe, but such dispassionate logicians were always a stock villain character, a bad guy. To make a cardboard blackhat into a living and three-dimensional hero takes not only good writing, but great acting, even genius.

The show intended Spock to be the foil and counterpart to Dr. McCoy, who was meant to represent the conscience and passion of the human race, all the parts that Mr Spock lacked. Be that as it may, I mean no disrespect to DeForest Kelley, but he had the easier task of it as an actor, because his role was to portray a doctor with compassion. That is a side of life most of us understand, and we have seen in many other shows and tales, science fictional and otherwise.

But Nimoy’s genius was to put across the human warmth, the loyalty to ship and friends, and especially to his commanding officer, James T Kirk, and make this alien monstrosity of logic humorous and human and lovable.

Spock was the only figure representing logic in a world filled with illogic, and the difficulty of the portrayal, and the brilliance of the success, cannot be explained only admired.

When we see a light too bright to see, we call it blinding, and there little else aside from that word we can use to depict it.

Likewise, when we see an actor take what could and should have been a trite and cardboard concept for an alien character, and turn him into a beloved icon and exemplar which will live in the hearts of fans and admirers for generations, that we can call genius, and there is little else to say beyond that: the light is too bright, and a tear must be in the eye of anyone who sees how dark this world is, now that that light is gone from us.

by John C Wright at February 28, 2015 09:11 PM

Greg Mankiw's Blog

Roads from Emmaus

Is Orthodoxy “Christianity, Only Tougher”?

Particularly during this season of Great Lent with all its fasting and services and so forth, Orthodox Christians who live in a multi-religious society may be tempted to think or say something like what you see in this image here: “Orthodoxy: Christianity. Only Tougher.” On its face, there is of course a lot of truth […]

The post Is Orthodoxy “Christianity, Only Tougher”? appeared first on Roads from Emmaus.

by Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick at February 28, 2015 06:29 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Earn Ultimate Rewards Points By Educating Your Friends on Miles & Points


Here’s a fun thing: many of you already have the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. It’s a great card for a lot of reasons, and is usually my #1 recommendation when people are just starting to get into the world of miles and points.

If you have the card, you can now earn extra miles for referring your friends.

Here’s how it works:

  • You’ll earn 5,000 points for every successful referral
  • Your friends will receive the best offer currently available (the same one we have through our partner, Cards for Travel)
  • You can refer up to 10 friends for 50,000 points in total
  • The deadline is May 31, 2015

If you’re a cardmember, log in here to get started:

Rules & Restrictions

And here are a few of the FAQs that seem the most important (more here).

How many friends can I invite?

You can invite as many friends as you want during the referral period. You will receive your rewards for each friend who is approved for and uses the card by the offer deadline. There is a maximum rewards cap for each of our “Refer-A-Friend” offers. That cap will be shown on the offer page you will be directed to after inputting your name, zip code, and last 4 digits of your card on this page

[Ed. note: as mentioned earlier, the “maximum rewards cap” for Chase Sapphire Preferred in this particular offer is 10.]

Will all of my invited friends receive an email?

If your friend already has the Chase card you are referring, is on our email opt-out list, or if the email address you provided is incorrect or no longer valid, your friend may not receive the email. If these reasons do not apply to the friend invited, please have your friend check their spam folder.

How quickly will my friend receive my email?

Your friend will receive your email within one week.

[Ed. note: One week?! Chase is great with many things, but one week is a long time to wait for an email.]


If you’re an evangelist for earning points and miles, you might as well get something for telling your friends about it. Happy travels!

Photo: Shutter

by Chris Guillebeau at February 28, 2015 06:00 PM


“What Season Was Adam Created in?” And Other Questions That Make Us Giggle

lego-adam-and-eveIt’s been a couple of weeks since I blogged in Turretin, so I figured I’d get back at it before Scott Swain loses heart. To be honest, I was working my way through his section on the decrees and predestination of God. Apart from the usual density of Turretin’s prose, mucking about with God’s eternal decrees which are actually one decrees and will, only multiply distinguished according to our own conceptions…Well, you get the picture. My hubris in theological writing only extends so far.

In any case, I’ve begun Turretin’s section on Creation and things have predictably smoothed out a bit. Given that much of the heavy lifting has been done earlier, Turretin is mercifully clear, and there is quite a bit of interesting biblical exegesis. Actually, I really found a few sections of his examination of the days of creation to be beautiful. What’s more, I’m continually shocked at the broadness of Turretin’s learning as well as the sources he’s willing to draw on. In one paragraph alone, he appeals to the Targum Onkelos, another rabbi, Rashi’s commentary, and caps it off with a quotation from Augustine.

What’s really struck me in this section, though, is the oddness of some of his discussion questions. For instance, there are a number of the discussions on subjects you’d expect. He has a longish question on whether creation is eternal or not, or whether it could theoretically have been eternal as Aquinas argued. Not only is that a famous debate in the middle ages, for those paying attention to current discussions around creation, that debate is still live. For people exploring panentheist theologies, or versions where God is something like the emergent property of the universe, Turretin’s discussion of whether anything besides God could be eternal can easily become relevant.

On the other hand, there are times when four hundred years distance in terms of culture and scientific cosmology show their colors.

How many of you would think to ask the question and argue at length over the question of “What season was the world created?” I mean, really, was it spring, fall, winter, or summer when Adam popped up in the Garden of Eden? Were the leaves just turning red, gold, and brown, or were they newly in flower? Was it harvest time, or were the flowers just blooming? Would Adam have to knit a sweater soon, or were things nice and balmy? Or maybe Eden was just perpetually living in summer–kind of like Orange County?

I’m going to assume that if you’re like me, this question simply never occurred to you. But apparently this was a lively enough debate for Turretin to devote four pages of dense prose to the matter.

Another section that made me giggle a bit, was his segment on the nature of the waters above in the heavens. This is the 1600s so they’re not working with our modern cosmology, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t have learned discussions based on the best observation and scientific theories of the day–theories that we might still find plausible and with sufficient explanatory power to convince us if we didn’t have computers connected to telescopes floating about in space.

What’s interesting is how these paradigms played a role in their theological disputation. For instance, the “waters of the heaven” debated became relevant in Turretin’s debate with the Lutherans because apparently some Lutherans were asserting that a layer of water would interfere with the type ascension of Christ and believers the Reformed asserted. They then used that premise to strengthen their arguments for their views of the Lord’s Supper which depends on the omnipresence of Christ’s physical body. See how quickly that goes from bizarre preoccupation to important sacramental debate? (For the record, Turretin believed that they referred the clouds on the basis of scientific theories and exegesis.)

Or again, among other reasons, Turretin reasoned that Adam was created in a part of the world that was in Autumn at the time because it was the most hospitable season for man. This is important because it gives testimony to the benevolent care of God for his human Image-bearers. It also points us to the fact that humanity is the crown of creation–the world was made for man, not the other way around. In other words, in the middle of this rather odd discussion–to our minds–there’s a profound humanism at work that still speaks a biblical word to us today.

Of course, all of these raises the question: which debates and discussions will give our spiritual and theological descendants a bit of a giggle? Which of the hot topic issues that currently exercise us, or fascinate us will pass entirely out of the theological discussion in the coming decades and centuries? We need to remember that our own age is not the summit of theological development. Being farther down the timeline doesn’t necessarily mean we’re farther along in the discussion. At times contemporary concerns can end up being little more than distractions in the long run. Distinctions can be discarded and lost for a time as unnecessary or out-moded, only to be discovered as crucial after the damage of their loss has been made painfully apparent by the failure of theological discussion without them.

Only time will tell, of course. May God give us the grace to struggle faithfully for the truth in all of our discussions and the humility to know the provisional, time-bound nature of all our creaturely labors.

Soli Deo Gloria

by Derek Rishmawy at February 28, 2015 05:31 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Awesome In-Flight Videos from the KLM Cockpit


Ever wonder how dozens of flights can safely cross the Atlantic at the same time, despite the fact that much of the journey includes no radar coverage?

How do the pilots communicate with Air Traffic Control, and what kind of instructions are they given?

Oh, and what’s the deal with autopilot—does it mean the pilots aren’t really in control?

I really enjoyed watching these in-flight cockpit videos from recent KLM flights from Amsterdam to London and Amsterdam to New York. Even if you’re not an airline geek like me, you may like them, too.



I fly a lot (understatement) and I’m something of an enthusiast. I collect amenity kits, I’m impressed by airline lavatories, I spend entire weeks flying around the world for no good reason other than the fact that I love traveling.

Still, there’s a ton I don’t know about the actual art of flying. A couple years ago I thought about getting some flight training (there’s a school near me that has good reviews), but I decided that it’s not really something I’d actually enjoy. Maybe I’ll change my mind at some point—for now, I’m happy to be an airline geek and a somewhat-informed passenger.

Happy travels!

Hat tip: Ben

Image: Doug


by Chris Guillebeau at February 28, 2015 01:30 PM


talkfilters: All that computing power, and this is what you come up with?

After falling flat with yesterday’s attempt at an amusement for the console lifestyle, I thought perhaps talkfilters might be able to give me a quick giggle.


Well, I smirked at one or two.

talkfilters is exactly what you think it is — a series of filters that exchange certain words or letter sequences for analogues spelled or arranged to poke fun at certain dialects or speech patterns. Or individuals.

In some cases, it’s not so much a filter as an insertion tool though, with sporadic phrases interjected at points. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s just an obfuscation. And sometimes there’s probably a joke in there, but I don’t know what it is. :\

Like any attempt at comedy, talkfilters is likely to insult you if you think you’re the target of its humor, and I see one or two in there that might even be jabs at me. Not personally of course, but probably at my own demographic.

I don’t really care though. If your sensibilities are so fragile as to take offense at a juvenile filter that translates into an “accent,” then you haven’t been exposed to the real problems that can happen in life.

Regardless, I can see where one or two of these might have an application beyond the comic, and the buccaneer filter is likely to be of use sometime in September. Aside from that, I don’t know if there’s much other than comic relief they can offer. If they even do that. … :|

P.S.: In Arch as talkfilters, in Debian as just filters.

Tagged: convert, filter, text

by K.Mandla at February 28, 2015 01:00 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

Extracurricular Activities 2.28.15 — Diversity, the Church and Utopia, & Rural Churches

Michael Bird Explores Paula Fredrikson’s Arguments on Paul and Justification

In the latest issue of JBL is an article by Paula Fredriksen on “Paul’s Letter to the Romans, the Ten Commandments, and Pagan ‘Justification by faith,’” JBL 133.4 (2014): 801-7.

Fredriksen attempts to understand “justification by faith” beyond its usual theological discourse and identify the meaning of the phrase in its original social context. Her starting point is Josephus, Ant. 18.116-19 with John the Baptist’s preaching of “piety” and “righteousness” which correspond to the two tables of the Ten Commandments: commands 1-5 (piety toward God) and commands 6-10 (justice towards others).

Al Mohler Explores Human Diversity and the Biblical Worldview (Part 1)

A prominent question many worldviews and metanarratives are now wrestling with is the question of human diversity. Diversity is a fact that cannot be denied. The insularity of other cultures — which has always been partial — has now given way the phenomenon of globalization. It is hard to miss the fact that we are living in an age of increasing diversity; not just the world at large but even in our own nation and communities. In fact, some sociologists are now indicating that may soon be a majority-minority nation — a fact which is already a reality in some states. If our churches are truly going to represent the kingdom, if they are truly going to be gospel churches, then our churches are going to start to look more and more like our nation’s changing demographic map. Furthermore, our churches will rejoice in those changes.

Greg Peters on Lent and Benedict of Nursia 

Benedict of Nursia in the sixth century said, “The life of a monk ought to be a continuous Lent. Since few, however, have the strength for this, we urge the entire community during these days of Lent to keep its manner of life most pure and to wash away in this holy season the negligences of other times” (Rule of Benedict 49.1-3). Though Benedict directs these words to men living under his rule in a monastery, they seem applicable to all baptized believers since we too are called to live lives of holiness: “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). Yet, what are the means to wash away the negligences of other times? Benedict answers, “This we can do in a fitting manner by refusing to indulge evil habits and by devoting ourselves to prayer with tears, to reading, to compunction of heart and self-denial” (RB 49.4).

Scot McKnight on the Church’s Struggle with Utopia

It is not uncommon to read someone poke the church but no one pokes the kingdom. (There’s a story in that observation that can’t be engaged in this post but I discuss how to compare the two in Kingdom Conspiracy.) More often than not people poke the church because they have an eye (or two) on the kingdom. Which is a way of saying they poke the church because they are strapped to utopia. Much kingdom thinking spins between utopia and idealism.

The church of our reality struggles with folks who have utopian visions of the church and for the church. It only takes a good dose of reality, a theology of here-and-now reality, to reveal that the pokes are based on utopian visions that are not for the here-and-now-church.

The Battle for Rural Churches in England

Last week the brilliant blind member of the House of Laity John Spence (whose mesmerising speech in the final debate on women bishops swayed the vote towards ‘yes’) warned that the Church could be ‘eliminated’ from rural areas in ten years’ time. ‘If you look at [the] arithmetic projection you identify that, over the period 2007 to 2057, church attendance and membership would fall from 1.2 million on a regular basis to something like two or three hundred thousand.’

Can the current situation go on, in our 10,000 rural churches? Tiny congregations, with few people under 70; overworked clergy racing from church to church, having no time to chat to parishioners after each service, worn down by having six Grade I churches to look after, underpaid or not paid at all and at a loss as to how to make more people come to their Family Communion?

(Image: Totila e San Benedetto, by Spinello Aretino [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)


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

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

–The Editors of Zondervan Academic Blog

by Jeremy Bouma at February 28, 2015 12:52 PM

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

In which I Speak Circumspectly to a Bellipotent Porcine (Geek Gab, Ep. 15)

If you were curious about my voice, or what my basement looks like, or why my video account uses a pokemon icon, all these mysteries can be deepened by listening to this podcast by Geek Gab, where I talk over people, refuse to answer questions, and make many remarks so odd that a team of psychologists are discussing the matter now, as well as a team of psychohistorians, irked that this one podcast may disrupt the Seldon Plan.


by John C Wright at February 28, 2015 07:18 AM


Can You Treat Depression with Tryptophan?

You can buy 5-hydroxytryptophan over the
counter for "mood" amelioration, but beware of
serotonin syndrome.
When mainline antidepressants don't work (as they often don't) people sometimes turn to nutritional supplements. The most obvious one to turn to, in the case of depression, is tryptophan, because it's a precursor of serotonin.
To save you a bit of reading, I'll give the bottom line here, but be warned: Before you start popping tryptophan pills like candy, there's a lot to know about tryptophan metabolism and possible risks. If you're taking any kind of medication, particularly SSRIs, you'll want to consult your doctor (and do a lot of homework yourself) before wantonly gobbling tryptophan or 5-HTP pills.

Having said all that, it turns out there's reason to believe tryptophan might conceivably be helpful for depression.

Biological endpoints of interest in tryptophan metabolism include proteins, melatonin, 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA), kynurenine, and niacin (vitamin B3). Note that this is a highly simplified diagram. Most of the arrows actually conceal multiple enzymatic steps. See text for discussion.
First some background. Tryptophan is one of the 8 (out of 21, if you count selenocysteine) proteinogenic amino acids that you must consume daily because your body can't manufacture it. Most of the tryptophan you eat will end up going to protein synthesis, but a sizable portion will also be converted to serotonin (mostly in your gut, not your brain), and a comparatively small amount will end up being converted to melatonin in your pineal gland. There's a so-called back-door pathway to niacin, as well, but the yield on this pathway is so low (~1:100) that merely eating enough tryptophan won't keep you from eventually getting pellegra if you don't also ingest sufficient quantities of niacin (B3).

Note to advanced readers: The kynurenine family of tryptophan metabolites has many interesting neurological properties. If you favor (as some do) an inflammatory theory of pathogenesis in schizophrenia and major depression, you'll want to read the excellent 2009 paper by Müller in Dialogs in Clinical Neuroscience ("The impact of neuroimmune dysregulation on neuroprotection and neurotoxicity in psychiatric disorders: relation to drug treatment") which highlights the role of immunological dysregulation of kynurenines.

It's possible, incidentally, to buy serotonin in pure form, but eating it won't do your brain any good, because serotonin doesn't cross the blood brain barrier. (If it did, you could just eat bananas all day. They're rich in serotonin.) Amino acids, on the other hand, do cross the BBB. That's where tryptophan comes into play.

But will ingesting tryptophan actually raise serotonin levels in one's brain? And if so, will that help with depression? Let's take the second question first. Regular readers of this blog know that I've trashed the "serotonin imbalance" theory of depression previously. Serotonin insufficiency simply isn't an adequate explanation of depression, based on the evidence. That's not to say SSRIs and SNRIs don't help many patients or that the drugs do nothing inside your brain. Far from it. It's clear, though, that there's more going on in depression than mere "serotonin imbalance." (See this recent report for a possible clue as to what else may be going on.) Cache that thought.

It's been known for over 20 years that you can mess with people's serotonin levels by altering their diet. In fact, acute tryptophan deprivation (ATD) is a well-accepted technique in the study of depression, in part because experiments in rodents seem to verify the ability of a "tryptophan knock-out diet" to cause a transient plunge in brain serotonin levels. See Gessa, G. L., Biggio, G., Fadda, F., Corsini, G. U., & Tagliamonte, A. (1974). "Effect of the oral administration of tryptophan-free amino acid mixtures on serum tryptophan, brain tryptophan and serotonin metabolism," J Neurochem 22, 869– 870. Also see this Open Access paper from 2010.

One result that has held up under replication is that when you challenge SSRI-medicated depression patients with a tryptophan knock-out diet (causing a sudden plunge in blood tryptophan), they go from remission to relapse at a higher than expected rate. (Fortunately, they go right back to remission within hours or days of the experiment. Tryptophan deprivation's effects are short-lived. And that's another thing to bear in mind as we go along: supplementary tryptophan is short-lived, in the body.) However, when you challenge a group of non-depressed volunteers in the same way, they do not show any mood alterations. (See this paper.) Serotonin depletion does nothing to healthy volunteers.

Reasoning backward, we might ask if tryptophan loading has the inverse effect, causing serotonin levels to increase (and symptoms of depression to ease). As it turns out, there's reason to believe you can, indeed, force a boost in brain serotonin by tryptophan loading. (There are risks, too, though. Read on.)

First we might ask why the tryptophan-deprivation experiments work at all. I'll summarize a fairly large mount of work quickly. Tryptophan blood levels can be bounced high and low fairly easily (to the tune of about a 100:1 difference). What counts is how much tryptophan gets across the blood brain barrier. A carrier protein is responsible for escorting tryptophan across the BBB, but that protein is the same one that also escorts a number of other amino acids (tyrosine, phenylalanine, valine, leucine, isoleucine) across the BBB. Tryptophan has to compete with the other amino acids for this transporter protein, and experiments have shown it can compete more effectively if the blood ratio of tryptophan to tyrosine, phenylalanine, etc. is high.

Once tryptophan has made it across the BBB, it gets converted to 5-hydroxytryptophane (5-HTP) and then to serotonin. The rate-limiting step is conversion to 5-HTP. While getting more serotonin production going is not simply a matter of getting more tryptophan across the BBB (there are other enzyme systems, some with complex regulatory patterns, to consider), creation of 5-HTP is definitely essential to the production of serotonin.

It turns out you can buy 5-HTP over the counter, and yes, 5-HTP does cross the BBB. Why not just take supplemental 5-HTP? Actually, it's something to consider. Many studies (some of which we'll get to in a minute) have focused on administration of 5-HTP itself rather than tryptophan, since 5-HTP can't be siphoned away to protein synthesis. But precisely because it can't be diverted to other uses, 5-HTP is about ten times more potent (in its serotonergic effects) than tryptophan. It's also an order of magnitude more toxic than tryptophan and many times more likely to cause "serotonin syndrome" if taken in conjunction with an adversely interactive drug (e.g., any SSRI). The oral LD50 for 5-HTP in rodents ranges from 243 mg/kg to 1708 mg/kg. The LD50 for tryptophan (oral, rodent) is more like 16 grams/kg. You can safely swallow much more tryptophan than 5-HTP.

The research on 5-HTP for depression goes back more than 30 years and is summarized in this review. The studies tend to be marred by low sample size, short duration, lack of blinding, and other issues. About the best that can be said is, if you want to find papers showing 5-HTP is highly effective for depression, you can find them. You can also find studies that say lobotomy works. That doesn't mean you should believe them.

In the final analysis, what matters is whatever works for you. With tryptophan and 5-HTP, it may pay to do your own experimentation. (But be cautious, especially with 5-HTP, which is intrinsically more toxic than tryptophan and more apt to trigger serotonin syndrome in susceptible individuals.) For $30 or so, you can buy a month's worth of these supplements and find out for yourself if they're effective.You won't know until you try.

Have you added your name to the mailing list? Why not?

☙ ❧

I want to thank the following individuals for retweeting me yesterday. May you all live long and prosper. (Follow these guys. They retweet!)


And by the way, if you haven't already checked out my book Mental Health Myths Debunked, you can grab a free copy right now at Please go there and download it (in ePub or PDF). It demolishes a ton of myths (like "depression is caused by a biochemical imbalance"), in an entertaining way, with plenty of pointers to the scientific literature (and some nice illustrations, too). This book also has a few surprises in it, including a final chapter that's (if I do say so myself) quite shocking, no pun intended. (The final chapter is on electroconvulsive therapy and the hideous safety record associated with it.) Cozy up with this little book. And give a copy to a friend. You have my permission to duplicate the PDF.

See you on Twitter!

by Kas Thomas ( at February 28, 2015 05:37 AM

Doc Searls WeblogDoc Searls Weblog »

My Firefox phucked by phishing?

So I wanted to give GIMP a try on my MacBook Air. I’ve used it on Linux boxen, but not in awhile. These days I edit my photos with Photoshop and Lightroom on the Mac because there are so many things only those tools do well. But I’m tired of being in silos.

Alas, when I did a (defaulted) Yahoo search on my Firefox browser, I made the dumb mistake of clicking on the top result, which was an ad (I think for, but I’m not sure). I then clicked on the download link, unpacked the .dmg file, did the install — which failed — and have regretted it since. Nearly every link I click goes somewhere Netcraft’s toolbar add-on tells me has a huge risk, or gives me a “Phishing Site Blocked” message.

Down some link paths I get a Firefox cross-site script warning (or something like that — can’t find it now), or this:

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 9.40.29 PM

It also talks.

What to do? No idea. Suggestions welcome.

by Doc Searls at February 28, 2015 03:03 AM

CrossFit Naptown

Movement Clinic Day!!

Saturday’s Workout:

16 minutes to establish

8 rep max Over Head Squat
15 rep max Back Squat

It is the athletes choice depending on your skill level, NO you do not get to try both.

9 min 30 second AMRAP

10 Pull Ups
20 Push Press (95/75)
20 KB Swings (1.5pd/1pd)

ReWod From Feb 26th 2014 and

Dec 5th 2011: <— some funny comments on this one 

First-Ever Movement Clinic 

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

What: 90 minutes of focused skill work on core, snatching, and handstands!

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

Where: at good ole CrossFit NapTown (#darkplaces)

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

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

The FUNdamentals makeover has arrived and our first ever movement clinic will be this weekend from 12:00-1:30pm. This month, we will be going over core fundamentals (literally core work, not just the core of CrossFit…), basic snatch progressions, and handstand basics and progressions. These clinics are perfect for members of all skill levels and it is totally FREE. This time will be incredibly focused on skills and technique with progressions galore to break things down. Let us know if you ave any questions by emailing or and we hope to see a bunch of you on Saturday!

by Anna at February 28, 2015 02:44 AM

Doc Searls WeblogDoc Searls Weblog »

Figuring @Flickr

Here’s a hunk of what one set (aka Album) in my Flickr stream looks like:

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 7.57.58 PM

And here are what my stats on Flickr looked like earlier today (or yesterday, since Flickr is on GMT and it’s tomorrow there):

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 1.02.09 PM

I ended up with 32,954 views, with no one of my 49,000+ photos getting more than 56 views. More than 95% of those views arrived via Flickr itself. The stats there are spread across 87 pages of results. Pages 1 to 63 go from 395 views (#1) down to 2. From page 64 to 87, all the results are for 1 view.

I just pulled the searches alone, and got this:


Searched for: bay area aerial



Searched for: doc searls



Searched for: los angeles aerial view



Searched for: sunrise



Searched for: aerial view of mountains



Searched for: aerial sand dune



Searched for: “toronto” “aerial”



Searched for: ewr



Searched for: aerial farmland



Searched for: wyoming coal



Searched for: nasa gov



A contact’s home page



Searched for: nuclear bomb



2013_12_30 Montserrat Mountain in Catalonia 




Searched for: diablo canyon nuclear



Searched for: aerial island



Searched for: arctic circle



Searched for: united airlines



Searched for: aerial view farmland



Searched for: aerial



Searched for: toronto aerial



Searched for: containers transport



Searched for: maple leaves



Searched for: airplane sunset



Searched for: aerial santa cruz



Searched for: aerial ocean



Searched for: road aerial desert



Searched for: fly



Searched for: magician



Searched for: chicago skyline



Searched for: airlines



Searched for: las vegas aerial



Searched for: “toronto” “aerial” “night”



Searched for: desert aerial



Searched for: siltstone



Searched for: lax -sport -sports -lacrosse



Searched for: landslides



Searched for: lithium             


Searched for: internet connections



Searched for: bayonne



Searched for: diablo nuclear



Searched for: “salt lake city” aerial



Searched for: save the internet



Searched for: river delta aerial



Searched for: cargill



Searched for: wyoming coal mine



Searched for: army aviation desert



Searched for: mt. wilson



Searched for: sandcastle



Searched for: ice circle



Searched for: carole lombard



Searched for: atomic tests



Searched for: governor brown



Searched for: carpinteria sunset



Searched for: graveyard airlines



Searched for: sunset carpinteria



Searched for: /search/?tags=cambrian



Searched for: hassle



Searched for: city aerial view



Searched for: glover park



Searched for: diablo canyon nuclear plant



Searched for: nyc pulaski skyline



Searched for: network branches



Searched for: roads aerial desert


The numbers on the left are where they fall in the order of popularity. I think the last one means there were 24 searches for roads aerial desert, which was the #300 search.

When I go to the bottom of the pile where all are tied with just one view, I get this stuff:

Searched for: lunch in the city


Searched for: ice shore


Searched for: snake


Searched for: street, walk


Searched for: father and his two kids


Searched for: misty winter


Searched for: valley roads


Searched for: child large picture shy


Searched for: recycling symbol


Searched for: boston old subway


Searched for: coffee


Searched for: mountain road


Searched for: open road


Searched for: san mateo county infrastructure


Searched for: pointy rocks


Searched for: new york by night


Searched for: alcoa


Searched for: parliament canberra


Searched for: afternoon sky


Searched for: summer sun park


Searched for: france versailles night


Searched for: dog scratching


Searched for: cloud painting


Searched for: pregnant 1946


Searched for: big leaf maple


Searched for: grasp


Most of the results are not searches, but photos, or photos that are “with” another shot. For example: Somehow all those are “with” this shot:

I think that means somebody searches, finds a shot, and looks for other shots like it. Not sure, though.

What I am sure about is that my photos get more action than my writing. I never meant it that way, but there it is.

by Doc Searls at February 28, 2015 01:04 AM

February 27, 2015

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

The Vacant Forever Village

I offer this as a vignette for my readers. It is a scene that was removed from VINDICATION OF MAN for reasons of space. Whether any fan of the work will find anything to entertain him, I do not know; which is, of course, a second and stronger reason why it was removed. I proffer it as a curio only:

The Vacant Forever Village

1.       He Laughs

AD 68010

And, as suddenly as that, he knew what nagging fear and hidden error had been bedeviling him.

He laughed at himself and laughed for joy, and the noise was so like the braying of a donkey that Trey danced back in a swirl of blue-gray films, startled, and the eyes on the hat of Mickey grew wide in shock, but, off to one side of the field, Blackie del Azarchel scowled and rose up and threw his uneaten half bag of popcorn to the grass.

That made Montrose laugh all the more.

He resolved not to break off any more subsections of himself to watch himself sleep or keep wary eyes Del Azarchel on. What could the man do, now? It was so close to the happy ending that would crown the epic of lonely longsuffering waiting with love and victory. What could he do?

Just as suddenly, Montrose felt sober, and even slightly sick.

Mickey, seeing the look of nausea in his face, asked him what was wrong.

2.       Aboard the Soaring Azurine Revenant


Montrose would not answer the question until an hour or so later, when he and Trey were aboard her airship, and the blue waters of the Northern seas were flowing rapidly and silently beneath the transparent hull, and the ship’s serpentine sang soft songs to Trey, and praised the coming weddings. And the girl swayed and twirled and danced, as unselfconscious as a child.

The airship speed faster than the speed of sound toward the Forever Village, and the surface equipment controlling orbital radio lasers. It seemed the Guild of Spacefarers was no longer in business, but another group, called the Loyal and Self-Correctional Order of Prognostic Actuarial Cliometric Stability had taken its duties. Montrose figured that with medical advances giving some people ten thousand year lifespans, and others immortality, everyone had the time to say longer mouthfuls of names for things.

The Stabiles had the orbital equipment needed to communicate with Neptune, with whom, over the scattered eons, Montrose had developed an acquaintance. Oddly, but not inexplicably, Montrose had been the only emissary both sides trusted when Neptune was negotiating with Twelve and Splendor how to fit the leftover remnants of dwarf-planet surface-dwelling human biological-life into the overall scheme of planned future giant-planet core-dwelling human mechanical-life evolution. But his relation with Nepturne was nothing that could be called a friendship.

One could not make friends with a ball of logic diamond thirty thousand miles in diameter.

But one could ask what the fate of man would be once Rania’s ship landed? It was so simple, and large, and obvious a thing, he had missed. For all his augmented levels of thought, he had forgotten.

Montrose sat in the transparent nosecone on one of the spidery, semi-insubstantial deckchairs the supersonic airship could extrude upon command from the deck, and spoke softly to Mickey.

“I’ll tell you what’s wrong with me, since you asked. Rania gave me a prayer she wants all the world to say for her. I ain’t once got on my knees to pray for her return. Not once in sixty-six thousand years.”

Mickey said jovially, “Not to worry! My people back in the day performed many rituals to placate the Swan Princess, who stole the divine fire from heaven and hid it in a diamond for the sake of Man, the Lady of Hope. Two turtledoves is the proper sacrifice for the poor, and a white ewe without blemish for those any goddess of bounty has blessed. So our devotion makes up for your lack! Were there any Witches aboard her ship?”

Mickey had evidently forgotten how long ago she had launched, or perhaps he had never been able to grasp the true magnitude of eons involved. The Hermetic dated from before the Ecpyrosis, the destruction of the world by fire, therefore to Mickey her ship was no more real than the ship of Noah from before the Deluge, the destruction of the world by flood.

Montrose said, “Damn! I need a priest. I reckon I should do some confessing.”

“Eh? And all this time I had you pegged as a confirmed skeptic, Menelaus Montrose.”

“Well, my religion was more like, shut up and shoot straight, but I am beginning to think that is theologically insufficient for my spiritual needs. All these damned years; one drop at a time, time enough to fill a ocean, are weighing on me, piled on like I was at the bottom of a sea trench; all this hostile void and vacuum and emptiness and death outside the few little bright blue planets men live on; all these vast thinking machines, big as gas giants, and bigger. They are Inhuman. Like things out of nightmare of John on Patmos. Facing this, a man needs something more than a bottle of hooch to put the spirit in him. Besides, Rania believes it. She’s smarter than me.”

“No longer,” said Mickey. “You have extensions into the Potentate range. She simply cannot have that amount of mass aboard her ship, even assuming she ever suffered apotheosis into machine-life as you did.”

“One more thing to fess up to the parson, I guess. Hey! You walked and sailed around this current world. Do they still have priests, these days? Oh, they must. Otherwise, Trey would not want you baptized and married in a church wedding all proper like a Christian gent, right? Unless she’s just crazy, or expects to wake the preachers from a tomb.”

“There is a group that calls itself the Sacerdotal Order, which is under the protection of the Fifth Humans. They say they are the heirs of the Old, Strong religion, and the successors to Saint Peter, but their doctrines have grown confused and corrupt with time. They say Peter holds the Keys to Heaven and Hell. My people taught that Peter lives with the souls of dead children called the Lost Boys, and he never grows old and never completed the journey to the after life, but dwells in the great star Canopus, the second brightest star to the right of Sirius, the Dog-Star. The tiny and bright spirit who dwells with him shines her light and rings her bell, and calls the lost and wandering ghosts to her. She died, sacrificing her life saving Peter, but is resurrected when the innocent clap their hands, for their faith brings the dead to life again. You can see from where these Sacerdotes derive their ideas and myths: all is but a hold-over from the pagan roots of yore.”

“Hm. Could be a different Peter. In any case, I feel pretty bad that I let a doubt about her come to trouble me, and let it grow stronger as she got closer.”

“What doubt? Did you think her love would fail? That? Is that has been disturbing your slumber these last few millennia?”

Montrose was too ashamed to answer, but Mickey saw in his face that it was so.

When Montrose did finally speak, it was in a whisper, and his eyes were focused on the high blue skies beyond the clear glass hull, or perhaps on the unseen infinity beyond that blue. , “I quietly resolved in that hour to defy the inevitable.”

Mickey leaned toward him. “What was that?”

Montrose drew himself up, and his eyes took on a steel glint. “Mickey, from now on just remind me. No matter what anyone says, no matter what I see, not even if Jesus Christ wearing a hat of thorns rides down from a damned thundercloud on a white mare and slaps me over the head with a two edged sword He spits out of his holy grinning mouth and says she don’t —remind me never to believe her love give up, give over, fail or fall short.”

“Montrose, my friend, she will never foreswear you.”

“Even if she did, I would not believe her. We was married in a Church, dammit, all regular and nice, lawful and correct! Married by the Pope himself!”

Mickey smiled, his white teeth like flame in his round black visage. “Ah! I thought the Pope was a legend, like the Salem witch-burners, used to frighten unruly children! If so potent a warlock as the Roman devil-man witnessed and blessed your vows, then all the divine beasts, and gods both large and small, and the constellations themselves must rear up their starry heads to aid your cause!”

3.       A Lord of the Stability


It was dusk. The airship hung in above the crags and peaks near the Forever Village, a black shape against high clouds red and dazzling in the light of a sun not seen. The great space mirror in the West had not yet risen, but had painted the far peaks cerise and rose.

Montrose walked in his long legs and Mickey waddled on his short ones through one empty street and deserted square, past open doors and empty windows. To walk this village was as if to walk backward in time, with each generation of houses nearer the base of the tower older than the next. The tower itself was a vertical darkness that seemed always ready to topple down upon anyone unwary enough to look up, and optical illusions of perspective and atmosphere made the unseen crown seem to bend toward the vanishing point of the zenith. The upper miles were bright with red light from the sunset, and, farther still, the naked light of the sun in a vacuum smote the sword-bright sides of the tower, making a pale line, the hue of the moon seen by day, in the deep blue of the coming night.

They were met by a manlike shape who was twice their height. A mantle covered him from shoulder boards to boots, and from his stance, it was clear he had not two legs, but four, two major and two minor. The minor legs were perhaps grown from his flesh, perhaps symbiotic, perhaps prosthetic. He leaned upon a tall wand of indigo hue made of translucent glass.

His helmet crown was a broad wheel like a coolie hat or the canopy of a parasol. His faceplate was oversized (its chin reached to below his collarbone) and was so besieged with figures of blue stars and gold comets, chrysanthemums of carnelian and centipedes of topaz that nothing but a dazzling tangle could be seen.

The cheek-plates held two supporters, a swan-maiden with a lamp facing a fishtailed vampiress. Two decorative ropes of coiling fern and chimes from his ear cups reached past his shoulders, swaying through complex knots.

The eyes of the sculpted insects and the centers of the sculpted flowers on the mask were lenses. Each pair of lenses peering from the temple and brow, chin and cheek decorations flickered and focused in turn as the faceless giant inspected them, creating an impression of furious mental activity.

His fingers and arms, what could be seen emerging from an arm slit in the mantle, seemed normal enough, but wooden and glass fibers were woven through the sleeve, apparently a prosthetic. The man’s ancestors had been adapted to some lighter world than earth, but which one, Montrose had no almanac ready in his mindspace to tell him.

“Howdy,” said Menelaus.

His voice issued not from the mask, but from his wand. “Greetings, Judge of Ages. I am Lord High Lighthousekeeper Lesovik Svjatogor, of the Krakonos Municipal Greenhouse, Saint Kristoff Parish, planet Gargoyle of Omicron Eridani.”

A thin beam of light issued from the wand and touched the giant figure on the chest, crept up, and placed a twinkling spot on the mask surface.

“No disrespect is meant, nor do I hide, but I may not remove my faceplate, since the custom of my people is only to unmask and inhale our unclean air to die, and your pure airs of the Eden World, the Mother of Man, would intoxicate me with your high oxygen content, and set me to capering, which would shame my fathers. However, a tradition equally strong holds that any man of land or languid nicor of swamp or sea who takes this mask by fair means or foul must carry out all duties and pay all debts recorded into the mask-circuits, so whomever you see with my faceplate in times to come is I.”

Montrose wondered if it were not that people were long lived these days, or just long winded. But he saw the giant drawing breath, and so he waited to hear what came next.

Now the figure spoke in his own voice, a deep rumble. “Honored One, the Loyal and Self-Correctional Order of Prognostic Actuarial Cliometric Stability recognizes the debt and duty owed you, as sons owe fathers, for had you not founded the Spacefarer’s Guild, we would have had no legacy to inherit from them. Our facilities are yours to use as you will, regardless of resources spent, albeit I cannot now offer servants or attendants to wait on you, save only myself.

“Do not wonder that the houses and halls are deserted, and the tower is dark. All spacers, both fit and unfit, have taken to the skies.

“In many vessels great and small they will starfare in the train of the great ship Argosy from here to Iota Draconis, one hundred lightyears hence, the star the Swans call Eldsich, where the antiquarian world called Torment broods, farthest of all inhabited earths, is ruled by Hierophants and Wraiths, Cats and Chimerae, Foxes and Rosicrucians and other races long extinct on older worlds.

“From there yet onward to Cor Caroli ten more lightyears, they will starfare, which men call Alpha Canum Venaticorum (which Swans in sorrowing song defiantly yet call by the forbidden and ancient name The Heart of Charles the Martyred King). The fleets and flotillas of all forms and races shall greet the Vindicatrix of Mankind, and escort her strange ship across the final light-century, the one hundred lightyear radius of the Empyrean of Man.

“I alone remained behind, to ask your forgiveness that we did not tarry to take you, to meet your bride at Cor Caroli.”

Montrose felt his heartbeat in his face, because he was flushed with anger. “What the plaguey hell? There was a plan to go greet her?” Montrose drew a breath and gritted his teeth. “But wait. The difference in velocity…”

“We cannot match velocity. We cannot dock, but the flotilla of all human ships aloft will wait patiently as the century crawls by until she comes. Vessels posted to each side of the deceleration beam will discharge festive energies on many bands as she speeds past.”

The mechanics of the rendezvous with Tellus and Rania’s ship meant Menelaus would not have seen her any sooner had he gone to meet her. In all the millennia, the simple physics of that had not changed. Earth was still the one spot requiring the least of the astronomical change in momentum needed to bridge to her frame of reference.

Montrose grunted, “No harm done. So I guess it is okay you did not ask me.”

The man made a delicate motion with his elephantine fingers. “Honored One, it was with greatest surprise and disbelief that we Lords of Stability waited, and you did not present yourself.” A note of wry melancholy entered the voice. “We did not, of course, have permission to enter your neural cloud to intrude thoughts directly into your mind. A messenger of the Order of Heralds named Mlentengamunye threw letters weighted by gold coins into the black, deep lake our paleohistorians said you slumbered beneath.” Some of the semiprecious stones adorning the mask changed hue, but what expression this was meant to signify, if any, Montrose could not deduce. The voice rumbled plaintively, “From time to time, one wonders if the decision of Tellus to forbid electronic communication by voice phone or televection was as wise as first it might seem.”

Montrose frowned at Mickey. The rotund Warlock raised his hands in protest. “I had never heard of this while I walked the earth! There was no rumor of it. I did not see any shrines or sacrifices to the Swan Princess. How was I to know any celebration was planned?”

The giant said, “The event of her coming is the date to which all the calendars for all recorded time has pointed. The indenture that we owe the Hyades, half a million years of servitude, is expunged.”

“Not all calendars,” said Mickey pedantically.

The giant closed his fist and raised and lowered it, in the ancient spaceman’s gesture showing consent. “Only the Sacerdotal calendar points backward, to some date in the past, but recent scholarship shows this was done in jealousy, since the advent of the heavenly messenger they imagine, to cure our debts to dwellers in heaven, is clearly an imitation of Rania’s mission.”

Mickey muttered to Montrose, “He sounds like me. Did I used to talk nonsense that way?”

“You still do,” said Montrose muttered back. “Sounds like, despite all the time that goes by, mankind is still madmankind. I would not have launched with the escort fleet, but it would have been nice to have been asked. But no one could reach me because someone decided to outlaw phones?” He snorted. “Hellfire! And I thought the world was crazy poxed up back when I was young. What the crazy look like might change as ages pass, but the crazy stays the same.”

The ears of the giant must have been sharp. The mask lenses rotated in their sockets, and focused at Montrose. Several of the nose, cheek and brow gems turned green. “For our failure to find you, and other reasons that put us in your debt, Svjatogor is your servant. Ask what you will.”

Mickey nudge Montrose. “Ask him for his mask. It must have powerful voodoo in it.”

Montrose said, “Do you have facilities to send a message to Neptune? I want to talk to him. I want to find out what the cliometry says for the future evolution of man, now that Hyades will no longer be performing any more sweeps of our populations, and we are not obligated to serve them.”

Svjatogor said, “You may send, but there will be no response.”

Montrose said, “Why?”

“Walk with me into the chresmographion, and I show you.”

4.       The Beast


They walked, not into the vast and topless tower stretching infinitely above them, but into a large rectilinear building of severe and recent construction, less than one thousand years old. There was a portico of pillars leading through a vestibule to an inner chamber. Between the vestibule and the inner chamber was a structure like an indoor fane, consisting of a dark blue dome upheld by a circle of slender columns. The inner surface of the dome was an armillary hemisphere, like a planetarium, set with ornamental bosses and jeweled lanthorns.

As they stepped to the center of the fane, the ivory floor underfoot turned transparent, revealing a hemisphere like a wide cup, a mate to the dome overhead, showing the southern constellations. Silently the slender pillars retracted, so that the dome above came to rest on the floor, catching them in the middle of a sphere of dark ivory. Their feet were on the plane of the ecliptic. The only light came from the jewels and lamps representing stars and worlds, each one beneath a heraldic shield. Since the floor was perfectly transparent and clear, the illusion of being in a small bejeweled universe was complete.

Svjatogor shined lights from his wand upward. He must have had additional lenses in the crown of his wide-brimmed headgear, because he did not crane back his head. “These arcs represent the orbits of the Great Ships, and the schedule, across the centuries, given to our keeping. Those lines indicated the known positions of radiolaser paths between Principalities and Powers. One by one they have gone dark. The Silence fell in 66366 AD, as the Sacerdotes reckon time, or Vindication Minus 1634 by our calendar. You will receive no answer, Honored, because the Principalities and Powers are dark. Some heresiarchs and xypo-theologians aver that they are dead, albeit what word from the Authority of Canes Venatici could be so grim that civilization-wide suicide was the reply, none can speculate.”

Montrose was feeling impatient, but the sight, as he looked up, made his chest swell with pride. “Only the superhuman brains are quiet, not the common people? Heh. At first blush seems to me that ain’t no bad thing. But look! You got more planets since I slept! Man is spread too far to be wiped out, with roots too deep on too many poxed worlds, right? We’ve won. Hell, I’ve won.”

The giant Svjatogor said, “Strange. The lore of Gargoyle says that this was the victory conditions envisioned of old by our Founder, the Nobilissimus Ximen del Azarchel. By interstellar radio, he wrote our Great Charter and the Proverbial Analects, as well as established the Ecclesiastic Order of my world. He is said to be stirring in the Earth, in the Mother of Worlds. Now that his dreams are accomplished, what does he next dream to do?”

Montrose shrugged. “Some damned mischief. How many worlds all told we got?”

Svjatogor sent darting lights out from his wand to point at stars on the dome. “By the reckoning of the Stability, there are eighty one earths of seventy suns. The worlds which have been stirred to selfawarness, the Potentates, number twenty four and are marked with a sard; the seven Powers with an amethyst; the four Principalities with a crystal of blue adamantine.”

“I feel like a boy again. I used to dream of flying to the stars. I have done it once or twice now, but it ain’t out of my blood.”

There was true warmth in the deep, slow voice, “We share one heart! Well do I know the urge to see strange suns under alien skies and smell the wind and see the faces of men of other worlds. I have starfared: with those who are content to live and die within a footstep of their communal crèche, I have no communion. I am of a restless spirit; I hunger for wonders!”

“Man after my own heart! Maybe the missus and me can visit some of these places as a honeymoon, eh? Tell me about them,” said Montrose.

“Behold the newer earths where men of varied races and shape prosper! That one is Here Be Monsters of Regulus; and that is Svartalfheim whose pitch-black atmosphere is warmed by the rays of Zeta Laporis; there is Mystery of the Second Creation orbiting Hamal; that is Qailertetang, and is the most ambitious terraforming work ever yet attempted, for the cruel cabal of weather-control officers called the Winter Queens here turned a plutonian world into one of subarctic tundra and snowforest by igniting its dead core to molten life, and coating its lower elevations in an hydrosphere of heat-trapping greenhouse fluids; Mountain of the Lovely Peach Trees is an idyllic world where war and murder were utterly unknown, but whose children are addicted at birth to pacifying electronic implants, brain-songs, and shared phantasms and figments; Onwardness of Pi Mensae, a world where human emotion is outlawed and excised save on Sabbath days; Aaru of Zubenelgenubi, the ghost-ruled world, earthquake-tortured, whose wide and single river runs in a vast and perfect spiral from a northern polar ice cap to an southern hemisphere of swamp and bog and mire and shallow sea — and whether this was the result of a freakish terraforming accident, or a mad inspiration, no offworlder knows; next is the aptly named Bloody Water Poisoned Air circling Xi Scorpius, whose terraforming, if anything, was less complete; the unforgiving world called Penance in the constellation Cygnus; and the forgiving world called Land of the Young. Nowhere in these worlds is there liberty for men.”

Montrose gazed at the expressionless mask. “You did not just stay around to apologize for sending off the escort without me. You want me to help you. Why me? All these machines are so much smarter than me, it ain’t funny. I am going to settle down with my wife, finish my honeymoon, and father a heaping squall of brats. The end. Happily ever after.”

Mickey said quietly to Montrose, “The stars and winds and the rushing waters of the river speak to me in my narcotic dreams, and whisper you remain the fulcrum of events.”

Montrose uttered a lengthy but colorful expression concerning various disorders and diseases that can be detected in fecal matter. The decorated mask showed no expression, of course. Finally, Montrose said, “Tell me what is going on. Go fast.”

“How can I in one breath sum the bitter centuries of misery you missed, O Judge of Ages? The Fourth Sweep which peopled these colonies occurred in the Fifty-Third Millennium of the Julian Calendar, and removed worldwide populations from the First and Second Sweep stars, flinging them to dim and remote worlds to die in countless numbers. Civilization did not entirely collapse, despite this great wound, because the Powers and Principalities, for centuries prior, had ruthlessly bred and prepared the living peoples for their coming generations of tortures and trials, and established psychologies and communities designed to rebound from the shock of decimation. But interstellar trade halted, and interstellar radio communication was lost, and some worlds tried to forget that once we fared the stars. A long twilight began.”

Again, lights from the wand glinted on precious stone set into the images of stars and constellations. “Then, in the Sixty-First Millennium, the twilight of man became midnight. Out from star men spoke of as Epsilon Tauri, the Swans in their songs of malediction named Ain, the Myrmidons numbered as HIP 20889, and the Foxes in their riddles recall as Oculus Borealis, and Patricians called Coronis, from this star came the virtue known as Achaiah, later named the Beast.

“The dark and unseen mass took up position not at Sol but at Tau Ceti, which smiling Foxes inexplicably call Tertia Struthionum; but which the Swans in ditties of derision name Durrementhor. There the Beast established the first interstellar entrepot and trade depot between Man and Hyades.

“The Beast neither received nor issued any communication to mortal beings nor to angels, archangels nor principalities. They were beneath notice. Only to the logic diamond brains occupying the great volumes of the giant planets did it speak. What it said was unknown, but all human destiny was blasted and changed as if with a black wind.

“After heeding the voice of the Beast, vectors were introduced into the tumult of history by the Powers. These vectors were ones preferring the predictability of stagnation to liberty and life. The immortal machine life in great jovian worlds grew greater while biological life on patches of the surfaces of little terrestrial worlds diminished.

“Principalities were created by Powers and Potentates, and mankind was reduced to less than chattel. A system known as the Absolute Rule was imposed on all life below the Potentate threshold: archangels occupying planetoids volumes, asteroids and mountains, angels in ships and cities, and men in houses, strongholds, or bodies grew corrupt, servile, and somnolent.

“Every being is born, medically altered, coerced, conditioned, habituated or mind-raped into conformity to his pre-established and stereotyped role in history. Ecologies on many worlds now are simplified and stark, and all fish spawn at their given hour, the rain and snow as regular as clockwork, and the songbirds all sing on time and in tune.”

5.       The Principalities


The giant Svjatogor told them of the four great Principalities.

In the Sixty-Fifth Millennium, planet Twelve of Tau Ceti dismantled the gas giants of the Cetacean outer system to complete a ringworld of sophont matter called Catallactic, whose intelligence was in the one billion range.

Neptune was suppressed, as was any hope for human liberty.

In less than a thousand years, the Covenanter civilization, directed by their featureless and icy gas giant, Immaculate, starlifted from mighty Altair more than an average solar systems’ mass of material, filtered and cooled and transmogrified it, and from those orbiting rivers of precipitate gas, created the Principality called Consecrate.

Rosycross, although no more than a earth-sized Potentate, embarked on an ambitious project to create a Principality without a Power to act as architect or intermediary, or midwife. As millennia passed, Rosycross, aided by his surface and orbital civilizations, foxes and nonorthagonals, ghosts and archangels, erected vast array composed of billion-square-mile films of light-absorbing cognitive sailcloth in orbit about the large main star of his quadruple-star system. Cloud upon cloud of the sailcloth orbited equidistant from Alpha Centuari, collecting the heavy particles of the unstable red star, and growing in computation depth year by year. The sail cloth woke and grew and combined, slowly forming a patchy Dyson hemisphere. At some point, the billionfold threshold of intelligence was passed, and Toliman — so it was christened by poets and dervishes and visionaries — evolved himself into becoming the third Principality of the commonwealth of Man.

The Power christened Vonrothbarth of 61 Cygni was a hyperjovian and a fire giant, a Brown Dwarf who failed to ignite, swinging rapidly in a submercurial orbit around his primary. Over millennia, he had extended the topless towers of exotic-particle material upward and outward from his fiery globe, a trailing braided tail, threads of material two hundred twenty million miles long, held aloft from the star by 61 Cygni’s immense solar wind pressure. The twin telluric worlds of the system were unable to comprehend Vonrothbarth’s arts, or analyze the building material, dubbed orichalchum. The material was the alloy of artificial elements not found on any periodic table, isotopes possible only through engineering on the subatomic scale. Odile looked on with awe and Odette with dread, and each sought to ship her surface populations elsewhere, before the distant age arrived when project was triumphant.

The orichalchum megascale structure housed both inhabited and uninhabited continents. These continents coated the inner surface of hollow cylinders indefinite in length, absorbing and digesting particles from the sun, and ever growing. The flexible cylinders rotated at various rates to imitate gravity. The array was as if composed of countless beanstalks set end to end, or, like a loosely woven arc of odd, superplanetary noodles.

As ages passed, the threads expanded ever farther along the orbit of Vonrothbarth as he circled the star, eventually forming a work encircling the solar equator. And still, as centuries passed into millennia, it grew ever onward. When it reach three full circuits of the 61 Cyngi, a three-banded strandworld, it awoke, and shrieked, and named itself Zauberring.

Rumors filtered down to the posthumans that Cold Potentates had overheard the radio messages, spanning the years and lightyears between the Powers and their new and incomprehensible masters, these Principalities. Cool and remorseless Catallactic of Tau Ceti, serene and detached Consecrate of Altair, patient and sly Toliman of Alpha Centauri, and young Zauberring of 61 Cygni, whose zeals and ideals were based on mathematical models no Power and no Potentate could comprehend.

It seemed these four did not agree on how the destiny of man should unfold.

Duels now erupted between these immense entities which even the wisest and oldest of Powers housed in giant worlds could not comprehend, raids and murders conducted through the pressures of thought and logic, in the strange topological spaces of predictive history.

There was war in heaven.

Rania grew ever closer. One day, radio silence fell throughout the hundred lightyear volume of the Empyrean Polity of Man.

6.       Silence in Heaven


Montrose and Mickey were both silent for a moment, their brains dazed by the magnitudes the works described, the strangeness of another pantheon of supreme and artificial beings, the size of living solar system.

Eventually Montrose shook his head and said, “So that is the reason I will get no reply to my messages to Neptune? All these godlike brains are at war?”

“We cannot say for sure,” Svjatogor of Gargoyle admitted. “What does war look like on such a scale? Perhaps it is more like a trial, an ordeal, or a game of suicidal roulette. We detect no energies, no discharges, no motions of material objects. But there is much we cannot detect, from neutrinos to dark flows to gravitational lasers, to purely mental or psychological weapons written in logic codes. We cannot explain the silence.”

Mickey, staring at the many-rayed gem representing Arcturus, the kneecap of the constellation Boötes the Ploughman, now spoke up, “It is the songbirds singing on time that creeps me out. But I saw nothing like that here on Earth?”

The giant said, “The memory of the three nightmarish millennia of the White Earth, the Red Earth and then the Blue Earth prevents Tellus, mad or not, from permitting the return of the philosophy of ecological simplification: and benevolent Neptune, the only Power that cared for man, protected the mother world as best he could.”

Montrose listened with growing dismay. “I am a fool. A world of slaves and serfs and clockwork fish and bird is just what Blackie has wanted all along. I was thinking only of reaching the day when Rania arrives and sets all men free! He has his eyes on unfreeing everything one hour later. Pestiferous damification! Some of those gas giants follow his footsteps. Hell, some may be him, for all I know. Hyades is tossed aside, and Blackie will step into the empty throne.”

A dot of light issued from the wand, and touched the constellation of cancer. “Hyades will no longer be our master,” intoned the giant. “But what is freedom? This is Praesepe, called the Beehive Cluster. Here is the seat of the Domination who rules the Dominion Hyades and seven other Dominions. These Dominions, each as vast in extent and intellect as Hyades, or vaster, are seated in the Pleiades; at 12 Comae in the Coma Berenices Star Cluster; in Ptolemy’s Cluster; at M34 in Perseus; at Xi Persei in the California Nebula; in the great Orion Nebula centered at Trapezium Cluster, where they are making new stars; and at the distant Cone Nebula, two thousand seven hundred lightyears hence. The Domination of Praesepe rules them all, and will rule us as we take our place as coequal subjects. The Domination of Praesepe will expect the Empyrean of Man to continue the project of Sophotransmogrification, of turning all inert matter into cognitive matter, whether we are indentured or free.”

Mickey said, “Free men are paid a wage.”

The giant said, “Precisely so. Why else are the Powers of Man were so eager to build Principalities? The expense was beyond calculation, the timespan beyond any human patience save for that of the Judge of Ages himself. The Powers wish to show that the mankind can contribute to the project of Sophotransmogrification. The lure of whatever deep secrets of nature and sciences the aliens command, mysteries seen only speculations and cravings, make the Principalities and Powers as eager to engage in trade with Hyades as the Indians of Manhattan had been to sell their worthless island in return for duffel cloth, kettles and axe-heads of iron, implements like hoes and awls impossible for the Neolithic natives to make, novelties like Jews’ harps and looking glasses, trifles as fantastic to them as threading the moon on a necklace would have seemed. So to us are the few and quotidian wonders the Hyades may barter.”

Montrose was staring now at the dome overhead, now at the hemisphere underfoot. “There were only four sweeps predicted in the Monument message. Unless I ain’t reading your map aright, these stars are farther off a piece. And you mentioned a hundred lightyears. The Fourth Sweep was only supposed to reach to ninety-four. What gives?”

“These are worlds of men, new worlds! The names of the farthest earths are poetry to me, fitting shrines of the triumph of the human spirit! Perioecium is a world of war, for their dayside and nightside populations cannot coexist, and the terminator of their lands and seas migrates inexorably by fifteen degrees of longitude each thirty earthyears as one slow hour of their lingering day passes, over seven hundred twenty earthyears. Their living garments are their armor, for they are hybrids, a symbiosis of Myrmidon material to specially adapted skin cells. Feast of Stephen is a world of peace, and their only currency is concern for the poor. St. Agnes and St. Wenceslaus are her two vast moons, motionless in the sky, are remnants of the same shattered gas giant which formed Feast of Stephen. All three dance in a Klemperer rosette, forming an equilateral triangle about their common barycenter, with three small moons so nicely and evenly spaced between them, as to confirm some ancient nonhuman race of planetary engineers created the symmetry, but for what end, none know. Terra Pericolosa with its castles in the air and cities beneath the sea is peaceful as well, but only because the world itself is malign and fights the terraforming, and makes the land too dangerous for the batwinged fish-tailed men of that world. World of Willows and Flowers is a garden world of immortals, but plagued by anthropophagic blossoms, deadly ferns and lianas, poisonous willows, and malignant pines. Aerecura is a world tinged with copper. The pantropy here is unique, with larval humans living in mines as apprentices, who undergo metamorphosis to nocturnal quadrupeds as journeyman, and, if masterhood is earned, may transform to upright creatures able to live in daylight. Torment is notorious for the odd experiments played on the world-mind as she grew at the core. She defies the Patricians, and keeps many things alive dead on their home worlds, or long age ago. This is the farthest star of man, one hundred lightyears hence, and possesses the most powerful lighthouse in the Empyrean, and sends her star’s beam farther across the void than any other, a river of light bearing ships across the sea of darkness.”

Montrose raise an eyebrow. “None of these seem to have all your birds singing at the same time, or whatever that was.”

“When the Beast departed in the Sixty-Sixth Millennium, divisions and emissaries emitted by Achaiah starfared to several colonies and compelled deracination ships toward Vindemiatrix and the other outward stars, HR 6 in Phoenix, Gliese 1137 in Antlia, HIP 10301 in Eridanus; and then, a century later, Achaiah himself abducted continents and world-ships of helpless peoples from Arcturus and 44 Boötis to hurl them to exile at Kappa Coronae Borealis and Iota Draconis. Three of the earths of these six stars have reached Potentate level with inexplicable rapidity, and being so highly elevated and so far from the center of the Empyrean, even the Principalities have difficulty arranging their fates. In any case, the damage done by the Petty Sweep was less, but the pain was more, for being unexpected.”

Montrose said blankly, aghast, “Unexpected! And everything Rania and I have done since the beginning, all our work, was based on the hope that the aliens were controlled by the Monument notation. If they can deviate from it, we got no reason to believe Rania’s return will actually free us.”

“It is not the only unexpected event. Between the Sixty-Second and Sixty-Ninth Millennia, the Powers placed certain of the Cold Potentates, self-aware worlds of dark ice far from any sun, falling through the interstellar abyss at various points, were able to intercept and overhear the radio messages of the Principalities. This is how we know there was debate between the Principalities, a disagreement over the fate of the Empyrean once man was vindicated and accepted by the remote and alien stars as a full starfaring civilization.

“However, two of them, Lethe and Styx, fell into senility, and Cocytus bent the Principality communication beam and rode it to starfare slowly but steadily toward Luyten 726-8 in Cetus. He will arrive later this century. Cliometry utterly failed to predict these events. Radio traffic between the Powers and Principalities reached an unparalleled maximum when the cold potentates went mad and died, and, at peak, consumed fully one sixth the total energy output of the Empyrean. We assume discussing these or related matters.”

Montrose said, “Debating what?”

The giant said, “The Hyades know the procedure of manumission, even though humans do not, for their records reach back to the Cenomanian Age of the Cretaceous. The Swan Princess will carry with her the cliometric notation needed to adhere voluntarily to the architecture of destiny established for this arm of the galaxy, which is within the preview of the Authority at M3. Or so the echoes of re-echoed rumor, from Principality to Power to Potentate from whom our ship-angels of the Stability heard it. But Rania will and must also have the right and permission to alter the planned destiny according to local conditions and judgment; either she, or whatever epitome of mankind the alien recognize as speaking for us.”

“What do you want me to do?” Montrose said.

“Prevail upon her, your wife, your beloved, whose love for you, as yours for her, is legendary, and forms the spine of human evolution, the leitmotif of all mega-scale history!”

“Fine,” growled Montrose, impatiently. “So what do you want her to do?”

The giant spread both arms and gestured with his glowing wand, so that scores of little lights danced overhead and underfoot, throughout all the sphere of heaven, touching the stars and worlds of man.

“Free us.”


“Or do you not care what eventuates in the tales told of our lives, once your life’s tale has your happy ending for yourself?”




by John C Wright at February 27, 2015 10:40 PM

SMBlog -- Steve Bellovin's Blog

Packet Loss: How the Internet Enforces Speed Limits

There's been a lot of controversy over the FCC's new Network Neutrality rules. Apart from the really big issues--should there be such rules at all? Is reclassification the right way to accomplish it?--one particular point has caught the eye of network engineers everywhere: the statement that packet loss should be published as a performance metric, with the consequent implication that ISPs should strive to achieve as low a value as possible. That would be very bad thing to do. I'll give a brief, oversimplified explanation of why; Nicholas Weaver gives more technical details.

Let's consider a very simple case: a consumer on a phone trying to download an image-laden web page from a typical large site. There's a big speed mismatch: the site can send much faster than the consumer can receive. What will happen? The best way to see it is by analogy.

Imagine a multiline superhighway, with an exit ramp to a low-speed local road. A lot of cars want to use that exit, but of course it can't can't handle as many cars, nor can they drive as fast. Traffic will start building up on the ramp, until a cop sees it and doesn't let more cars try to exit until the backlog has cleared a bit.

Now imagine that every car is really a packet, and a car that can't get off at that exit because the ramp is full is a dropped packet. What should you do? You could try to build a longer exit ramp, one that will hold more cars, but that only postpones the problem. What's really necessary is a way to slow down the desired exit rate. Fortunately, on the Internet we can do that, but I have to stretch the analogy a bit further.

Let's now assume that every car is really delivering pizza to some house. When a driver misses the exit, the pizza shop eventually notices and sends out a replacement pizza, one that's nice and hot. That's more like the real Internet: web sites notice dropped packets, and retransmit them. You rarely suffer any ill effects from dropped packets, other than lower throughput. But there's a very important difference here between a smart Internet host and a pizza place: Internet hosts interpret dropped packets as a signal to slow down. That is, the more packets are dropped (or the more cars who are waved past the exit), the slower the new pizzas are sent. Eventually, the sender transmits at exactly the rate at which the exit ramp can handle the traffic. The sender may try to speed up on occasion. If the ramp can now handle the extra traffic, all is well; if not, there are more dropped packets and the sender slows down again. Trying for a zero drop rate simply leads to more congestion; it's not sustainable. Packet drops are the only way the Internet can match sender and receiver speeds.

The reality on the Internet is far more complex, of course. I'll mention only aspects of it; let it suffice to say that congestion on the net is in many ways worse than a traffic jam. First, you can get this sort of congestion at every "interchange". Second, it's not just your pizzas that are slowed down, it's all of the other "deliveries" as well.

How serious is this? The Internet was almost stillborn because this problem was not understood until the late 1980s. The network was dying of "congestion collapse" until Van Jacobson and his colleagues realized what was happening and showed how packet drops would solve the problem. It's that simple and that important, which is why I'm putting it in bold italics: without using packet drops for speed matching, the Internet wouldn't work at all, for anyone.

Measuring packet drops isn't a bad idea. Using the rate, in isolation, as a net neutrality metric is not just a bad idea, it's truly horrific. It would cause exactly the problem that the new rules are intended to solve: low throughput at inter-ISP connections.

February 27, 2015 10:21 PM

Bible Design Blog

Why You Need More than One Bible: A Guest Post

Way back when, I was pretty much a lone voice when it came to writing about the design and manufacture of quality Bibles. It’s not like that anymore, and hasn’t been for awhile. Against all my expectations, an ever-expanding network of enthusiasts has grown around Bible Design Blog. There are other blogs, there are online discussion groups — in short, a community was born. Now I’d like to showcase some of the voices of that community.

One way I’m going to do this is by inviting people whose work I’ve admired to contribute guest posts to Bible Design Blog. Today I’m sharing the first one, a thoughtful feature by Randy Brown, creator of I think you’ll enjoy what Randy has to say.


Why You Need More than One Bible


Starting with One

Like Mark, I’ve spent a lot of time and research trying to find that ‘One Bible.’ The Bible I could do everything with. It would be the Bible I read from, carried with me, studied from, studied in, taught from, and preached from. I searched for a long time for this one Bible and now I don’t believe it exists.

I found many Bibles that had features I liked, but I never found a Bible that had all the features I wanted. If I liked the font for reading, it was either too large to carry or had nothing else in it. If it had everything in it I wanted, the font had to be small to make it all fit.


This is the problem of the “Jack of all trades” Bible. A Bible that tries to fill every purpose and do everything doesn’t really do any one of them well. What’s a better solution? Use more than one Bible. Figure out how many different ways you use a Bible – what all of your different needs are – and use the best Bible you can for each purpose.

How many Bibles you need depends on how you use your Bible. I will use myself as an example and show how I use my Bible. This will determine what my needs are, how big or small it needs to be, how large of a font I need, and what tools I need it to supply.

Here’s what I use my Bibles for:

  • Read
  • Study
  • Mark
  • Carry
  • Teach
  • Preach

Let’s take a closer look at each of these uses.

One for Reading

When I’m doing my everyday reading I like to use a comfortable font. Sometimes I read my Bible at my desk or at the table. In this case, the size of the Bible doesn’t really matter. Most of the time though, I like to lay the Bible on my lap and read from my favorite chair. Sometimes a little kitten wants my lap. And of course its little kitten friend also wants my lap. And then the kitten’s momma. The next thing I know I have a kitten on my shoulder, one on my lap, and the momma cat laying like a baby across one arm (okay, I’ll admit she’s spoiled a little). Now I need to hold the Bible in one hand while I read.


NB: The photo above was Randy’s idea of how to illustrate the point, but I told him we needed a photo of him sitting in the chair covered in cats. Guess what? He agreed! See below. — JMB


Remarkable powers of concentration.


That’s not a Study Bible. It might not even be a Bible with large print. It’s definitely not a large Bible. Also, I don’t need extra information distracting me and trying to tell me what to think about a passage. I just want to read. This Bible might not even need references or a concordance. Or verse numbers for that matter.

So I need a Bible just for reading, with a nice enough font and no distractions. This most likely won’t be the Bible I use for sermon prep or for preaching from, and I might not carry it with me.

One to Study In

I like marking in my Bibles. Wide Margin and Journaling Bibles are great for this. It’s a way of inductively studying God’s Word. It also helps me find things quickly as I’m scanning the page. I like making chain references and writing definitions. A Bible that I’ve written all of my notes in isn’t a good choice for reading. I like to read a Bible unhindered – without any distractions. I need one that I can write in and mark up and it won’t be my reading Bible. This could be the Bible I preach from, but it’s probably not the Bible I do my daily reading from.


One to Study From

For study I like Bibles that make life easier without giving me the answers (or their version of the answers). To me a good Study Bible is a Bible that gives you good tools to do your own study. This usually means Bibles with charts, topical lists, word studies, etc. — the Longprimer, Thompson Chain Reference, and Hebrew Greek Keyword Study Bible are a few good examples. They’re not exhaustive, but they do have some good tools. Some of the tools don’t take up much space, but they can get quite extensive. For example, the Thompson Chain Reference has an archaeological supplement that takes many pages. I like to be able to go to a chart to quickly find any miracle or parable of Jesus. That’s good to have for study and sermon prep, but I don’t need to have that information with me when I’m out somewhere. I don’t need it when I’m holding my Bible in my hand for my daily reading.

The same can be said for Study Bibles with commentary. I love extras, but I don’t always need them with me. I especially enjoy archaeological facts. I enjoy using Bibles that are filled with archaeological information. Information about cultures, places, historic events, and facts about everything. I also like Hebrew and Greek word studies, topical lists, dictionaries, and maps. They can’t really replace the tools you would use as your desk-reference material: commentaries, concordances, dictionaries, etc. They just provide some good basic info in one convenient volume. If I use a Study Bible for study and prep, I’m just as likely to use more than one.


The more I carried these features around with me the more I realized I didn’t need to have it with me. These things are great for study at home, but if I’m sitting in the pew, or standing behind the pulpit, the chances of me needing a full bio of Xerxes is, well . . . I don’t. Okay then, that means I don’t need to carry a study Bible. Those can stay at home.

One to Carry

I love reading the Bible in the car when I’m waiting for my wife and her mother to finish their shopping. (I love the reading part, not the waiting part.) I’ve tried every type of Bible I own — well, except for a gigantic loose leaf from Hendrickson. That one won’t fit in the front seat. I find that the personal size or smaller is perfect for front-seat, behind the wheel reading.

Phones and tablets are convenient for this, but I like my Bible to look like a Bible. I want others to see that this book is still being read. This has sparked many conversations in parking lots that never would have happened if I was holding a phone. I also don’t want to worry about a battery. I’ve left home thinking I could just use my fully charged phone to read from only to find that some app was draining power so fast that it wasn’t usable by the time I got there. Now I take a printed Bible.


If I’m just reading, then I only need a good text that’s comfortable to read and hold. Every now and then someone will ask a question that I need to look at the verse to answer. If this happens I might need a good concordance, a topical index, harmony of the Gospels, charts of parables, and so on. I decided I wasn’t going to carry these tools for ‘just in case’ when I can look up anything I need to on my phone (fully charged with no apps running in the background, of course). If I did want these tools I would use a hand-sized Bible like a Cameo, Brevier Clarendon, Clarion, or similar. This Bible needs to be easy to carry and read. Basic tools are fine, but not necessary.

Sometimes I don’t feel comfortable carrying an expensive Bible. Sometimes I like to have a ‘beater’ that I can throw around and not worry about what happens to it.

One to Preach From

Every preacher is different. My preferences might be completely different from yours. I know they’re different from Mark’s — the present-day writer, not the Gospel writer. (I’ve read somewhere that they’re not related, but I haven’t confirmed that myself). I prefer to preach from a verse-by-verse format with columns that are not too wide. Why? I wear bifocals and if the columns are too wide, the edge of the column is out of focus and it’s hard to read without moving to the side a little (very minor complaint, but still). Single column paragraphs can be too wide for me. Also, if I’m reading at an angle I tend to not know which line to start on when I get back to the start of the next line.

Verse numbers can be difficult to find and I spend an extra second or five looking (an extra pause can be a good thing, though). I like to place my finger on the verse where I’m stopping. If I have trouble finding the reference that can be difficult. This is partly my inexperience with paragraph format behind the pulpit. It’s also partly that I’m always using a different Bible, which keeps me from having any kind of location muscle memory. I’ll settle on one soon, though. Then I’ll remember where all of the verses are. I keep telling myself that. With that said, I love paragraph format for reading. The text flows much better. So, I like having at least one of each format.

Having commentary, study tools, maps, and character bios is nice for personal study, but I don’t need them behind the pulpit. The Bible I prepared my message in will most likely be a different Bible than the one I’m preaching it from. For sermon prep I need tools, but for preaching I don’t want any distractions.

One to Teach From

For teaching I might actually use a Bible with distractions in it. I might want chain references, word studies, maps, character studies, etc., to help me bring out a point in more detail. I might teach from a Study Bible, or the Bible I write my notes in. I might read a quote from a note or an article. I might teach directly from a chart. If I decide to use a Study Bible to teach from, I’m just as likely to use more than one. Although, I might only use one at a time. This might be the Bible I study from, but it isn’t the Bible I read from, carry, or preach from.

Electronic Bibles

It would seem then that an electronic Bible would solve all of these problems. You can use a tablet or a smartphone that’s easy to hold in one hand. You can have as many translations as you want. You can make the font any size and style you want. You can add your own notes and choose to see them or not, you can color-code, underline, highlight, etc., and turn them on and off as you want to.

While an electronic Bible would solve these problems they also bring with them other problems of their own. The first being the most obvious: battery life. I’ve charged my phone and left the house without taking a Bible with me because, “I’ve got my phone. I’ll just use that.” Only to find that by the time I got to where I was going my battery was dead because of an app running in the background.

Then there’s the distraction this causes to others. People look at you and wonder, “what’s he doing?” I like it to be obvious that I’m holding a Bible. This alone is a witness to others.

I love being able to carry 50 study Bibles in my pocket; I just don’t want that to be the only format I have with me. I love electronic Bibles and I use them, but they will never replace my paper bound Bible. I don’t choose one or the other — I choose both.

For on the go I like using a good basic Bible without all the extras and then use my phone if I need that bio of Xerxes.


Perhaps the best reason that anyone would need more than one Bible is so they have access to more than one translation. My church uses the KJV as our primary Bible. I love the translation. It’s beautiful to read and it sounds right to me. However, when I’m teaching or preaching I sometimes like to bring in other translations just to add clarity. Old English isn’t as easy to understand as modern English (well, most modern English).

Even for personal study, looking up a verse or passage in a different translation is a great way to get clarity. I like to have one primary translation, and then one or two supporting, and reputable, translations to add variety.

No translation is perfect as words can have a range of meanings. To make things worse, words can change meaning over time. Multiple translations can help clarify passages of Scripture and help you see a verse in a different way. There is also the point of manuscript variance. It isn’t usually a doctrinal issue, but there are variants and having a translation based on a different manuscript can be helpful in understanding these variants. It also helps to know what others are reading.

From One to Many

I started out looking for one Bible to rule them all and quickly had to use more than one because no one Bible fits every purpose. There are many different needs and it is sometimes best to have a specific Bible to fit a specific need. Having to use more than one Bible to meet these needs is not a burden. There is true virtue in using more than one Bible – whether it be size, features, tools, translation, a look and feel that melts in your hands and calls you to it, or one that you can use anywhere without worrying what happens to it.

I need one for reading, one to study in, one to study from, one to carry, one to preach from, one to teach from, and another translation to support all of these uses. Some of these uses can be combined. My daily reader can be my carry Bible. I can use the same Bible for sermon prep and marking. I can use the same Bible for study that I use for teaching. I’ve preached from all of them, but I prefer to preach from a large print Bible with no distractions other than what I’ve written myself.

That can be a lot of Bibles to buy and keep up with, but each one would suit its purpose better than any other. Sure, I could simply pick a Longprimer, Concord, or Westminster and be satisfied. After all, those are amazing Bibles. However, in our world of choices, and for all of those vastly different uses for a Bible, it’s a good investment to own and use more than one instead trying to find that one Bible that I could settle for that would do many things but none of them well.

About Randy

Today’s guest post is by Randy Brown, creator of Randy reviews Bibles in all price ranges to help people make the best choice for their budget. His mission is to promote Bible reading and study, and to share quality publishing.

Message from Randy: I’d like to give a special thank-you to Mark for allowing me to guest post on Bible Design Blog. It is truly an honor. Thanks Mark!

Your Turn

How about you? Have you been able to find that one Bible that does everything you need it to? Do you use more than one?

The post Why You Need More than One Bible: A Guest Post appeared first on Bible Design Blog.

by J. Mark Bertrand at February 27, 2015 10:10 PM

Front Porch Republic

Building Houses on Sandy Ground


In the summer of 2004, I packed all of my worldly belongings into a small U-Haul trailer and made the trek from Central Texas to the Florida Panhandle. I was going to begin a two-year clerkship with a federal judge…

Read Full Article...

The post Building Houses on Sandy Ground appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Josiah Neeley at February 27, 2015 09:21 PM

CrossFit 204: Fitness in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Workout: March 1, 2015

A few of the old-school garage crew from 2010.

A few of the old-school garage crew from 2010.

Back squat 3-3-3

Every minute for 7 sets:

8 kettlebell swings (55/35 lb.)

8 front-rack lunges

Skills Session

3 rounds of:

10 chest-to-bar pull-ups

10 front squats (95/65)

Rest 2 minutes

3 rounds of:

15 push-ups

30 double-unders

by Mike at February 27, 2015 09:04 PM

Workout: Feb. 28, 2015

The farmer carry: squeeze and walk. No stopping.

The farmer carry: squeeze and walk. No stopping.

Partner workout at 4-minute stations.

2 rounds of:

Station 1 (4 minutes): Row for calories

Station 2 (4 minutes): 1 rope climb/5 ring rows + 100-foot sled push

Station 3 (4 minutes): 5 handstand push-ups/5 push-ups + 100-foot farmer carry

1-minute transitions between rounds

by Mike at February 27, 2015 08:58 PM

Sealed Abstract

Google, Our Patron Saint of the Closed Web

Lately there’s been a barrage of articles about how Apple is destroying the open web (because “app store, lol”) and it is Time Something Was Done About This: Apple’s paranoid approach to developer relations, and, I assume, relations with other browser vendors (and, in fact, relations to anything outside itself) is becoming a serious liability […]

by Drew Crawford at February 27, 2015 07:49 PM

Justin Taylor

The Two Guys to Blame for the Myth of Constant Warfare between Religion and Science

Ronald Numbers, an Agnostic scholar who is one of the leading historians on the relationship of science and religion, writes:

The greatest myth in the history of science and religion holds that they have been in a state of constant conflict.

Timothy Larsen, a Christian historian who specializes in the nineteenth century, notes:

The so-called “war” between faith and learning, specifically between orthodox Christian theology and science, was manufactured during the second half of the nineteenth century. It is a construct that was created for polemical purposes.

No one deserves more blame for this stubborn myth than these two men:

  • Andrew Dickson White (1832-1918), the founding president of Cornell University, and
  • John William Draper (1811-1882), professor of chemistry at the University of New York.

AD_White_1865In December of 1869, Andrew White—the young and beleaguered Cornell president—delivered a lecture at Cooper Union in New York City entitled ”The Battle-Fields of Science.” He melodramatically painted a picture of a longstanding warfare between religion and science:

I propose, then, to present to you this evening an outline of the great sacred struggle for the liberty of Science—a struggle which has been going on for so many centuries. A tough contest this has been! A war continued longer—with battles fiercer, with sieges more persistent, with strategy more vigorous than in any of the comparatively petty warfares of Alexander, or Caesar, or Napoleon . . . In all modern history, interference with Science in the supposed interest of religion—no matter how conscientious such interference may have been—has resulted in the direst evils both to Religion and Science, and invariably.

His lecture was published in book form seven years later as The Warfare of Science (1876).

John_William_DraperIn 1874, Professor Draper published his History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1874). His thesis was as follows:

The antagonism we thus witness between Religion and Science is the continuation of a struggle that commenced when Christianity began to attain political power. . . . The history of Science is not a mere record of isolated discoveries; it is a narrative of the conflict of two contending powers, the expansive force of the human intellect on one side, and the compression arising from traditionary faith and human interests on the other.

Draper’s work was enormously popular, going through 50 editions in the next half century.

Larsen writes:

Draper and White were not simply describing an ongoing war between theology and science, but rather they were endeavoring to induce people into imagining that there was one. In order to do this, they repeatedly made false claims that the church had opposed various scientific breakthroughs and developments.

Here are a couple of urban legends that Draper and White perpetuated:

  1. The church believed for centuries that the earth is flat.
  2. The church opposed the use of anesthetics in childbirth since Genesis promised that childbirth would be painful.

On the first myth, Lesley B. Cormack, chair of the Department of History and Classics at the University of Alberta, writes that

there is virtually no historical evidence to support the myth of a medieval flat earth. Christian clerics neither suppressed the truth nor stifled debate on the subject.

On the second myth, Larsen responds:

No church has ever pronounced against anesthetics in childbirth. Moreover, there was no vocal group of ministers who opposed it. In fact, the inventor of chloroform received fan mail from ministers of the major denominations thanking him for helping to alleviate the suffering of women in labor. Rather, the opposition to anesthetics during childbirth came from medical professionals, not from ministers, and for scientific, not religious, reasons.

And on the legends go. (For treatment of these and other myths, see Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion, ed. Ronald L. Numbers).

So why exactly did men like Dickson and Draper—along with English biologist T. H. Huxley, who championed Darwinism and coined the term “agnostic”—manufacture these historical myths and this overall legend of perpetual conflict?

In the mid-nineteenth century there was no separate profession of science. Manufacturing a “war” between science and religion was part of their professionalization campaign. Larsen explains:

The purpose of the war was to discredit clergymen as suitable figures to undertake scientific work in order that the new breed of professionals would have an opportunity to fill in the gap for such work created by eliminating the current men of science. It was thus tendentiously asserted that the religious convictions of clergymen disqualified them from pursuing their scientific inquiries objectively.

More to the point, however, was the fact that clergymen were undertaking this work for the sheer love of science and thus hindering the expectation that it would be done for money by paid full-time scientists. Clergymen were branded amateurs in order to facilitate the creation of a new category of professionals.

Dickson and Draper won this debate, even if it was at the cost of truth itself.

The myth continues today, but it can be overturned as we study the history behind how the legend developed.

Sources Cited / For Further Reading

by Justin Taylor at February 27, 2015 07:38 PM

512 Pixels

Live long and prosper →

Leonard Nimoy passed away today at 83. His last tweet was beautiful.


by Stephen Hackett at February 27, 2015 07:05 PM

Englewood Christian Church: We Blog! » ERB

ERB Weekly Digest: N.T. Wright, Stanley Hauerwas, Rich Mullins – February 27, 2015


Connect with our sister site Thrifty Christian Reader,
for all the latest ebook deals!

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

  • N.T. Wright – Simply Good News [Feature Review]
    The Question of Good News A Feature Review of Simply Good News: Why the Gospel is News and What Makes It Good N.T. Wright Hardback: HarperOne, 2015 Buy now: [ ] [ ] Reviewed by Maria Drews   When it comes to the gospel, things have gotten confusing. I have heard the gospel of faith […]

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

  • John Howard Yoder – Yoder for Everyone [Review]
    Learning to Live with Others A Review of Two Recent Books by John Howard Yoder: Revolutionary Christian Citizenship Paperback: Herald Press, 2013. Buy now: [ ]   Real Christian Fellowship Paperback: Herald Press, 2014 Buy now: [ ] Reviewed by Justin Bronson Barringer   A friend once told me he loved reading John Howard Yoder’s […]

  • Stanley Hauerwas – Without Apology [Review]
    Preaching after Christendom   A Review of Without Apology: Sermons for Christ’s Church Stanley Hauerwas Paperback: Seabury, 2013 Buy now: [ ] [ ]   Reviewed by Joseph Krall     Submitting a late review of an untimely book, this reviewer offers his apologies to the readers of the Englewood Review. The untimeliness of Stanley […]

  • George Herbert – 5 Poems
    Today (Feb. 27) is the Feast Day of George Herbert in the Anglican Church… Here are a few of our favorite poems of his:   Life George Herbert I made a posy, while the day ran by: “Here will I smell my remnant out, and tie My life within this band.” But Time did beckon […]

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

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by csmith at February 27, 2015 04:50 PM

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

The Needs of Drama and the Needs of Culture

The eternal war between Vesta and the Muses:

My beautiful and talented wife pens a column which identifies a clear and simple idea absolutely crucial to be understood before any discussion of the merit of a work begin:

It takes a superb writer to make the process of painting a landscape interesting to an outsider. It only takes a writer of ordinary skill to bring excitement to a chase scene with a thief and the Company assassin on ski mobiles in the midst of the Winter Olympics.

… We would like to teach our children to be peaceful and chaste, but violence and sex sell. They draw readers. But this does not keep those who would be the guardians of culture for criticizing our entertainment for the places where it falls short of the demands of culture.

So What Are These Needs of Culture?

What are the values those favoring improving the culture wish to put across? Currently, they fall into two categories: traditional cultural values and modern cultural values.

Traditional culture covers the kind of thing listed in the Ten Commandments or the Boy Scout’s Law. It wants people to be honest, upright, brave, clean, etc. The needs of traditional culture require that good guys be upright, bad guys always get their comeuppance, and that the line between the two remain crisply defined.

Modern culture, too, has needs, things it wants drama to portray as good and to encourage in its audience. This desire is so prevalent in our society that it has its own name: Political Correctness. Races must get along. All people, regardless of rank or birth, must be treated as equals. The old taboos are to be laid to rest, no one needs them any more. Nobility and grandeur are to be sneered at, and women must be the equal of men—or better.

What About The Needs of Drama?

The needs of drama are quite different from those of culture. They are ruled by the desire to entertain. Whatever enthralls the audience most, that is what drama requires.

Unfortunately for those who would use stories to teach cultural mores, what makes a story entertaining is often directly at odds with what is good or virtuous or politically correct.

Drama is about conflict. It is about breaking taboos, the more shocking the better! Thieves, prostitutes, gamblers, alcoholics, adulterers – all the things that traditional culture does not wish to glamorize make for entrancing drama. But it is not just traditional culture that get trampled. Bigots, class struggles, and inequality among the sexes also makes for excellent storytelling!

Are the people who fear the effect of drama on society starting at shadows?

by John C Wright at February 27, 2015 04:20 PM

The Brooks Review

Designing for the Apple Watch with Briefs

Rob Rhyne on our latest version of Briefs:

Briefs is more than a way to mirror your designs on an iOS device. It’s about testing tap targets and observing finger shadows while you’re interacting with the device. None of us, outside of Apple, know what it’s like to use the Apple Watch, but we believe Briefs 1.3 will bring you much closer to knowing if your design will work.

Briefs was one of the first projects I started working on at MartianCraft and it’s a hell of a product. This new beta is chocked full of goodies and the Apple Watch stuff is fantastic. Even if you don’t want to create an Apple Watch brief, it’s worth checking out this post to see the cool ‘fake’ app Rob created.

Man, I want a working version of that app.

by Ben Brooks at February 27, 2015 04:13 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

The Controversial Status of a ‘Canonical’ Approach to Biblical Interpretation — An Excerpt from “Canon and Biblical Interpretation”

9780310523291Canon and Biblical Interpretation is a masterful examination of the canonical approach to interpreting Scripture, and the various criticisms that have been leveled against it.

Chapters look at canonical interpretation in relation to different parts of the Bible, such as the Pentateuch, the Wisdom books, the Psalms, and the Gospels. Articles address such issues as canonical authority and the controversial relationship between canonical interpretation and general hermeneutics.

Our excerpt today introduces the scope, premise, and unique positioning of the book in addressing the apparently controversial subject matter of interpreting Scripture canonically. As the opening pages explain, “Suspicions concerning the validity of a ‘canonical’ approach to the biblical writings have been expressed on both phenomenological and theological (or anti-theological) grounds.”

Read the excerpt and explore the book yourself to understand the current state of canonical interpretation and the starting point for interpreting the Bible today.

Arguably the disintegration of an emphasis upon the unity of the biblical writings, initially witnessed by widespread disenchantment with the so-called biblical theology movement, gathered momentum first by the concurrent rise of redaction criticism and then more recently from the impact of a postmodern cast of mind and an emphasis upon diversity among communities of faith and within academia. Fragmentation and suspicion of ‘grand narrative’ are hallmarks of postmodern thought.

At one level theological interpretation and theological construction become impossible without some notion of biblical canon as serving ‘to mark out the circumference of acceptable diversity’. In the early centuries of the Christian church Irenaeus argued that if the church were to accept Marcion’s expulsion of the Old Testament from the Christian Scriptures, the church would lose the frame of reference within which the New Testament was to be interpreted, and the coherence of the biblical witness to Christ would be disrupted.

Paul the Apostle likewise sees the Scriptures of the Old Testament as the frame of reference within which the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are to be understood in accordance with the pre-Pauline tradition that he cites (1 Cor. 15:1–3). According to Luke, Jesus also affirms a two-way hermeneutical interaction in which the Old Testament interprets his work, and his work provides an understanding of the Old Testament (Lk. 24:27 and 43). Ulrich Luz rightly observes, ‘For Paul, the Old Testament is not in the first place something to understand, but itself creates understanding.’

All the same, those who bring to the issue more pluralist, phenomenological, or postmodernist perspectives, as well as some more traditional biblical specialists may well respond to our quotation above from James Dunn with the question: to whom is the boundary of diversity that marked out the canon ‘acceptable’? Is not this supposed boundary an artificial construct imposed by the Christian church (or its dominant theologians) of the third or fourth century? Does not the insistence of Irenaeus, for example, on working with the four Gospels as a canonical unity reduce and flatten down the distinctive witness and tradition of each evangelist as representative of a particular tradition into a monochrome ‘harmony’ of the Gospels?

Suspicions concerning the validity of a ‘canonical’ approach to the biblical writings have been expressed on both phenomenological and theological (or anti-theological) grounds. Thus, in terms of the first point, James Barr declares, ‘In biblical times the books [of the Bible] were separate individual scrolls. A ‘Bible’ was not a volume one could hold in the hand, but a cupboard…with a lot of individual scrolls. The boundary [of ]…what was Scripture…was thus more difficult to indicate.’

In relation to the second area of contention, some will remain unmoved by the implicit arguments of Irenaeus and Tertullian that theological construction necessitates reference to the whole potential ‘canon’ of Scripture rather than only to selected biblical texts. Robert Gundry’s essay of 2005 is among the most recent to argue that theological construction does necessitate recourse to the variety and diversity of the canon. He argues, for example, that a Christology based on Mark alone would be of a different shape from one based only on the Fourth Gospel or only on Paul. By contrast Heikki Räisänen insists that ‘recognition by biblical scholarship of the wide diversity of beliefs within the New Testament itself ’ renders ways of using the Bible for theological construction or synthesis ‘unviable’. ‘The New Testament has turned out to be filled with theological contradictions.’  Räisänen goes further and writes in a dismissive tone: ‘Conservative theologians have stressed the alleged theological unity of the two Testaments and striven towards a canonical, pan-biblical, theology (Childs 1992: Stuhlmacher 1992).’ Pressing professional courtesy to the limits he states that this ‘runs counter to the rules of sound scholarship’.

This amounts to a declaration of war upon the canonical approach, and invites critical scrutiny of this allusion to ‘rules’ of sound scholarship. In the history of modern discussions of canon, Brevard Childs notes in his chapter below that in his essay of 1950 to the World Council of Churches Ernst Käsemann asserted that the canon served not as a source of unity, but as a source of disunity. Childs also alludes to an increasing tendency to follow Harnack, Sundberg, and Gamble on seeing the formation of the New Testament canon as the product of contingent historical factors deriving from outside the church in the second and third centuries, as against the view of Westcott, Metzger, and others that the canon constituted a recognition of the impact and nature of Scripture through internal processes and judgements within the Christian church.

While most biblical and hermeneutical specialists will endorse the importance of the subject-areas of the first six volumes of this Scripture and Hermeneutics series, this seventh volume carries a title that provokes controversy, even hostility, in some circles.

Canon and Biblical Interpretation

Edited By Craig Bartholomew, Scott Hahn, Robin Parry, Christopher Seitz, Al Wolters

Order it Today:
Barnes & Noble
Buy Direct from Zondervan

by Jeremy Bouma at February 27, 2015 02:39 PM

Crossway Blog

Why Your Job Matters

Calling, Not Choice

What is my vocation? How do I find one? Or, as the self-help books put it, how do I find the vocation that is right for me?

Today children are asked, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” as soon as they can talk. College students are pressured into declaring a major on their application forms. Advice from books and consultants about choosing a career, going after that perfect job, and “vocational development” has become a big business in itself.

The Christian doctrine of vocation approaches these issues in a completely different way. Instead of “what job shall I choose?” the question becomes “what is God calling me to do?” Our vocation is not something we choose for ourselves. It is something to which we are called.

More Than Just A Job

Our vocation is not one single occupation. As has been said, we have callings in different realms—the workplace, yes, but also the family, the society, and the church. Someone who is retired may no longer be in the workplace, but he may still pursue his callings as a grandfather, a concerned citizen, and perhaps as an elder in his church. Some people find their callings in spheres other than the workplace—a woman who refuses a job so she can devote herself to her children; the independently wealthy man who does not need to work, so he devotes himself as a citizen to philanthropy; the elderly shut-in who devotes her energy, as a Christian, to prayer.

Furthermore, a person may hold multiple vocations within each type of vocation. In the family, a woman may have a calling to be a wife, which is a task in itself, but she may also have a calling to be a mother, a vocation that involves different tasks in a different kind of relationship. She may also be a daughter to her mother, a vocation that does not end with adulthood, but only when that parent dies. She might become a grandmother to her daughter’s children. Then there is her relationship with her brothers and sisters, the whole extended family. These are all holy callings and gifts of God.

Masters and Servants

In the workplace, a mid-level executive or a shop foreman might be a “master” to those he is supervising. At the very same time, he may be a “servant” to his supervisor. Both of these relationships entail different duties and kinds of service. Even the C.E.O. of the company, the top boss, the “master” of all of his employees, very likely is also a “servant” to the Board of Directors or the stockholders.

In the social order of government, a civil official may exercise a great deal of authority, to which the rest of us citizens must submit. But then the official comes up for reelection, whereupon
he has to submit to us citizens. In a democratic republic, a citizen is not only a subject but the ultimate ruler.

Different church bodies have different polities, but usually a congregation offers a wide range of opportunities for service singing in the choir, handing out bulletins, maintaining the
property, serving on committees, teaching Sunday school—which seem so small, and yet which prove to be enormous blessings to the whole community.

Ch-ch Changes

Another aspect of our multiple vocations is that callings change. A young man working his way through college may get a job in a fast-food restaurant. For the time being, that’s his vocation, and he is to love and serve his customers and his shift manager by flipping hamburgers. If he is fortunate enough to be going to college, he also has the vocation of being a student, which has specific obligations of its own (study!). Eventually he may get that computer degree, and he may go into his lifework. That will be his vocation then. And if his company goes bankrupt, and he goes from vast wealth back to flipping burgers, he has a new vocation.

At every stage his calling is not something that will wait until he graduates, or even until he gets that big promotion. Vocation is in the here and now. And whatever our vocation is, and in the very way it changes—whether the course of one’s lifework goes from poverty to wealth or wealth to poverty—our callings are not completely under our control; rather, they come from the Lord’s hand.

God Doesn’t Play by Our Rules

Though the world has its ways, its status games and career ladders, with good jobs and bad jobs, great wealth and the minimum wage, to the Lord all vocations are equal in status. The person blessed with wealth dare not feel superior to others or look down upon those who have less. The exalted have their own responsibilities and unique capacities for love and service to their neighbors. Those with less have their own honor from God. And sometimes He delights to have them trade places.

This excerpt was adapted from God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life by Gene Edward Veith.

Gene Edward Veith Jr. (PhD, University of Kansas) is provost and professor of literature at Patrick Henry College and the director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary. He has been a columnist for World magazine and TableTalk, and is the author of a number of noted books on Christianity and culture, including God at Work.

by Matt Tully at February 27, 2015 02:18 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Giveaway: Qatar Airways First Class Amenity Kit

Every Friday is giveaway day. Comment to win!

Giveaway: Qatar Airways First Class Amenity Kit

This week we’re giving away a luxurious amenity kit from my one of my favorite airlines.

What you need to know:

  • This kit comes with Armani moisturizer, lip balm, sleep mask (good for napping on the road AND at home), fancy floss, and cozy black socks
  • Okay, technically this is a men’s kit—but ladies, you can win too! It’s a super snazzy kit for anyone
  • The Giorgio Armani travel case is handy
  • This giveaway is available to readers worldwide. Anyone can win!
  • Our cats and biased judges will pick someone on Sunday night at 6pm PST

Enter this week’s giveaway by posting a comment. Check back Sunday night when we announce the winner!


Update: Comments are now closed. Congrats to Cory, winner of the First Class Amenity Kit through cat proxy participation in our Cat Obstacle Course race! Everyone else, thanks for entering. We’ll have another giveaway soon.

by Chris Guillebeau at February 27, 2015 01:00 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Trying on common goals

I’ve been thinking a lot about goals lately, thanks to a few discussions with friends. I don’t feel particularly driven by big, hairy, audacious goals (BHAGs). Instead, I focus on small wins and low-hanging fruit, accumulating progress. I don’t have a clear picture of exactly where I’d like to be in 40 years. Instead, I have a multiplicity of posibilities.

But maybe I’m not a special snowflake, and I can learn from the kinds of goals many people have. It’s fun to put on a different hat and try things out. By trying on common goals instead of rejecting them off-hand, maybe I’ll figure out more about what I really want and how to get there.

2015-01-21 What if I tried on common goals -- index card #popular-goals

2015-01-21 What if I tried on common goals – index card #popular-goals

Aristotle says that happiness is the ultimate goal.

2015-01-21 Playing with popular goals - Happiness -- index card #popular-goals

2015-01-21 Playing with popular goals – Happiness – index card #popular-goals

I find it helpful to think of happiness as a response to life instead of as an external state to pursue, so this goal feels a little odd to me. But it’s interesting to imagine a happy 90-year-old Sacha and what that life would be like. I think it involves building specific warm-and-fuzzy memories, maintaining a good perspective, and minimizing stressors.

Let’s take a look at other typical goals: wealth, power, fame, and knowledge/experiences.

2015-01-21 Popular goals - Wealth -- index card #popular-goals

2015-01-21 Popular goals – Wealth – index card #popular-goals

This might be the easiest of goals to desire, since it’s popular and measurable. Based on my reading, I imagine that conspicuous wealth will bring more problems than I’d like, so I don’t aspire to high-flying lifestyles. I value freedom, so it makes sense to have a financial buffer and to avoid becoming too accustomed to luxuries. That increases my security, which allows me to do more experiments. (I’m already privileged as it is!) Tools can be good investments, and it’s great to be able to strategically use money to make a bigger difference. Money also makes decisions easier: instead of worrying about cutting into your safety margin, you can try things out and see what happens.

2015-01-21 Popular goals - Power -- index card #popular-goals

2015-01-21 Popular goals – Power – index card #popular-goals

Power includes determining your life and influencing other people’s lives. I definitely care about having power over myself, but I’m not driven by the idea of making big decisions that affect thousands of people’s lives.

2015-01-21 Popular goals - Fame -- index card #popular-goals

2015-01-21 Popular goals – Fame – index card #popular-goals

I think I care more about depth of connection (tribe) than about breadth of fame (celebrity). I’m not sure about legacy. On one hand, it’s good to do things that are remarkable enough to help or inspire people throughout the years. On the other hand, what do we do that will matter after a century, and how can we get things to even be remembered for that long? I’ll think about this a little more while reading history. What makes essays resonate with me even after all that time, and how can I also reach across the years?

2015-01-21 Popular goals - Knowledge or experience -- index card #popular-goals

2015-01-21 Popular goals – Knowledge or experience – index card #popular-goals

I like the goal of learning more so that I can appreciate life better, maintain my independence, contribute meaningfully, and make better decisions.

I focus more on knowledge in the sketch above, but I think the popular approach to this goal is to focus on experiences. Bucket lists are practically all about experiences: seeing this country, climbing that mountain. That’s why travel is so big, I guess. What kinds of experiences would I like to have if I were to travel more?

2015-01-24 Thinking about collecting experiences -- index card #goals #experiences

2015-01-24 Thinking about collecting experiences – index card #goals #experiences

I currently don’t like traveling, but it’ll probably be less of a hassle now that I’ve gotten my Canadian passport sorted out.

2015-01-23 What would help me enjoy travel -- index card

2015-01-23 What would help me enjoy travel – index card

Still, with J- in school and three cats at home, it’s hard to plan. Maybe this will be something for later.

2015-01-25 On the other hand - travel -- index card #travel #learning #cooking

2015-01-25 On the other hand – travel – index card #travel #learning #cooking

Besides, I’m not totally convinced that travel is the best way to learn these things. It was fun being immersed in a language and going to local shops. But traveling to learn more about cooking seems a little wasteful, since airfare alone will buy lots of ingredients (and even personalized cooking classes). Staying home means I focus on cooking dishes I can enjoy long-term, and I can take advantage of our kitchen setup. So there’s an advantage to staying home, too.

What about other intrinsic goals?

2015-01-21 Popular goals - Health -- index card #popular-goals

2015-01-21 Popular goals – Health – index card #popular-goals

Health makes sense, since your enjoyment of many things can be curtailed by poor health. I probably won’t strive for buffed-up awesomeness, though. I’m mostly focusing on functioning all right, with maybe a little effort here and there to do a bit better.

2015-01-21 Popular goals - Meaning -- index card #popular-goals

2015-01-21 Popular goals – Meaning – index card #popular-goals

People want to make a difference at work and in their relationships. Many people feel that their work doesn’t matter a lot. Despite the abstraction of my work (I move bits around? I crunch numbers and questions? I write tools for a tiny, tiny fraction of the world?), I’m pretty good at convincing myself I have a small impact. =) Do I want to trade up by focusing on work that has a bigger impact (either for more people, or deeper in people’s lives? I don’t know yet.

2015-01-21 Popular goals - tranquility, equanimity -- index card #popular-goals

2015-01-21 Popular goals – Tranquility, equanimity – index card #popular-goals

I like this goal the most. Stoicism tells me that it’s the one thing under my control. It transforms the ups and downs of life into opportunities for growth. It doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy things, I just shouldn’t get so attached to them that I become afraid. It doesn’t mean that I can’t be sad, it means I can try to take a different perspective on things.

Hmm. Trying on popular goals helped me take advantage of the collective centuries (millennia?) of thought that have gone into those goals. I still have to come up with my own specifics, but it’s good to be able to quickly test what resonates with me instead of trying to formulate everything by myself. If tranquility, happiness, and knowledge are my major goals (with health as the goal I know I should have), I can focus on coming up with specific ways I want to explore those areas.

Do you resonate with some common goals? What are they, and what are you learning from that?

The post Trying on common goals appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at February 27, 2015 01:00 PM


trek73: The best part is the site that hosts it

I somehow escaped playing trek73 at any point over the past 40 years, because I think today was the first time I’d ever seen it.

It’s always possible I did glance past it at some point in the past, but it doesn’t look familiar, and if I have to remember a Star Trek-ish game from some time in the past, it’s more likely to be sst2k or just plain trek. trek73 doesn’t really ring any bells.

2015-02-25-6m47421-trek73-01 2015-02-25-6m47421-trek73-02 2015-02-25-6m47421-trek73-03

On the other hand, that does suggest I can approach it from a fairly neutral angle, and given my long-standing infuriation with games like Star Fleet Battles or my long-standing infatuation with games like the Star Trek arcade game, I think I am familiar enough with the genre to make an honest appraisal.

And my appraisal is … it stinks.

I’ll apologize up front if you’re a big trek73 fan, but the ncurses version I built from the source code is barely playable to me. I have no idea what the controls should be, and there seems to be a huge list of coded commands to pick from.

Which would not be an issue if there were onboard help, or even just a tip to let me know which commands were likely to do what. Even just the question mark for a list. But nobody is willing to clue me in, even if the entire cast of the original Star Trek series is more than happy to yell at me when I’ve got it wrong. Hey, screw you guys for not giving me a break. :evil:

Even further complicating things is the lack of line-editing keys, to include any sort of backspace key that I could find. Half my commands are polluted with ^D^D^G^C, so I guess it’s no wonder that they’re yelling back at me while the ship is pummeled by Orion Pirates. They probably think their leader is possessed by Evil Captain Kirk.

I will give it a begrudging point for looking good, and another begrudging point for obviously having a combat and gameplay system that seems to work. But that’s all. It will take me too long to figure out just how to quit for me to get too deep into it.

But before we go, I do feel obligated to mention that the site hosting trek73, in its multitudinous flavors, is probably the nicest, cleanest and most impressive tribute to a program I’ve ever seen. trek73 may stink like a skunk to me, but the host of that site (the only link I have, by the way; trek73 is not in Arch or Debian that I could find) has managed to fluff it up to look like a rose. I can respect that.

Now someone tell me the command code for the self-destruct sequence. >:(

Edit:, 1 p.m.: Wow, talk about bad timing. Just for the record, I set this post up two days ago, which you can see on the dates of the image links. I did not pick the day Leonard Nimoy dies as the day to flog a text-based Star Trek game. How insensitive would that be? :(

Tagged: game

by K.Mandla at February 27, 2015 01:00 PM

Roads from Emmaus

St. Raphael and Me: On the 100th Anniversary of His Repose

Fifteen years ago, in the month of May, I drove with two of my friends from Raleigh, North Carolina, to St. Tikhon’s Monastery in South Canaan, Pennsylvania, for the canonization services of a new saint. I knew almost nothing about him at the time. I had been an Orthodox Christian for only two years, I […]

The post St. Raphael and Me: On the 100th Anniversary of His Repose appeared first on Roads from Emmaus.

by Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick at February 27, 2015 12:50 PM

Justin Taylor

A Crash Course on an Influencer of Unbelief: Jean-Paul Sartre


This is the last entry in a series on some influential modern thinkers who influenced the world of unbelief. (For previous entries, see FreudMarx, MachiavelliNietzsche, and Kant.)

These are notes based on an essay by Peter Kreeft; Kreeft is the author of Socrates Meets Sartre: The Father of Philosophy Cross-Examines the Father of Existentialism (St. Augustine’s Press, 2012).

Who was Jean-Paul Sartre?

A French playwright, novelist, and existentialist philosopher.

How do you pronounce his name?

This French name is Anglicized in different ways, but probably the most common pronunciation is to say his first name like “ZAHN-Paul,” with the beginning as a soft “j” and the “ah” sound more through you nose, and then his last name like “SAR-truh,” though sometimes you’ll hear “Sart” as well.

When did he live?


What is his significance?

Jean-Paul Sartre may be the most famous atheist of the 20th century.

Why does he make atheists uncomfortable?

Sartre made atheism such a demanding, almost unendurable, experience that few can bear it.

Comfortable atheists who read him become uncomfortable atheists, and uncomfortable atheism is a giant step closer to God.

He wrote, “Existentialism is nothing else than an attempt to draw all the consequences of a coherent atheistic position.” For this we should be grateful to him.

Why did he call his philosophy “existentialism”?

His thesis was that “existence precedes essence.”

What does this mean?

It means that “man is nothing else than what he makes of himself.”

Since there is no God to design man, then man has no blueprint, no essence. His essence or nature comes not from God as Creator but from his own free choice.

Why does he think that human freedom and dignity require atheism?

If there were a God, man would be reduced to a mere artifact of God, and thus would not be free.

What is Sartre’s legitimate concern and insight here?

Human freedom is a legitimate concern, and it is a correct insight to note that freedom makes persons fundamentally different from mere things.

How did he get to atheism from this perspective?

  1. Sartre confuses freedom with independence.
  2. He can conceive of God only as one who would take away human freedom rather than creating and maintaining it—a sort of cosmic fascist.
  3. Sartre makes the adolescent mistake of equating freedom with rebellion.

What does Sartre think of freedom?

He says freedom is only “the freedom to say no.”

He thinks we compromise our freedom when we say yes (when we choose to affirm the values we’ve been taught by our parents, our society, or our Church). So for Sartre, freedom is very close to “doing your own thing,” or “looking out for No. 1.”

What does Sartre make of responsibility?

This is another concept he takes seriously but misuses. He thinks belief in God would necessarily compromise human responsibility, because we would then blame God rather than ourselves for what we are.

What’s wrong with this argument?

The fact of my responsibility no more disproves the existence of my heavenly Father than it disproves the existence of my earthly father.

What does Sartre think about evil and human perversity?

Sartre has a keen awareness of evil. He says, “We have learned to take Evil seriously. . . . Evil is not an appearance. . . . Knowing its causes does not dispel it. Evil cannot be redeemed.”

Why does he deny, then, that we can choose evil?

He says that (1) since there is no God and (2) since we therefore create our own values and laws, then (3) there really is no evil: “To choose to be this or that is to affirm at the same time the value of what we choose, because we can never choose evil.”

So Sartre gives both too much reality to evil (“Evil cannot be redeemed”) and too little (“We can never choose evil”).

What does Sartre mean when he says that God not only is non-existent but impossible?

He calls the biblical notion of God as “I Am” the most self-contradictory idea ever imagined—“the impossible synthesis” of being-for-itself (subjective personality, the “I”) with being-in-itself (objective eternal perfection, the “Am”).

Why does he says this?

God means the perfect person, and this is for Sartre a contradiction of terms.

  • Perfect things or ideas, like Justice or Truth, are possible
  • Imperfect persons, like Zeus or Apollo, are possible.
  • But the perfect person is impossible. Zeus is possible but not real. God is unique among gods: not only unreal but impossible.

How does this lead to his view of the impossible of love?

  1. God is impossible.
  2. God is love.
  3. Therefore, love is impossible.

The is probably the most shocking thing in Sartre’s philosophy: the denial of the possibility of genuine, altruistic love. In place of God, most atheists substitute human love as the thing they believe in. But Sartre argues that this is impossible.

  1. If there is no God, each individual is God.
  2. But there can be only one God, one absolute.
  3. Thus, all interpersonal relationships are fundamentally relationships of rivalry.

Here, Sartre echoes Machiavelli. Each of us necessarily plays God to others; each of us, as the author of the play of his own life, necessarily reduces others to characters in his drama.

How does this destroy the concept of community?

There can be no “we-subject,” no community, no self-forgetful love if each of us is always trying to be God, the one single unique I-subject.

What is his most famous play No Exit (1944) about?

Sartre’s  puts three dead people in a room and watches them make hell for each other simply by playing God to each other—not in the sense of exerting external power over each other but simply by knowing each other as objects.

The shocking lesson of the play is that “hell is other people.”

Why is this wrong?

In truth, hell is precisely the absence of other people, human and divine. Hell is total loneliness.

Heaven is other people, because heaven is where God is, and God is Trinity. God is love, God is “other persons.”

What should we make of Sartre’s brutally honest approach?

Sartre’s tough-minded honesty makes him almost attractive, despite his repellant conclusions like the meaninglessness of life, the arbitrariness of values, and the impossibility of love.

But his honesty, however deep it may have lodged in his character, was made trivial and meaningless because of his denial of God and thus of objective Truth. If there is no divine mind, there is no truth except the truth each of us makes of himself. So if there’s nothing for me to be honest about except me, what meaning does honesty have?

What is the subject of Sartre’s first novel, Nausea (1938)?

“Nausea” is the story of a man who, after arduous searching, finds the terrible truth that life has no meaning, that it’s simply nauseating excess, like vomit or excrement.

Sartre deliberately tends toward obscene images because he feels life itself is obscene)

How should we view Sartre?

We cannot help rendering a mixed verdict on Sartre. We can be gratified, in a sense, by his very repulsiveness—for it flows from his consistency. He shows us the true face of atheism:

  • absurdity (that’s the abstract word) and
  • nausea (that’s the concrete image he uses, and the title of his first and greatest novel)


Sartre’s importance is like that of Ecclesiastes: He asks the greatest of all questions, courageously and unswervingly, and we can admire him for that.

Unfortunately, he also gives the worst possible answer to it, as Ecclesiastes did: “Vanity of vanity, all is vanity.”

We can only pity him for that, and with him the many other atheists who are clear-headed enough to see as he did that “without God all things are permissible”—but nothing has meaning.

by Justin Taylor at February 27, 2015 12:34 PM

Light Blue Touchpaper

Talk in Oxford at 5pm today on the ethics and economics of privacy in a world of Big Data

Today at 5pm I’ll be giving the Bellwether Lecture at the Oxford Internet Institute. My topic is Big Conflicts: the ethics and economics of privacy in a world of Big Data.

I’ll be discussing a recent Nuffield Bioethics Council report of which I was one of the authors. In it, we asked what medical ethics should look like in a world of ‘Big Data’ and pervasive genomics. It will take the law some time to catch up with what’s going on, so how should researchers behave meanwhile so that the people whose data we use don’t get annoyed or surprised, and so that we can defend our actions if challenged? We came up with four principles, which I’ll discuss. I’ll also talk about how they might apply more generally, for example to my own field of security research.

by Ross Anderson at February 27, 2015 11:17 AM

Beeminder Blog

Triangular Beeminding; Or, Drink Less, Using the Power of Triangles

Bees in a triangle

David R. MacIver, mathematician, programmer, and long-time Beeminder fan, posted an ingenious idea to the Beeminder forum recently. We liked it so much we built it in as an option for custom graphs and convinced David to blog about it. This is crossposted on David’s blog.

One of my vices is that I drink a bit too much. Not to the level where I have a problem, but it would be strictly better if I cut out about 2 or 3 of the drinks I have in a typical week. This seems like an obvious use case for Beeminder.

I’ve previously beeminded units of alcohol consumption and concluded that, measured as a total number of units per week, I’m completely fine. The recommended maximum intake for an adult male is somewhere in the region of 20 – 25 units per week depending on who you ask. When I was beeminding this regularly I never had trouble keeping under 12 units. I drink a bit more than that now, but nowhere close to twice as much.

So if I’m that far under the recommended guideline why do I think I drink too much?

“Beemind the peaks as well as the averages”

Well, the low average is because I actually have a lot of nights of any given week where I don’t drink at all. The problem is that on nights that I do drink I often have a drink or two more than I should. I make tasty cocktails, and if I’ve just had a cocktail I really liked then making another one sounds like an excellent idea. By the third drink of the evening I will usually discover the next day that it wasn’t such an excellent idea.

So what I need is a Beeminder goal that matches the structure of the behaviour I want to change: I need a way to beemind the peaks as well as the averages. A week with two three-drink nights should “cost” more than a week with a single drink every night.

I’ve come up with what seems like a good structure for this.

The idea is to assign each drink [1] a number of points. The first drink in a day costs one point, the second two, the third three, and so on. Because these add up, this means that a day with one drink costs one point, a day with two drinks costs three, a day with three drinks costs six. It mounts up pretty quickly. These running totals are called triangle numbers, hence the title of this post.

To start with I’ve capped the total number of points at 15/week. This is a deliberately lax starting rate which equates to a maximum of 11 drinks in a week (3 days with 1 drink and 4 with 2). Since the drinks I tend to have are two units this is about at the recommended maximum. Note that I can hit the limit while drinking less than that: If I have more than two drinks on any night, the extra points mean I’m forced [2] to reduce the total for the rest of the week to compensate.

Example permitted maximum drinking patterns:

  1. 4 days with 2 drinks and 3 days with 1 (11 drinks)
  2. 1 day with 3 drinks, 1 day with 2 drinks, 5 with 1 (10 drinks)
  3. 2 days with 3 drinks, 3 days with 1 drink, 2 days alcohol free (9 drinks)
  4. 1 day with 4 drinks, 1 day with 2 drinks, 2 days with 1 drink (9 drinks)
  5. 1 day with 5 drinks (!) and no drinking the rest of the week (5 drinks)

Note that 3 days with 3 drinks is not permitted even with the remaining rest of the week free: That would be 18 points which would take me over the threshold [3].

I was originally planning to track this manually, but then Danny got so excited by the concept that he added a feature for it, so it’s easy to give this a try yourself:

  1. Go to “Terrifyingly advanced settings”
  2. Convert your goal to a custom goal (this requires a premium plan).
  3. Switch the aggregation mode to “Triangle”

Best to apply this to a fresh goal. This stuff can easily screw up your goal if you’re not careful, so don’t do it to one with data you care about. [4]

If you want to track it manually instead, just enter the numbers yourself: 1 for the first drink, 2 for the second, and so on [5]. A standard Do Less goal will sum those up, yielding the triangular numbers.

So far this is experimental. I’ve only been running this for a few days, so it may turn out to be a silly idea in the long run. I don’t think it will though. I’m quite pleased with the incentive structure it sets up, and the effect so far has definitely been to make me think more carefully about the later drinks. I’ll add a follow up comment to this post in a month or so when I’ve had time to see how it works.



[1] Drinks, not units of alcohol. I try to keep my Beeminder goals based on things I don’t need to estimate or measure. Especially if I have to estimate them after a few drinks. Most of my drinks are approximately two units as I tend to drink cocktails or spirits.

[2] Well, “forced”. I have this goal set up so that it’s OK to fail occasionally. I’ve got a pledge cap of $10 set, so the worst case scenario is that my drinks suddenly become a bit more expensive. This is coupled with a no-mercy recommit: If I decided last night that I was OK derailing, I’m not off the hook today. This is based on a concept from Bethany Griswold about using Beeminder to make free things not free. The Bethany better known in these parts makes a related point in “Be Nice To Yourself”.

[3] Normally this wouldn’t be quite true because I could build up buffer from week to week if I wasn’t drinking much, but I’ve got this goal set to auto-ratchet so I can’t actually do that. If I build up more than a week of buffer it cuts back down to a week. Another terrifyingly advanced premium feature, available with Plan Bee.

[4] Danny here: But we’re excited about people trying this so actually please do feel free to experiment and holler at if you break something and we’ll fix it!

[5] Danny doesn’t like this because it breaks the “Quantified Self First” principle. The numbers that you enter this way don’t correspond directly to something you want to measure. [6] Personally I’m much more interested in behaviour change than QS, so I don’t have a problem with it.

[6] Danny again: Actually, QS is more about measuring real-world things. With the triangle aggregation, we’ve got the best of both worlds. We get a true count of the number of drinks (real-world measure) and we get a goal-friendly aggregation for beeminding. You can export the data and do something else with it or change the aggregation function back to normal summing if you want to go back to beeminding total amount of alcohol consumed.


UPDATE: Discussion continues in the forum thread that spawned this post


Image credit: Philip Tibbetts

by David R. MacIver at February 27, 2015 10:34 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

TGC Spotlight 02.27.15

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

TGC SpotlightFeatured TGC Articles

Facebook, Moms, and the Last Day | Nikki Daniel

Facebook and Twitter, rightly used, can be tools that promote intercessory prayer and encouragement. But they are not without their perils.


Why Racial Reconciliation is a Gospel Issue | Jeff Robinson

Jarvis Williams argues that race and racism are issues that strike at the heart of the gospel.


Open Roof Hospitality | Melissa Kruger

Am I willing for my home to be filled, refashioned, and torn asunder so that people can meet with Jesus?


Does Your Youth Ministry Mess With Christ’s Bride? | Jon Nielson

If youth pastors aren’t preparing students for this kind of future for their faith, they aren’t doing their jobs.


More, But Not Less, Than a Carpenter | Tom Nelson

Jesus’s humble service in the workplace was the training ground for that glorious display of servanthood in an upper room in Jerusalem.


Featured TGC Contributor Articles

A Crash Course on Influencers of Unbelief: Karl Marx | Justin Taylor

These are notes based on an essay by Peter Kreeft, author of Socrates Meets Marx: The Father of Philosophy Meets the Father of Communism (St. Augustine’s Press, 2012).


Keeping His Commandments | Kevin DeYoung

Calvin understood this seeming inconsistency and provided a wonderfully balanced response.


“Christ and Culture” – An Overview of a Christian Classic | Trevin Wax

H. Richard Neibuhr’s Christ and Culture is one of the most significant theological and missiological works of the 20th century, offering a memorable categorization of the ways Christians have related to culture throughout history.


You’re not crazy | Ray Ortlund

Serving Christ gets hard. Harder than we expected. Harder than we can endure, even for one more day. We are tempted to think, “No way can this turn out well. My life – the only one I have – is going to end up on the junk pile.


A Prayer For Letting Go Of The Desire For Revenge | Scotty Smith

Dear heavenly Father, in view of the increase of kidnappings and human trafficking, the proliferation of pornography and the spirit of jihad, I find myself growing angrier and angrier.


Coming Next Week at TGC

When You Are No Longer a Pastor's Wife | Anonymous

The wife of a fired pastor asks the question 'How do I respond?'


4 Reasons to Beware the Goodness Gospel | Christine Hoover

Christine Hoover warns against approaches to Christianity that amount to works righteousness and do not rest in the hope of Christ's righteousness.


8 Reasons We Need the Puritans | Jeff Robinson

Jeff Robinson extols the virtues of the Puritans, their theology and ethics, and argues that we need to study them in the church today.


Upcoming Events

Albuquerque Regional Conference (March 20-22, 2015)

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

2015 National Conference (April 1-15, 2015)

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

Remainder Bin

American Culture

Obama Calls for Expansion of Human Rights to Combat Extremism
Peter Baker, New York Times

President Obama on Thursday called on nations around the world to expand human rights, religious tolerance and peaceful dialogue as they struggle to combat a spate of terrorism that has recently struck places as far afield as Australia, Canada and Europe.

Here’s Why Wonder Woman Isn’t Getting A Movie Any Time Soon
Leslie Loftis, The Federalist

Inquiring fans want to know. Feminist fans suspect conspiracy. But the real answer may be that Hollywood has no idea how to write a female superhero.


Let’s call physician-assisted suicide what it is
Karin Klein, L.A. Times

The number of words we can’t use without offending is ever growing, and if the supporters of the right-to-die movement have their way, it will stretch yet again to include the word “suicide.” At least when that suicide is the result of a dying patient taking a lethal dose of drugs to avoid impending mental and physical anguish.

Three-Parent Embryos: Harming Women to Save Lives
Jennifer Lahl, Public Discourse

The UK has passed a bill that allows for genetic engineering of children through nuclear transfer technology and germ-line modification. Young women will be needed to supply their eggs. But egg donation—or more accurately, egg selling—is risky business.

Christianity and Culture

Mixing faith and finance: Churches put faith in followers’ creditworthiness
Rebecca Robbins, Washington Post

Here’s how it worked: McCarthy’s church offered funds as collateral so she could qualify for a loan through the Virginia United Methodist Credit Union. McCarthy agreed to repay the loan at an annualized interest rate of about 6 percent – meaning monthly payments of $25 for about 2 1/2 years, drawn right out of her bank account.

How TV made Christianity radical again
Alyssa Rosenberg, Washington Post

“The Americans,” along with the History Channel’s “Vikings,” has done something that almost nothing else in pop culture dares to attempt: It depicts Christianity as a seismic force, something capable of producing profound transformation in both individuals and society.

Frequent Church Attendance Highest in Utah, Lowest in Vermont
Frank Newport, Gallup

Slightly more than half of Utah residents say they attend religious services every week, more than any other state in the union. Residents in the four Southern states of Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Arkansas are the next most likely to be frequent church attendees, with 45% to 47% reporting weekly attendance. At the other end of the spectrum is Vermont, where 17% of residents say they attend religious services every week.


Unlikely Cause Unites the Left and the Right: Justice Reform
Carl Hulse, New York Times

Usually bitter adversaries, Koch Industries and the Center for American Progress have found at least one thing they can agree on: The nation’s criminal justice system is broken.

Rape in the American Prison
Maurice Chammah, The Atlantic

In 2003, Congress passed legislation to eliminate sexual assaults against inmates. One young man’s story shows how elusive that goal remains.

Family Issues

Families Armed With Books Repel The Effects Of Poverty
Allison Kieselowsky, The Federalist

Families that read together build strong bonds and ward off poverty. Here’s what you can do to encourage love for books in your community.

How Many Kids Grow Up With Their Married Mom and Dad?
Leslie Ford, The Daily Signal

It’s not normal these days for a teen to live with their married mom and dad. Fifty-four percent of U.S. teens 15-to-17-years-old do not live in a home with their married mother and father, according to the Fifth Annual Index of Family Belonging and Rejection released this month by the Family Research Council.

Even in Unsafe Neighborhoods, Kids Are Safer in Married Families
Nicholas Zill, Family Studies

Children’s rates of exposure to neighborhood violence depend not just on where they live, but whom they live with.

Same-Sex Parenting: Unpacking the Social Science
John B. Londregan, Public Discourse

For some people, scientific research on the subject of same-sex parenting is irrelevant. A new volume is meant for those who still approach the topic of parenting and sexuality with open minds.

Health Issues

In 2013, measles killed more kids than car accidents or AIDS
Christopher Ingraham, Washington Post

Measles killed 82,100 children under age 5 in 2013, ranking the disease at No. 7 on the list of the top causes of child death, according to recent statistics from the Global Burden of Disease study published in the Lancet.

International Issues

Army of Assyrian Christians aims to fight Islamic State
Therese Apel, Crux

Assyrian Christians in the Nineveh Plain in Iraq, with the help of a group of Americans, are building a fighting machine to stand toe-to-toe with the Islamic State group to preserve their homeland, their history and their heritage.

Islamic State ‘abducts dozens of Christians in Syria’

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that at least 90 men, women and children were seized in a series of dawn raids near the town of Tal Tamr.

Marriage Issues

The Implications of Extending Marriage Benefits to Same-Sex Couples
Gerard V. Bradley, John Finnis and Daniel Philpott, Public Discourse

It is morally indefensible for Catholic institutions to recognize and incentivize same-sex marriages by extending marriage benefits to employees who declare themselves legally married to a person of the same sex.

Racial Reconciliation

Southern Baptists try to diversify churches — but will it work?
Heidi Hall, Religion News Service

How tough is it to create a racially diverse denomination? Consider a recent luncheon organized by the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.

Religious Liberty

‘Relationship with Jesus’ doesn’t justify florist’s refusal to serve gay couple, judge rules
Sarah Kaplan, Washington Post

A Washington state florist who refused to provide flower arrangements for a gay wedding “because of [her] relationship with Jesus” violated the state’s anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws, a judge ruled Wednesday.

A florist loses religious freedom, and much more
Denny Burk, CNN

Stutzman is the Washington florist who has been sued for living out her Christian beliefs. In 2013, a long-time friend and customer came to her flower shop and asked her to provide flowers for his gay wedding. Stutzman had known this man and had done business with him for about nine years. Nevertheless, she told him that she could not participate in his wedding “because of my relationship with Jesus.”

Supreme Court to hear religious freedom case
Ariane de Vogue, CNN

Samantha Elauf was apprehensive to interview for a sales job at retailer Abercrombie & Fitch in 2008 because the 17 year old wore a headscarf in accordance with her Muslim faith. But a friend of hers, who worked at the store, said he didn’t think it would be a problem as long as the headscarf wasn’t black because the store doesn’t sell black clothes.

Sexuality Issues

New secretary of defense: transgender soldiers should be able to serve openly in military
German Lopez, Vox

Newly confirmed Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Sunday suggested transgender people should be allowed to openly serve in the military.

by Joe Carter at February 27, 2015 06:07 AM

Which Comes First—the Race or the Arrest?

Imagine your friend has just purchased a new piece of furniture and invited you over to see it. When you walk into his living room, there it is—a brown upholstered rectangle with three large cushions centered against the wall. As he offers you a cup of tea, he suggests that you sit on it.

You discern that his new piece of furniture is a couch. You don’t know this because you’ve seen this particular couch—in fact, you haven’t—but because you know about the category of “couches.” You’ve sat on them. You’ve bought them. You don’t need an explanation.

“When you’re able to recognize a particular object as a member of a particular category,” says Lulu Miller, co-host of Invisibilia, “all your knowledge about that category guides your response to that thing, which means you don’t have to figure out everything from scratch every time you encounter something new.” This, of course, saves a lot of time and energy.

Serving as shortcuts for better and quicker decision-making, categories help us navigate our days. What happens, though, when we categorize wrongly?

I Can’t Breathe

Last July, when NYPD officers confronted Eric Garner about illegally selling “loose” cigarettes, he cried, “This ends here,” which led to a physical altercation and a chokehold. Suffering from advanced diabetes, heart disease, and severe asthma, Garner struggled for air, yelling, “I can’t breathe,” 11 times before he died.

Robyn Semien, a former corrections officer in the Bronx, watched the Garner arrest footage with her friend, an NYPD officer. They interpreted what they saw differently. In This American Life’s “Cops See It Differently, Part Two,” Ira Glass explains:

When Eric Garner says over and over, “I can’t breathe,” Robyn sees a man who’s dying. Her friend does not. She tells Robyn people say that all the time when they’re being arrested. They can’t breathe. You’re hurting them. It happens all the time. The officer totally understood why the police on the scene did not pay any attention to it.

In other words, the officers put Garner in the wrong category—a man just trying to get out of being arrested—when, in fact, he was a man who could not breathe.

Implicit Racial Bias

Was he a victim of wrong categorization in another way, too? When asked whether it mattered that Garner was black and most of the officers on the scene were white, New York Police Commissioner William Bratton said, “I personally don’t think race was a factor.”

But it’s not that simple.

Psychologist Josh Correll has tested the implicit racial biases—that is, the unconscious feelings we have about different races—of hundreds of cops. On a computer screen, he rotates images of white and black men—each holding a weapon, a wallet, or a can of soda—and asks them to decide whether to shoot. He then measures how quickly they decide and how many mistakes they make.

“Most of our participants,” he says, “associate young black men with the idea of threat.” (His findings, by the way, show that cops—except ones on gang units—do far better than untrained people like me and you. “We’re more likely to shoot a black man with a wallet,” Semien says, “and we’re less likely to shoot a white man with a gun.”)

Unfair and Partial Policing

Unconscious bias isn’t necessarily bad. As we saw with the couch, it can serve as a neutral automatic decision-making mechanism to categorize everyday things. It can also protect us. When we assess something as “unsafe,” for example, our “danger detector” sets off a “fight or flight” fear, psychologist Joseph LeDoux says.

The problem, of course, is when that detector malfunctions. Although we fix it in some cases, we usually come up with reasons why our gut instinct was right. In policing, this can have serious implications. Unconscious racial bias becomes unfair and partial policing when we see an individual as “threatening” based solely on his or her race because of our other experiences with people of the same race. When we fail to correct that mistake at a systemic level, a cycle begins—the more people of a particular race are arrested, the more our bias against that race grows, which leads to more arrests, and so on.

So, which comes first—the race or the arrest? When African Americans are arrested “at a rate 10 times higher than people who are not black” in at least 70 police departments across the United States, we should—at least—start with honesty. Some departments, like the one in Las Vegas, are now doing this through new training programs. Officer Maria Stevens tells her trainees:

Why am I really stopping this guy? Am I stopping him because I just watched him jaywalk and there’s something not right here? Or are you stopping him because he’s a black guy in a white neighborhood? Be honest with yourself. Ask yourself those questions. And if you have that bias, you need to recognize it. . . . And if you can’t fix it, then maybe you’re not in the right line of work.

That’s the first step—recognizing our mistaken categorizations. If we want to move toward more impartial and fair policing, we must uncover our unconscious racial biases.

On Earth as It Is in Heaven

When I took my first Implicit Association Test in January, I was scared of what it might say. I don’t consider myself a racist, but that’s what makes implicit bias hard—the fact that it’s unconscious. It’s much easier to look at explicit bias and “those horrible unrepentant racists.” Aren’t I so much better? But knowing that we're all biased and that I'm a product of my cultural moment, I wasn't sure I wanted to know my unconscious.

So I preached the gospel to myself, “Bethany, you’re already so sinful that Christ had to die for you. But you’re also already so loved that he chose to die for you. What are you afraid of?” Then I took the test. It assessed me as having a “mild” bias, which confirmed my fears.

The gospel, though, gives us the power to confront our brokenness and not be destroyed by it. It empowers us to pray without fear, “Search me, O God, and know my heart. See if there is any grievous way in me” (Ps. 139:23-24).

It also gives us a vision and a passion for racial reconciliation—for Christ died to redeem a kingdom people “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Rev. 7:9). And Jesus taught us to pray for this reality to come in the here and now—not just for our churches, but for our cities, too: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth”—not “in the church”—“as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).

The church can serve as a model of racial unity (Acts 10:1-48). But our witness doesn’t stop there. Individual Christians can go out into the world that God loves (Jn. 3:16)—attending community board meetings, praying for police offers, serving as public defenders or prosecutors, volunteering at mercy ministries, and more—as lights in dark places. We can point the way to the New Jerusalem, where all our present categories of people will come under one ultimate category—those who know the Lord (Jer. 31:31-34).

Editors’ note: Join us for a panel discussion at The Gospel Coalition 2015 National Conference about justice and race. On Tuesday, April 14, at 6 p.m., Bethany Jenkins will moderate a focused conversation with people from various industries and different faith commitments, who are committed to building trust between the church, their communities, and law enforcement. The panel features Ed Copeland (TGC Council member, former public defender), Cecil Smith (chief of police of Sanford, Florida), Robert Lang (assistant U.S. attorney in High Point, North Carolina), Alex Medina (music producer and art director at Reach Records), and David Kennedy (criminologist and creator of the problem-oriented policing initiative known as “Operation Ceasefire”).

by Bethany Jenkins at February 27, 2015 06:01 AM

What Is Meaningful Work?

Being a writer and a mom is hard work. No one knows that better than Jen Hatmaker. Hatmaker is a blogger, author, and speaker who, in addition to maintaining a popular blog, is a much-sought-after conference speaker and author of many bestselling books. She knows the writing life. She also knows the mom life.

So it was with great interest that I read her recent piece on what it takes to be a writer. I’m also a mom and writer. I know what it’s like to barely squeeze out an article or chapter during naptime, or in the early hours of the morning. I know what it’s like to quickly write ideas for articles in my phone, while fixing chicken nuggets or bathing my kids.

She Lost Me

Throughout much of her post, I was nodding my head in agreement, while also making mental notes about how to improve my craft. But I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed when I got to one section of Hatmaker’s post. After talking about how choosing to write means making sacrifices of time and other activities, she tells a story of her own mother, who decided to go back to school when Hatmaker was still at home.

I remember crying a river when my mom went back to college when we were in elementary, middle, and high school because she was less available to cater to our every whim, but it very soon became a source of great pride for me, because I watched my mom do meaningful, hard work that mattered. She went for it, right in the middle of living life. As it turned out, I needed a mom who mothered, dreamed, worked, and achieved. We all did. (emphasis original)

And that’s where she lost me. I wasn’t bothered that her mom went back to school. I commend her. It wasn’t even that Hatmaker used the story to illustrate how writing work sometimes takes you away from your kids. I know it does. My problem with her illustration, in the midst of an otherwise helpful post, is that she seems to pit one kind of work against the other. By saying that she needed to see her mom doing meaningful work she implies that the work she was doing previously (which I assume was at-home work) was less meaningful.

Whetner or not Hatmaker intended this contrast, we know it’s common in talk about at-home work. While we would agree that all work matters, we tend to more highly praise others for doing great things on their own outside the home. I’ve even seen it in my own life when, in some circles, I define myself first as a writer in order to prove that I do something meaningful with my life during the day.

Not Either/Or

But it’s not either/or. The mom who writes, preps IVs for patients, or goes back to school is doing meaningful work. But so is the mom who is doing at-home work. Our work has meaning because of the one who is doing it. My work as a mom is meaningful in the same way that my work as a writer is. It’s meaningful because it’s born out of my role as an image bearer and, when I work, I bring him glory. Regardless of what type of work I am doing—whether it is doing another load of laundry or crafting a phrase—it’s valuable and meaningful because it is for the good of the world.

Tim Keller and Katherine Leary Alsdorf capture the meaningfulness of all work well:

The headwaters of Lutheran theology put special stress on the dignity of all work, observing that God created for, cared for, fed, clothed, sheltered, and supported the human race through our human labor. When we work, we are, as those in the Lutheran tradition often put it, the “fingers of God,” the agents of his providential love for others. This understanding elevates the purpose of work from making a living to loving our neighbor and at the same time releases us from the crushing burden of working primarily to prove ourselves.

I think many who primarily do at-home work would resonate with Hatmaker’s story about her mother. The daily monotony of toys that never stay in their proper bins, spilled apple juice, and endless school events and practices makes a mom wonder if there really could be life beyond the pile of laundry she can barely see over. It’s grueling work most days. But it’s not of little consequence.

I’m not advocating that we elevate motherhood to saint status. That doesn’t serve anyone, nor does it view our work through the right lens. Being a mom matters immensely, yes, but it’s not ultimate. Let’s be careful that we not pit one type of work against the other. The mommy wars have done enough damage to women over the years, and recovering a robust understanding of the value of all work would go a long way in tempering some of the attitudes surrounding women and work.

We elevate at-home motherhood because we want to show the watching world that we matter, too, in the same way that Hatmaker makes the argument that her kids need to see her doing meaningful work elsewhere. Both are coming from the idea that this work is mundane, needing validating or escape. But God provides us with another way. It’s all meaningful, from wiping bottoms to writing sentences. We can all work, mothers and non-mothers, and find great meaning in what we do on any given day—not because the world tells us it is meaningful work, but because the God who created work tells us so.

So write on, fellow writers, there is meaning in your work. But let’s not forget there is meaning in doing the dishes, too.

by Courtney Reissig at February 27, 2015 06:01 AM

From Good to Grace

Christine Hoover. From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2015. 224 pp. $14.99.

Perfectionism has not been a friend to author and pastor’s wife Christine Hoover. She confesses she was born with a list in her hand and has been obsessed with being good and performing well all her life. She doesn’t boast in these credentials, and she’s tried hard to shake free from them. In her new book, From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel, Hoover puts her finger on the pulse of young women today.

For many, the “goodness gospel” looks like a life driven by exteriors: a perfectly decorated house, laundry that’s always clean, well-mannered children, daily quiet times, or perfect health and fitness. However we seek perfection and “goodness,” we hope our efforts pay off big and that God will be more pleased with us than if we hadn’t tried at all. The hope that our small acts of obedience might add up to make us world-changers often keeps us striving and functionally gives our life meaning. Consequently, if we feel we aren’t making a difference or performing as we should, we not only feel despair—we also feel we’ve disappointed God himself.

Breathing Grace

As a recovering perfectionist myself, I think Hoover is both justified to call our twisted motives into question and merciful to call readers like me to meditate on God’s amazing grace. Her writing is gentle, funny, convicting, and compelling. Each chapter offers a beautiful meditation on the gospel; salvation comes by grace alone, through faith alone. She humbly uses her own stories of fears and failures to illustrate her journey in overcoming self-justification.   

From Good to Grace aims to teach readers to seek what God wants for us, not just from us. The book is arranged into three sections. The first, “Good, Bye,” explores the varying ways the goodness gospel expresses itself in our lives, offers a compass for steering clear of the poor motivator of perfectionism, and calls us to abandon the goodness gospel long-term. Part two, “From Good to Grace: Receiving,” focuses on God’s part in equipping believers through his love, his help, and his freedom. The last section, “From Good to Grace: Responding,” considers the believer’s life and what it looks like when freed from the goodness gospel. Overall, the book paints a beautiful picture of God’s grace for the believer.

Doesn’t Grace Lead to Goodness?

This was the one question that stuck with me after reading From Good to Grace. When believers are forgiven and liberated from their bondage to sin and death, aren’t we supposed to become slaves to righteousness (Rom. 6:18)? It seemed to me that much of the book equated the pursuit of goodness with legalism. While our acts of righteousness are nothing more than filthy rags, Peter tells us we’re called to be holy as God is holy (1 Pet. 1:14–16). Paul exhorts us to imitate God (who is the definition of goodness) as beloved children (Eph. 5:1). I’m assuming this means God intends us to strive for goodness in some regard. Unfortunately, Hoover does little to address the ways in which these two realities—grace and the pursuit of holiness—interact.

She isn’t the first to step foot into this gray zone. Many have attempted to address the dissonance, and the conversations have often become muddied and misunderstood. We must admit these are complicated and delicate issues. I would love to have seen more willingness to acknowledge the scriptural discord created by hanging out exclusively on either end of the law/grace spectrum. 

To be certain, this is a book written for women who live on the perfectionist side of the scale, so it tempers law-lovers with heavy-handed grace. I love heavy-handed grace. But we must not avoid or shy away from the fact that even those of us who struggle with legalism are still called to run the race set before us, striving for “holiness without which no one would see God” (Heb. 12:14). Not every pursuit of goodness is bad or sinful. It’s actually God’s good pleasure to enable us to strive for goodness so we might glorify him more and more as we are sanctified by the Spirit.

Richly Served

Insightful and relatable, Hoover offers a message of good news for the weary perfectionist. She writes: 

The gospel ransoms me from my prison of performance. In Christ, I am not my performance. . . . Grace frees me from a focus on self and all the sins and burdens that come along with it: selfishness, insecurity, pride, trying to prove myself worthy, seeking love and approval, fear of not being enough. . . . This is the explosive power of the gospel: it frees us from ourselves and enables us to live for God and for the sake of others. (117)

Hoover does a fantastic job convincing us to move on from performance-based Christianity toward a greater understanding of salvation by grace. If this is what we take away, I believe we will walk away richly served by the message of the cross. From Good to Grace beautifully adorns God’s gospel grace, and it will encourage and strengthen you in his lavish love.

by Lindsey Carlson at February 27, 2015 06:01 AM


How to Scrape the Twitter Notifications Timeline

A while back, I promised I would share the fugly hack I'm using to scrape Twitter profile pics (as live links) to use at the bottom of each blog post. (Scroll to the bottom to see what I mean.) The code ain't pretty, but it works. And it's fast.

You don't have to know JavaScript to use the code: In Firefox, open a Scratchpad window (Shift+F4); or in Chrome do Control-Shift-J to get a console window. Be sure your active browser tab is the Twitter Notifications timeline view. Paste the code (below) into the scratchpad window. In Firefox, do Control-L to run the code. (Results show up in the Scratchpad itself.) In Chrome, hit Enter (return). You should get a dump of a lot of raw HTML. Copy and paste that into your web page. (Good luck getting Wordpress to display it the way you want! But at least you now have the raw HTML.)

You may have to scroll sideways to see all the code. The code was formatted using

You want all classes "stream-item-content clearfix stream-item-activity stream-item-retweet stream-item-activity-me"
You want all <a> nodes within that.

function getRTers() {

var tClass = 'stream-item-content clearfix stream-item-activity stream-item-retweet stream-item-activity-me';
var cl = document.getElementsByClassName(tClass);
var r = []; // for caching the hits
var lut = {}; // for unduping the hits

for (var i = 0; i < cl.length; i++) {

var item = cl[i];
var a = item.getElementsByTagName('a');
if (!a) throw "There is no spoon.";

// dig all links out
for (var j = 0; j < a.length; j++) {

var hasImg = a[j].getElementsByTagName('img');

// no avatar(s)? just move on
if (!hasImg || hasImg.length == 0)

// need to ensure expanded URL, not relative URL
var username = a[j].href.toString();
a[j].setAttribute('title', username);
a[j].setAttribute('href', username);

var result = a[j].outerHTML;

if (username in lut) // undupe
lut[username] = 1; // mark as visited

r.push(result); // save the markup

return r; // return the hits

// Now use the function:

var r = getRTers();
r.join('\n') + '\n' + r.length; // displays in console

The code relies on the fact that the retweet nodes are contained in a special class with a big huge long name. How did I figure out the huge name? I used Firefox's Inspect Element (right click on any part of any web page and choose Inspect Element from the popup menu).

Not much else to explain here, really. I do go to the trouble of unduplicating the links. For that, I use a lookup table (although I'm not using it to look anything up):

var lut = {};  // new object (aka lookup table)

In JavaScript, an object is just a hashed list, which you can think of as an array that uses text to index into the array instead of a number. (Of course, under the covers it's all numbers, but that's not our concern.) You can do

lut[ "whatever text you want" ] = 1;

and the number one gets associated with the index string "whatever text you want". There's no magic to the number one, in the above code. I have to use something to mark the index as taken. It could just as well have been 'true' or zero or Math.PI, or whatever.

When you're done, in any case, you get the HTML markup that produces this lovely mosaic:

And those are the wonderful people who retweeted me yesterday. I want to thank each and every person shown above. Please follow these great people. They retweet!

Have you joined the mailing list? What are you waiting for? 

by Kas Thomas ( at February 27, 2015 05:00 AM

CrossFit 204: Fitness in Winnipeg, Manitoba

2015 Open Plan

Along with overhead strength, we're also focusing on chest-to-bar pull-ups.

Scenes from Opens past…

Thanks to everyone who signed up for the CrossFit 204 team for the CrossFit Games Open!

The information you’ll need is below, and if we’ve forgotten anything, don’t hesitate to contact a coach.

General Guiding Principles

1. Have fun. This is mandatory. No matter how you perform, fitness must be fun. Enjoy yourself. Have a good time. Cheer for your friends. Thank your judge. Smile on the way out no matter what your score was. Our regular workouts are no harder or easier than Open workouts. It’s just another day at the gym, so enjoy it!

2. No one shall make the following statement: “I should have done better.” There is no should in the Open. Your score is your score, and you need to put every bit of effort in so you can walk away and own that score. Do your best, and know that you did so. There’s great honour in that.

3. Judge yourself against yourself, not your peers. Most of us are in a fitness competition with ourselves. Are we fitter than last year? It’s a mistake to look at other people’s scores and feel badly about your own. Let others inspire you, and be proud of what you’ve accomplished in training. Our top athletes are vying for spots at regionals, and they need to compare themselves for others, but if you are not in that group, stay focused on your goals and accomplishments.

Specific Instructions

1. Open workouts will be conducted on Friday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 10:30 a.m. These slots are now on the calendar–please sign in as you normally would. Judges will be provided. If you cannot make these slots, we will do our best to accommodate you at other times. But in general, please try to make these slots. Depending on the workouts, we will be doing them in classes on Friday or Saturday anyway, so we may be able to arrange judging at those times. Other athletes may train in Dale’s Garage on Sunday, but the Open will have priority on space and equipment.

Earned it.

Earned it.

2. Coaches will determine whether athletes get to re-do workouts, and re-dos will only be recommended to those athletes who are in contention for regional spots. If you are sick or sore, get our advice before you do the workout. Waiting is always best.

3. Submit your scores ASAP after a workout. You may do so at the gym. We cannot help you if you miss the submission deadline at the end of each week. If you have registered your score and we have not validated it, don’t worry: We will get to it. It counts as long as it is submitted before the deadline.

4. If you need specific information about the competition structure, please review the rulebook on the CrossFit Games website.

5. Please note that the CrossFit Games are a drug-tested event, and we encourage all athletes to ensure they are not using banned substances by accident. We are committed to upholding all rules for fair competition. Check your supplements against the official rules, and if you have questions, please direct them to Coach Cole.

6. To compete as part of our official team, you must spend more than half of your training days at CrossFit 204. If you do not, you are very much a member of our affiliate group, but we will not count your scores toward our team score. This rule doesn’t affect anyone that we are aware of, but it is in place to ensure athletes compete where they train.

Barb and a very large support crew.

Barb and a very large support crew.

7. Should we qualify a team for regionals, selection will be at the coach’s discretion and will not be based solely on Open placings. Above all else, will be looking for character and commitment to the values we hold dear at CrossFit 204. Fitness also considered an asset.

8. Review all movement standards before the workout. Watch the videos. Know that your judge will enforce the standards for fair competition, and strive to move with precision to avoid missed reps.

8. Have fun.

by Mike at February 27, 2015 04:13 AM

Workout: Feb. 27, 2015

Guess who's happy about a max clean and jerk in the Open.

Guess who’s happy about a max clean and jerk in the Open.

15.1 Flip

15 minutes to work on the clean and jerk:

If your max is above 205/135: Work up to a single rep @ 80% of your max.

If your max is below 205/135: 4 sets of 1 hang clean + 1 clean + 1 jerk @ a weight that allows great technique

As many reps as possible in 9 minutes of:

15 toes-to-bars

10 deadlifts (115/75 lb.)

5 snatches (115/75 lb.)

by Mike at February 27, 2015 04:12 AM


Abortion and Mixing Up the Political Categories

The relationship between theory and practice is always tricky, but when it comes to politics it can get so out of whack that you really do wonder what motivates people after all. For instance, why are Southerners all Republican now? It was the Republican party who served as the aggressor (at least in the Southerner’s eyes) during and after the Civil War. My grandfather swore that he would never vote for a Republican, and I’m pretty sure he kept that promise. Even growing up in the 1990s, in my small Mississippi town, I remember that all of the city and county officials were Democrat. There usually weren’t any Republicans even on the ballot. And yet, by some magical twist of history, almost all the Southern states vote Republican on the national level, and almost all conservative-minded Christians in the South believe that the ideals of the Republican party are more or less consistent with a Biblical world and life view and philosophy of governance. Is this change simply because of Civil Rights? It’s hard to say.

Again, there’s the case of my grandfather still voting Democrat late into the 20th century and even until the start of the 21st century, and he was hardly a progressive-minded man, at least when it came to social issues. And most Southerners are not just Blue-Dog Democrats or Dixiecrats, opposing the Civil Rights’ issues but still retaining older Democratic values of labor protection, agrarian values, and suspicion towards unchecked corporate power. Not at all. The Republican transition is mostly complete, especially on the fiscal matters. And yet, Mississippi still manages to bring in more Federal subsidies than any other state (at least I think it’s still #1 in that category). As I said, it’s a very strange world. The moral issues probably have as much to do with the transition as anything, as the Democrats did kind of become the party of revolutionary morality, but even here there are a lot of questions that could be asked.

Abortion is another case where things don’t actually make sense. In fact, it is much weirder. On the surface, it seems easy enough to explain. In the eyes of the traditionalist, it is a symptom of moral degeneracy and cultural decadence: consequence-free sex. And in the eyes of the more bleeding-heart type of liberal, abortion is a necessary “medical” procedure in order to defend a victim or oppressed member of an underclass. But these are both pretty superficial explanations, even if both have some measure of truth to them. Consider, by contrast, the famous “privacy” justification.

The fact that abortion is a “private” matter, between a woman and her doctor, is often offered as why it ought not be regulated. This is actually the legal foundation which Roe v Wade uses, by the way. But who, I ask you, normally uses privacy as an argument against government regulation? It’s not the liberals!

Additionally, just think about what abortion is in the most basic terms. It is a violent procedure which dramatically alters the natural course of things by use of technology. It’s totally Bacon’s conquest over nature, even to the point of turning a production into a termination. Why would “green” or “environmental” people support it? And why wouldn’t those titans of industry support it? Wendell Berry-types should all be pro-life, whereas Uncle Pennybags should be volunteering for Planned Parenthood.

No, it doesn’t work that way, you say. Abortion only appears that way if you try to hitch it to a moral ontology. I would dispute that, actually, since I tried to keep my above language fairly generic, but let’s examine that objection for a minute. Again, what kind of political thinker typically wants to remove morality or justice from discussions of human liberty? And who are we typically told that it is who wants to dehumanize, depersonalize, and deny basic rights to other weaker entities in an effort to maximize efficiency and production? Again, the teams are all topsy turvy here.

But what about abortion as women’s rights and even worker’s rights? Isn’t it a means to allow full participation in our society? Well yes, but again, consider what’s involved and what it is that is actually being participated in. Abortion says that a woman can be “equal” so long as the natural things which come about from female sexuality are restricted or obstructed completely. And the thing which they are then allowed to participate in is, more often than not, a nearly exhaustive industrial-capitalist system which claims the majority of their time, interest, and loyalty. I’m reminded of that line from Chesterton, “women are free when they serve their employers but slaves when they help their husbands.” One woman’s equality is another man’s wage-slavery. Who benefits from women being able to separate themselves from their womanhood, and what is the nature of that benefit? It would seem to me that it’s a perfect fit in a kind of totalizing economic system which succeeds only at the expense of competing interest groups.

And, indeed, treating abortion solely as a “medical” issue is just a perfect example of what Michel Foucault criticized in The Birth of the Clinic. It’s the medical gaze to a t, only it’s not only the doctors who get to dehumanize. We now make the dehumanization a key feature of the legal code. Someone wants to stop and ask if maybe there is a danger here? Silence that man.

Now I know on one level this is all a bit of over-complication for abstract purposes. For most people, abortion is a more or less “practical” response to a concrete situation. And I don’t dispute that on the individual level. But when it comes to the structural level, the political and legal culture which is always informing our biases, these observations seem relevant. Indeed, I don’t know why they haven’t been more obvious for a long time. But as I said, politics is weird, and people have mixed motivations.

What asking these kinds of questions does help clarify, however, is that our political theory needs improving. Christians will need to broaden their imaginations, and they need to be willing to criticize some of their own favored social and political tendencies. We need more or better categories. We need to challenge the narratives.

by Steven Wedgeworth at February 27, 2015 03:36 AM

CrossFit Naptown

Open WOD 15.1

Friday’s Workout:

Open WOD 15.1:
9:00 As Many Reps As Possible
15 Toes-2-Bar
10 Deadlifts (115/75)
5 Snatches (115/75)
6:00 To Establish 1 Rep Max Clean and Jerk



It. Is. Here.


All classes today will be taking part in Open WOD 15.1 with the 6:00pm class Friday Night Lights Special (still normal class but allowing those doing the Open to come in and take part in their own warm up to throw down at this time). There will be opportunities on Saturday from 10:30-12:00pm along with Open Gym on Sunday. Click here to read the full details on when you can get the workouts in!

Literally anything you need to know about Open Workout 15.1 is written below:


These workouts begin with the athlete standing under their pull-up bar with the barbell loaded to the appropriate weight. After 15 toes-to-bars (sit-ups or hanging knee raises for scaled divisions) are completed the athlete will move to the barbell to perform 10 deadlifts followed by 5 snatches. After the last snatch is completed the athlete will move back to the pull-up bar and start their next round.

Your score for Workout 15.1 will be the total number of repetitions completed.

As soon as the clock reaches 9 minutes and Workout 15.1 is complete, Workout 15.1a will begin with the same running clock. The athlete will have from 9:00 to 15:00 to complete Workout 15.1a.

The same barbell must be used for both 15.1 and 15.1a. The athlete must load their own barbell and may not receive assis- tance. Prior to each lift you must state what weight you are about to attempt. Plates smaller than 1⁄2 lb. may not be used. There is no limit to the number of attempts within the 6-minute time limit.

Your score for Workout 15.1a will be the weight (in pounds) that you successfully clean and jerk.

Should the athlete choose to redo the workout, you must withdraw your scores for both 15.1 and 15.1a and resubmit both scores from the second attempt. You may not use your score from your first attempt at 15.1 and your score from your second attempt at 15.1a or vice versa.

Special Tiebreak
Your score for Workout 15.1a will be the weight of your heaviest successful clean and jerk. Scores will be recorded in one pound increments. If there is a tie at the exact same weight, lighter athletes will rank above heavier athletes. The body weight posted on your profile will be the weight used to break your tie, divided into 10-lb. classes; e.g. 180-189, 190-199, 200-209, etc.

Affiliates will be responsible for validating that an athlete’s body weight is within their weight class. If an athlete opts not to submit their body weight they will still have a valid score for Workout 15.1a, but they will be ranked lower than athletes that lifted the same amount of weight and also submitted their body weight.

• Pull-up bar
• Barbell
• Collars
• Plates to load to the appropriate weight for your division for Workout 15.1
• Plates to load for your max clean and jerk (no smaller than ½ lb.)

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

*The official weight is in pounds. For your convenience, the minimum acceptable weights for Workout 15.1 in kilograms are 52 / 34 kg for Rx’d, 38 / 25 kg for Scaled, Masters and Teens, and 29 / 20 kg for Scaled Masters and Scaled Teens. If you lift with kilogram plates you will need to convert your results to pounds when submitting your score. Remember, when lifting with pound plates a 20-kg barbell will count as 45 lb. and a 15-kg barbell will count as 35 lb.

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

Workout 15.1 Variations

(Rx’d Men, Masters Men 40-44, Masters Men 45-49, Masters Men 50-54, Rx’d Women, Masters Women 40-44, Masters Women 45-49, Masters Women 50-54)
Complete as many rounds and reps as possible in 9 minutes of:
15 toes-to-bars
10 deadlifts (115 / 75 lb.)
5 snatches (115 / 75 lb.)

(Scaled Men, Scaled Masters Men 40-44, Scaled Masters Men 45-49, Scaled Masters Men 50-54, Scaled Women, Scaled Masters Women 40-44, Scaled Masters Women 45-49, Scaled Masters Women 50-54)
Complete as many rounds and reps as possible in 9 minutes of:
15 hanging knee raises
10 deadlifts (85 / 55 lb.)
5 snatches* (85 / 55 lb.)
*ground-to-overhead allowed

(Masters Men 55-59, Masters Men 60+, Masters Women 55-59, Masters Women 60+)
Complete as many rounds and reps as possible in 9 minutes of:
15 toes-to-bars
10 deadlifts (85 / 55 lb.)
5 snatches (85 / 55 lb.)

Masters Scaled
(Scaled Masters Men 55-59, Scaled Masters Men 60+, Scaled Masters Women 55-59, Scaled Masters Women 60+)
Complete as many rounds and reps as possible in 9 minutes of:
15 sit-ups
10 deadlifts (65 / 45 lb.)
5 snatches* (65 / 45 lb.)
*ground-to-overhead allowed

(Teen Boys 14-15, Teen Boys 16-17, Teen Girls 14-15, Teen Girls 16-17)
Complete as many rounds and reps as possible in 9 minutes of:
15 toes-to-bars
10 deadlifts (85 / 55 lb.)
5 snatches (85 / 55 lb.)

Teens Scaled
(Scaled Teen Boys 14-15, Scaled Teen Boys 16-17, Scaled Teen Girls 14-15, Scaled Teen Girls 16-17)
Complete as many rounds and reps as possible in 9 minutes of:
15 hanging knee raises
10 deadlifts (65 / 45 lb.)
5 snatches* (65 / 45 lb.)
*ground-to-overhead allowed

Workout 15.1a 
(All Divisions)
1-rep-max clean and jerk
6-minute time cap

by Anna at February 27, 2015 02:42 AM

Dustin Curtis

In mobile, disruption comes from above

The always-amazing Benedict Evans on patterns of disruption in mobile:

You can see this basic story over and over again in the history of the technology industry. The future always comes looking like a toy. But right now the tech industry is being reset by the mobile, and in mobile, disruption tends to work the other way around. The new thing tends to arrive looking like an expensive luxury for rich people, doing far more than any normal person would need. But over time it gets cheaper, and the new, unnecessary characteristics turn out to be very necessary, and the the old, cheaper, less capable model gets squashed.

This kind of ‘reverse disruption’ also happens with other advanced, expensive hardware technology products like the automobile, the computer, the television, etc. But the bottom-up disruption pattern is way more common, and almost universally true for applications of those expensive products, especially apps, services, and the industries built on top of them.

See also: Ben Thompson on “obsoletive” technology.

February 27, 2015 01:33 AM

Cal Newport » Blog

Compelling Career Advice from Barack Obama


A Compelling Answer 

Earlier today, a reader pointed me toward a blog post about Barack Obama from the Humans of New York project. The post quotes Obama’s answer to the following question: When is the time you felt most broken?

The president begins his response by recalling a doubt-ridden plateau in his political career…

“I first ran for Congress in 1999, and I got beat. I just got whooped…for me to run and lose that bad, I was thinking maybe this isn’t what I was cut out to do.”

What caught my attention (and the attention of the reader who forwarded me the interview) is the idea Obama leveraged to move forward…

“But the thing that got me through that moment, and any other time that I’ve felt stuck, is to remind myself that it’s about the work. Because if you’re worrying about yourself — if you’re thinking: ‘Am I succeeding? Am I in the right position? Am I being appreciated?’  — then you’re going to end up feeling frustrated and stuck. But if you can keep it about the work, you’ll always have a path. There’s always something to be done.”

In SO GOOD, I called this the craftsman mindset. It asks that you stop obsessing about what the world can offer you, and instead focus on what you can offer the world.

Notice, this mindset is often at odds with the popular advice to “follow your passion.” Barack Obama was probably not feeling a lot of passion for politics after his loss to Bobby Rush. But he thought he had something to offer in this arena, so he persisted. (See my recent Business Insider article on Steve Jobs for another example of this mindset at work.)

The power of this advice, however, is probably best summed up by the note that the reader who sent me this article appended to the message.

“I respect this a lot about Obama,” he wrote, before admitting, “and, I’m a Republican.”

(Quote and image from Humans of New York.)

by Study Hacks at February 27, 2015 01:31 AM

512 Pixels

Future Classics: the black MacBook

In my “Future Classics” series, I try to guess what current-era Apple products may become collectable in the future. My hobbies are admittedly weird.

Announced in 2006 to replace the iBook G4, the MacBook was an entirely new machine.

Powered by an Intel processor, the notebook featured a 13.3-inch glossy display and an unique chiclet-style keyboard in an all-new new case that was thinner than the 12-inch[1] and 14-inch[2] iBook before it.

In addition to the white plastic that was all the rage in 2006, the MacBook could be purchased in a different color as well:

By any metric, the MacBook was a huge success. It brought Intel processors to Apple’s consumers in a way that the iMac or MacBook Pro couldn’t. Here’s a bit from Apple’s press release at the time:

“Apple began the transition to Intel Core Duo-based notebooks in February with the 15-inch MacBook Pro, and now just 90 days later we have completed the transition with the release of the all new MacBook,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. “The complete MacBook lineup leads the industry with Apple’s trademark innovative design and advanced mobile features—from top to bottom it is the best notebook line that we have ever offered.”

The entry-level machine sported a 1.83 GHz Intel Core Duo and started at $1,099. There was a 2.0 GHz model in white at $1,299, as well. Here are the tech specs of the original line-up:

At $1,499, the black model was exactly the same machine as the white one with the difference of a larger hard drive. As $200 for 20 GB of storage was viewed as robbery, the machine’s price earned a nickname: the so-called “black tax.”

Here are a couple of reviews from the time:

Jonathan Seff, Macworld:

And though from a value perspective, the black model isn’t as good a deal as the others, the cool black color will be enough for some people—those who want something different, own a black iPod, or need a more professional-looking laptop for work—to justify the cost.

Clint Ecker, Ars Technica:

An oft-bandied-about factoid is that if you were to configure the midlevel model to ship with an 80GB hard disk to match the high-end model, you’d still notice that it’s approximately US$150 cheaper. The only difference is the color and finish of the shell, of course (white is glossy and the black has a matte finish). This is undoubtedly done on purpose and is the direct result of Apple’s experience selling iPod and iPod nanos in two color options. It didn’t take long for Apple, and casual observers of Apple’s operations to notice that the black models were selling out faster. A lot faster.

Obviously the demand for black Apple products is much higher than the white products, and Apple is simply responding as most companies would when faced by high demand for a product. People who are set on getting that black MacBook are going to have to wrestle with the US$150 mark-up. Apple is banking that most people will willingly hand over even more cash to get a unique item. It sucks for people without the extra moolah to blow, but it doesn’t take long to come to the realization that it’s just a different color and that you’re going to be saving a nice chunk of change by going with white.

While the early MacBooks had their issues, the black ones faired a little better, at least when it came to case chipping. The black plastic used was a little more rubbery than on the white machines, and it served them well.

While I wouldn’t own a plastic MacBook until the very end of its original run (and only then, it was temporary), I coveted that black case.[3]

Over the course of the MacBook’s life, the black model remained at the top of the line, but never with a big enough technical advantage to justify the cost. Even maxed out, it carried a premium over the white models:

Just this week, there has been a lot of talk about the possible pricing of the gold Apple Watch. While the premiums on the Watch are going to be far larger than on the MacBooks of yesterday, the same principle is at play: Apple often charges more for things like color.

So, why does the black MacBook deserve to be the considered a future classic?

While Apple has shipped several black models over the years, the MacBook was by far the most successful. However, in the light of the truckloads of white models sold, it is rare to a degree.

More than the rarity, however, I think the black MacBook really helped set the stage for modern Apple to charge more for a design element.

Plus, they just look so damn cool.

  1. The MacBook was slightly heavier than the smaller iBook, though. Apple was doomed in 2006.  ↩

  2. Seriously, remember the 14-inch iBook? That thing was gross.  ↩

  3. Especially after my brother bought one.  ↩

by Stephen Hackett at February 27, 2015 12:12 AM

February 26, 2015

Front Porch Republic

The Academy Awards as a Religious Experience


The stylish crowd that walked the red carpet to the Oscars likely had not donned their Sunday best earlier in the day for a trip to church. Even so, the show still offered a look at religion as Hollywood sees…

Read Full Article...

The post The Academy Awards as a Religious Experience appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by John Murdock at February 26, 2015 10:51 PM

Mr. Money Mustache

My Top Questions from Internet Strangers

worldwide-mustachians2Every day, the ever-generous Google search engine sends thousands of random new people from around the world to the shores of our Mustachian Nation here. Do they find what they are looking for?

Just for fun, let’s take a rapid-fire tour through the top questions people have asked the Internet over the course of the last month, which were in turn referred to Mr. Money Mustache.

Since I view this blog as an ongoing experiment, I find it fascinating to learn what types of things the world wants to know the most. Plus, some of the questions are pretty funny.

I’ve grouped them into categories:

Getting a Job:

jobs that pay 20 an hour without a degree
jobs that party you 26 dollars a hour
how to get rich without college
jobs that pay 50k a year without a degree
50000 a year is how much an hour
how to get rich without college

These queries are showing up because of a two-post series I wrote last year called “50 Jobs over $50,000 – without a degree“. It has become an accidental hit with the search engines, and is now the second most popular post on this whole blog.

Quick Answer:  Take control of your pay rate. Think like an entrepreneur and try something different. And $50,000 is equivalent to about 25 bucks an hour.

Saving and Investing:

how to make money in the stock market
betterment review
betterment vs vanguard

QA: Accumulate low cost index funds consistently over your lifetime. Vanguard funds will do just fine. Just keep buying, don’t worry about market fluctuations, and work on earning lots and spending little. Those Betterment results are showing up because I wrote an article about my new investing experiment with Betterment here.

simple math behind early retirement
how long will my money last if i withdraw 4%

QA: Save 50% of your net income and retire in under 17 years. With wise spending, this can last a lifetime. Full details here.

i only make 2600 a month can i save 10000 in a years time

QA: You sure can – that works out to $833/month, so keep your spending below about $1700.

Mobile Phones:

republic wireless
$10 a month phone plan
mr money mustache cell phone
cheapest phone plans with unlimited everything

QA: Mobile phone service has come way down in price in the last few years and should not cost anywhere close to the $100/month some people are still paying. We use two Republic Wireless lines in my household, but Ting is great as well, and Straight Talk if you need to keep your iPhone.


top fuel efficient cars

QA: Just get a Honda Fit from Craigslist. Manual transmission, pay cash.  For more variety, my old top 10 Cars list still applies.

depreciation on car and economics of distance of 110 mph at 20.00 hr ?

QA: Hmm.. you might want to rethink your units, but 110 miles will cost you about $30-60 every time you drive it, including gas, wearing out your car, and other costs. You don’t want a commute like that for any job, especially not one that is paying you only $20 an hour.

how can you avoid the stress of traffic if you take a way about 50 km to work place

QA: you can move closer to work or get a new job. I know I keep harping on this anti-car-commuting thing, but that is because Your Spare Time is Worth Way More You Think.

find vehicle that will carry 12 foot ladder

QA: Anything with a good roof rack will handle a small ladder like that. My painter friend carries a 32-footer (retracted to 16′) on his stock Subaru Outback rack in a pinch. But the ultimate roof rack vehicle is a compact pickup with an over-cab-and-bed roof rack.

is awd worth it?

QA: Not for people who drive on roads.

whats too big a commute

QA: one that you feel is too long to do by bike.

top 4 suv

QA: SUVs are generally a losing choice, but you might enjoy my article on the Top SUVs for growing families.


QA: Just remember the rhyme, “If you need to brake, you’ve made a mistake”. More detail here.

Food and Nutrition:

average grocery bill for family of 4
how much does it cost to join costco
how can I save on groceries
how to lose fat

QA: Eat mostly foods your great grandmother would recognize, lots of fats and healthy oils, and no sugar. It is possible to eat very well for about one dollar per person per meal, and although my family averages closer to $2, that is the result of millionaire-style grocery shopping. Think of that as the upper limit.


hedonic adaptation

QA: It is your biggest shopping weakness: incorrectly thinking new things will make you happier.

what is stoicism

QA: It is your biggest life ally, teaching you the true sources that embracing hardship and expanding your General Badassity is a powerful source of true happiness.

your money or your life

QA: it’s a great book that is credited with starting this movement of ours. Think of money as “life energy”.

how to stop worrying about money

QA: By accumulating more of it, as well as increasing life resilience with a mesh of interlocking skills.

when i’m rich what do i do with my money
marginal utility of money

QA: If your goal is happiness, anything other than spending it on yourself will probably be fun. The marginal utility of money really drops, once you get your food and shelter taken care of. This is why I suggest that buying freedom would be one of the next targets.

is it ok to only have one child

QA: Great news, Yes it is!

who is the most optimistic person in fiction or the real world

QA: I am honored that Google referred this search query to me. I am a strategic and very happy practitioner of Outrageous Optimism, and you should be too.

Do It Yourself Handyman Stuff

Although this is supposed to be a financial blog, I’ll occasionally throw in some stuff about building houses. That is because it’s the task I spend most of my happiest days doing, and I have no editor to keep me on topic here. Freedom is great.

how to build your own shower
how to build a tile shower
DIY shower base
how to frame a shower floor on a basement floor

QA: You can do it! Building a relatively sweet shower is not as unattainable as people assume.

diy radiant floor heating
does adding more pex increase suction pressure in radiant system
can you use a water heater for radiant heat

QA: Yes, it turns out you can build your own heating system. Longer runs of PEX would increase the backpressure and slow the flow. And yes, you can use a water heater (preferably a really efficient one) instead of a boiler.

run the air conditioner with the windows all closed, or open windows and shut it off all together

QA: If we’re talking about a house, open the windows, dude! You’re a human, and you need to be connected to the great outdoors. Plus A/C wastes a shitload of electricity. In the car, running the A/C burns about $1 of fuel per hour, and the crossover point for that vs. the aerodynamic drag from partially open windows is about 45-55 MPH.

metal roofs for homes
the best way to replace a shingle roof with sheet metal roofing
is metal roofing cheaper than shingles

QA: Metal roofing is far superior to shingles. It should be almost as cheap, but in most areas the contractors rip you off because there is not enough competition. So I bought the metal myself from Metal Sales Inc and built my own.


QA: I don’t know much about it other than the fact that it is the Automated Ubergarden of the Future.. however my friend Jeremiah Robinson is the National Grandmaster of the field, and he taught us about it here.


watching d activities of competition as a means of bus survival

QA: Huh? I can only guess that Google decided that reading Mr. Money Mustache is a better way for this person to pass the time while riding a bus, than watching d activities of competition.

extreme frugality

QA: I have no idea why this person ended up at MMM. This blog is not about extreme frugality.

investments i can make 100 % within 3 months

QA: Hmm. You could get lucky on a penny stock, but that’s not investing. Buying a foreclosure and doing a rapid rehab/resale might come close. There’s also paying off your payday loan, or paying off your car loan early so you can sell it on Craigslist, then buying a less expensive one with the cash in hand.

is it good to buy a house when im 13

QA: Sure, if your Mom will let you and you have a solid 20% downpayment in hand. You can build some solid equity by renting out spare bedrooms as you go through college. Just don’t let all your partying friends destroy your investment!

working really hard will make you look old

QA: In a cubicle or a coal mine, this is probably true. But in general, working hard at healthy pursuits will keep you young and vigorous much better than any plastic surgery or Botox treatments will.

mr money mustache book

QA: Sorry, no book yet. I still haven’t figured out how to fit this into my oddly packed days, short of abandoning the family. But other people have done it, which means it can be done.

how to share one internet connection between buildings

QA: You put a TP-LINK WA7510N outdoor access point at each end. Plug them into your existing routers and set the outbuilding side to “client” mode. Invent a new Wi-fi network name and get them to link up to each other. Set the outbuilding’s router to serve up DHCP addresses on the 192.168.2.x network to avoid IP address conflicts with your main house network. Eventually you’ll get it working despite the terrible translated instructions and it ends up really reliable.

frugal toque

QA: Hooray for my friend Mr. Frugal Toque! There’s only one of him on the Internet, although he does write novels under another pseudonym. You can find all his articles by using the URL

is it possible if in anyhouse have peerpgumbr mjhar

QA: no, this is currently impossible


QA: You’ve come to the right place!

describe me a 10 year old could earn money 

QA: see if you can get your parents to pay you a dollar for each book you read. Also, if you get a bike and keep track of your miles with a speedometer and send me pictures and stories about biking, I’ll pay you 10 cents per mile you ride plus a 10 dollar bonus for each good story.

benefits bike in avery small paragraph

QA: A bicycle is an automatic life-balancing machine. It is a money-printing fountain of youth. You can’t really make any rational decisions about life, finance, or national planning unless you have the context of bicycle transportation as part of your frame of reference.

Additional Visitors From Unknown search terms:116,619

Of course. No matter how many questions you answer, there will always be more to learn and more to be written about. So until next time, I remain your faithful Mr. Money Mustache.


by Mr. Money Mustache at February 26, 2015 10:22 PM


“Look At How Jesus Worked For Me!” (A Reflection on Testimony and Gospel Preaching)

There is a bit of irony of the preaching and spread of the gospel after the dispersion of the Church in Acts 8.

And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.

Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. (Acts 8:1-4)

peter preachingWhat was this preaching like? Whatever it was, it must be something a bit different than what we often hear in churches and pulpits when it comes to evangelism. Often we’re told that all we must do to share the gospel is share our own story. All we need to do is share of the marvelous things God has done in our lives to change our circumstances, our families, our jobs, and our general outlook on life.

In a sense, we’re told to share a story whose essential core is: “Sign up with Jesus! Look at how it worked for me!”  Some of this is due to our Evangelical history of sharing our testimonies of faith. Beyond that, though, it is reinforced by with our culture’s current emphasis on the power of personal stories and truth something we arrive at through our own narratives.

But how does that work for those who were “scattered” after Paul was “ravaging the church” in the midst of the persecution in Jerusalem? What about those devout men who buried Stephen and made a great lamentation over him? It’s hard to imagine them heading out into the hillsides and cities of Samaria and Judea saying, “Sign up with Jesus! Look at how it worked for me!” Losing your home, your job, your family, any and all social standing you might have had, freedom, security, or even physical health doesn’t really look like Jesus “worked” to most people.

No, there had to have been something more compelling than that. And indeed, if you look at the preaching in the book of Acts, there is. Take, for instance, Peter’s speech to the crowds in Acts 2 is paradigmatic:

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him,

“‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

“Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”’

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:22-41)

What do we see here? A personal reflection on the way Jesus has changed Peter’s life? A recounting of Jesus’ personal forgiveness on the shores of Galilee? A narrative about Peter’s own relief and growing sense of personal confidence because of his encounter with Jesus? No. What we find is a recitation of the good news of Jesus’ story. Over and over again we see this discernable core message that God has kept his promises to save the world. He has done so by sending the Messiah, the King of Israel who is indeed the King of the Whole World. And this king has lived, taught, died a death for sin, risen again to new life, and is even now seated on the throne of heaven offering forgiveness for their rebellion and salvation to all who believe in him. This is the gospel message that comes with power even when the messenger seems outwardly weak, and their story doesn’t seem to “work” according to most outward, human principles.

This is the message that Luke talks about when he says that Philip went about after the dispersion:

Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did.  For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city. (Acts 8:5-8)

And later, in his encounter with the Eunuch, we see him preach to him on the basis of Jesus’ fulfillment of the prophecies of Isaiah (Acts 8:26-40).

Where am I going with all of this? I don’t want to ignore, or deny the power that sharing our personal testimony has in leading someone to faith, or in encouraging the faith of other believers. Peter’s story (besides establishing his renewed apostolicity and place in the church) is a personal comfort and a demonstration of the gospel at work to transform an individual’s life. There is a proper place for our stories.

But what I want us to remember that there is another, deeper story that forms the heart of the gospel. Peter’s story only matters because it’s based on a prior story about God and God’s Messiah, Jesus, the Crucified and Resurrected Lord who is bringing the kingdom, making all things new and inviting sinners to be forgiven and participate in the process. That is the invitation that underlies all of our stories and the one that should be the focus of all of our sharing and evangelism.

In other words, the story that ultimately changes us is the one that says not, “Look at how Jesus has worked for me!”, but “Look at Jesus’ work for me!”

Soli Deo Gloria

by Derek Rishmawy at February 26, 2015 09:57 PM

Karen De Coster

Finally, A Use for “You Go Girl!”

I don’t like overused clichés, but for this I am making an exception. Detroit News headline today: “Women With CPLs Surge in Michigan.”

The number of women statewide who received or renewed concealed pistol licenses rose from 10,862 in 2010 to 25,418, a gain of 134 percent.

And while women still made up less than a quarter of the state’s new CPL holders last year, their numbers are growing faster than the number of Michigan men getting licenses. The number of newly issued or renewed CPL licenses for men surged 103 percent from 2010 to 2014.

…Gratiot County, in mid-central lower Michigan, had the state’s biggest jump in women with new CPLs, surging 489 percent.

So … You go girl(s)! The proprietor of Detroit Arms, LLC, a place where I have taken training, notes that one-third of her classes are now women whereas, formerly, women had to be dragged along to gun training, kicking and screaming, by their husbands/boyfriends. Hence the new female conundrum:

'Does this outfit make my concealed weapon look big?'


by Karen De Coster at February 26, 2015 09:49 PM

The Urbanophile

Rahm’s Runoff

Rahm Emanuel is heading to a runoff in his bid for re-election as Chicago mayor. I discuss the matter in my latest piece over at City Journal. In short, while Emanuel has done himself no favor with his “Rahmses” style and unapologetic catering to the upscale Chicago, much of the dissatisfaction with him comes from a denial that the bill for past decisions is finally coming due.

Here’s an excerpt:

The dynamic Emanuel seemed just what the flagging city needed. His dead-fish-mailing, F-bomb-dropping style seemed perfectly in tune with hardboiled Chicago sensibilities. He started fast, unleashing a blizzard of initiatives and announcements that boosted the morale of the city’s establishment. And four years on, Chicago has hit its stride in many ways. In November, Crain’s Chicago Business reported that jobs in the greater downtown area had reached an all-time high. The city has enjoyed a tourist boom, drawing over 50 million visitors last year, and several new hotels are expected to open. Chicago’s downtown tech scene has seen strong growth. Thousands of new apartments are going up in downtown every year.

Chicago is also uniquely burdened among major American cities by its twin deficits. Both the state of Illinois and the city of Chicago are in dire financial condition. Illinois’s unfunded pension liability stands at $111 billion. It owes another $56 billion in unfunded retiree health-care obligations. Chicago itself faces $35 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. The total liability for all local government obligations adds up to as much as $83,000 per household. This flow of red ink can’t be staunched with simple “belt tightening.” One wonders if Emanuel understood the full extent of the financial hole when he sought the mayor’s office.

It’s tempting to pin the blame for Emanuel’s travails on hubris, and he has committed his share of unforced errors. He manages the local media with Washington-style spin control. He’s also shown a lack of regard for the optics of leadership. Daley projected a South Side “neighborhood guy” persona even while cozying up to the Loop business class. By contrast, Emanuel seems unconcerned about coming across as an elitist. His schedule is full of meetings with wealthy donors. Over half of his top donors benefit in some way from city largesse. Emanuel built a fancy selective-admission school named after President Obama on the white and wealthy North Side while closing 50 public schools in the city’s lower-income neighborhoods.

Click through for the whole thing.

by Aaron M. Renn at February 26, 2015 09:45 PM

Justin Taylor

5 Reasons the Virgin Birth of Jesus Is Important

John Frame writes that the virgin birth of Jesus is doctrinally important because of:

  1. The doctrine of Scripture. If Scripture errs here, then why should we trust its claims about other su­pernatural events, such as the resurrection?
  2. The deity of Christ. While we cannot say dog­matically that God could enter the world only through a virgin birth, surely the incarnation is a supernatural event if it is anything. To elimi­nate the supernatural from this event is inevi­tably to compromise the divine dimension of it.
  3. The humanity of Christ. This was the impor­tant thing to Ignatius and the second century fathers. Jesus was really born; he really became one of us.
  4. The sinlessness of Christ. If he were born of two human parents, it is very diffi­cult to conceive how he could have been ex­empted from the guilt of Adam’s sin and become a new head to the human race. And it would seem only an arbitrary act of God that Jesus could be born without a sinful nature. Yet Jesus’ sinlessness as the new head of the human race and as the atoning lamb of God is absolutely vital to our salvation (II Cor. 5:21; I Pet. 2:22-24; Heb. 4:15; 7:26; Rom. 5:18-19).
  5. The nature of grace. The birth of Christ, in which the initiative and power are all of God, is an apt picture of God’s saving grace in general of which it is a part. It teaches us that salvation is by God’s act, not our human effort. The birth of Jesus is like our new birth, which is also by the Holy Spirit; it is a new creation (II Cor. 5:17).

Frame concludes by asking whether belief in the virgin birth is “necessary”:

It is possible to be saved without believing it; saved people aren’t perfect people.

But to reject the virgin birth is to reject God’s Word, and disobe­dience is always serious.

Further, disbelief in the virgin birth may lead to compromise in those other areas of doctrine with which it is vitally connected.

You can read the whole thing here.

—John M. Frame, “Virgin Birth of Jesus,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., ed. Walter Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 1249-50.

HT: The First Days of Jesus: The Story of the Incarnation, by Andreas J. Köstenberger and Alexander Stewart (Crossway, forthcoming September 2015).

For a new book on the incarnation, see The Incarnation of God: The Mystery of the Gospel as the Foundation of Evangelical Theology, by John Clark and Marcus Johnson (Crossway, 2015). You can find out more information about it here.

by Justin Taylor at February 26, 2015 09:26 PM

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

Reviewer Praise for FEASTS AND SEASONS

Yard Sale of the Mind has a fulsome and flattering review of BOOK OF FEASTS AND SEASONS. I had the odd sensation of wanting to read the stories thus described, they sounded so fascinating.

The reviewer makes the unintentionally funny comment that I might mislike being compared to one of the most famous writers of the century, Flannery O’Conner. I also might mislike being told I am as handsome as Adonis, strong as Sampson, and as logical as Spock, but then again perhaps I might not.

Full disclosure: I know this reviewer. Not only have we been bosom friends for years, and not only do I owe him my life, if not my immortal soul, but the reason why he has adopted the eccentric habit of never appearing in public, indeed, never leaving his dark and windowless room in the Smithsonian, communicating to the outside world only by telephone, eating only sushi and never touching food that has ever touched fire, and walking with his face and hands entirely swathed in bandages, actually is my fault.

Let me explain briefly.

His name is Josiah Moore, and he was born in Cornwall. He and I were together on October 31st in 1952, if I recall correctly, in a small and ruined Churchyard in southeast Europe.

The sanctuary had been burnt by the Communists, and there was no priest present to restore the ancient wards. With pickaxe and shovel, Moore and I hurried to dig up the remnants of a horrifying medieval tyrant whose ferocity in opposing the Turk was, all too often, turned against his own people, and whose name — I dare not write it, even here — is a byword for frightening the children of the parish. On a scrap of paper I had the words indited by Elphais Levi, and Moore was carrying the pyx containing the essential salts.

The moon was soon to rise, and it would be full that night, and, worse, partially occluded by the earth, giving it an unchancy reddish hue the superstitious called a ‘Blood Moon.’ Despite the crucifix given me by the MI-5 black-belt Archibishop out of Canterbury’s ‘Unusual Circumstances’ division known only as Father Z, and the foul concoction given my by the mad Latvian physician named Bogg, I was beginning to feel the circumstances of the change happening to me.

Meanwhile, on the ruined spire, outlined by the erubescent light, a slender and pale but beautiful figure dressed in white cerements was visible. I was sure it was Lenore! But from the figure now were uplifted wings of membrane, and she swooped toward us. Madness seized me!

Shame now clots my throat to speak more of that dread night, but I was overcome with the sickness of my own unnamable transformation, and the pressure of time. Mere minutes were left before the red light of the full moon was to flood the scene — and in the east, in the spot where the moon so soon to appear, I saw the dim and diamond-bright glitter of the strange saucer-shaped craft, nothing of this earth, which the communist government so desperately was trying to hide, and who messages by Gridley wave started this whole labyrinth of horror and deception.

And the silent disk was coming closer!

With my teeth, now elongated to unearthly shape, I tore the crucifix from me, thinking only that I must embrace Lenore once more, and that I dare not  burn her.

Forgive me, I was out of my mind!

Moore, as the last descendant of the famous pirate-turned-parson Christopher Syn,was, of course, dressed like a scarecrow, in order that the hoodoo shadows brought back by Captain Clegg from the so called Fountain of Youth — in truth a well of death! — would serve him, deceived by the scent of his blood into thinking him his own forefather. With their help, Moore had recovered from the clutches of the Si Fan one of the few remaining fragments of the Wold Newton meteor stone. Yes, this was the selfsame stone his martyred ancestor Thomas Moore had recovered from the traveler Raphael Hythloday the island of Utopia — a place that, (heaven save us!) is not a mere literary fiction. This shard of black stone Moore wore on the thong around his neck, his armor against all things from the nocturnal world. Seeing me in my madness and rage, he removed the protective amulet from his own neck and tossed the loop over my head as neatly as a cowboy roping a wild steer.

Immediately the flood of sanity and sense was restored to my fevered brain, and I called upon the mental disciplines taught to me by Ying-Ko of Chinatown, which he had learned in Tibet, and raised my Tommy gun toward the pale lamia stepping softly across the gravestones toward me, smiling with luxurious red lips, her eyes filled with love.

A graveyard is normally sacred ground, and creatures of her species, or, I should say, her order of being, cannot enter. But thanks to the gangersterism of the materialistic Communists, that bulwark was broken!

Her order was something that impersonate human life just as a fiddler crab might impersonate a whelk, by entering its empty shell, and, as such, cannot be slain by mortal weapons. I had been assured by the Vatican armorer that the special blessed bullets of silver mingled with iron from the missing fourth nail of Christ would harm the apparition, but then she whispered the name of our pet puppy, Puddles, that we had bought together in a shop in New England in the fall, when the leaves were as golden as her hair! I curse my weakness, but I could not pull the trigger! The memory of Puddles was too dear to me!

But the ground was heaving and buckling, and a voice spoke, echoing like the strings of a bass viol, from the disk over head, a starvoyaging vessel from darkest Carcosa in the Hyades, uttering the words of judgment on the whole human race, when I saw Moore, now unwarded, now unprotected – saw him for the last time in his fully human and properly three-dimensional form — saw him grabbed about the ankle by a thin and marmoreal hand emerging from the disturbed grave soil!

And, dear heavens! When I tell you of the signet on the ring that glittered there! Yes, the same signet I last saw that dreadful midnight in 1912 in Egypt raised in triumph above the buried and primordial treasure city of Pithom! IT WAS NONE OTHER THAN THE SELF SAME SCARAB RING WHICH ARDETH BEY EMPLOYED TO SUMMON THE TRANSFINITE CHAOS! …. I knew then who had shattered the foundations of Atlantis, and why, and what the haunting hints of famed balloonist William Waterman Sherman as to the fate of Krakatoa implied!

I called out to my doomed friend, Josiah! Josiah! … and then I saw a horror so remarkable, so unearthly, that even to hint at the …!

Wait a moment. That review was written by Joseph Moore, not Josiah Moore.


No, I do not know know the fellow. I know someone else of a similar name. Never mind.


by John C Wright at February 26, 2015 09:20 PM

The Brooks Review

Fcc Votes for Net Neutrality, a Ban on Paid Fast Lanes

Jon Brodkin:

The Federal Communications Commission today voted to enforce net neutrality rules that prevent Internet providers—including cellular carriers—from blocking or throttling traffic or giving priority to Web services in exchange for payment.


by Ben Brooks at February 26, 2015 09:17 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

“Normal Guy” Pizza Manager Stays Overnight in 48 States

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

Currently a manager at Sbarro, Chris Strub is a self-described “normal guy” who wanted to spend at least one night in the lower 48 states. Here’s how he made it happen:

Introduce yourself and your quest.

I’m a 29-year-old native New Yorker currently living in Greenville, South Carolina. As I grew up, I was constantly told I could “be whatever I wanted to be.” I sat at my college graduation listening to successful people offering vague advice, rife with buzzwords. But I’d never pigeonholed my career goal. Even though I’d had great jobs, I felt like I still had an open book in front of me. I didn’t want to be defined by my vocations – I wanted to be defined by my dreams.

Pushing the limits of social media through travel was my calling. So I decided to take a 90-day solo road trip around the lower 48 states, staying a night in every state.

Arriving in Georgia.

Can you describe what you mean by “pushing the limits of social media”?

I wanted to change the way that people approach social media – to not just see it as an extension of themselves, but as a way to experience lives beyond their own. I wanted people to live a 90-day journey of their own through my eyes and my social media channels. In doing so, I wanted to inspire people to take a risk and embark of journeys of their own.

How did you use social media on your quest? What impact did it have?

I started by networking. For example, I used to work with Doug Schneider at a local newspaper in Binghamton. Doug is now an enterprise reporter at the Press-Gazette in Green Bay. He heard about my project through social media and was able to take a day to chronicle my day in Wisconsin in the newspaper, which was awesome. This happened in Montana and Alabama too. Media coverage helped my trip pick up a little bit of a following, which was pretty cool.

I also found that using local hashtags on Instagram and Twitter got me involved in conversations. For example, Greenville is well-known for the hashtag #yeahTHATgreenville, which I’ve come to love. Many businesses are socially savvy, so  by interacting directly with businesses, I’d pick up followers through shout-outs and conversation.

Finally, I used my own hashtag, #TeamStrub, which I painted all over my car. Strangers shared photos of me just driving, and I gained followers that way.

Final state: Delaware.

What was it like to have support from so many strangers?

It feels awesome to have strangers cheering me on. That was maybe the best part of the whole trip. I set out with a goal of inspiring people and interacting with them, and in many ways, I achieved that goal.

What made you decide you were actually going to embark on this quest?

My “Okay, all in!” moment was Dec. 31, 2011, on my couch, alone, watching Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin with a bottle of champagne. My girlfriend and I had just broken up. With my future plans suddenly changed, rather than wallow in misery as I had during previous heartbreak, I wanted to go the complete opposite direction: I saw freedom and opportunity.

The trip became certain in the spring. My best friend convinced me to register for three half-marathons in Kentucky, Colorado, and Oregon, which would bookmark my trip around the country. Then, I finally got the courage to quit my job. Telling my boss was the single hardest part of preparing to leave. I was happy, respected, and I enjoyed my job—but I also knew I just had to go.

What were the costs associated with traveling to all lower 48 states?

I budgeted $13,500, and wound up spending $13,287. Here’s the breakdown:

$4,227 on lodging.

$2,077 on fuel (Las Vegas having the most expensive, Greenville the cheapest).

$2,685 on food.

The rest was spent on parking (metro areas are pricey!) and experiences. I wanted to experience once-in-a-lifetime things on this once-in-a-lifetime trip. I paid for a good seat at Wrigley Field. I paid to tee off on the Robert T. Jones golf trail in Alabama. I paid to participate in a wild pub crawl in Seattle — and then again in San Francisco. I did not want to regret missing out on something.

Wrigley Field.

What memorable encounter stuck with you?

After a tough day and long drive, I found a cheap motel off the highway in Lincoln, Nebraska. I trudged to one of those pubs that accompanies a hotel, where the food was bad but the bartender was a sparkplug with an easygoing attitude who made great conversation.

An older woman sat down next to me, and told me she was from Thermopolis, Wyoming. She read the back of my t-shirt, where I had listed my stops like concert tour dates, and critiqued my travel plans: “How can you visit Wyoming without going to Yellowstone?” It was some of the best advice I’d received all summer, and a couple weeks later I ended up at the national park.

The woman left, and two Englishmen took her place. This piqued my interest: what the heck were they doing at a cheap hotel bar in Lincoln? The story unfolded over a couple drinks, as I hit it off with the English road-trippers.

For their first USA experience, they’d flown to LA and were driving to Chicago. As it turned out, one of the travelers was Joe White, aka MrFlyingPigHD, a passionate soccer fan with a significant YouTube following. We spoke a lot about the differences between football and football, dug into why we were each on our respective journeys, and compared cultures from our individual perspectives.

Englishmen in Nebraska.

What surprised you on your quest?

Wyoming. Every state out west has great stories to tell, but Wyoming seemed to do the best job of expressing itself to travelers. I adored the Ames Monument, and arriving there was liberating. Literally out in the middle of nowhere, it is a monument dedicated to two brothers who were instrumental in completing the transcontinental railroad.

Ames Monument.

Plus, the  towns I visited in Wyoming just felt like the perfect embodiment of America. I came across a block party in downtown Rawlins, which was a fundraiser for improvements to Rawlins High School. (I bought a RWS koozie to support the cause.) I met a naïve entrepreneur in Laramie who started his own adult-themed arcade, right on the main drag. He didn’t know much about business or finances, but he’d always dreamed of starting an arcade and so he did it. There was even “Little America,” a picturesque truck stop in Green River.

I think people’s perception of Wyoming needs to change. It’s in no way a “flyover” state.


What did we miss?

Don’t lose sight of the things that make you happy and healthy. I went through a ton of water in 90 days. Travel means you’re exposed to opportunities to eat, drink and be merry… everywhere. Every day felt like a Friday night, and it was near impossible to avoid overindulging when there was so much cool stuff around. Social media actually exacerbated those pressures: What do you mean you’re in (XXX) and you’re not eating (XXX)? people tweeted at me.

As terrific as it was to experience everything, I had to keep an eye on the bigger picture of my health. Signing up for the half-marathons throughout the trip was a great idea because it kept me accountable to my body — I couldn’t “let myself go,” per se.

Do you  have any advice for people who want to start a quest of their own?

Once you do it, you’ll realize it’s the greatest thing you’ve ever done. Don’t miss out on that.

What’s next?

I want to go around the country again. One, or even seven, days in a state is not enough to get the full experience. I always felt like I was missing so much of what there was to see. Plus, I didn’t get to Alaska or Hawaii. I have unfinished business.

Keep up to date on Chris’s quest at his site, Team Strub, or via Twitter @ChrisStrub.


by Chris Guillebeau at February 26, 2015 09:10 PM

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

A Fan Manifesto

Challenge accepted, Mr. Torgersen!

Background: More than rabbit-souled one self-declared foe of the Sad Puppies slate of Hugo candidates has urged their fellow lapines to shun us and bite us with their wee square rodential teeth to drive us trembling into exile, away from the fuzzy and comfortable warren of right-thinking, that is to say, left-leaning, that is to say, non-thinking conformists.

Their claim of right and clamor of noise was that we were all disqualified from being heard, on the grounds that we are not ‘real’ science fiction fans.

Nothing wrong with fans holding forth their opinions, far from it: Science fiction is blessed to have such an active and enthusiastic fanbase. Nothing wrong with fans telling pros how to conduct their business, far from it. You fans are the employers. The customer is always right.

But their is something wrong with one fan wagging the insufferable finger of correctness at other fans, and telling them they are not members of the one, big happy family, because then you are frelling with my customers, you loon, and mucking with my paycheck. So shut your fat and drooling trap, friend.

My normal Vulcan equanimity is perturbed, causing me to raise one supercilious eyebrow an alarming inch and a quarter up my otherwise unwrinkled forehead by anyone who claims that I and mine are not ‘real’ fans because our participation in fandom is somehow insufficient or politically incorrect.

One Rob at CDN ( takes exception to the restrictive definition; and was joined in his umbrage by Brad R Torgersen ( and Paterick Richardson ( and Kerry English ( and an anonymous passer-by on the internet, who, because he happens at the moment to agree with me on this one issue, I trust as I trust the Oracle at Delphi and the Sibyl at Cumae, combined! (

So, in that spirit, let me say that, while you were still in kneepants, I was a fan. I embarked on my life of crime for the sake of fandom.

My life as a criminal began in the Fifth Grade. During lunch period and recess, because I preferred to read rather than play on the playground, and because my book and my MUNSTERS lunchbox were too big for my small hands to carry both, it was my habit, just before the bell rang, to walk over and unlatch one window the merest crack. Then, while other children were getting healthy exercise, I would sneak back to the classroom building, open the window deftly, and slither inside, retrieve my book, close the window, and depart my the front door, locking it behind me. I would have gotten away with it, too, if Mr Geisel, my teacher, had not collared me during one break-in. My career as a first-story man, or boy, seemed cut short. But when he realized I was trespassing in order to get a book, to read it, something no other child seemed wont to do, I was not sent to Alcatraz, nor to the Principal’s office.

I agree that, compared to the career of Adam North, the Napoleon of Crime, or Professor Moriarty, that Irish mastermind, or of Blackie DuQuesne, that superscientist of villainy, my crime wave was short lived. But I got away clean as a whistle, which is more than two of the three of them can can say.

Whether that book was THE GAMMAGE CUP by Carol Kendall, or TIME CAT by Lloyd Alexander, or DANNY DUNN AND THE SMALLIFYING MACHINE by an author whose name I forget, or THE MARVELOUS INVENTIONS OF ALVIN FERNALD by Clifford B Hicks, or THE MAD SCIENTISTS CLUB by Bertrand R. Brinley, or WONDERFUL VOYAGE TO THE MUSHROOM PLANET by Eleanor Cameron, or A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L’Engle, or ENCHANTRESS FROM THE STARS by Sylvia Engdahl, or THE MAGIC BED KNOB by Mary Norton, or THE DARK IS RISING by Susan Cooper, or TUNNEL THROUGH TIME by Lester Del Rey is something I do not now recall, but I do recall those to be among the books I read at that age, probably all in one week. I read quickly and omnivorously and gluttonously.

I remember the green cover of the Carol Kendall book, and the dark silhouettes of Minnipins flourishing their war swords at the ghastly Mushroom creatures; I recall the dizzying circles radiating from the eye of the startled face on the cover of the Lester Del Rey book, and the silhouette of the time traveler falling into the Triassic, in part because it reminded me of the TIME TUNNEL television show, which I was watching, not in reruns, at about that same time.

I remember arguing with my teacher over the meaning of ENCHANTRESS FROM THE STARS by Sylvia Engdahl. She said the machine-using invaders who were occupying the medieval planet were supposed to represent us, the Earthmen; whereas I said the psychic and self-sacrificing Illuminati attempting in secret to protect the medievals were the Earthmen.

And I recall the plot, the characters, and themes of all these books and their fellows, because they live in me, and shaped the contours of my imagination, forever.  Even to say their names is to be like Helen of Troy whispering the names of her one hundred suitors, if only she had given her heart wholly to them one and all.

I remember seeing STAR TREK, also not in reruns. My earliest recollection was the episode where the Enterprise is thrown back into the past, and saves a fighter pilot from destruction by beaming him aboard.

The moment when I saw the image of the great ship from the far future in silhouette, laboring to gain altitude in the atmosphere — which, even at that age, I knew was dangerous for space vessels to go — of a year in the their far past, our present — which I knew was the wrong place for future people to be — while the brass trumpets of Alexander Courage blared an eerie and ominous cord still lives in my heart, and still trembles with an echo of that old, old thrill of wonder and strangeness.

(As a child, I thought it was hilarious the the current-day earth-pilot did not know where to stand to be teleported, as Mr Spock had to reach out his hand to urge the man to step on the glowing circle before Scotty could beam him down. It never occurred to my boyish brain that the current-day earth-pilot had not seen the STAR TREK show as I had, nor that it would have been a quaint paradox if he had.)

This was what I was reading before I became a science fiction fan, but the books all contained some element of the fantastical and adventurous. All were fun and all expended the imagination.

A modern or postmodern mind will notice something odd about that list — namely, that it is mostly lady authors. But this was in the late 60s and early 70s, and the postmodern narrative now (uproariously) claims women were excluded from publisher’s offices and bookstores back in the day, and there were no women authors, especially no lady science fiction authors. This indeed would be news to Mary Shelley, who invented the genre.

The postmodern narrative is a fiction just as much as any tale about a voyage to the invisible second moon of earth inhabited by mushroom people and saved by a chicken, or a yarn about an evil planet ruled by an bodiless brain where all the children bounce balls at play time in perfect unison — except that the postmodern narrative neither entertains, enlightens, nor expands ones imagination, but indeed does the direct opposite.

The first book I ever bought in a bookstore (or, rather, my parents bought it for me) was THE DREAM QUEST OF UNKNOWN KADATH by HP Lovecraft, which was because I was lured by the cover: a zebra stands to one side of a tree at whose roots is a human skull: up the tree a staircase runs, and graceful cats sit near. To the other side of the tree shines a golden oriental city seen in the distance.

The words within fulfilled and more every promise of that magical, alluring cover. I keep all my paperbacks in pristine shape. Without mar or crack or wrinkle that book, yellow now with age as am I, still sits in a place of honor on my bookshelf. That book, to me, contains all the dreams of my childhood crystallized by the gentle and inexorable polish of nostalgia, so that to reread it is to be Randolph Carter in truth, if his beloved boyhood memories of Boston in the twilight were held in his hand.

The second book I bought was THE LAST UNICORN by Peter S Beagle, and great is my envy for anyone who has not yet encountered this gem. I bought it for the utterly frivolous reason that the cover looked somewhat like the cover of DREAM QUEST OF UNKNOWN KADATH. Never before has an idle purchase been more richly rewarded.

But these were not my introduction to the world of science fiction! That, like all true blessings, was a gift.

My father was in the Navy, and servicemen, in those days, took care to take crates of paperbacks with them on cruise, for the rare and stolen minute after mess, or when the smoking lamp was lit, or just before lights-out when one could loaf in the rack and read. A friend of my Dad had such a crate he wanted to give away, and he knew me to be a bookish little munchkin, so a vast wealth of printed matter became mine. That cardboard crate sat in the corner of my bedroom for nigh unto ten years, as I read and reread every book in it.

Ah, but that first evening, burning with impatience, when I took home that plunder, greater far than the hoard Beowulf won from the Dragon, greater than what Aladdin saw in the Cave of Wonders! Up to my room I hauled it, tipsy and overburdened by the weight, slammed to the floorboards, and ripped open the cover.

I remember. The book on the top was black and starry, with an image of the earth hued in gold, and in a half circle above the earth were faces, presumably of the characters: a large eyed creature like a lemur, obviously the good alien, a fellow with a strange haircut I later discovered was a Roman, a caveman, a thin and sneering fellow, obviously a criminal, a fat man with the eyes of a killer, obviously a thug. But also others a fanged insectoid horror with huge and staring eyes of inhuman malice, obviously the bad alien.

I opened the cover and turned past the boring stuff, copyright notices and title pages my children brain could not understand why the put in books, and opened the first page:

You see, I had this space suit.

How it happened was this way: “Dad,” I said, “I want to go to the Moon.”

I was hooked.

I was infatuated.

I was in.

I have been a fan of speculative fiction, of wonder, of science, of all the adventure of the future from that day to this, as well as being a disciple, a devotee, and an adoring follower, and now, with my recent books receiving lauds and plaudits, a leader in the field.

You say I am not a fan? Go wash your mouth out with soap.






by John C Wright at February 26, 2015 08:23 PM

512 Pixels

FCC votes to enable Title II protection for the Internet →

Jacob Kastrenakes:

The FCC's new order establishes a standard that requires internet providers to take no actions that unreasonably interfere with or disadvantage consumers or the companies whose sites and apps they're trying to access. At most, internet providers may slow down service only for the purpose of "reasonable network management" — not a business purpose.

A huge day.


by Stephen Hackett at February 26, 2015 06:37 PM

Practically Efficient

When Smart Sorting Smarts

I use Path Finder all day. I wouldn't even attempt to list all the reasons in a single blog post, but one little feature that I immediately appreciated when I started using Path Finder a few years ago was the way it sorted sub-folders above files in any given directory. This is definitely more of a Windows take on the visual file system, unlike OS X's Finder, which to my knowledge has always given folders and files equal preference in sorting (at least without hacking .plist files or installing add-ons).

Example of how OS X Finder treats folders equally with files when sorting, while Path Finder places all sub-folders in a given folder up top. This particular folder has 159 objects. In the Finder view, the first "Published Copies" folder is the 145th item, which obviously requires a lot of scrolling to locate.

Example of how OS X Finder treats folders equally with files when sorting, while Path Finder places all sub-folders in a given folder up top. This particular folder has 159 objects. In the Finder view, the first "Published Copies" folder is the 145th item, which obviously requires a lot of scrolling to locate.

I just like folders up top because I mainly work out of the list view, and I think it's much more efficient to navigate through visual folder hierarchies when I don't have to scroll down to find sub-folders sprinkled among regular files.

I just recently realized that Path Finder can give sorting priority to other types of file system "objects." By default, Path Finder's settings give preference to package and app files, as well. This was actually causing some friction that I guess was mild enough for me to tolerate for a really long time without digging for a solution.

Most Mac users probably don't realize that a growing number of files that appear to be "files" are actually packages of files. Two common examples on my Mac: .key (Keynote files) and .screenflow (ScreenFlow project files).

The ScreenFlow package sorting was creating the most friction because I usually want to see a ScreenFlow project's exported .mp4 file sitting next to its ScreenFlow project of the same name for folders sorted alphabetically. More importantly, I like to see the most recent .mp4 files at the very top of my primary working ScreenFlow folder when sorting by Date Modified in Path Finder. If package files have priority over regular files and you sort by Date Modified, you'll see the package files grouped at the top. You'll have to scroll down to find where the files begin, with the most recent file appearing first.

Fortunately, the fix is easy. Just tell Path Finder not to give any preference to package files when sorting.


This makes a huge difference in my working ScreenFlow folder and lets me quickly grab the most recent .mp4 files that I've exported simply by sorting by Date Modified.

Comparing the same folder in Path Finder—with and without giving priority to package files. Since all of the .mp4 files on the right were created after the ScreenFlow projects from which they came, the .mp4 files appropriately appear at the top.

Comparing the same folder in Path Finder—with and without giving priority to package files. Since all of the .mp4 files on the right were created after the ScreenFlow projects from which they came, the .mp4 files appropriately appear at the top.

by Eddie Smith at February 26, 2015 06:33 PM

Roads from Emmaus

Prayer for the Dead and Family Process

Ccontinuing on some of the thoughts I mentioned in my Tuesday post on the occasion of six months since my mother’s passing, I wanted to explore some of these issues further in a more general way, meditating on a few related questions. I’ve actually gotten a couple of private notes from folks concerned that, from […]

The post Prayer for the Dead and Family Process appeared first on Roads from Emmaus.

by Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick at February 26, 2015 04:47 PM

Crossway Blog

The Key to Spiritual Stability in the Christian Life

"And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God."
Colossians 1:9-10

Godly Behavior Is the Result of Godly Thinking

Paul prayed that we would "walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power . . . for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father" (Col. 1:10-12).

These are marvelous Christian characteristics, but how are they achieved? Verse 9 gives us the answer: "Be filled with the knowledge of [God's] will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding." The Greek word translated "filled" speaks of influence or control. It's the same word Paul uses in Ephesians 5:18: "Be filled with [controlled by] the Spirit." When you're filled with the Spirit, he governs your choices. Similarly, when you're filled with the knowledge of God's will, your choices reflect godly wisdom and understanding.

The phrase "spiritual wisdom and understanding" indicates more than merely knowing God's Word. It speaks of applying it to your life under the Spirit's power and direction.

As you prayerfully saturate your mind with God's Word, it begins more and more to control your thinking and behavior. And the Spirit uses the Word to renew your mind and to protect you from conformity to worldly attitudes and actions (Rom. 12:2).

Enjoying A Bountiful Harvest

Every farmer who enjoys a plentiful harvest does so only after diligent effort on his part. He must cultivate the soil, plant the seed, and then nurture it to maturity. Each step is thoughtful, disciplined, and orderly.

Similarly, bearing spiritual fruit is not an unthinking or haphazard process. It requires us to be diligent in pursuing the knowledge of God's will, which is revealed in his Word. That is Paul's prayer in Colossians 1:9, which he reiterates in verse 10.

The phrase "increasing in the knowledge of God" (v. 10) can be translated "increasing by the knowledge of God." Both renderings are acceptable. The first emphasizes the need to grow, the second emphasizes the role that knowledge plays in your spiritual growth.

As your knowledge of God's Word increases, the Holy Spirit renews your mind and transforms your thinking. As you gaze into the glory of the Lord as revealed in Scripture, you "are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another" (2 Cor. 3:18). You "have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator" (Col. 3:10).

Scripture commands you to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). Is that characteristic of your life? Are you looking forward to a bountiful spiritual harvest? God always empowers you to do what he commands you to do.

Attaining Spiritual Stability

An alarming number of Christians seem to lack spiritual stability. Many are "tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes" (Eph. 4:14). Others lack moral purity. Many are driven by their emotions rather than sound thinking. While we still proclaim a sovereign, all-powerful God, our conduct often belies our creed.

Despite our inconsistencies, the power for spiritual stability is ours in Christ as we allow the knowledge of his will to control our lives. Paul describes the working of that power in Colossians 1:11. There the Greek words translated "strengthened" and "power" speak of inherent power that gives one the ability to do something.

The phrase "according to" indicates that the power for spiritual stability is proportional to God's abundant supply—and that supply is inexhaustible! The literal Greek says you are being "empowered with all power according to the might of his glory." That thought is akin to Philippians 2:12-13, where Paul says that the power for working out your salvation comes from God, "who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure."

In Colossians 1:11 the result of God's enabling is the attaining of "all endurance and patience." "Endurance" speaks of perseverance regarding people; "patience" speaks of perseverance regarding things or circumstances. When you endure and are patient, you are spiritually stable. Your responses are biblical, thoughtful, and calculated—not worldly, emotional, or uncontrolled. You bear up under trials because you understand God's purposes and trust his promises.

Paul said, "be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might" (Eph. 6:10). That is possible when you trust God and rely on the infinite power that is yours in Christ.

This post was adapted from the ESV MacArthur Drawing Near Devotional Bible.

Dr. John MacArthur has served as the pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, since 1969. Known for his verse-by-verse expository preaching, MacArthur’s pulpit ministry has extended around the world via his daily radio program, Grace to You, and nearly four hundred books and study guides. He also serves as the president of The Master’s College and Seminary, a four-year liberal arts Christian college. He and his wife, Patricia, live in Southern California and have four grown children.

by Lizzy Jeffers at February 26, 2015 03:11 PM

The Ontological Geek | The Ontological Geek

Walking the Planes 3: Pluralities

Planescape: Torment opened a door for me: the door to Sigil, the grimy, sharp, beating heart of the Planescape setting. It is also a door to new possibilities: the realisation that a fantasy setting could be so much more than what has become 'the standard' over the last few decades. When you set foot in the game, everything is different.

by Oscar Strik at February 26, 2015 02:57 PM

Greg Mankiw's Blog

Sentence of the Day

"genetic differences explained roughly 33% of the variations in individual savings rates."

Read more here.

by Greg Mankiw ( at February 26, 2015 02:55 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

God’s Promise Fulfilled in Jesus [Infographic] – The Most Significant People, Places, and Events in the Bible

9780310518358When it comes to quickly grasping and retaining information, the human brain functions best with a combination of both words and pictures. This is why the new innovative, helpful resource from Zondervan can significantly benefit your teaching ministry.

The Most Significant People, Places, and Events in the Bible is an infographic survey of Scripture. This visual guide to the Bible makes it accessible and memorable for students and anyone curious to know more about God’s Word.

In under 200 pages it presents dozens of infographic snapshots that visually communicate key stories and biblical insights in an informative and understandable way through:

  • QuickView Summaries—outlines of Bible books and sections
  • QuickGlance Bible Characters—revealing the highs and lows of central Bible figures’ lives
  • QuickScan Bible Places—descriptions of key geographical locations and buildings in the Bible
  • QuickLook Bible Events—tracing the main happenings in the Bible’s vast and interconnected history

Today we are highlighting one of the more significant events in the Bible: God’s fulfilled promise of Jesus. If you haven’t already yet, check out the character sketch on Joseph and the location sketch on the land of Israel.

In today’s graphic (above) and excerpt you will see how The Most Significant People, Places, and Events in the Bible brings vivid clarity to the overarching story of Scripture, helping people you’re teaching or ministering to gain a greater understanding and appreciation for God’s Word.

Jesus, the Son of God, comes into the world thousands of years after God’s first promise to send a Savior. When the first man and woman sin in the garden of Eden, they immediately destroy their connection to God, to one another, and to the created world around them. However, at the same moment that sin enters the world, the great promise of God enters the world, too.

Immediately after Adam and Eve sin, God says to Satan, our enemy (1 Peter 5:8): “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15). This verse contains both the “curse,” or the story of humanity’s fall from a state of grace, and God’s great promise to send one who is greater than Satan. The Promised One who is greater than Satan is God’s Son, Jesus. When God sends him into the world and he dies on the cross for our sins, he crushes the power of Satan to destroy our lives.

When the Son of God becomes a “son of man,” born in a humble manger in the obscure town of Bethlehem, he begins the fulfillment of prophecies spanning hundreds of years before his birth. Ultimately, it is through Jesus’ blood and his sacrificial death on the cross that “death has been swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54; Isaiah 25:8), providing for forgiveness of our sins and a way back to God.

The Most Significant People, Places, and Events in the Bible

By Christopher Hudson

Order it Today:
Barnes & Noble
Buy Direct from Zondervan

by Jeremy Bouma at February 26, 2015 02:15 PM


bashmount: Another seemingly roundabout solution

Mounting volumes from the console, without the need for background daemons or automounting tools, has been near the forefront of my Linux experience for years now. If it makes any difference, I’ve tried other options but still rely on mostly the same solution and setup that I did eight years ago.

Which could mean I am stuck in my ways, old-fashioned or just haven’t found a better solution yet. Or it could mean I don’t see any need to reinvent things — if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Adding a mount point to /etc/fstab and allowing any user to mount it seems to do the trick. I’ll let you know if it stops. ;)

It’s not a very flashy way to handle things though, and if you want something with a little more pizazz, bashmount might deliver for you.

2015-02-25-l3-b7175-bashmount-01 2015-02-25-l3-b7175-bashmount-02

As you can see, bashmount gives you a full array of attached volumes and their status, as well as options for even more information. A lot more than my hotwired solution, anyway. :\

And further, bashmount doesn’t need any fancy daemon packages or weird dependencies, and as far as I can tell, will do its job with only bash as a background framework. Supposedly it will work with udisks2, or some automounting tools, but I didn’t test it on that point.

Although it’s informative, and pretty, and colorful, and easy to use … I don’t think I’ll be adopting it over my home-grown solution.

For one thing, it doesn’t seem to eliminate the need for my fstab solution, since attempting to mount to an unlisted location triggers an error asking for root access. Well, in that case, it would just be quicker to su to root and do things manually.

So again I have a fairly clever tool that seems to do what it’s told, but using it implies a step or two in a roundabout direction before arriving at the same destination. Sort of along the same vein as xcv, which we talked about a week ago.

It may be that you can coax bashmount into avoiding those root permissions requests, or it may be that bashmount works as you expect without any heavy editing on your part. If that’s the case, I encourage you to use bashmount for as long as it satisfies.

I think I shall stick with my direct and straight solution. Not that bashmount doesn’t scratch the itch, only that there wasn’t an itch to start with.

Tagged: disk, drive, menu, mount

by K.Mandla at February 26, 2015 01:00 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Tell the difference between diminishing returns and compounding growth when it comes to investing in skills

When is it worth improving a skill you’re already good at, and when should you focus on other things?

I started thinking about this after a conversation about what it means to master the Emacs text editor. Someone wondered if the additional effort was really worth it. As I explored the question, I noticed that skills respond differently to the investment of time, and I wondered what the difference was.

For example, going from hunt-and-peck typing to touch-typing is a big difference. Instead of having to think about typing, you can focus on what you want to communicate or do. But after a certain point, getting faster at typing doesn’t give you as much of a boost in productivity. You get diminishing returns: investing into that skill yields less over time. If I type a little over 100 words per minute, retraining bad habits and figuring out other optimizations so that I can reach a rate of 150 words per minute isn’t going to make a big difference if the bottleneck is my brain. (Just in case I’m wrong about this, I’d be happy to hear from people who type that fast about whether it was worth it!)

Some skills seem shallow. There’s only so much you can gain from them before they taper off. Other skills are deeper. Let’s take writing, for instance. You can get to the point of being able to competently handwrite or type. You can fluently express yourself. But when it comes to learning how to ask questions and organize thoughts I’m not sure there’s a finish line at which you can say you’ve mastered writing. There’s always more to learn. And the more you learn, the more you can do. You get compounding growth: investing into that skill yields more over time.

I think this is part of the appeal of Emacs for me. Even after more than a decade of exploring it and writing about it, I don’t feel I’m at the point of diminishing returns. In fact, even the small habits that I’ve been focusing on building lately yield a lot of value.

No one can objectively say that a skill is shallow or deep. It depends on your goals. For example, I think of cooking as a deep skill. The more you develop your skills, the wider your possibilities are, and the more enjoyable it becomes. But if you look at it from the perspective of simply keeping yourself fueled so that you can concentrate on other things, then it makes sense to find a few simple recipes that satisfy you, or outsource it entirely by eating out.

It’s good to take a step back and ask yourself: What kind of value will you get from investing an hour into this? What about the value you would get from investing an hour in other things?

Build on your strengths where building on those strengths can make a difference. It can make a lot of sense to reach a professional level in something or inch towards becoming world-class. It could be the advantage that gets you a job, compensates for your weakness, opens up opportunities, or connects you to people. On the other hand, you might be overlearning something and wasting your time, or developing skills to a level that you don’t actually need.

When you hit that area of diminishing returns – or even that plateau of mediocrity – you can think about your strategies for moving forward. Consider:

  • What kind of return are you getting on your time? (understanding the value)
  • Is there a more effective way to learn? (decreasing your input)
  • Can you get more value out of your time from this skill or other skills? (increasing your output)
  • If you learn something else first,
    • will that make more of a difference in your life?
    • will that help you when you come back to this skill?

These questions are helping me decide that for me, learning more about colours is worthwhile, but drawing more realistic figures might not be at the moment; learning more about basic Emacs habits is better than diving into esoteric packages; and exploring questions, doing research, and trying things out is likely to be more useful than expanding my vocabulary. I’ll still flip through the dictionary every now and then, but I can focus on developing other skills.

How about you? What are you focusing on, and what helps you decide?


The post Tell the difference between diminishing returns and compounding growth when it comes to investing in skills appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at February 26, 2015 01:00 PM

Justin Taylor

A Crash Course on Influencers of Unbelief: Immanuel Kant


This is a series on some influential modern thinkers who influenced the world of unbelief. (For previous entries, see FreudMarx, Machiavelli, and Nietzsche.)

These are notes based on an essay by Peter Kreeft; Kreeft is the author of Socrates Meets Kant: The Father of Philosophy Cross-Examines His Most Influential Modern Child (St. Augustine’s Press, 2012).

Who was Immanuel Kant?

A German philosopher.

When did he live?


How do you pronounce his name?

Kahnt (not like “can’t”).

What is his significance?

Immanuel Kant is one of the greatest philosophers in history.

Kant is really two philosophers:

  • a philosopher concerned with how we know things (epistemology)
  • a philosopher of right and wrong (ethics)

If he had written only on either topic, he would still be the most important and influential of the modern philosophers. The combination of the two makes him especially worthy of study.

What was Kant’s style?

Few philosophers in history have been so unreadable and dry as Immanuel Kant. He was an abstract professor, writing in abstract style about abstract questions.

What was his personality?

He was a good-tempered, sweet, and pious man—so punctual that his neighbors set their clocks by his daily walk.

What was his impact?

Few have had a more devastating impact on human thought. He is the primary source of the idea that truth is subjective. Kant, more than any other thinker, gave impetus to the typically modern turn from the objective to the subjective.

What was the basic intention of his philosophy?

He wanted to restore human dignity amidst a skeptical, world-worshiping science.

What did Kant believe about faith and reason?

He helped bury the medieval synthesis of faith and reason. He described his philosophy as “clearing away the pretensions of reason to make room for faith” (as if faith and reason were enemies and not allies).

Kant thought religion could never be a matter of reason, evidence, or argument, or even a matter of knowledge.

Rather, religion was a matter of feeling, motive, and attitude.

What were the two things that filled Kant with wonder?

“Two things fill me with wonder: the starry sky above and the moral law within.”

  • “The starry sky above” is the physical universe as known by modern science.
  • Everything else (including the moral law) is relegated to subjectivity.

What is the moral law for Kant?

The moral law is not “without” but “within,” not objective but subjective, not a Natural Law of objective rights and wrongs that comes from God but a man-made law by which we decide to bind ourselves. Morality is a matter of subjective intention only. It has no content except the Golden Rule (Kant’s “categorical imperative”).

He argued:

  1. If the moral law came from God rather than from man, then man would not be free (in the sense of being autonomous).
  2. But man must be autonomous.
  3. Therefore, the moral law does not come from God but from man.

Why did Kant believe in the existence of God, free will, and immortality?

Kant thought of himself as a Christian, but he explicitly denied that we could know that God, free will, and immorality really exist.

But we must live as if these three ideas were true: if we believe them we will take morality seriously, and if we don’t we will not.

These beliefs, then, are justified by purely practical reasons, not because they are true. Christianity becomes a “value system” rather than “the truth.”

What did Kant make of the supernatural and miraculous claims of traditional Christianity?

He ignored them or interpreting them as myth. Kant’s strategy was essentially the same as that of Rudolf Bultmann, the father of “demythologizing,” whose theories of criticism reduce biblical claims of eyewitness description of miracles to mere myth, “values,” and “pious interpretations.”

What was Kant’s basic question?

How can we know truth?

How did David Hume’s answer to that question influence Kant?

Early in Kant’s life he accepted the answer of Rationalism:

  • we know truth by the intellect (not the senses)
  • the intellect possesses its own “innate ideas.”

Then Kant read the Empiricist David Hume, who, Kant said, “woke me from my dogmatic slumber.” Like other Empiricists, Hume believed that

  • we know truth only through the senses
  • we have no “innate ideas.”

But Hume’s premises led him to the conclusion of Skepticism (the denial that we can ever know the truth at all with any certainty). Kant saw both the “dogmatism” of Rationalism and the skepticism of Empiricism as unacceptable, and sought a third way.

What did Kant call his “Copernican revolution in philosophy”?

Kant invented a wholly new theory of knowledge, usually called Idealism (the simplest term for it is Subjectivism). It amounts to redefining truth itself as subjective, not objective.

Kant’s “Copernican revolution” redefines truth itself as reality conforming to ideas. “Hitherto it has been assumed that all our knowledge must conform to objects . . . more progress may be made if we assume the contrary hypothesis that the objects of thought must conform to our knowledge.”

by Justin Taylor at February 26, 2015 12:00 PM


Market Update for 26 Feb

I follow stocks closely, but I rarely blog about the market, since whenever I do, people stay away in droves (or so it seems). This short update is for the few who care as much as I do about making money in the market. (I have to care. I'm nearing retirement age and the 401K is my lifeline.)

On Wednesday, 18 Feb 2015, the last time I blogged about stocks, I provided some stock picks. You may remember me saying: "So those are my picks, for now: NOC, IBB, MSFT, K, BP, and for the strong of stomach, HAL."

Here's what's happened since then.

Symbol 2/19 Open 2/25 Close % gain
BP 40.93 41.91 2.4
HAL 43.16 43.68 1.2
IBB 328.50 339.45 3.3
K 63.66 64.78 1.8
MSFT 43.18 43.99 1.9
NOC 167.80 168.65 0.5
.IXIC 4901.50 14967.14 1.3
.DJI 18028.67 18224.57 1.1

I wrote about these stocks on Wednesday. If you had bought each one of these symbols Thursday morning (20 Feb), at market open, and held them until the close of trade yesterday, you would have made 1.8% on your money in one week, assuming you bought equal dollar amounts of each stock. (If you had bought 100 shares of each stock, a disproportionate amount of your money would have been in IBB and you would have made 2.2% overall.) By comparison, the Nasdaq (.IXIC) rose 1.3% in the same time period, while the Dow rose 1.1%.

The market is due for a pullback (of 2% to 4%), so don't rush to buy any of these stocks right now. For the next week or so, you should be mostly in cash. (Why do I say that? Because the Nasdaq finished yesterday with a Relative Strength Index of 99.5. That's incredibly high. We're due for a correction.) When the pullback is over, all of the above names still have my blessing, although HAL and BP should be treated with caution (you should probably buy them only on an oil dip).

For the longer term, I like SIX (Six Flags) a lot. If it goes below $46, buy some and hold it for a few months (or years). It pays a 4.5% yearly dividend, has a great track record of growth, and the company is superbly managed. What's not to like?

Have you added your name to the mailing list? Why not? You might make some money.

☙ ❧

I'll be blogging about this more soon, but I wanted to give you a heads-up on the fact that I have put a free book up on called MENTAL HEALTH MYTHS DEBUNKED. Please go download a free copy of this 112-page book, available either as ePub or PDF. And did I mention it's 100% free? And also I don't mind at all if you give a copy to a friend? Please be sure to read the chapter on electroshock therapy. It's (dare I say) shocking, to put it mildly. There's plenty of great stuff in this book, with live links to the scientific literature, lots of illustrations, and sacred cows massacred by the hundreds! A treat for the whole family to enjoy.

Grab a freebie copy while you can. I'll be tweeting it regularly. Retweet me for a free mention in my timeline (and/or in this blog; see recent retweeters listed below). Thanks!

 ☙ ❧ 

I want to thank the following kind tweeps for retweeting me yesterday. Please click their pics and follow them on Twitter. These folks really do retweet!

by Kas Thomas ( at February 26, 2015 07:13 AM

Table Titans

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

4 Tips to Memorize (Almost) Anything

[Note: This is part 3 in a 5 article series on using memorization to increase knowledge of the Bible and develop a sanctified imagination. You can find part 1 here, part 2 here, and part 4 here.]

Now that you’ve learned to create images and string them together to memorize lists, let’s examine some of the ways you can expand on that technique to develop your ability to quickly and effectively memorize large collections of information:

Tip #1 – Use images as mnemonic pegs: A mnemonic is a device, such as a formula or rhyme, used as an aid in remembering. You probably already use simple verbal mnemonics to remember such things as which way to turn a screwdriver (righty tighty, lefty loosie), adjust a clock for Daylight Savings Time (spring forward, fall back), or remember musical notation (Every Good Boy Does Fine for treble clef notes on the line E, G, B, D, F and FACE for the spaces on the bass line (F, A, C, E)).

The “peg” in each of these mnemonics is a word that serves as both a reminder and placeholder for an action or item. For instance, “righty tighty” is the peg that reminds us to turn the screwdriver to the right when we want to tighten a screw. Unfortunately, verbal pegs often rely on rhymes (e.g., righty tighty) or words that sound the same but have different meaning (e.g., spring as an action and Spring as a season), which limits the ability to quickly create them. Also, while words are the best tool ever invented for the purpose of communicating, images are the most effective means God has given us for remembering.

In Thomas Aquinas’ magnum opus, Summa Theologica, the theologian lists “four things whereby a man perfects his memory.” The first on his list is creating strong images:

First, when a man wishes to remember a thing, he should take some suitable yet somewhat unwonted [i.e., unusual] illustration of it, since the unwonted strikes us more, and so makes a greater and stronger impression on the mind; and this explains why we remember better what we saw when we were children. Now the reason for the necessity of finding these illustrations or images, is that simple and spiritual impressions easily slip from the mind, unless they be tied as it were to some corporeal image, because human knowledge has a greater hold on sensible objects. For this reason memory is assigned to the sensitive part of the soul.

In The Memory Book, Harry Lorayne and Jerry Lucas offer four simple rules for helping to create such unusual images:

  1. The Rule of Substitution – Picture one item instead of the other.
  2. The Rule of Out of Proportion – Try to see items as larger than life.
  3. The Rule of Exaggeration – Embellish or overstate some feature, number, or expression of the image.
  4. The Rule of Action – Action is always easier to remember than static imagery, so try to incorporate some form of action into an image.

Applying all of these rules will help to accomplish our goal of developing one of the most important tools for memorization: the ability to quickly create ridiculous and unusual images.

 Tip #2 – Link image pegs together The link system is one of the simplest of all memory techniques and connects many of the other techniques we’ll be using. This method is applied by linking words or images together into a chain by using a sequence of events or simple story. Notice how in our Ten Commandments example, the sequence of events tied each peg to the next one and helped us to remember the order by placing it within a specific context. For short lists, this technique can often be sufficient for your memorization purposes.

Tip #3 – Create a “memory palace”Next to creating memorable images, the “memory palace” is the single most effective tool for remembering large amounts of material. The invention of the technique is credited to Simonides of Ceos, a famous fifth-century Greek poet. After performing at a banquet, Simonides stepped outside to meet two men who were waiting for him outside. But while he was outside the banquet hall, it collapsed, crushing everyone within. The bodies were so disfigured that they could not be identified for proper burial. But Simonides was able to remember where each of the guests had been sitting at the table, and so was able to identify them for burial. This experience suggested to him the principles that were to become central to the later development of the memory palace.

He inferred that persons desiring to train this faculty (of memory) must select places and form mental images of the things they wish to remember and store those images in the places, so that the order of the places will preserve the order of the things, and the images of the things will denote the things themselves, and we shall employ the places and the images respectively as a wax writing-tablet and the letters written upon it.

This technique, which is also known as the “method of loci”, is a use of an imaginary journey through a sequence of places, or loci, each of which acts as a memory link system. For ancient Greeks, the “places” were often rooms in palaces. But since most of us aren’t intimately familiar with the layouts of any palaces, it’s preferable to use a location that you already know well, such as your current house or apartment or a childhood home. The key is to choose a memory palace that contains at least ten locations (e.g., kitchen, bedroom, bathroom) that can be reached in sequence.

The imagined journey through your memory palace might start on the front porch (Location 1), then into the foyer (Location 2), on into the living room (Location 3), then the kitchen (Location 4), the dining room (Location 5), up the stairs (Location 6), into the hall (Location 7), your bathroom (Location 8), in your bedroom (Location 9), then ending in the spare bedroom (Location 10).

Choose a journey that matches the actual layout of your house. Imagine that you are walking along this journey and don't cross over your path or backtrack since this could cause you to either miss some locations in your journey or use the same ones twice. You can use the same rooms more than once, even on the same list, but be sure to complete the journey completely before starting again at Location 1. (By the way, this practice is said to be the origin of the expressions “in the first place,” “in the second place,” etc.)

At you visualize each location, imagine always looking at the scene from the same location and perspective and looking around the room in the same order, such as from right to left. Practice mentally following your journeys and be able to visualize as much detail in each location as possible. The more details you can see in each location the more mental hooks you can use to attach your image pegs.

Keep in mind that the memory palace is simply the storehouse for the memorable images you create. It provides a structure to help you remember the order and sequence and to prevent you from leaving items off of a list. Memorizing each specific item in a very specific location will help to prevent getting items out of order or leaving them out altogether.

Tip #4 – Incorporate the “nook and cranny” method: This is a method for expanding the capacity of your memory palace without adding extra rooms. Rather than placing only one peg in each location, you’ll identify three to four areas – which we’ll refer to as “nook” – where you can place your images. For instance, if you use your kitchen as a location you could use the refrigerator (either inside or in front of), the pantry, and a counter space as a nook. Keep in mind that because you will be applying the Rule of Out of Proportion, the mental images will often be larger than would actually fit in the space of your nook. Don’t let that physical constraint concern you: unlike in the real world, your imaginary space will expand to fit the object. The important consideration is not what you choose as a nook, but that you’ve identified several areas in your location where you will be able to place your images. Be sure that you have a minimum of three nooks for every location. 

As the author of the famous book on memorization, Rhetorica ad Herennium, noted over 2,000 years ago, there are two kinds of mnemonic images: one for ‘things’ [res], the other for ‘words’ [verba]. That is to say ‘memory for things’ makes images to remind of an argument, a notion, or a ‘thing’; but ‘memory for words’ has to find images to remind of every single word. In this series we’re focusing on “memory for things” (that’s why there is an “almost” in the title). Memory for words is a bit more difficult and relies primarily on drill and repetition (for more on that, see this article).

But for now we’re going to stick with the easier (and more fun) stuff.  And for our next task—memorizing a detailed sequence of events and people from the Biblical narrative—these tips will be sufficient.

Before we learn to memorize the narrative of Bible, though, let’s practice using the tips mentioned in this series to memorize another list of item. Choose a list that suits your particular interest. For example, a movie buff can practice by memorizing all of the Best Picture Oscar winners for the past 20-30 years; history buffs can memorize the U.S. Presidents or the monarchy of Britain; literature buffs can memorize the titles of Shakespeare’s plays, etc. The key is to choose a list that you have an interest in rememmbering and that have between 25-50 times. It may take 30-60 minutes to come up with the images and put them in your memory palace. Then you’ll want to practice by going through your memory palaces and reciting the items in order.

If you do a practice run like this over the weekend, you’ll be completely prepared next week to quickly and easily memorize the events of Genesis.

Other Article in This Series

Part #1 – How Memorization Feeds Your Imagination
Part #2 – How to Memorize (Almost) Anything  
Part #3 – 4 Tips to Memorize (Almost) Anything  
Part #4 – How to Memorize the Biblical Narrative (I)
Part #5 – How to Memorize the Biblical Narrative (II) (Tues., Mar. 3)

by Joe Carter at February 26, 2015 06:10 AM

The Gospel in Mexico

If you were asked to list the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, you would probably name nations in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. But I doubt you would include Mexico.

Last year the Pew Forum released a report indicating that social hostilities had remained low in the Americas (even below the global median), but increased from “moderate” to “high” in Mexico. In fact, for the first time in three years, Mexico returned at 38 to the World Watch List, an annual survey of the persecution of Christians around the world:

Mexico’s appearance . . .  is explained mainly by the progression of organized crime in the country and the recording of more violent incidents targeting Christians. Criminal organizations and drug cartels have targeted Christians because they view churches as revenue centers (extortions) and because churches support programs for the rehabilitation of drug addicts and alcoholics. Local communities in the southern states of Mexico are led by the indigenous traditional law of “uses and customs” to force all community members into a homogenous lifestyle. As soon as community members accept a different religion, the law of “uses and customs” becomes the noose that threatens their very existence.

Continuing our series on the gospel in Latin America, I corresponded with Carlos Contreras, pastor of Iglesia Cristiana Gracia Soberana (Sovereign Grace Christian Church) in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Pastor Carlos is familiar with the unique challenges facing the church in Mexico. As recently as 2012 their city of Juárez was named the most violent city in the world; at the height of the drug violence the government estimated there was a murder every half an hour. (For those who are able to read in Spanish, Carlos has written about that experience in his life and church community here, here, and here.) 

In this interview we learn about the new work of grace in Mexico, the need for a culture of biblical leadership among pastors, and more. Below is a translated and slightly edited version from the original interview in Spanish.

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

Although it has several problems and shortcomings, the church in Mexico is generally situated in a good place. The church has grown numerically over the past 30 years and has the potential to continue being used by God as witness to the transforming power of the gospel. I have been able to see in many places that an atmosphere of enthusiastic faith. There is evidence of a possible new work of grace—similar to the “stirrings of revival” elsewhere throughout Latin America. This is a time of great possibility, great opportunity, and great anticipation of a new stage of development.

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

It definitely encourages me to see a new generation of young people who are embracing the gospel with great passion and zeal. I know of many young church leaders with great hunger for sound doctrine and a great desire to be used by God in thier generation, which is similar to what happened in the 70s where many young people were converted and many churches were planted. For someone of my generation it is exciting to see this new generation to which we can entrust what God has built over the past 40 years.

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

Two main things concern me. The first are churches being established without the foundation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is a lot of moral and religious teaching, but there is not a sense of the supremacy of Christ and his work in the life of the church. There hasn’t been an abandondment of the Bible per se, but it is noticeable that many churches appear more like Jewish congregations than distinctively Christian congregations. The second concern I have is regarding the absence of a culture of biblical leadership. A kind of despotism prevails in many churches where the pastor assumes a role of absolute control over the church; and this, combined with a lack of biblical preparation, makes the church vulnerable.

What do you think distinguishes the church in Latin America from the church in the United States?

The main distinction is that Mexican church and possibly the larger Latin American church consists of first-generation Christians. In other words, there is not an established, historic presence of evangelical believers in our countries. That means that our church is immature in many aspects. In addition, the rapid growth of the evangelical church in Mexico in recent decades has produced a generation of leaders without adequate preparation for their role. Moreover, I believe that the religious influence of many centuries under Roman Catholicism and the historical reality of our pre-colonial days have produced a church culture of religiosity, emotionalism, and mysticism.

With the increase of persecution of believers in Mexico, particularly in the southern region, how would you encourage and help Christians in your country think about these events? 

The persecution of believers in the indigenous southern Mexico is real and serious, and many have been displaced by local bosses (“caciques”). However, the testimony of these brothers should encourage all of us who are not in that situation to be even more zealous in our evangelism. With regard to believers who have been victims of organized crime, we must remember that the general population has borne the brunt of this violence. Our brave and sanctified response, which is being observed by the community around us, will be a powerful witness to our faith and trust in our sovereign God.

What word of encouragement would you give to pastors and church leaders in the Spanish-speaking world?

First, I would call them to return to the expositional preaching of the Scriptures. The Word of God that must reign supreme in building up the church, and this Word must be preached, with integrity and fullness, by true servants of Christ.

Second, I would call them to the primary task of equipping the next generation of young pastors, so that they would be commissioned to plant new churches and serve the next generation.

Third, I would urge us to unite in prayer for a real awakening in the gospel of the cross of Christ—an awakening that would bring a new reform to the Latin American church, a return to a sincere faith based on the Word of God, and with the ultimate goal of truly exalting Christ.

Other articles in the the Gospel in Latin America series:

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

by Ivan Mesa at February 26, 2015 06:01 AM

Pastors, Prioritize Prayer

Editors’ note: The following article is an excerpt from Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation (2nd ed.) by D. A. Carson (Baker). In addition, The Gospel Coalition, in partnership with LifeWay, recently published a new group study curriculum for Praying with Paul, co-written by Carson and Brian Tabb. You can also listen to Carson teach on this subject when you register for his workshop at The Gospel Coalition National Conference, April 13 to 15 in Orlando.

I would like to address rather directly the clergy. Do you desire, with all your heart, what is best for the congregation you serve? Then you must ask yourself how much time you devote to praying the sort of prayer that Paul prayed in Philippians 1:9-11. Part of the problem we ministers in the West face when we butt up against this challenge is that, while we know we have been called to the ministry of the Word and prayer, several notable pressures impose themselves, pressures so persistent that they end up shaping our values and therefore our schedules.

The pastor’s job has been diversified. We no longer give ourselves to the ministry of the Word and prayer, because we have become professional counselors, fundraisers, administrators, committee members, referees, politicians, and media personalities. Many pastors are confused about their own identity and may suffer from low estimates of the value of their work.

Up until 30 years or so ago, clergy were generally respected in the Western world. Three decades of rising secularism, of the media’s persistent presentation of clergy as wimps or charlatans or both, of public perceptions that we are obsolete (like dinosaurs) and arrogant, and we may feel a little insecure. Many of us work with professionals and even teach professionals, but we quickly discover that we are not treated like professionals ourselves. It can be argued that such pressures should not bother those who follow in the way of the cross. In practice, however, many clergy overcompensate, acting far too much like professionals and far too little like those given to the ministry of the Word and prayer.

Not a few clergy feel discouraged and unfruitful. Many pastors work for months and years without seeing a single convert. Some have bright ideas but feel they cannot pull the weight of ecclesiastical tradition with them; others value the traditions from which they spring and feel threatened by the endless succession of faddish innovation. The years trickle past, and dispirited resignation sets in.

Some clergy bury themselves in endless activism. Through no one’s fault but their own, they give themselves to endless work, always keeping busy but never carving out time to study, think, meditate, and pray. These and similar pressures corrode our values, deflect our aims, and finally corrupt our schedules. If we regain biblical priorities, all these pressures will appear in a different light.

Has the job been diversified? Once our priorities are straight, we will learn to relegate tasks to their appropriate rank according to the values of Scripture. Delegate some things; cancel others. You do not have to have a bulletin; you have to pray. You do not have to chair every committee or attend every meeting; you have to pray.

Are we confused about our roles? If we remember what we have been called to and devote ourselves to praying for what is best, we may care a little less about the opinions of a secular world and devote ourselves more scrupulously to serving the only Master whose opinion matters.

Do we feel unfruitful and discouraged? Not only must we remind ourselves that our Master is more interested in faithfulness than in statistics; we shall also be bold enough to ask if some of our unfruitfulness is the result of being diverted from the ministry of the Word and prayer. How much have we prayed for what is best—for a spiritual harvest, for conversions, for demonstrations of the fruit of the Spirit? Could it be that we have experienced little because we have asked for little? Is our unfruitfulness proportionate to our prayerlessness? Paul’s prayer knifes through so many of our excuses.

Finally, do we bury ourselves in activism? When, then, do we devote ourselves to that to which we have been called, to the ministry of the Word and prayer? When do we pray for what is best? Of course, Paul’s determination to pray along these lines for the believers in Philippi must not be restricted in its application to clergy. Each believer must ask: To what extent do I pray for excellent things, things judged excellent in God’s eyes, both for myself and for those around me? Do I pray that my love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that I can distinguish between what is passable and what is excellent, between what is acceptable and what is best, testing out and approving what is best in my own life? Do I pray this for my church? Or, quite frankly, do I prefer sullen mediocrity?

Paul prays for what is excellent, and it is quite certain that this sort of excellence cannot be attained without prayer. 

D. A. Carson, Praying with Paul (2nd ed.), Baker Academic, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2015. Used by permission.

by Don Carson at February 26, 2015 06:01 AM

More, But Not Less, Than a Carpenter

I don’t know why I didn’t see it for so long, but one day as I was reading through the Gospel of Mark, I stumbled across a verse that stopped me dead in my tracks. In Mark 6, we are told that Jesus, who was spending his time as an itinerant rabbi, came back to Nazareth. The hometown crowd listened to Jesus teach in the synagogue, and they were stunned by their native son who was displaying such extraordinary wisdom and power. In their eyes Jesus was first and foremost a carpenter from Nazareth. Mark records the crowd exclaiming with a tone of incredulity, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him” (Mark 6:3).

As I slowly pondered these words, I began to reflect on the significance of Jesus spending so much of his time on earth working with his hands in a carpentry shop. Here was the Son of God sent to earth on a redemptive mission of seeking and saving the lost, of proclaiming the gospel, yet he spent the vast majority of his years on earth making things in an obscure carpentry shop. We know from Luke’s Gospel that even at the age of 12, Jesus was demonstrating his amazing rabbinical brilliance to the brightest and best in Jerusalem (Luke 2:47). How did Jesus’s brilliance fit in with a carpentry career? At first glance, this doesn’t seem to be a strategic use of the Son of God’s extraordinary gifts or his important messianic mission.

Why was it the Father’s will for Jesus to spend so much time in the carpentry shop instead of gracing the Palestinian countryside, proclaiming the gospel and healing the multitudes?

He Could Have Had Your Job

The New Testament records Jesus spending only about three years in itinerant ministry, what we might refer to as full-time vocational ministry. But for the many years before that, Jesus worked as a carpenter. Speaking of Jesus as a carpenter, Dallas Willard brings a refreshing perspective:

If he were to come today as he did then, he could carry out his mission through most any decent and useful occupation. He could be a clerk or accountant in a hardware store, a computer repairman, a banker, an editor, doctor, waiter, teacher, farmhand, lab technician, or construction worker. He could run a housecleaning service or repair automobiles. In other words, if he were to come today he could very well do what you do. He could very well live in your apartment or house, hold down your job, have your education and life prospects, and live within your family surroundings and time. None of this would be the least hindrance to the eternal kind of life that was his by nature and becomes available to us through him.

Several years ago I remember reading a fine book that was winsomely titled More Than a Carpenter. In this book, the author points out a great deal of convincing evidence that supports the deity of Jesus. This is essential to understanding the person and work of Jesus. Yet in no way should we conclude that because Jesus was more than a carpenter, his vocational calling to work as a carpenter was somehow less than important. Clearly the Son of God was much more, but not less, than a carpenter. This incarnational pattern of Jesus’s earthly life speaks volumes about the importance of our day-to-day vocational work.

Incarnation and Work

When we contemplate who Jesus really is, his joyful contentment to work with his hands day after day constructing things, making useful farm implements and household furniture in an obscure Nazareth carpentry shop, we find him truly stunning. Jesus’s work life tells us that he did not think being a carpenter was somehow below him or a poor use of his many gifts. Here is the very One whose hands not only created the world but also the very wood he was crafting in a carpentry shop. The apostle Paul gives us a glorious description of this carpenter from Nazareth:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Col. 1:15–17).

Think about it for a moment. The very One who was the master craftsman of the universe spent a great deal of time during his 33 years on earth crafting things with his hands. The One who had masterfully fashioned humans from the dust of the earth was making chairs for people to sit on in their houses. No doubt Jesus had strong, well-worn, callused hands. It is all too easy for us to overlook the fact that Jesus knew what it meant to get up and go to work every day. Jesus experienced both the exhilaration and exhaustion of putting in a hard day’s work. Jesus faced work and a workplace profoundly affected by sin. I am sure Jesus dealt with difficult and demanding people in the workplace who complained about this and that. I am also confident that the sinless Son of Man not only modeled humility in the workplace, but also maintained a teachable spirit as he served under the tutelage of Joseph, his human guardian father. I doubt if Joseph was the perfect boss. I have yet to meet a perfect boss, and when I look into my mirror each morning, I see anything but a perfect boss.

Basin-and-Towel Kind of Servanthood

We are rightly in awe of Jesus, who shockingly ignores cultural convention by picking up a basin and towel and washing his disciples’ dirty, stinky feet. Yet we tend to forget that Jesus had been modeling a basin-and-towel kind of servanthood in a carpentry shop for years. Jesus’s humble service in the workplace was the training ground for that glorious display of servanthood in an upper room in Jerusalem.

Working with his hands day in and day out in a carpentry shop was not below Jesus. Jesus did not see his carpentry work as mundane or meaningless, for it was the work his Father had called him to do. I have a good hunch that Jesus was a top-notch carpenter and did top-notch work. Even before Jesus entered his itinerant rabbinical ministry, Matthew reminds his readers of the Father’s good pleasure in his Son. Following Jesus’s baptism, the Spirit of God descended as a dove, and a voice out of heaven declared, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). I am sure there were many things that made the Father well pleased, but one important aspect of Jesus’s well-pleasing life that we must not overlook was his work as a carpenter.

This excerpt is adapted from Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work by Tom Nelson. Copyright © 2011. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187,

Editors' note: TBT (Throwback Thursday) with Every Square Inch: Reading the Classics is a weekly column that publishes some of the best writings on vocation from the past. Our hope is to introduce you to thoughtful literature that you may not have yet discovered and, as always, to encourage you to know and love Christ more in all spheres of your life.

by Tom Nelson at February 26, 2015 06:01 AM

Dustin Curtis

Dick Costolo talks to Farhad Manjoo

Dick Costolo “talked” to Farhad Manjoo today, who was only able to ask one tough question:

In a recent earnings report, you said Twitter had 288 million active users a month — only a few million more than in the quarter before. Do you worry that Twitter doesn’t have a broad appeal?

Everyone wants to know and stay up-to-date on what’s happening in their world and be connected and know what’s going on. That’s what Twitter provides. So I think that irrespective of whether you want to tweet, everyone can get value out of Twitter right away.

Interesting question with unfortunate phrasing. The answer is definitely true. But I wonder what he really thinks.

Also strange that Costolo continues to reference Twitter’s bizarre run-on strategy statement with, “Everyone wants to know and stay up-to-date on what’s happening in their world and be connected and know what’s going on.” You’d think they would have thought of a more eloquent description after the negative attention in November.

(Source: DF.)

February 26, 2015 03:26 AM

February 25, 2015

CrossFit Naptown

Open Prep with Nick Kirkes

Thursday’s Workout:

Clean and Snatch Progressions

Kipping Review

Skill Work:
2 Rounds (not for time)
10 Wall Balls
10 Strict Pull Ups
10 Ring Rows
10 Step Ups
10 Push Ups
10 Toes-2-Bar
:30 Hand Stand Hold


Open Preparation 




With the Open beginning tomorrow, we are taking today as a light recovery day as well as a solid teaching day for last minute preparation for movements that may appear in the Open. The workout will be released at 8:00pm this evening and we will be at the gym watching on the big screen if you would like to join for the viewing party!

Even more exciting than that, we have the following informational piece from Nick Kirkes on how to handle nutrition on game day (i.e. when you are doing the Open workouts). Check out the awesome information that is relevant to any competition.

Nick Kirkes is a development manager at Salesforce. Also, he is a certified Health Coach and performance nutritionist. He is a Whole9 Nutrition Partner and was a member of the Whole9Life (Whole30) seminar team. Additional certifications: CFL1 (2010), USA-W L1 (2011), OPEX Coach (on-journey), Precision Nutrition Coach (on-journey).

Here are his thoughts on nutrition during the Open and how to be your best self:


The 2015 CrossFit Games Open starts TODAY! You’re registered, you’re excited… Now what? If you want to perform at your peak potential, you’ll need to combine smart decisions outside of the gym with the training you’ve received from all the talented coaches at CFNT. I get a lot of questions about what and how to eat come game day, but before I jump into ways to fuel your Open efforts, here are a few broad topics to consider:

1. Nutrition – I’ll elaborate on game day nutrition shortly, but getting your food straight the other 99% of the time is mandatory. You’ve likely heard the mantra, “You can’t train away a shit diet”. It may be tired, but it’s entirely accurate. If you’re lax on your food, you won’t hit your goals – performance, aesthetics, or otherwise.

2. Sleep – You won’t be able to perform at your full potential when you’re sleep deprived, which can be considered anything less than 7 hours for most folks. Consider that even low-level sleep deprivation has been linked to higher risk for type-2 diabetes. If you struggle with sleep, a great read is Lights Out by T.S. Wiley.

3. Lifestyle – This could be the topic of many articles before even scratching the surface, but in short – check your daily routines and habits to set yourself up for success. Getting hammered the night before the event isn’t going to set you up for a great performance. If you’re stressed at home or work about those lingering projects, it’ll be more difficult to focus and combat fatigue. Consider the choices you make outside of the gym and how/if they’ll impact your performance inside of the gym.

(I’m just going to throw this out there, but… you should probably be doing all of these things regardless of the Open.)


Fueling for the Open workouts is dependent on your approach. High-level competitors will often attempt the workouts multiple times over the course of the week and need to support the extra volume and decreased recovery time. Most of us will only attempt the workouts once. Recognizing you may have to tinker with your prescription, there are some basic nutritional strategies that apply to pretty much everyone.

First, what are we aiming for with pre-workout nutrition?

1. We want to build up or replenish energy stores.
2. We want to maintain blood sugar levels.
3. We want to support the repair of damage caused by the activity.


With these goals in mind, we can put together a smart nutritional strategy around game day:

1. Pre-competition – The timeline varies for each individual, but generally speaking a balanced meal 1 – 2 hours prior to the competition is a safe bet. You want the meal to be satisfying but not huge. You want to feel energized and light come game time, not sluggish and heavy. Aim for whole foods with a balance of high quality protein, a mix of fibrous and starchy carbohydrates, and a small amount of healthy fat. My go-to for a larger pre-workout meal – typically ~2 hours before hand – is a palm size cut of lean meat or a few eggs, a serving of sweet potatoes, and a medium dark leaf salad with some EVOO. Modify the portions to meet your needs. Different foods may work better for you. Get creative but don’t pick the day of the event to try a new food or supplement. Stick to those choices you are used to and which you know your gut will handle well.

2. During Competition – What to eat, or whether you should eat at all, during a competition is dependent on the duration and number of events. For the Open, you’ll have a single workout that typically won’t last longer than 20 minutes. Eating during the Open workouts is likely unnecessary and could be counterproductive. Feeding between multiple events, which would be useful or necessary for events like a local throw-down or Regionals, is a topic for another day.

3. Post-competition – Okay, you’ve given it your all, your body is screaming, and there are high-fives all around. Nice work! Time to recover. Generally speaking we want two things here: protein to help rebuild/repair muscle, and carbohydrate to replace muscle glycogen. The body is primed to used these macronutrients really well for up to an hour or two after an intense workout. My preference is to get something down within 30 minutes of the session. I’m always going to suggest whole foods as a first choice, and this meal can mimic what you ate pre- competition, sans the fat. Protein rich foods like meat or eggs, carbohydrate dense vegetables like sweet or white potatoes, and nutrient rich vegetables or fruits are your go to. A 2:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio is a good starting point. I typically avoid prescribing additional fats in this post-workout window as the body is primed for the protein + carb. combo and fat tends to slow down digestion/absorption, potentially slowing recovery. If a whole food post-workout meal isn’t an option for you, you may consider supplementation (but that’s a whole other conversation).

*Disclaimer – Please align these with your personal goals. These may not fit your specific situation and your mileage may vary.

The last tip I have to offer encompasses all of the above. That is – practice. Practice getting your food right, practice clearing out the mental clutter, practice getting your lifestyle habits in check, and practice your game day process. How much food is too much or too little for a given level of effort? Do you typically perform better first thing in the morning, or in the afternoon? How comfortable are you being judged in your workout? How do you handle being no-repped? The experience of setting yourself up dress rehearsal style will help immensely come Feb. 26th.

Good luck!




by Anna at February 25, 2015 11:59 PM

Justin Taylor

What It Looks Like to Be Adopted

In Knowing God J. I. Packer writes:

If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all. (p. 201)

In his Concise Theology he writes:

Adopted status belongs to all who receive Christ (John 1:12). The adopted status of believers means that in and through Christ God loves them as he loves his only-begotten Son and will share with them all the glory that is Christ’s now (Rom. 8:17, 38-39). Here and now, believers are under God’s fatherly care and discipline (Matt. 6:26; Heb. 12:5-11) and are directed, especially by Jesus, to live their whole lives in light of the knowledge that God is their Father in heaven. They are to pray to him as such (Matt. 6:5-13), imitate him as such (Matt. 5:44-48; 6:12, 14-15; 18:21-35; Eph. 4:32-5:2), and trust him as such (Matt. 6:25-34), thus expressing the filial instinct that the Holy Spirit has implanted in them (Rom. 8:15-17; Gal. 4:6).

. . . Adoption is the bestowal of a relationship, while regeneration is the transformation of our moral nature. Yet the link is evident; God wants his children, whom he loves, to bear his character, and takes action accordingly. (pp. 167-168)

At the recent 2015 Ligonier National Conference, there was a special moment when R. C. Sproul Jr. brought his son onstage and talked about the beauty of adoption. You can watch it below:

For more on adoption, see the forthcoming revised and expanded edition of Russell Moore’s classic, Adopted for Life: The Priority of Christian Adoption for Families and Churches (due out October 2015) and the booklet drawn from one of the chapters, Adoption: What Joseph of Nazareth Can Teach Us about This Countercultural Choice (due out in June).

by Justin Taylor at February 25, 2015 11:32 PM

CrossFit 204: Fitness in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Workout: Feb. 26, 2015

Still holding!

Still holding!

Skills challenge

Far from easy, these are 5 max-effort tests of skills, strength and power:

Max broad jump

Max high jump

Flexed arm hang

Free-standing handstand hold or hold against the wall

300-m row

Please be sure to log your scores. We will re-test at a later date, and we’d like to see how much you’ve improved.

by Mike at February 25, 2015 11:01 PM

Justin Taylor

Review of Robert Louis Wilken’s “The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God”

9780300105988Wilken, Robert Louis. The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003.

Robert Louis Wilken is currently professor emeritus at the University of Virginia, where he served as William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of the History of Christianity at the time of this book’s writing. This work on early Christian thought is not primarily social history (explaining Christianity in relation to its cultural background or critics), nor is it a work of historical theology proper (showing how certain doctrines developed), but rather an elucidation and presentation of “the pattern of Christian thinking as it took shape in the formative centuries of the church’s history” (xiv). The Christian intellectual tradition, Wilken writes, is “an exercise in thinking about the God who is known and seeking the one who is loved” (311; emphasis added). Christian thought derives its energy, vitality, and imaginative power “from within, from the person of Christ, the Bible, Christian worship, the life of her church” (xiv). The task of intellectual Christian engagement, therefore, is part and parcel of faithful belief, exemplified by formative Christian thinkers who sought to bring the sacred scriptures to bear on their understanding of God, man, and world (including culture and history) as an exercise in credo ut intellectum. And this understanding, Wilken argues, is not for its own sake, but is a means of seeking the face of God (Ps. 105:4)—a passage that Wilken says “captures the spirit of early Christian thinking” more than any other verse (xxii).


“The agenda of this book,” Wilken explains, “is set by the things Christians cared most about” (xvi). A survey simply of “what Christians believed” in the early centuries would be impossible, both unwieldy and unfocused. So Wilken chooses representative figures whose thought he can explore in some depth. Each theme is viewed through the work of one or two key figures, often from different time periods and geographical locations to show both continuity and development in the Christian intellectual tradition. Wilken cites a number of early Christian thinkers through the church’s first eight centuries, but his primary exemplars turn out to be Origen (3rd c.), Gregory of Nyssa (4th c.), Augustine (5th c.), and Maximus the Confessor (7th c.).

The book has 12 chapters, which may be grouped in roughly five sections.

Chapters 1-3 are foundational, showing how the early church’s understanding of how God is to be known through the sacrifice of his Son (ch. 1), how God is to be worshipped by means of prayer, sacrament, and liturgy (ch. 2), and how God has spoken to us through the Scriptures (ch. 3).

Wilken next surveys three key crucial but complex Christians teachings that engendered no little controversy: the doctrine of God’s triunity (ch. 4), the person and work of Christ, with a focus upon his agony (ch. 5), and the material creation that both reflects and participates in the goodness of the Creator (ch. 6).

Having surveyed the object and background of Christian belief, Wilkin then turns to the implications of this belief, exploring the relationship between believing and knowing (ch. 7) and the identity of believers in fellowship with one another and in relationship to the surrounding society (ch. 8).

The structure is now in place to understand the creation of a distinctly Christian culture, including the use of the “stuff” of life: the creation of Christian poetry (ch. 9) and the veneration of icons (ch. 10).

Wilken concludes his survey of early Christian thought by exploring the Christian life, both its morality (ch. 11) and its spirituality as seen through the affections, especially love (ch. 12).



Wilken, in contrast to the compartmentalizing approach of many contemporary historians, does not feign neutrality. He writes as an unabashed admirer, highlighting beliefs and practices that he himself shares and therefore implicitly commends. Wilken himself models what he commends: “One of the most distinctive features of Christian intellectual life is a kind of quiet confidence in the faithfulness and integrity of those who have gone before” (175).

There are advantages and drawbacks to the way in which Wilken deploys his strategy of appreciative advocacy. On the positive side, this hermeneutics of historical charity allows the early Christian intellectual tradition to be set forth in its most sympathetic and winsome light. Some of the ideas—for example, the veneration of icons—are rejected by Protestants. While I agree with the rejection, many critique this practice without truly understanding the theological rationale beyond it or how it was practiced by its most careful advocates. Few scholars could explain this practice as clearly, concisely, and compellingly as Wilken. In so doing, he helps readers see the intuitive logic and internal consistency of certain beliefs and practices.

On the other hand, his approach has the potential to present a slightly distorted vision of the Christian intellectual tradition by highlighting only the most careful and profound thinkers. In so doing, Wilken can filter out other voices, leaving a rather sanitized theological vision of the whole—a “best of the best” highlight reel that is mesmerizing to watch but may not tell the whole story. The non-specialist—Wilken’s intended reader—may be left to wonder about the deleted scenes left on the cutting room floor.

A related concern is that Wilken’s program has the potential to downplay the less compelling aspects of the life and theology of the individual thinkers highlighted. John Morrison raises the same issue in his review of the book: “The Fathers . . . are made to be wholly charming in life and thought; the warts are all but gone. The few that remain are turned into beauty marks.” Morrison continues: “Wilken is often too idealistic, even hagiographic, when giving narrative form to the lives and thoughts of these eminent early Christian leaders. . . . there was significant ‘bathwater’ ebbing around the lives of some of these extraordinary patristic ‘babies.’ This cannot be sloughed off or the narrative is to that extent falsified. These were not superhuman, despite Wilken’s regular flights of praise when describing their intellectual or moral exploits.”

A key idea that Wilken wants us to embrace is that “the time has come to bid a fond farewell” to von Harnock’s thesis of the Hellenization of Christianity. Wilken thinks a more accurate expression of the history would be “the Christianization of Hellenism” (xvi-xvii). But even that is not quite saying enough, as Wilken wants readers to see that “Christian thinking, while working within patterns of thought and conceptions rooted in Greco-Roman culture, transformed them so profoundly that in the end something quite new came into being” (xvii). Wilken largely succeeds at showing this, but one still may question whether he has overplayed the evidence, swinging the pendulum a little too far in the opposite direction. For example, were there not areas within the Christian intellectual tradition where philosophies like Neo-Platonism did not just provide the conceptual framework for contextualizing Scriptural truth but also introduced distorting elements to the church’s theological understanding of divine revelation and mystical spirituality?


Despite some caveats, there can be no doubt that Wilken’s work is a wonderful achievement and a marvelous synthesis, eloquently making his massive learning and historical expertise readily available and accessible to those who seek to carry on the pattern of early Christian thinking by seeking the face of God.

by Justin Taylor at February 25, 2015 10:46 PM


Oil and the Price of Corn Flakes

Lately, I've blogged a lot about mental health (and the two books I've done on that topic), but today I'm going to switch gears. For optimum mental health, I've learned I need to have hobbies or interests. One of those interests is getting my 401K (which is technically now an IRA) to grow in the midst of a turbulent market. I spend a fair amount of time on that. And I've done okay (up double digits last year; up 4.4% YTD 2015). But I'm still perfecting my game.

At the end of last year, I sent stock picks to a few close friends. Almost all of the stocks I picked (DD, DIS, AAPL, DNKN, IBB, COST) were up sharply by the end of January. I think Costco was the only loser, down 0.23% on the month. But I felt like an idiot, because I failed to capitalize properly on my own picks! I spent most of January trying to move money out of the market ahead of downturns, and failed to keep a significant percentage invested on upturns. In other words, I held too much cash; not enough invested.

I'm still learning.

I thought I'd share my notes with you, though, for what they're worth.

Going forward, the big story to watch (for me, at least) between now and summer is the price of oil. Stocks have been hurt whenever oil goes below $50. But we can just about bet on oil going up between now and summer; the question is how much, how soon. (I'm not one of those who thinks we're going to re-test January lows. The closer we get to spring, the less likely that is.)

So far, the oil downturn has been explainable as a supply-driven event, but there is (I'm sure) also a demand component, which has been a bit stealthy. By late May, we should be able to see how much demand reduction there's been (due to crappy economies in the U.S. and Europe). I'd expect to see oil reach $70 by July, ordinarily, but if demand is softer than we think, it could have a lot of trouble getting there, with many false runups along the way. The $60 level is crucial, because wind, shale/sands, and deep-water rigs are not economical with oil under $60. I'm sure our Saudi "friends" would love to see oil stay below $55 forever, to stall investment in non-Saudi-sourced energy. However, the Saudis' power to manipulate the markets is not infinite, and any manipulations will ultimately be short-lived, so $60 oil is not a question of if, but when.

The strong of stomach will want to consider BP and HAL as oil goes up. The latter, currently $44.60/share, should hit $50 by spring, barring something weird happening, but this is a weird market, and HAL is a volatile stock, so beware. The ride could get bumpy.

If you're an aggressive investor, don't wait until spring to begin laying in a few oil-related positions. The time to act is now, or on any pullback in oil. You snooze? You lose.

Kellogg's (K) took a bit of a beating a few days ago and is now on sale at $63-and-change (down from $66.30 on 11 Feb). It will go up. You can probably make 4% on your money here in two months, not even counting the stock's $0.49 quarterly dividend. What's not to like about Kellogg? Significant international exposure. What's to like? Low oil prices. (That, and the fact that the company has just done a reset on expectations, gotten the bad news out of the way, etc.)

Kellogg Company got dinged on 12 Feb 2015. Buying opportunity.

What does the price of oil have to do with corn flakes? Plenty.

You might already know that the corn in a $2.20 box of Corn Flakes costs Kellogg about 14 cents. Processing the corn into flakes costs 26 cents (15% of the wholesale price); add about eight more cents (4.5%) for freight and 12 cents (7%) for packaging. Labor is six cents (3.5%). Advertising and marketing make up 30% of the total cost, with the remainder accounted for by general and administrative (G&A) costs, warehousing, profits, CEO compensation, and other "overhead."

Processing, packaging, and freight (all energy-intensive) account for about 27% of Kellogg's costs. (Raw materials also reflect energy prices, but that's not so important in the overall scheme of things; low oil might save Kellogg a penny or two on the corn in the box of flakes.) If Kellogg can shave a couple percentage points off its processing, packaging, and freight, it translates to big bucks, because the company typically grosses $14.5 billion in sales per year. (Wouldn't you like to have 1% of that?) Bottom line, I think oil will stay low enough long enough to give K some margin-expansion leeway while it figures out how to get skyrocketing overhead under control.

Enough said about Kellogg. What else is worth buying here?

Well, I'm a big believer in biotech, but I'm not smart enough to pick individual stocks in this tricky industry, so I like IBB, the biotech index fund. It finished up 26.8% last year, up 24% in the last six months, and it's up 7.6% YTD. Buy it on any pullback and expect to hold onto it for, say, six months. I like it right here at $326-and-change (17 Feb 2015).

MSFT is still fairly inexpensive and has a good shot at getting back to the high 40s later this year. You could make 10% in a year, or 3% in two months; or it could stay flat, although somehow I doubt it will. I don't think it will revisit $40 any time soon. (If it does, buy even more of it.) Pick up a little bit now, I say, while it's still under $44.

For diversification purposes, you might want to own some defense stocks. Lots of good stuff to choose from here, but based on the great-looking six-month and one-year charts, I have to go with Northrop Grumman (NOC).

Northrop Grumman (blue) vs. the Dow (red), six month chart.

Right now, aerospace/defense is a much safer war/disaster hedge than gold, IMHO, so you should definitely own a few shares of one of the big bomb-droppers (RTN, LMT, NOC, or something in that vein). Forget gold, I say. If you have to own a metal, make it aluminum (AA is primed to break out, though I wouldn't buy just yet).

So those are my picks, for now: NOC, IBB, MSFT, K, BP, and for the strong of stomach, HAL. Let's see how they do in a few weeks or months. 

Now back to our regular programming.

Have you joined the mailing list? What are you waiting for? I just made you a ton of money!

☙ ❧

Meanwhile, I want to thank the following great people for retweeting me yesterday (with a big thanks also to , , and , whose icons didn't show up below for technical reasons). Click into these profile pics and Follow these guys on Twitter! They retweet!

by Kas Thomas ( at February 25, 2015 10:30 PM


Abortion is an Attempt to Project Strength

I should first say that I am not a full-time pro-life activist or counselor. I’m not trained in crisis management. I don’t think I’m even particularly good at “on the street” scenarios. But I have gone to abortion clinics in Jackson, MS and now Lakeland, FL on a semi-regular basis to pray, sing psalms and hymns, and try to speak to the folks in the parking lots and offer them help and other options.

I grew up in a politically moderate household. I won’t tell you how everyone voted, but I was raised to believe that abortion was a pretty tragic situation which women would only ever consider if all other options had been exhausted. I was taught that we needed to be careful not to berate them, judge them harshly, or fail to show them compassion. Based on my experience attempting to follow precisely that advice, however, I have to say that the narrative is all wrong. Abortion, at least today, in the Southern states, is not some sort of last ditch effort to preserve one life, which would be legitimately threatened, at the tragic but necessary expense of another. Instead it is a projection of strength on the part of the would-be mother. 

What do I mean? Abortion is today a way, not to get help in a difficult situation, but to avoid needing help. It is a way to “take control” of one’s life and prove self-sufficiency. This is why it is pitched as a form of “women’s equality.” Abortion is what it takes to see to it that a woman is not inferior or weak. It prevents her from being at someone else’s mercy. This is also why it is quickly becoming a sort of “human right,” something which must be provided by all just governments. To not provide it for women is basically framed as an injustice, a lack of fairness and equality. In short, it is a legal device to prevent the need for charity or other concessions to a weak situation.

The times that I have spoken with women at the clinics, I have been soft-spoken and polite. I have asked permission to speak to them. I have never called them names or waved a sign. And the response by them has always been to shut me down, sometimes loudly and angrily, before any kind of actual conversation could take place.

Today, for instance, I drove by the local abortion clinic and saw a young couple standing by their car in the parking lot reading on their smartphones. The clinic was not open yet, and so they were waiting. I felt the impulse to stop, and so I parked my car in a neighboring parking lot and walked over. I slowly and calmly spoke to the couple. “Can I talk with you guys?” They were immediately angry, shot up straight, and walked aggressively towards me. I never got closer than 20 ft from them. “Can I talk about babies and what you guys are dealing with? I was just driving by, and I saw you and thought ‘Hey those people look like me.’ I have two little kids of my own, and …” They began shouting “No. Go away. Anything you say to us will be considered harassment.” Their body language was assertive and threatening, and it was clear that there was no interest in hearing about other options, meeting someone who might want to help, or even discussing differing opinions. They were saying, in effect, “Leave me alone or I will make sure you get in trouble.” Who knows if they really would have done anything? The point was that they resorted to a sort of rhetoric of force to end the conversation.

Now, I don’t know what the right thing to do in that situation is. I did basically stop and walk away. I prayed about it and was very sad, and I committed myself to go more often. But for those folks in that situation, I couldn’t think of any way to make a connection.

I also understand that these people are making all kinds of assumptions about me. They think that I’m just waiting for the right time to be mean or nasty. They think that I’m going to judge them. They associate me with all the images that they have been fed. But the fact remains, they judge me and don’t ever extend a chance to get to know an “other” or interact with a potentially differing-viewpoint.

The point that I was left with was that they wanted to make sure they “defended themselves” by intimidating me and projecting strength. And this is what the whole abortion thing is about for a great many people. They don’t want other options. Maybe they have looked into them and maybe they haven’t, but abortion is attractive because it is more or less private, the individuals can stay in control, and they don’t have to deal with other people and their nosy opinions and intrusive good intentions. They get to take care of themselves.

And this, it seems to me, is right at the root of the whole problem. I’ve written in the past about how abortion is a perfect fit for certain American values. It pairs a sort of rugged individualism with the ability to maximize freedom and still pursue one’s own desires, even at the expense of other weaker people. It’s a sort of manifest destiny of interpersonal relationships. It’s about doing what you want and not allowing anyone else to get in the way.

Now, saying it like that might seem like I’m suggesting that people who get abortions are just egotistical jerks who step on the heads of the little man. That’s not really the case, at least not in any explicit and unique way. They are really just like the successful businessman who has to play “hardball,” the “sharks” in the investment world, or the crafty politician who has to cut corners to get ahead. They are doing “what it takes” to look out for number one. It’s just that the question of abortion has also been infused with notions of sacred human rights and female equality. Thus they have a leg up. They can be aggressive and even violent while still assuming the role of victim and weaker person. It makes for a fairly impenetrable defense, especially in today’s media-climate.

I’m not a pacifist, but I think that there is a certain Christian virtue in weakness. My not bowing up and trying to “meet their challenge” today seemed then and still seems now to be the most appropriate response. I was there. I offered. I wasn’t ugly. I prayed. I was sad. Their consciences will at least have to process it all.

Pro-life Christians need to know the reality that they face. Don’t believe the narrative that pro-lifers are the angry bullies who harass people. Much closer to actual harassment is being met with a threat when you ask to speak and have not even violated a request to leave, a sort of “preemptive” call for protective services to come squash you. Christians need to keep their mind on abortion. They need to know that it still goes on and that it goes on with very “normal” and “ordinary” Americans who are behaving in very predictable and American ways. Abortion is much more like colonialism or exploitative capitalism than are pro-life alternatives like charities, adoptions, and communities of people willing to help shoulder a difficult burden. And if someone replies, “Those alternatives don’t really exist!”, then that just shows us all the more reason we need to make them visible and known to the world.

The Church must set a contrary example. This doesn’t just mean more demonstrations or activism, though I am not actually opposed to either of those things. But it means modeling a distinct and contrary culture to the one of assertive and strong self-sufficiency. It means acknowledging weakness, offering to help those who are in need, and crying out to God for His grace.

This is not a call to quietude or passivity. We have to actually cross paths with real people and engage them in dialogue. We need to be out and about. We need to be noticed. But we should be noticed precisely for our denial of strength-projection, of rugged individualism and of angry and violent self-sufficiency. We need to look different from the world. We need to really work to make the beatitudes applicable to us as individuals and civic communities.

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    For they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    For they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
    For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

And we need to know that all of this is normative for the Christian experience. It is precisely what we have been called to do.

by Steven Wedgeworth at February 25, 2015 09:42 PM

Bible Design Blog

The Jongbloed Hinge, Omega Goatskin Variations, and A Tote-To-Church Bible

It’s time to answer more reader questions. Two of them hinge on binding (if you’ll pardon the pun) while the third centers on compact Bibles. There’s also a tip below for people who find the nearly-ten-year’s worth of information on Bible Design Blog a bit … overwhelming. Check it out:

John Felson wants to make the best of things: “I just got a Bible with the stiff Jongbloed hinge,” he writes. “Do you have any advice on breaking it in, and how to make it not so stiff?”

First, let’s take a closer look at the phenomenon. Jongbloed is a high end outfit in the Netherlands that does excellent printing and binding for, among others, Cambridge, Crossway, Schuyler and R. L. Allan. One downside I’ve noticed in some of their recent edge-lined editions, though, is the use of some very stiff, inflexible “mull” to attach the book block to the cover. Mull is a sort of netted fabric glued to the back of the spine of a block to create side wings for attaching the outer cover. (If you want to dig deeper into bookbinding, here’s an explanation of how edge-lined bindings work, and an example of some primitive rebinding of my own which includes photos of some limp, flexible mull.)


An example of the stiff hinge, courtesy of Crossway’s Heirloom Thinline ESV in black goatskin. The mull (3), attached to the book block, is sandwiched between the endpaper (1) and an overlapping tab (2) of the cover’s inner lining. The culprit here is the black mull.

There are two issues related to the black mull (#3 in the photo above): first, its extraordinary stiffness prevents the book from opening flat, a nuisance with thick book blocks like the Schuyler Quentel and a downright menace with lean ones like the Heirloom Thinline pictured above; second, if you pinch the spine along the length of the cover, you may hear a high-pitched squeak pitched somewhere between the creak of a bridle harness and the sound of blue jeans sliding on vinyl upholstery. If you use pressure to force the mull flat — it really wants to retain its clamshell curve at all costs, so pressure will be required — the fabric retains the new shape. When you close your Bible, the cover bows out like a sail in a light breeze.

The limpness of an edge-lined cover calls extra attention to the stiff hinge. It is the nature of these bindings to languish and swoon in your hands like a aesthete overcome by the sight of some unexpected beauty. The stiffness of the mull slips a starched shirt over the aesthete’s head. He can still swoon, but there’s a crick in his back.

Is the stiff hinge a necessary evil, as some have speculated? Bindings need strong reinforcement, especially when the book block is heavy. The seam between book block and cover is a traditional failure point, and while these bindings may not open flat, their sturdy construction suggests they’ll never fall apart, either. I’ve heard that argument. There’s just one problem: strong hinges don’t have to be stiff. It looks to me that the same benefit could be had with a more flexible material. In addition, if you’re thinking extra strength is the rationale behind the stiff hinge, how do we explain a svelte featherweight like the Heirloom Thinline getting one, too?

Printing can be a slow business, with editions in the works for months or longer. I suspect that, in time, now that the issue has been raised, a solution is just around the corner. In the meantime, there’s John’s question. Is there any way to alleviate the stiffness?

Whether we’re talking about stiff covers as a result of thick book board under the leather or stiff hinges as a result of inflexible mull — whether it’s the material itself or its interaction with glue that makes it so rigid — my standard advice is the same. The solution is … use.

In this case, a lot of use.

The Heirloom Legacy has seen a lot of use from me since I first reviewed it last year. That’s the post where I first went in-depth on the stiff hinge. There I made some suggestions about how the hinge might be tamed.

My first attempt involved isolating the hinge and working it back and forth gently to try and loosen it up. I did this by pinching the endpaper on either side, then followed up by running my finger down the gutter to open the hinge up. The results weren’t very impressive: mostly this just made the hinge stick out more, bowing the cover. My second method seems to work better: I opened the Bible as flat as it would go, then applied gentle pressure to the highest point either side of the gutter, pressing them flatter. Repeating this process every 200-300 pages or so, I worked from the front of the Bible to the back. While this didn’t fix the problem, it did result in a marked improvement.

That remains good advice, but I have to tell you, the improvements I experienced following my second method are about as good as it’s gotten so far. Admittedly, I switch back and forth between Bibles a lot more than the average person. Someone using only the Heirloom Legacy since October might have seen the hinge chill out a bit more. (If so, I’d love to hear about your results in the comments.) My experience so far suggests that it’s a long road, and the thinner your book block the more conscious you’ll be of how much progress you’re not making. I hardly notice when I’m flipping through the Quentel, but in the Heirloom Legacy I still find myself flattening the book by hand in a fit of mild frustration. The Heirloom Thinline? Let’s not go there.

Remember what I wrote just above about the join between book block and cover being a common failure point on bindings? Tranwei Yu had precisely this problem with Crossway’s Omega Thinline — the first Crossway x Jongbloed collaboration, which I wrote about in August 2013 (a review that noted the stiff hinge, by the way). Problem is, when the replacement copy arrived, the grain on the cover looked totally different. Along with the photo below, I received this question: “Is it just a difference in natural grains or have the new ones been pressed/stamped? And is there any quality difference in being stamped vs. natural?”


The replacement Omega (left) compared to the original (right).

I’m a novelist by trade, not a tanner, so keep in mind that my observations on leather are coming from an enthusiast rather than a professional. I try to be objective, but my own tastes and preferences can’t help coloring my judgment. That said, let’s take the questions in reverse order.

Are stamped grain leathers inherently inferior to natural grain ones? Not necessarily. If we were talking about corrected grain leather used to make shoes, I would tell you to stay away from that stuff, which is stiff and likely to crease rather than flex. But bookbinding is a different world. There are some beautiful high end leathers with stamped grain — for example, the River Grain goatskin Leonard’s Book Restoration used to rebind my original Crossway Legacy. The effect there was so subtle and the cover so limp that I wouldn’t have believed the grain had been manipulated if Margie Haley hadn’t told me. I’m also a huge fan of the Water Buffalo grain covers you see on some vintage Cambridge Bibles from the 1970s. It’s true that stamped grain can make a leather stiffer than its natural grain cousin, but it doesn’t have to, apparently.

Now to the main point. In the photo above, are we looking at one natural grain cover (right) side-by-side with a stamped cover? I’m not sure. Grain can be tight and regular-looking and still be natural. The variation of grain on a leather hide has to do with what part of the animal the skin covered. Roll out a full hide and you’ll see rough, uneven grain with the long furrows notable in the right-hand cover located toward the edge of the hide, with the smoother, tighter grain toward the center. That’s why certain high-end makers of leather goods do not use certain portions of the hide — the rougher grain doesn’t lend itself to a polished bag. I believe there are also some concerns about strength when it comes to load-bearing products (not relevant to this discussion). So it’s conceivable for two covers cut from the same hide to look very different, one quite irregular and rustic, the other smooth and regular.

That said, the Crossway Heirloom covers I have personally handled seem pretty consistent, and since they haven’t been promoted as natural grain goatskin I assume that they aren’t. It possible the Omega on the left, from a recent cache that turned up at Crossway, were bound later in the same goatskin as the Heirlooms, which would account for the different look. [Update: Beth Rhodes comes to the rescue, assuring me that both the Heirloom and the Omega use natural grain goatskin.] From an aesthetic standpoint, I prefer the look of the cover on the left — but I realize there are a lot of you who love the deep, rough grain and irregularity characteristic of some natural skins.

Jahmah stumbled across Bible Design Blog in search of a large print ESV, but that’s not all she’s looking for. “I still want a compact Bible I can tote to Church,” she writes. “I could probably spend days lugging around your blog so I thought If you had time if you wouldn’t mind throwing a few suggestions my way?”

Okay, so let’s get one thing straight. I want you to spend days lugging around my blog! Please, I beg you. I can’t stress enough how much I want you to wander around and spend hours luxuriating in my prose. What can I say? I’m a writer.

Here’s what I’m going to do, though: first, I’ll provide a tip for people trying to narrow the search down, and then I will save Jamah days of lugging Bible Design Blog around by making a couple of compact ESV suggestions.

Here’s the tip: Use the drop-down menu in the upper right corner of the blog to navigate through topics. You can select by translation, by publisher, by layout, and even by the type of leather used in the binding. If the volume of information on the site is daunting — and I suppose it is, given how long I’ve been doing this — that drop-down is your best friend.

Now for the recommendations. The Deluxe Compact ESV would be the obvious choice, even though it’s not available in a fine binding. I had one rebound by Leonard’s in tan pigskin, easy to slip into a jacket pocket and go. R. L. Allan did some lovely ones, too, though they’re now out of print and command nice prices.

When I’m looking for a pocket-sized ESV, though, my usual choice these days is the genuine leather ESV Pocket New Testament. I can’t tell you how much I love this affordable single-column NT (with Psalms and Proverbs). Enough to take a chance on having to rely on the pew Bible should I want to look something up in the Old Testament.

The Single Column Heritage ESV would be a fine choice, too, though my preference is for the Cambridge Clarion (either the brown calfskin or the one I had rebound by Leonard’s as a brown hardcover).

If you need a full Bible and both the Heritage and Clarion don’t seem compact enough, I would strongly recommend my former stand-by, the Cambridge Pitt Minion. Small and thin, it gets the job done, if you have eyes to see … the tiny type, I mean.


The post The Jongbloed Hinge, Omega Goatskin Variations, and A Tote-To-Church Bible appeared first on Bible Design Blog.

by J. Mark Bertrand at February 25, 2015 09:00 PM

confused of calcutta

Big Data, tastefully done

Take 2543 recipes from 8 subcuisines. Use 194 unique ingredients drawn from 15 unique categories. Connect the dots. Oh frabjous day. A friend of mine, Sandee Weiner, shared an article with me, taken from That in turn pointed to this piece of research Spices Form the Basis of Food Pairing in Indian Cuisine. … Continue reading Big Data, tastefully done

by JP at February 25, 2015 08:59 PM

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

Help Cure Puppy Related Sadness in Short Stories

The follow announcement is from my publisher. The words below are his:

Sad Puppies Short Fiction Bomb

The Mountain That Writes turns around and comes back for a second pass:

This Book Bomb is a little different. Because the ones I’m doing right now are to get more people exposed to the works we nominated for the infamous Sad Puppies slate, we’re bombing a bunch of works at the same time. I don’t like putting this many links, but time is of the essence, and next week I’ll post about the Campbell nominees and Best Related Works.

We did three novellas last week and it was a huge success. They’re still selling well a week later. Overall we sold a couple thousands novellas, which in novellas is freaking huge.

But shorter fiction is tough, because it isn’t always available for sale by itself, but is usually bundled as part of an anthology, or in a magazine which often isn’t available on Amazon.

As you can see from the list below, luckily many of these are available on Amazon, and some are available for FREE:


Both Rabid Puppies recommendations in the Short Story category can be read for free at the following links. I can attest that Sci Phi Journal #2 is quite good and I think the Big Book of Monsters looks particularly interesting.

I’ve also got a short story you can read which is not part of either slate, but I promised to make it available for free reading, so here it is:


“The Journeyman: In the Stone House”by Michael F. Flynn, Analog, June 2014
“Championship B’tok” by Edward M. Lerner, Analog, Sept 2014
“Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium” by Gray Rinehart, Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show

And the Rabid Puppies recommendation in the Novelette category:

“Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” by John C. Wright, The Book of Feasts & Seasons

The Book of Feasts & Seasons is presently ranked #54,462 on Amazon and has a 4.9 rating on 16 reviews. It’s genuinely that good, so I’d highly recommend reading it if you haven’t yet, and posting a review if you have.

by John C Wright at February 25, 2015 08:35 PM

The Brooks Review

The Dangers of Misinformation

Marcus Zarra:

The first thing we should do, as responsible people who have the willingness to share information is to ask ourselves, should this information be shared?

by Ben Brooks at February 25, 2015 08:15 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

The New World of Passport Tattoo Art: Possibly Illegal, Definitely Awesome


I’m proud of my stamps and visas, and I often get a double-take from immigration officers around the world when presenting my passport—but this guy has gone much further.

French illustrator Léonard Combier sent pictures of his work to Doodlers Anonymous, where he offered anyone to send him their passport to “tattoo.”

Is this legal? Well, apparently it’s an open question, since technically the work involves “defacing” a government document, and some countries have more of a sense of humor than others. Fortunately, people report that most immigration agents have enjoyed it thus far.

Here are a few examples:

Léonard_Combier_Illustration_01 Léonard_Combier_Illustration_04 Léonard_Combier_Illustration_08 Léonard_Combier_Illustration_05 Léonard_Combier_Illustration_07 Léonard_Combier_Illustration_06


Here’s a fun time lapse video of Léonado’s doodling:


Hat Tip – PSKF, Photos – Ignant, Video – Wild Ink


by Chris Guillebeau at February 25, 2015 07:00 PM

512 Pixels

Daniel Lemire's blog

The hopeless ones become college professors

Many people justify their choice of pursuing graduate school by a desire to explore new ideas and satisfy their intellectual curiosity, an euphemism for goofing off.

These students use graduate school as a cultural hack… they turn what might be perceived as an asocial behaviour (e.g., spending 4 years writing a Perl compiler in JavaScript using Bayesian inference) into something that is tolerated and even encouraged.

I think we need outlets where such smart people can go and do their things for a time. Indeed, most corporations do not want to collect employees who write Perl compilers in JavaScript using Bayesian inference.

College can be a good place to park smart people until they find something productive to do. And the hopeless ones become college professors.

by Daniel Lemire at February 25, 2015 06:29 PM

512 Pixels

Connected 28: The Color of Myke's Eyes →

On the world's greatest now-recording-on-Tuesdays podcast:

This week, the boys discuss the iOS setup process and the possibly-confusing nature of the Apple Watch’s multiple variations before Stephen and Federico share their thoughts on the iPhone 6 Plus.

Thanks to these awesome sponsors for making it possible:

  • Warby Parker: Glasses should not cost as much as an iPhone.
  • Sanebox: Clean up your inbox and spend less time on email.
  • Harry's: An exceptional shave at a fraction of the price. Use code CONNECTED for $5 off your first purchase


by Stephen Hackett at February 25, 2015 05:42 PM

Front Porch Republic

Clean Eyes


“Again, one time Sophocles, who was Pericles’ fellow-commissioner in the generalship, was going on board with him, and praised the beauty of a youth they met with on the way to the ship. ‘Sophocles,’ said he, ‘a general ought not only to have clean hands but also clean eyes’.”
Plutarch, Life of Pericles

Just what was Pericles’ point? Is there something wrong with praising the beauty of a youth? In some sense, surely not.

But Plutarch relates this story as part of his portrait of Pericles as an upright man. The reader is to conclude that this incident reveals some aspect of Pericles’ good character.

There must have been something in how Sophocles pointed out the beauty of the youth. For there is a way of looking that is actually a way of taking. Just as hands can take what is not their own—and thus be unclean, so can eyes.

Eyes are designed to see. But as a matter of righteousness, and for the sake of seeing, some things should not be looked upon. From some things we need to withhold our glance. Somehow to look upon these things—as an act of selfish grasping—blinds us. It takes away our power to see and to love things as they really are.

Only if we discipline our eyes, if we are willing not to grasp through looking, will we ever really be able to see, and to appreciate, the beauty of others.

Plutarch (46-120 A.D.), a Boeotian Greek who became a Roman citizen, was especially known as a biographer of famous Greek and Roman men.
Pericles (495-429 B.C.), a great general, statesman, and orator, ruled Athens during its Golden Age. Several of his speeches are recorded by Thucydides (460-395 B.C.) in his History of the Peloponnesian War.

Image: “Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose” by John Singer Sargent

Originally posted at Bacon from Acorns

The post Clean Eyes appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by John Cuddeback at February 25, 2015 04:13 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Sometimes Life Sucks, So You Might As Well Do Something About It


I’ve always liked Trent Hamm‘s tagline: “All I care about is making your life not suck.” This is what good bloggers, and good people of all kinds, do well. If you’re trying to figure out the next step for your blog… or your life… think about how you can make other people’s lives not suck.

Taking action on it will probably make you happier, too.

A couple people have suggested that the phrasing of Trent’s motto is poor. Can’t you make it more positive? they ask.

Well, feel free to change it for your own use if you’d like. But the reality is that some people’s lives DO suck. Not everything can or should be made upbeat.

Think about it this way: Can’t you remember a time when life was hard for you? Unless you’ve been extraordinarily fortunate, I bet there was at least one time when life sucked.

During that time, did anyone ever help you?

That’s what it’s all about.

So yes, focus on making life better for others. If you find yourself staring at a to-do list and aren’t sure what to tackle next, ask yourself: “What action will help someone?” Make this your mission, your job description, perhaps even your reason for existing.


Image: Nathan

by Chris Guillebeau at February 25, 2015 04:08 PM


Hacking Your Depression

Over the years, at various times, I've been diagnosed bipolar I, bipolar II, and have been seen for Major Depressive Episode. I've tried Prozac, Zoloft, Effexor, Pristiq, Serzone, Wellbutrin, Remeron, and lots of other antidepressants, with and without Abilify, with and without Lamictal (and Depakote), and for me (maybe not for you) the drugs have been of very little value, by and large. I've also tried talk therapy (and tried it and tried it, with about 15 different therapists over the years), with spotty results. And as I talk to more and more people, I find that others have had much the same "spotty experience" with drugs and therapy. It's hit or miss.

The single biggest thing I ever did that resulted in meaningful progress against depression was go off alcohol in September 2012. (For the whole gruesome story behind that, go here. Download the PDF and read my account at your leisure.) Tons of people had told me to give alcohol a break, but I ignored them for years, unconvinced abstinence could possibly make that much of a difference. As a drinker (of beer, in what I thought was moderation), I was utterly convinced that beer was the only non-placebo in my life that was doing anything worthwhile to tamp down the cacophony, the endless blare of bullshit that was driving me nuts.

But then I actually tried abstinence. (For ten days, at first. Then a month.) And much to my surprise, it made a difference.

Once I was free of alcohol, I found I could apply different strategies to my problems, "try on" new coping styles, if you will.

Slowly, over a period of months, I began to find things that worked for me. Some were things I learned in therapy, from an ex-Mayo organ transplant counselor who turned out to be a terrific resource. Others were things I learned from various books (like Steve Chandler's 100 Ways to Motivate Yourself). Still other techniques were tricks I taught myself.

Over time, I accumulated about three dozen specific techniques (some are like mantras; others are like little philosophy lessons; others are practical daily living techniques) that I found to be extremely powerful and effective methods of maintaining sanity and increasing my subjective sense of well-being. I decided to round up all of these techniques, and combine it with everything I know about recovery from depression, in a book called Hack Your Depression. (There's a picture of it on this page, above.)

If you know someone who's suffering from depression, I urge you to give that person a copy of Hack Your Depression. It picks up where drugs and therapy leave off. And it's not a rehash of feel-good platitudes (which don't work for me). This is a crash course in getting your life back.

The Table of Contents will give you some idea of what's in Hack Your Depression. But I urge you to sample some of the chapters. Take a look at any of the following, in any order.

The Introduction to Hack Your Depression explains why I wrote the book, what's in it, why you should care, and what your options are, if you're in psychological pain.

The Root of All Evil is a short discussion of what tends to cause anxiety and depression.

Reject False Schemas explains why you're programmed to feel bad and what to do about it.

Write Yourself an I.O.U. is an example of an anti-depression stratagem that has helped me by letting me get control over bad habits.

Tapping, EFT, and EMDR is a chapter about various weird-sounding techniques for dealing with trauma, and why (in certain cases) they work. It gives not only an overview of the methodologies, but a plausible neuroanatomic theory for why these things have actually cured certain people.

Tears for Fears is a short chapter on the healing power of crying and why everyone (not just professional actors) needs to develop the ability to cry more or less on demand.

Mind Over Matter is an appendix to Hack Your Depression that reviews a substantial number of well documented cases of people who've recovered from serious physical illness based on hypnotic suggestion, mindfulness techniques, placebo effect, and other effects whose mode of action is largely unknown but nevertheless imply that the mind is capable of amazing feats of healing.

As I emphasize in the introduction to the book, progress toward recovery from any mental affliction is invariably a matter of making many small steps in the right direction; it is rarely a matter of making a "breakthrough." The real breakthrough comes when you realize that, over time, the small steps you've made have put you on a new track. That's what this book is about.

For more info, please visit (and share the link with anyone who might benefit). Also consider adding your name to the HackYourDepression mailing list.

And if I can answer any questions, write me at kas.e.thomas (at Gmail).

☙ ❧

I want to thank the following tweeps, who retweeted me yesterday. Be sure to click into these profile pics (they're live links) and follow these fine folks on Twitter. They really do retweet!


by Kas Thomas ( at February 25, 2015 03:59 PM


Link: The Graphic Continuum

The Graphic Continuum is a poster created by Jon Schwabish and Severino Ribecca (the man behind the Data Visualisation Catalogue). It lists almost 90 different chart types and organizes them into five large groups: distribution, time, comparing categories, geospatial, part-to-whole, and relationships. Some of them are connected across groups where there are further similarities.

The poster is printed very nicely and makes for a great piece of wall art to stare at when thinking about data, and maybe to get an idea for what new visualization to try.

by Robert Kosara at February 25, 2015 03:17 PM

Roads from Emmaus

The Gospel of Fastnachts, Pączki and Pancakes

On the calendar of Western Rite Orthodox Christians (who probably number a few thousand people within the canonical Orthodox Church, out of a couple hundred million or so, which is why they are unknown to most Orthodox Christians), today is Ash Wednesday. So yesterday was their Shrove Tuesday, also known as Fat Tuesday (in French, […]

The post The Gospel of Fastnachts, Pączki and Pancakes appeared first on Roads from Emmaus.

by Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick at February 25, 2015 03:06 PM

Crossway Blog

Midweek Roundup - 2/25/15

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

1. Joe Thorn on cultural engagement

What do people mean when they say "cultural engagement?" That phrase is often spurned as if it means thoughtless syncretism between the church and culture. In my reading it rarely means that. It is certainly not what I mean. I am a fan of that three-fold approach to engaging culture: reject what is evil, receive what is good, and redeem what is broken/lost.

2. John Piper on how we can know the Bible is true

How can average people, with no scholarly training, and little time to invest in historical studies, know for sure that God has spoken in the Bible?

Historically and biblically, one answer that has been given is: “the internal testimony of the Spirit.” What is it? Let’s consider John Calvin’s use of the term, and the Westminster Confession of Faith, and then test these thoughts with the Scriptures themselves.

3. Hannah Anderson and Erin Straza interview JR Vassar

Erin Straza and Hannah Anderson introduce their vision for the podcast, and interview JR Vassar to talk about his book Glory Hunger.

4. Martin Marty on why to read a non-Lutheran’s book on Luther

What readers must by the end have found remarkable is the way Dr. Trueman has brought clarity and some sense of system to the often obscure, paradoxical, and anything-but-systematic writings of Luther on the Christian life.

5. Sam Storms on why faith pleases God

But why does faith please God? Part of the answer has to be because faith looks away from self and to the Savior. Faith is an act of self-renunciation and a declaration that our hope and confidence are in God. Faith puts no trust in man but in God only. It declares that he is enough; he is sufficient; he is able.

by Nick Rynerson at February 25, 2015 02:22 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

Biblical Literacy, Academic Freedom and Christian Liberty — An Excerpt from “The Bible and the University”

The Bible and the UniversityOver the years, there has been something of an identity crisis in the disciplines of biblical studies and theology. Where universities once were the anchor for theological thought, these disciplines are now often marginalized and confused as to meaning and purpose.

The Bible and the University addresses this crisis by offering a series of essays, which consider:

  • the historic role of the Bible in the university
  • the status of theological reflection regarding Scripture among the disciplines today
  • the special role of Scripture in the development of law, the humanities and social sciences,
  • the way the Bible speaks to issues of academic freedom, intellectual tolerance, and religious liberty.

Today, David Lyle Jeffrey shares a problem common to professors: Biblical ignorance and academic freedom: “The assumption of many, tacitly or explicitly, seems to be that a biblical worldview and intellectual or academic freedom are terminally at odds.”

Read his excerpt and engage this book yourself to see how the Bible and university can coexist.

By David Lyle Jeffrey

In Whit Stilman’s film Metropolitan, one of the characters defends his obtuseness by saying: ‘Just because you haven’t read a book, doesn’t mean you can’t have an opinion on it. I haven’t read the Bible, and I have an opinion on it.’ This sort of cheerful yet opinionated ignorance can be shared by some you might not suspect of it. I am concerned that not only the wider culture, but increasingly the subculture we call the church, has opinions on a book which, for practical intellectual purposes, it hasn’t really read.

Ignorance of the Bible problematizes the work we are still pleased to call Christian education in a number of ways. One of these pertains to a great and generally celebrated ideal of all education – in respect of which it is often assumed nowadays that Christians, both individually and institutionally, are notably deficient. I refer to intellectual freedom. The assumption of many, tacitly or explicitly, seems to be that a biblical worldview and intellectual or academic freedom are terminally at odds.

I wish to register my dissent to this prejudice, on the grounds that I have read the book. I propose, in fact, an alternative hypothesis in the form of a question: Are there in fact biblical resources that may help us to clarify current debates over the meaning and application of the principle of academic freedom? My answer to this question will be ‘yes’. A second question also prompts my excursus: Do those of us who claim a special interest in the Bible make adequate use of these resources? Here my answer will be, ‘Not often enough, or well enough.’ To the first question I will come last, offering less an argument than one brief textual exposition. Regarding the second question I will argue here that we make poor use of our biblical resources, indeed that neither in our church-related institutions of higher learning nor in our churches are we now teaching the Scriptures sufficiently well that they rise to the level of becoming a true intellectual resource. Whether the current level of scriptural teaching allows them to become even a satisfactory spiritual resource is a question for others to answer.

Eclipse of Biblical Narrative

George Barna has recently concluded that only nine percent of the self-described ‘born again’ in America and only half of all Protestant pastors have anything that could be credibly described as a biblical worldview. Barna’s surveys, howsoever adequately, attempt to reckon with a more widely remarked and embarrassing reality; namely, that the Bible has apparently lost authority in some churches once ostensibly most identified with the Bible. His research shows that ‘even in churches where the pastor has a biblical worldview, most members of the congregation do not. More than six out of every seven congregants in the typical church do not share the biblical worldview of their pastor even when he or she has one.’

We must not be content merely to understand why even the evangelical community in North America has – at least in significant sectors – apparently lost its appetite for coherent biblical teaching. We who work in Christian higher education may well need to discover a remedy for one of the consequences, for the decline has gone on long enough that biblical illiteracy can, on occasion, seem to be nearly as extensive among evangelical college students as within the general populace. This is a fact with pedagogical consequences. In noticing this phenomenon I do not, of course, mean to suggest that evangelicals are uniquely apostate. Apostasy in North America is remarkably ecumenical. According to a recent issue of the journal Current Issues in Catholic Higher Education,

Thirty two percent of lay presidents and 40 percent of religious [i.e.,ordained] presidents [in Catholic colleges and universities in the USA] report contending with faculty and staff who are tradition illiterate,hostile toward,or simply disinterested in the Catholic mission and identity of the institutions in which they serve.

I fear that at universities like my own, much the same sort of thing could be said. Even among regular church-going faculty, biblical literacy and theological competence is at a far lower ebb than might have been found a generation ago amongst rural Baptists and other evangelicals who never saw the inside of a college classroom. What they knew, and knew by heart, their college educated children and grandchildren have largely forgotten. When Bruce Cole, Director of the NEH, speaks about ‘American Amnesia,’ he describes a cultural disorder that has infected ‘People of the Book’ as much as it has the great unwashed.

Cole and I team-taught a course in medieval and Renaissance art history three decades ago at the University of Rochester. As a Jewish professor in a university with a large cohort of Jewish students, Cole once remarked to me on his disappointment at their typical lack of textual knowledge of their religious tradition. Biblical iconography in Renaissance painting which ought to have been obvious to reasonably taught Jewish students, was almost as opaque to them as to the majority of our shared students who were more or less cheerful pagans. I could relate to his frustration: teaching Chaucer’s Miller’s Tale, which depends for much of its humor on ironic misunderstanding of the Noah narrative in Genesis, I was getting blank stares at the mention of Noah. Only three of more than thirty students could say for sure they knew about the flood story and none could remember that ‘God promised to Noah never to flood the earth again’ – something Chaucer depends on for his laugh at the ignorance of the old carpenter who, you may remember, builds local churches, but is duped and even cuckolded by a ‘seminary’ student imposter because he has no knowledge of the foundation upon which the Church universal is built.

That was thirty years ago, and our faculty club grousing about biblical illiteracy in our students, to some of our peers, may well have seemed quaintly antiquarian. But, particularly for teaching Western art and literature in the secular university, the deficit has only grown more acute. Cole’s thesis now is explicitly directed to political competence: he believes that amnesia (how we lost our story) is evidently culture-wide and a threat to American democracy.

The Bible and the University

Edited By Craig Bartholomew, Anthony C. Thiselton, David Lyle Jeffrey, C. Stephen Evans

Order it Today:
Barnes & Noble
Buy Direct from Zondervan

by Jeremy Bouma at February 25, 2015 02:18 PM


Tired of Safari

Yesterday, in reaction to pointer events becoming a W3C recommendation, Tim Kadlec published an important piece about Apple’s huge influence on the mobile web.

I agree with him to the extent of writing this extended Me-Too entry. It is increasingly becoming necessary to do something about Apple, its absolute refusal to talk to anyone, and its dickish way of bending the mobile web to its desires. Personally, I became tired of Safari quite a while ago, and I wouldn’t mind taking Apple down a notch.

So let’s do it.

What went before

Quick summary: Pointer Events, invented by Microsoft, are very likely to help us confront the web of devices, since they are not specific to one input mode. They are designed to work with mouse, pen/stylus, and touch, and it will be fairly easy to add other input types once these become sufficiently supported.

It’s possible to argue that touch events are better than pointer events, but oddly enough I’ve never seen anyone claim that. (Pointers appreciated.) But technical excellence doesn’t matter any more: pointer events are becoming leverage in a tug of war between Apple and the open Web. I know which side I’m on.

W3C has specifications for both pointer events and the Apple-created touch events which were the default for the last six years. W3C threw in with the pointer events quite a while ago: the touch events spec hasn’t been updated since 2013, while the pointer events one has. W3C knows which side it’s on as well.

Developer woes

The pointer event spec was temporarily delayed by an objection from Yandex (read entire thread). Representative Charles McCathie Neville argued that creating a second bunch of events to do essentially the same as touch events would put undue pressure on web developers, since they would now have to code to two standards.

Although he is right in a literal sense, I do not think we should exaggerate the problem. Clueless web devs will be clueless (and they’re mostly blinded by iFever anyway), but one or more clever ones will write a tool that will automatically convert one set of events to the other. We have a super-abundance of tools, after all, so what’s one more between friends? Therefore I respectfully reject this argument.

(Incidentally, I feel this tool should convert pointer events to touch events, so that eventually the performance hit from using it will affect Safari alone.)

Browser vendor woes

There’s a corrolary to this argument: browser vendors, too, must expend a lot of extra time in supporting two sets of events. Although that, again, is true, one way out would be to essentially cease further development of the touch events. Just don’t implement new stuff; don’t fix bugs. You’ll still have to maintain the current level of touch event support, at least for the next two years or so, but you’ll be spared the ordeal of improving both touch and pointer events.

One push to implement the pointer events would be enough, and after that the pointer events are assigned the maintenance and extension dev time that touch events used to get.

The counterweight

Still, as Tim points out, doing double work is but one of the two fundamental points in this discussion. The other is that Apple is creating its own standards.

It is customary to insert a quick paragraph about how Safari was important in the early stages of the mobile web and blah and blah, but fuck that. I’m done with being fair to Safari. (Besides, when did Apple last create truly novel and useful web stuff?)

Apple’s paranoid approach to developer relations, and, I assume, relations with other browser vendors (and, in fact, relations to anything outside itself) is becoming a serious liability to the open Web. That is the issue we must confront.

Let’s look at the problem from a political angle. Apple has a huge following and essentially could do as it pleased for the past seven years or so. In order to forcibly educate Apple to become a responsible web citizen, it is necessary to create a counter-weight; to find a company that will support the open Web and has enough market share to force even web developers who’d prefer to work in iOS only to pay attention to pointer events.

That company is Google. There is no other candidate. Firefox essentially doesn’t exist on mobile, mobile IE is too small, as are the minor browsers such as BlackBerry and UC.

In that light, Google’s refusal to implement the pointer events is a victory for Apple. Now I don’t know about the high-level politicking going on, and I certainly don’t want to argue that the Chrome team intends to increase Apple’s hold on mobile web dev, but that will be the net result of their actions anyway.

So we have to put pressure on Google, so that in the future Google will effectively pressure Apple to become a good web citizen. (Fat chance, I know, but we have to try.) If you want to help, please star this issue in the Chromium bug tracker and make some noise. Better still, if you’re fluent in both sets of events, create a real-world test case where pointer events are clearly superior to touch events. Google is sensitive to this sort of data-driven argumentation.

This approach may not be entirely fair to Google, but it’s the only course of action available to us. And Google did promise to implement pointer events and then changed its mind.

So. Let’s address this issue, shall we? It’s past time to do so.

by ppk ( at February 25, 2015 01:10 PM


groove-dl: Jumping the shark

I was tempted to skip over groove-dl because my list of stream ripper tools is starting to devolve into a tool-per-service array, and when things become discrete and overly precise, I start to fall toward the same rules that say, “no esoteric codec playback tools.”


I can’t complain too loudly though, because things like gplayer and soma are past titles that were more or less constrained to one site or service, and suddenly chopping off a portion of The List wouldn’t be fair.

But it wouldn’t be a terrible disservice, since most of what I was able to discover about groove-dl is encapsulated in that screenshot. Follow the command with a search string, and groove-dl will return a list of matches and the option to download a song.

Very straightforward, but also very rudimentary. Beyond the first 10 results, there’s no apparent way to continue through search. groove-dl itself doesn’t have any command flags that I could find; in fact, using -h or --help just pushed those strings through as search terms. Entering a blank line just brings groove-dl to a halt. Entering an invalid character causes a python error message. And yet entering a number beyond the list (like 12 or something) starts a download of some unidentified tune that matched your search, but wasn’t shown on screen. Go figure. :\

groove-dl will allow you to pick multiple targets though, and does use a generic but informative download progress bar to follow your selections. I can’t complain about that. And I see that there is a graphical interface, and it may be that there are more functions available to you from that rendition, than in the text-only interface.

But overall, with such a narrow focus and a narrow field of options and wide array of ways to confound it, I think there might be other, better utilities around for pulling tracks from Grooveshark.

groove-dl is in AUR but not Debian. If you try to install it, you’ll also need python-httplib2, which wasn’t included in the PKGBUILD. Happy grooving. ;)

Tagged: audio, cloud, download, manager, music

by K.Mandla at February 25, 2015 01:00 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Using Emacs to prepare files for external applications like Autodesk Sketchbook Pro

To make it easier to draw using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro on my laptop (a Lenovo X220 tablet PC), I’ve created several templates with consistent dot grids and sizes. Since I want to minimize typing when I’m drawing, I wrote a couple of functions to make it easier to copy these templates and set up appropriately-named files. That way, I can save them without the grid layer, flip between files using Sketchbook Pro’s next/previous file commands, and then process them all when I’m ready.

Index cards

I’ve been experimenting with a habit of drawing at least five index cards every day. Here’s a function that creates five index cards (or a specified number of them) and then opens the last one for me to edit.

(defvar sacha/autodesk-sketchbook-executable "C:/Program Files/Autodesk/SketchBook Pro 7/SketchBookPro.exe")
(defun sacha/prepare-index-cards (n)
  (interactive (list (or current-prefix-arg 5)))
  (let ((counter 1)
        (directory "~/Dropbox/Inbox")
        (template "c:/data/drawing-templates/custom/0 - index.tif")
        (date (org-read-date nil nil "."))
    (while (> n 0)
      (setq temp-file
            (expand-file-name (format "%s-%d.tif" date counter)
      (unless (file-exists-p temp-file)
        (copy-file template temp-file)
        (setq n (1- n))
        (if (= n 0)
             (concat (shell-quote-argument sacha/autodesk-sketchbook-executable)
                     " "
                     (shell-quote-argument temp-file) " &"))))
      (setq counter (1+ counter)))))

Afterwards, I call sacha/rename-scanned-cards function to convert the TIFFs to PNGs, display the files and ask me to rename them properly.

Rename scanned index cards

(defun sacha/rename-scanned-cards ()
  "Display and rename the scanned files."
  (when (directory-files "~/Dropbox/Inbox" t "^[0-9]+-[0-9]+-[0-9]+-.*.tif")
    ;; Convert the TIFFs first
    (apply 'call-process "mogrify" nil nil nil "-format" "png" "-quality" "1"
           (directory-files "~/Dropbox/Inbox" t "^[0-9]+-[0-9]+-[0-9]+-.*.tif"))
    (mapc (lambda (x)
            (rename-file x "~/Dropbox/Inbox/backup"))
          (directory-files "~/Dropbox/Inbox" t "^[0-9]+-[0-9]+-[0-9]+-.*.tif")))
  (mapc (lambda (filename)
          (find-file filename)
          (when (string-match "/\\([0-9]+-[0-9]+-[0-9]+\\)" filename)
            (let ((kill-buffer-query-functions nil)
                  (new-name (read-string "New name: "
                                         (concat (match-string 1 filename) " "))))
              (when (> (length new-name) 0)
                (revert-buffer t t)
                (rename-file filename (concat new-name ".png"))
        (directory-files "~/Dropbox/Inbox" t "^[0-9]+-[0-9]+-[0-9]+-.*.png")))

I might tweak the files a little more after I rename them, so I don’t automatically upload them. When I’m happy with the files, I use a Node script to upload the files to Flickr, move them to my To blog directory, and copy Org-formatted text that I can paste into my learning outline.

Automatically resize images

The image+ package is handy for displaying the images so that they’re scaled to the window size.

(use-package image+
 :load-path "~/elisp/Emacs-imagex"
 :init (progn (imagex-global-sticky-mode) (imagex-auto-adjust-mode)))

Get information for sketched books

For sketchnotes of books, I set up the filename based on properties in my Org Mode tree for that book.

(defun sacha/prepare-sketchnote-file ()
  (let* ((base-name (org-entry-get-with-inheritance  "BASENAME"))
         (filename (expand-file-name (concat base-name ".tif") "~/dropbox/inbox/")))
    (unless base-name (error "Missing basename property"))
    (if (file-exists-p filename)
        (error "File already exists")
        (copy-file "g:/drawing-templates/custom/0 - base.tif" filename))
      (shell-command (concat (shell-quote-argument sacha/autodesk-sketchbook-executable)
                             (shell-quote-argument filename) " &"))))

By using Emacs Lisp functions to set up files that I’m going to use in an external application, I minimize fussing about with the keyboard while still being able to take advantage of structured information.

Do you work with external applications? Where does it make sense to use Emacs Lisp to make setup or processing easier?

The post Using Emacs to prepare files for external applications like Autodesk Sketchbook Pro appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at February 25, 2015 01:00 PM

Justin Taylor

A Crash Course on Influencers of Unbelief: Friedrich Nietzsche


This is an ongoing series on some influential modern thinkers who influenced the world of unbelief. (For previous entries, see FreudMarx, and Machiavelli.)

These are notes based on an essay by Peter Kreeft.

Who was Friedrich Nietzsche?

A German philosopher.

When did Nietzsche live?


What did Nietzsche think of his own role?

He called himself “the Anti-Christ,” and wrote a book by that title.

He offered the following argument for atheism:

“I will now disprove the existence of all gods:

[1] If there were gods, how could I bear not to be a god?

[2] Consequently, there are no gods.”

How did he die?

He died insane, in an asylum, of syphilis—signing his last letters “the Crucified One.”

What did he think about reason?

He scorned reason as well as faith. He often deliberately contradicted himself. He said that “a sneer is infinitely more noble that a syllogism.” And he appealed to passion, rhetoric, and even deliberate hatred rather than reason.

What did he think about love and morality?

Love is “the greatest danger.” Morality is mankind’s worst weakness.

What are the three schools of thought about Nietzsche?

  1. Nietzsche is gentle. This is the most popular view of academics. They see him as a sheep in wolf’s clothing: his attacks should not be taken literally. He was really an ally, not an enemy, of the Western institutions and values which he denounced.
  2. Nietzsche is utterly awful. They at least pay him the compliment of taking him seriously.
  3. Nietzsche is a wolf (not a sheep) but a very important thinker. He shows to modern Western civilization its own dark heart and future.

What is the center of Nietzsche’s philosophy?

He is as centered on Christ as Augustine was, only he centered on Christ as his enemy.

What are Nietzsche’s main themes?

Nietzsche’s main themes can be summarized by the titles of his main books. Each is, in a different way, an attack on faith.

1. What was the theme of Nietzsche’s first book, The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music?

This book single-handedly revolutionized the accepted view of the ancient Greeks as all “sweetness and light,” reason and order.

For Nietzsche, the tragic poets were the great Greeks.

The philosophers, starting with Socrates, were the small ones, pale and passionless.

All the Western world had followed Socrates and his rationalism and moralism, and had denied the other, darker side of man, the tragic side.

Nietzsche instead exalted tragedy, chaos, disorder, and irrationality—symbolized by the god Dionysus (god of growth and drunken orgies).

Nietzsche claimed that Socrates had turned the world instead to the worship of Apollo (god of the sun, light, order, and reason).

But the fate of Nietzsche’s god Dionysus was soon to overtake Nietzsche himself; as Dionysus was literally torn apart by the Titans, supernatural monsters of the underworld, Nietzsche’s mind was to be cracked asunder by his own inner Titans.

What was the theme of Nietzsche’s book, The Use and Abuse of History?

He continued the Dionysian-vs.-Apollonian theme.

The “abuse of history” = theory, science, objective truth.

The right use of history = to enhance “life.”

Nietzsche sets in opposition:

  • life vs. truth
  • fire vs. light
  • Dionysus vs. Apollo
  • will vs. intellect

What is the theme of Ecco Homo

(Ecco homo is from the Latin Vulgate, translating Pontius Pilate’s words about Jesus in John 19:5, “behold the man!”)

This book was pseudo-autobiographical shameless egotism. He willingly embraces falsehood and fantasy. It is consistent with his philosophy or preferring “whatever is life-enhancing” to truth. “Why not live a lie?” he asks.

What is the theme of The Genealogy of Morals?

Nietzsche claims that morality was an invention of the weak (especially the Jews, and then the Christians) to weaken the strong. The sheep convinced the wolf to act like a sheep.

This is unnatural, argues Nietzsche, and seeing morality’s unnatural origin in resentment at inferiority will free us from its power over us.

What is the theme of Beyond Good and Evil?

This is Nietzsche’s alternative morality, or “new morality.”

“Master morality” is totally different from “slave morality.”

Whatever a master commands becomes good from the mere fact that the master commands it. The weak sheep have a morality of obedience and conformity. Masters have a natural right to do whatever they please, for since there is no God, everything is permissible.

What is the theme of The Twilight of the Idols?

Nietzsche explores the consequences of “the death of God.”

(Of course God never really lives, but faith in him did. But that is now  dead.)

With God dies all objective truths (for there is no mind over ours) and objective values, laws and morality (for there is no will over ours).

Soul, free will, immortality, reason, order, love = “idols” (little gods that are dying now that the Big God has died).

What is the theme of Nietzsche’s masterpiece, Thus Spake Zarathustra

This book celebrates this new god, the Superman..

He called Thus Spake Zarathustra the new Bible. He told the world to “throw away all other books; you have my Zarathustra.”

It was written in only a few days, in a frenzy, perhaps of literally demon-inspired “automatic writing.” No book ever written contains more Jungian archetypes, like a fireworks display of images from the unconscious.

Its essential message is the condemnation of present-day man as a weakling and the announcement of the next species, the Superman, who lives by “master morality” instead of “slave morality.” God is dead, long live the new god!

What is the theme of The Eternal Return?

Nietzsche discovers that all gods die—even the Superman.

He believed that all history necessarily moved in a cycle, endlessly repeating all past events.

Nietzsche deduced this disappearing conclusion from two premises:

  1. a finite amount of matter
  2. an infinite amount of time (since there is no creator and no creation)

Therefore, every possible combination of elementary particles—every possible world—occur an infinite number of times, given infinite time.

All, even the Superman, will return again to dust, and evolve worms, apes, man, and Superman again and again.

Instead of despairing at this hopeless new history, Nietzsche seized the opportunity to celebrate history’s irrationality and the triumph of “life” over logic. The supreme virtue was the will’s courage to affirm this meaningless life, beyond reason, for no reason.

What was the theme of Nietzsche’s last work, The Will to Power?

Without a God, a heaven, truth, or an absolute Goodness to aim at, the meaning of life becomes simply “the will to power.”

Power becomes its own end, not a means.

Life is like a bubble, empty within and without; but its meaning is self-affirmation, egotism, blowing up your bubble, expanding the meaningless self into the meaningless void.

Nietzsche’s advice: “just will.” It does not matter what you will or why.

Why should we think of Nietzsche as an important thinker?

It is not despite but because of his insanity. Almost no one in history has ever so clearly, candidly, and consistently formulated the complete alternative to Christianity.


Nietzsche is the essential, modern post-Christian and anti-Christian. He rightly saw Christ as his chief enemy and rival. The spirit of Anti-Christ has never received such complete formulation. Nietzsche was not only the favorite philosopher of Nazi Germany, he is the favorite philosopher of hell.

We can thank Satan’s own foolishness in “blowing his cover” in this man. Like Nazism, Nietzsche may scare the hell out of us and help save our civilization or even our souls by turning us away in terror before it’s too late.

by Justin Taylor at February 25, 2015 12:00 PM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

How to Memorize (Almost) Anything

[Note: This is part 2 in a 5 article series on using memorization to increase knowledge of the Bible and develop a sanctified imagination. You can find part 1 here, part 3 here, and part 4 here.]

You say you can’t remember your own phone number? I can’t either.  But we don’t need to know those strings of digits; remembering phone numbers is a job for our smartphones.

You don’t have to have a “good memory” (whatever that means) to fill your imagination with Scripture and knowledge about the Bible. By the time you finish this series you’ll have learned how to memorize lists (e.g., the Ten Commandments) and almost every key event that occurs in Genesis (that’s the first step in memorizing the entire narrative structure of the Bible, including details about hundreds of persons and events mentioned in the 66 books). But before you accomplish those amazing feats I have to convince you that the memory God gave you is sufficient for the task.

Later I’ll outline the ancient techniques and tips of memoria technica that were developed by the Ancient Greeks and perfected by the Europeans in the Middle Ages. For now the main thing you need to know is that the art of memory, as Ed Cooke explains in his book Remember, Remember, is the “art of making sure what you give your mind to remember is as bright and amusing and energetic and outrageous as possible.” In other words, you are unlikely to forget information when it has been associated with a vivid image.

In order to quickly and easily remember any new piece of information, associate it to something you already know or remember in some ridiculous way. Those last four words are essential to effective memorization—and they are also the reason why many people who have been taught memory techniques do not apply them. The technique seems silly because it is silly. For some reason unknown to us, God designed our brains to remember things that are absurd and unusual.  This fact didn’t bother giants of the faith like Augustine and Thomas Aquinas so it shouldn’t bother you either. Use it, as they did, to honor the Creator of our imaginations.

Let’s put this concept into practice by memorizing these twenty items in sequence: Otter, Thor, Zeus, American, Idol, Weathervane, Ice Cream Sundae, Parents, Sleigh, Adult, Tree, Steel, Bear, False, Eyelashes, Watches, Wife, Ox, Butler, and Donkey.

While you may be able to find associations between some of these words (e.g., Thor and Zeus are both mythological gods and otter, bear, ox, and donkey are all animals) there isn’t any obvious connection that ties them together. You could use a brute force technique (e.g., reciting the words over and over until you can repeat them verbatim) but that is too time-consuming and not very effective. Instead, let’s try to associate them in some ridiculous way.

Let’s take the first five items— Otter, Thor, Zeus, American, Idol—and combine them into a ridiculous, but memorable, mental picture. Since most people are familiar with the music competition show American Idol, let’s combine those two words (American, Idol) as the basis of our first vivid image.

Instead of the usual panel of judges on the television show, picture the guest judges as an Otter, Thor, and Zeus. To make it easier to remember these items, give them an action: The Otter loves the singers and is enthusiastically clapping; Thor too appreciates the music and is banging his hammer (Mjölnir) on the desk in approval; Zeus, however, is displeased and is throwing a lightning bolt at the contestants. (To remember them in order, be sure to see each one in turn, creating a vivid picture of them before moving on to the next.)

Now follow Zeus’ lightening bolt as it misses the singers and hits the words American Idol in the logo behind the stage. The shocked duet that was singing are dressed as a Weathervane and an Ice Cream Sundae, but when you look closer you notice they are . . . your own Parents (or someone else’s parents if that makes it easier to picture).

Frightened by the Greek god’s action, the Parents look for an escape. To their surprise (and ours) Santa Claus comes to the rescue, beckoning them to jump into his Sleigh. As Santa rides off into the sky, the Sleigh crashes into a very tall Adult Tree (the children trees on either side are unhurt). Santa and your Parents fall out of the Sleigh, but before they crash to the ground they grab onto a Steel beam that is sticking out of the side of a building.

The Parents are barely hanging on by the tips of their fingers but, fortunately for them, underneath is huge Bear ready to catch them if they fall. The Bear is rather peculiar looking, though: he is wearing large False Eyelashes and two diamond-encrusted Rolex Watches, one on each arm. Coming toward the hero are his bear Wife riding an Ox, and his very human Butler (dressed as a proper English servant) riding a Donkey.

Now before you do anything else, close your eyes and try to remember each of the items—starting with Otter—by picturing them in the sequence of events. Chances are that you were not only able to remember at least ten out of the twenty but were also able to remember their order. That’s not bad for having merely read through the passage one time. If you spend an additional five to ten minutes reading through the list and sequence again, and create clear mental images of each (particularly the ones you missed) you’ll soon be able to recall all twenty perfectly.

The purpose of having you memorize this list of seemly random terms was mainly to have you prove to yourself that you could, using absurd visual images, quickly and easily remember new information as well as the sequence in which they are presented. But you might have also noticed that the terms weren’t chosen at random. Strung together they provide cues to remember the order of the Ten Commandments using terms that are the same or similar sounding:

1. “You shall have no other gods before me.” – No other (Otter) gods (Thor, Zeus)

2. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.”  - No idols = American Idol

3. “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” – Vain = Weathervane)

4. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” – Sabbath = Sunday = Ice Cream Sundae

5. “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” – Honor your Parents

6. “You shall not murder.” Murder = slay = Sleigh

7. “You shall not commit adultery.” – Adultery = Adult Tree

8. “You shall not steal.” – Steal = Steel

9. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” – Bear false witness = Bear False (Eyelashes) Watches

10. “You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's.” – Do not covet wife, servants, ox, donkey = Wife, Butler, ox, Donkey

If you are completely unfamiliar with the Ten Commandment then these cues are likely to be of no value. But if you have trouble remembering whether “You shall not steal” comes before or after “You shall not murder,” then it may help in learning the proper sequence.

Now that you know that you can memorize – and that it wasn’t as painful or difficult as you might have imagined – let’s look at few of the techniques we used in the exercise. In our next article you’ll learn four tips that will show you how to apply this process to remembering lists of items and how to store them in a “memory palace” so that you can instantly recall an extraordinary amount of information. Then, next week, we’ll put it all together so that you’ll memorize thirty key points in the book of Genesis.

In the meantime, practice memorizing a string of terms. Make a list of 10-20 words (preferabaly nouns), create an action-oriented images for each, and string them together in a simple story. Then test yourself to see how quickly you can memorize the words and how many you can remember by using your image-string-story technique.

Other Article in This Series

Part #1 – How Memorization Feeds Your Imagination
Part #2 – How to Memorize (Almost) Anything  
Part #3 – 4 Tips to Memorize (Almost) Anything  
Part #4 – How to Memorize the Biblical Narrative (I)
Part #5 – How to Memorize the Biblical Narrative (II) (Tues., Mar. 3)

by Joe Carter at February 25, 2015 06:15 AM

Stay-at-Home Work when Kids Have Special Needs

Rachael Newton is married to Josh and is a stay-at-home mom to their three kids. Their 9-year-old son has autism. They live in Little Rock, Arkansas, and are members of Midtown Baptist Church, where she also serves as the children's ministry director.  

How do you describe your work?

I’m a wife and a mother to my three kids, and I also serve part-time as the children’s ministry director at our church. I spend a lot of time taking my kids to therapies because I have two kids with special needs and developmental delays. Part of my role is serving as an advocate for my children with special needs, either in a school setting or concerning their medical needs. In addition, I also spend time doing normal errands like picking my son up from school, helping him with homework, fixing dinner, and cleaning the house. In the evenings I spend time doing my work for the church.

As an image-bearer of God, how does your work reflect some aspect of God’s work?

Patience is the first thing that comes to mind. I want to show God’s love and patience to them as I mother them, regardless of how they respond or act. But also, I have found that maintaining some sense of order in our home by doing the everyday things, like picking up toys and creating routine, helps model for my children what it means to live in this world. Because of Jack’s special needs, he thrives on routine, so to have order, not chaos, in the home is helpful to him. I desire to bring that order into our home for all my children, but especially for Jack because I know that serves him well.

How does your work give you a unique vantage point into the brokenness of the world?

Of course, because I am with little children I have the opportunity to see how early sin presents itself in their lives. But on another level, I uniquely see the brokenness of this world in my son, Jack. Because his brain is neurologically broken, I see the effects of that every day in his life. His unique struggles are such a clear picture of the brokenness of this world. In my daughter, Claire, I see it in a smaller way in her developmental delays and that her body doesn’t function physically as a typical developing child. As a parent, it is hard to see your children living with that brokenness.

Jesus commands us to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” How does your work provide an opportunity to love and serve others?  

It doesn’t matter how much sleep my children got last night or what they have done on a given day, I’m still called to show kindness, love, grace, and patience toward them. I’m not to hold things against them. I want my kids to see my love for them not as a duty, but as an overflow of my love for Christ. I want them to see Christ in me and the strength that he has provided to love them. I don’t want to view them as a bother or live for bedtime, but instead I’m learning to take advantage of every opportunity to nurture them and care for them. 

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

by Courtney Reissig at February 25, 2015 06:01 AM

Sex and Violence in the Bible

Joseph W. Smith. Sex and Violence in the Bible: A Survey of Explicit Content in the Holy Book. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2014. 256 pp. $16.99.

Sex and Violence in the Bible goes where the prudish, squeamish, and sheltered fear to tread. The subtitle, A Survey of Explicit Content in the Holy Book, delivers on its description. These are the topics that make parishioners blush and pastors perspire. 

I knew I wouldn’t study Scripture’s passages on sex and violence deeply enough unless I had to read a book about it. Reading verses about sex make me feel like a little kid asking his parents, “Where do babies come from?” And reading verses about graphic or massive bloodletting have me alternating between a thirst for adventure and baffled disgust. Sometimes the Bible is hard to understand. Add to that the fact sex and violence aren’t typical dinnertable topics, and you have a critical need for this book. 

Stack of Library Books

Joseph W. Smith III writes for both the preacher and the layperson. An average churchgoer can read this extensively researched volume without being troubled by complicated jargon or convoluted Hebrew and Greek word studies. At the same time, a minister of the Word can find rich and nuanced commentary to aid in preparation. 

The book is arranged in three sections: (1) “Uncovering Nakedness”—Sex; (2) “The Blood Gushed Out”—Violence; and (3) “Any Unclean Thing”—Other Blunt or Unsavory Material. Some of the subsections include “Please Give Me Some: A Few Aphrodisiacs,” “You Shall Not: Bestiality, Voyeurism, Incest, and Homosexuality,” “This Abomination: Murdering Children,” and “Unclean Until the Evening: Menstruation, Semen, and Other Discharges.” Smith’s book is every junior high school boy’s mischievous, snickering dream. 

Sex and Violence in the Bible is thorough. Smith, a newspaper columnist and high school English teacher for more than 20 years, surveys Scripture for all he can find on a particular topic, helpfully sifting through not only each word or phrase but also various commentaries. So you’re reading the equivalent of a stack of library books to study a single word or passage. Instead of fumbling through multiple tomes and hundreds of pages, now you can pick up a single book and get a broad sense of the scholarship on the subject. 

Sex: Discuss Among Yourselves

Aside from the technical research, Smith’s book makes an important contribution to the “Christian aesthetic,” as the back cover puts it. Victorian prudence toward impolite topics like sex and bloodshed lingers in the church like a grandma’s cloying perfume long after she’s left. If the Bible talks about rape (Deut. 22:24) and “mountains flowing with rivers of blood” (Isa. 34:3), then Christians should be able to talk about them in their appropriate context, too. 

Sex and Violence in the Bible actually provides a productive framework for Christians to talk about socially untouchable subjects. Sex, always one of the most hand-wringing topics for good church folks, is celebrated in the Song of Songs. But the Bible also talks about sex as a sign of unfaithfulness, immorality, and idolatry. Smith’s book reminds us that we shouldn’t be ashamed to talk about both the joy of sex as it was originally intended and also the devastating abuses of this gift because of sin. 

Violence: Blood, Guts, and War

In a similar way, reading Sex and Violence in the Bible helps Christians wade into the rivers of blood gushing throughout Scripture and not be swept away. Tens of thousands of people sometimes die in a single verse of the Old Testament. How does a Christian reconcile this account with the New Testament where Jesus tells Peter to put away his sword (John 18:11)? Many believers know Christ fulfilled the law and that violence no longer has to be used to conquer a physical land or protect an ethnic-national group from pagan influences. But those passages don’t go away. They have to be preached, they have to be pondered, they have to be explained to a modern world horrified by such massacre. Even we Christians don’t always know what to do with violence in the Bible. We’re often just as flabbergasted as our unbelieving neighbors. 

Easy answers to the violence in the Bible are an illusion. But Smith gives us a helpful first step by explaining the exact nature and scope of the brutality. No clarification of violence in Scripture can be made if Christians don’t first have a clear view of what actually happened in those passages. These are moments in our collective religious history with which we must contend. Most of us either content ourselves with a shallow answer or ignore the difficulties completely. Smith forces us to keep our eyes locked on the sometimes savage scenes of a fallen world and to believe in God’s benevolence at the same time. 

Any Unclean Thing: Yuck

The final section of the book catches whatever sensitive material is left over from the sex and violence chapters: feces, vomit, and leprosy fall under this heading. Cleanness, both spiritually and physically, was a significant topic in ancient Israel. “The ceremonial regulations throughout Leviticus locate uncleanness in proximity with anything that smacks of death,” Smith explains. So these bodily fluids and diseases are reminders of the effects of sin on all people. 

Smith shows how God makes extensive provisions for separating unclean people from the camp of Israel and then details rites of purification for their return.  

All Scripture Is God-Breathed

Sex and Violence in the Bible is a necessary book because it forces you to squarely face the reality of sin. Every Christian has favorite verses, few of which are explored in this book. But “all Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Tim. 3:16), not just some of it. Even the parts that talk about breasts, semen, infanticide, and leprosy are inspired.

If nothing else, readers will become more acquainted with the euphemisms, idioms, and explicit subject matter of Scripture after reading this book. Getting more comfortable with the uncomfortable will enrich your understanding of the Bible and your appreciation of its ability to address every aspect of life. As Smith concludes, “The Bible is, in fact, refreshingly matter-of-fact in its approach, freely acknowledging what we all know: these things are an important part of life and by no means to be ignored or overlooked.” 

by Jemar Tisby at February 25, 2015 06:01 AM

Does Your Youth Ministry Mess with Christ’s Bride?

Much ink has been spilled and many words have been typed about shallow approaches to youth ministry and their damaging effect on young people’s engagement with Christ and the local church as they enter adulthood. There are valuable critiques; I’ve issued many of them. Youth pastors, directors, and workers need to be constantly called back to a focus on substantive, biblical, and gospel-centered ministry to young people, so that they do not fall prey to the gleam of a thriving and fun youth ministry that does not contribute to lasting kingdom fruit.

A strong and drastic reaction against youth ministry, by some, has been to eliminate it completely—to entirely integrate the younger generations of believers into the life of the church. There’s warrant in this move . . . when it actually works. The problem is that it can sometimes cut out a key season of ministry for both students and leaders, a time that God can use in powerful ways in spiritual development and relational growth in Christian community.

Holding the Balance

The “balance” that I want to call for in youth ministry today continues to walk a careful line between “entertainment” youth ministry (the shallow type that gravitates toward attraction rather than biblical substance) and the elimination of youth ministry (the move that provides no age-focused community for biblical teaching, training, and discipleship within the local church). It’s a balance that identifies a slightly different key question than the one that’s being asked many times: Should we do youth ministry? Here’s the question I would propose asking instead: Does this youth ministry contribute to the development of lifelong members, servants, and leaders in the local church? 

In the church contexts where I’ve served, it’s the students who have connected with the wider local church body in significant ways during their junior high and high school years who have matured and become deeply involved in local churches during college and beyond. Many of them have participated in vibrant youth ministries filled with fun events and activities, yet they have been groups led by youth pastors who have intentionally labored to grow the students’ faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, a faith that will be lived out, built up, and strengthened throughout their lives in the context of biblically solid and gospel-centered local churches. If youth pastors aren’t preparing students for that kind of future for their faith, they aren’t doing their jobs.

So, with this kind of evaluation metric for youth ministry in mind, I want to offer a few “diagnostic” questions that I would encourage pastors and church leaders to be asking of the youth ministries under their care. David Plant, Cameron Cole, and I hope to develop these questions more fully at our workshop in Orlando in April at The Gospel Coalition National Conference.

Diagnostic Questions for Youth Pastors 

Does our ministry compete in any way with the priority of corporate worship for students? We might consider, for example, how our desire to have relevant and age-appropriate teaching for our youth might sometimes prohibit them from being challenged to begin engaging with expository preaching, even during their young teenage years. This diagnostic question might force us to evaluate musical choices and styles as well, in both the youth group context and the corporate worship context.

Do our youth leaders intentionally encourage inter-generational relationships for the students? Part of the role of the youth leader is to do discipleship, obviously. But it’s sometimes just as valuable for a 20-something youth leader to encourage a high school student, for example, to meet regularly with an older leader in the church for prayer, encouragement, Bible study, and wise counsel. Youth leaders might consider setting an example for their students through their own engagement with the older generation in the church. 

Does our ministry generally support or compete with the discipleship work of godly parents in our congregation? Is our heart truly to support parents’ gospel-centered work in the home, or do we secretly relish being the fun counterpart to parents, as students complain about strict rules and misunderstandings in discipline? Often, we can begin to evaluate the state of our ministry in this regard by looking carefully at our communication, transparency, and relational engagement with the parents of our students.

Are students encouraged to choose between youth ministry involvement/leadership and service in other areas of the local church? Especially in larger churches, this can become an issue, as participation in a youth group leadership team can become quite consuming. Youth leaders should be looking for ways to allow—and even encourage—students to serve in the broader church body as well as in the youth group context. They shouldn’t have to choose.

Does the youth ministry hinder, in any way, the preparation of young men and women to engage in local church contexts as adult Christians? This is a big question, but one that we should be constantly asking. Our answers will probably lead to constant tweaking of our approaches to youth ministry, as we prayerfully consider how our ministry can contribute to lifelong lovers and servants of Christ’s body in local churches around the globe.

Let’s ask the tough questions of our youth ministries, for the glory of God and the good of his church.

Editors’ note: Jon Nielson will lead a workshop at The Gospel Coalition National Conference in April, along with David Plant (Redeemer Presbyterian Church) and Cameron Cole (Rooted Ministries), on the topic of ”Stumbling Blocks: Preparing Students for Life in a Fallen World.” Cole and Nielson are also co-editing a book—Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry (Crossway)—to which Plant is a contributor.

by Jon Nielson at February 25, 2015 06:01 AM

Front Porch Republic

The Church Localversal, Part 3


Brokenness is a traveling condition.

Read Full Article...

The post The Church Localversal, Part 3 appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Jason Peters at February 25, 2015 04:59 AM

512 Pixels

On the new Concierge →

As the Apple Store has grown in both popularity and scope, the Genius Bar has seen some radical changes.

In the early days, there wasn’t an appointment system or staff reserved for certain types of devices. The Genius team was just there, in the back of the store, ready to take whatever came their way.

Over time, it got more complicated. People’s names were recorded on-site, and helped in order, then appointments had to be made in advance. Things like drop-offs and same-day repairs only made life more complicated for Geniuses.

These days, the Genius program goes way beyond the Bar. Specialists can take care of things on the sales floor, keeping a lot iOS tasks from ever reaching the back of the store.

In many, many ways, the iPhone re-defined the Apple Store and the role of the Genius.

In my second post on this site — way the hell back in September of 2008[1] — I wrote about this:

The iPod has always been part of Apple Retail, but the iPhone has changed everything. I have nothing against the iPhone. I own one, and use it all the time. I almost can’t imagine life without it. But since the first launch, the company has been focused on those customers. From opening early for iPhone-only sales to giving iPhone customers priority at the Genius Bar, the Apple stores are bending over backwards for the iPhone. And it’s showing. Across the chain, older retail employees (and by that I mean, those who have been with the company for some time) are frustrated. Mac Specialists are spending hours on the phone with AT&T trying to get customers up and running with their new iPhone 3Gs instead of selling Macs (not to mention trying to meet the company’s sales metrics).

Something I didn’t mention then is the urgency of many iPhone appointments. Not being able to make a phone call is monumentally a bigger deal than having an issue with a Mac. In my experience, more often than not, walk-in appointments were iPhone customers. These customers often have to wait for a long time to be fit in to the existing queue of appointment-holding customers.

That came to mind in reading this 9to5Mac article about the Genius program. In it, Mark Gurman writes:

Apple will soon make a significant change to retail store Genius Bar appointments to improve the customer experience, according to several sources briefed on the upcoming shift. During the week of March 9th, Apple’s United States stores will launch a new initiative called “Concierge” that replaces traditional walk-in Genius Bar appointments.

Under this new arrangement, an appointment-less customer could request service, then would be alerted via text message when their time is approaching. The order of appointments for these customers would be set by “a special algorithm” that “provides the customer a wait time based on issue priorities.”

I’m sure this system has some sort of work-around for people whose iPhones are so smashed they can’t receive text messages.

While this updated system will be good for iPhone users, I imagine it is being created with an eye cut toward Apple Watch customers as well.

There’s been a lot of conversation over the last couple of weeks about needing to view the Watch from a fashion and lifestyle perspective, not a tech one. Making an appointment or waiting for hours on end isn’t going to fly with some customers, and Apple Stores need to deal with those expectations. Sounds like this system may just do the trick.

  1. For the love of everything, please don’t spend much time looking at my old posts. Yikes.  ↩


by Stephen Hackett at February 25, 2015 02:19 AM

February 24, 2015

CrossFit 204: Fitness in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Workout: Feb. 25, 2015

We're reclaiming this image. It's a form of therapy.

We’re reclaiming this image. It’s a form of therapy.

Please note there will be no Friday Night Fight session (8 p.m.) for the next five weeks due to the Open. Please come out to support our team.

Open competitors: Please read our plan here.

High hang snatch 1-1-1-1-1 @ 75%

Overhead squat 3-3-3

Evening Skills Session

Jerk 1-1-1-1 @ 75%

Row 1,000 m

If you are doing the Open workout Friday night, do not do extra work today.


by Mike at February 24, 2015 11:49 PM

CrossFit Naptown

The Open and Movement Clinic

Wednesday’s Workout:

5 Rounds

3 Thrusters Every :90
*Heavy as Technique Allows

15:00 As Many Rounds As Possible
20 Calorie Row
:45 Second Plank Hold
30 Double Unders *sub 1:00 of double under work each round
2 Triple Unders *sub 2 tuck jumps



2015 CrossFit Open


There is only one more week separating us from the start of the 2015 CrossFit Games season. As usual, the season kicks off with the worldwide, online competition known as the Open. For five weeks, CrossFit HQ and Dave Castro will release a workout on Thursday at 8:00pm and all participating athletes will have until the following Monday to perform the workout and submit their scores.


Opportunities to get the Open WODs in:

  • Friday during class: we will be programming the Open Workouts all day on Friday so attending any class will allow you to get that week’s workout in. Not participating in the Open officially? You will still be doing the workout:)
  • Friday 6:00pm: this class will be ran as usual, but we want to give people the opportunity to do the Open their own way to an extent. How are we going to do that? Anyone officially signed up for the Open can attend the 6:00pm class and do their own warm up and prep for that workout. If you are signed up for the Open and want to run through the class warm up at 6:00pm, then you can do that. If you are not participating in the Open and want to come at 6:00pm, then you are welcome but you will be running through the warm up as scheduled like everybody else that day. This will be a bit of a Friday Night Lights style with just a little more hype to the mix. Feel free to bring friends and family in at this time to watch and cheer you on!
  • Saturday 10:30am-12:00pm: this will be a sort of open slot for people to get the Open workouts in. If you would like to complete the Open workout at this time, then please email or to let them know that you plan on attending at that time and when you would ideally like to perform the workout (we will get back to you to confirm times). Feel free to bring people in to watch you kick ass at this time as well!
  • Sunday 11:00am-1:00pm: Sunday will be a make up day for people to get the Open workout in or perhaps to attempt it a second time. Please be mindful that there may be a lot of people doing a lot of different things at this time. If you do not like chaos, then this may not be the best time for you to get the workout in.
  • Monday: this is an absolute make-up day if there are extenuating circumstances that prevented you from getting in earlier in the weekend. If you need to do the workout at this time, then you must email or for permission and a time to do so. This time is not a guarantee and we may deny requests, so please try your best to get the workout done in one of the aforementioned scenarios. When doing these workouts, a person who has passed the Judge’s Course must be present and verify your reps in order for your workout to be valid and scored. Please be mindful of this fact and aware that for you to get the workout in means someone else has to give up some of their time to help you out.




Bored this Week?

If you have nothing on your to-do list this week or are looking for something to help you put off your to-do list, then check out the CrossFit Judges Course and take it! We would love to have as many members as possible complete the course to help us out with judging workouts during the Open. The more people we have that are judges, the easier it will be to accommodate people doing the Open workouts outside of class times! When you pass it, email your certificate to and we will print off your certificate and you will be ready to get your judgement on.


First-Ever Movement Clinic 


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

What: 90 minutes of focused skill work on core, snatching, and handstands!

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

Where: at good ole CrossFit NapTown (#darkplaces)

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

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

The FUNdamentals makeover has arrived and our first ever movement clinic will be this weekend from 12:00-1:30pm. This month, we will be going over core fundamentals (literally core work, not just the core of CrossFit…), basic snatch progressions, and handstand basics and progressions. These clinics are perfect for members of all skill levels and it is totally FREE. This time will be incredibly focused on skills and technique with progressions galore to break things down. Let us know if you ave any questions by emailing or and we hope to see a bunch of you on Saturday!




by Anna at February 24, 2015 11:07 PM

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


Unlimber the big guns, ring the church bells, release the kraken, remit all executions, free the gladiators, gather the greenskinned Orion dancing girls, decree a clone parade of endless twins, and have the Death Star blow up the peaceful and unarmed planet Alderaan in joyful celebration! Two firkins of water shall be distributed to every Fremen!

I just typed the last period of the last sentence of VINDICATION OF MAN, which is the sequel to ARCHITECT OF AEONS. One last read through for glaring errors, cut some material to make room for my appendices, and then I ship it to the editor! Hurrah!

Boy, that Menelaus I Montrose, he has a life that just sucks lemons. A really, really long life that really, really sucks. So glad I am not he.

This is nothing of what the real book cover is like:


This, however, is the cover to Architect of Aeons:

cover Architect of AeonsYou can purchase it here:

by John C Wright at February 24, 2015 10:17 PM


Colin Dickey: Tempo Shifts

Colin Dickey has a great article on Berfrois called Tempo Shifts on the Gregorian reform. Here’s an extract:

The Gregorian Reform was motivated initially by religious purposes: the slippage was moving Easter farther into summer, creating problems with the festival calendar of the Roman Catholic Church. The solution devised by the Church was first to remove Leap Days from three out of four centennial years (thus, the years 1700, 1800, and 1900 would not by Leap Years, but 2000 would), bringing the calendar closer in line to the actual solar year. Additionally, ten days were to be dropped from the Calendar to bring Easter back in line with its date in the fourth century, when it was first established by the Council of Nicea. October 5-14, 1582, the Pope decreed, would disappear.

Read the whole thing. Great subplot on Guardian versus Trader uses of time (ecclesiastical versus commercial calendars have different needs).

HT: Alan Martin.


by Venkat at February 24, 2015 08:01 PM

Zippy Catholic

Give me a break

The recent usury discussionfest, sparked by a comment thread at the Orthosphere, tossed a bit of a monkey wrench into my plans to take a break from blogging in the fall; so I’ll probably avoid even commenting on other blogs for the next while just to stay out of trouble.  That’s an oblique way of letting y’all know I’ll be taking a break from blogging for a bit (and I really mean it this time, honest — so don’t say anything interesting, doggone it!)

For those who stumble upon the blog for the first time, it isn’t really ‘about’ any particular subject or subjects; but our discussions on usury, liberalism, positivism, democracytorture, and game are probably the most ‘popular’ (or controversial). The first four are personal hobby horses of mine; the latter were more a matter of just going where the discussion leads.  Feel free to browse around and make comments: I probably won’t be gone forever, since the sirens always seem to call me back; and the regulars may have something to say even if I don’t.

Speaking of the regulars – and you know who you are – in the words of the Prophet Bilbo Baggins, I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.

by Zippy at February 24, 2015 07:45 PM

Practically Efficient

It is expected that passive voice will continue to annoy me

This morning I was reading an article on a local news site about weather conditions in my area. A couple of paragraphs in, this sentence poked me in the eye:

Snowfall is expected to end about lunchtime.

Perhaps for other reasons—reasons well beyond the scope of this little post—it touched a nerve, but it got me thinking how much I really hate passive voice in any kind of article or report that gives predictions, forecasts, or recommendations.

Without going all English 101 there are really two problems with passive voice from a practical standpoint:

  1. It's far more taxing on the reader cognitively
  2. It implies a lack of confidence

Rewriting the prediction in an active voice solves both problems:

We expect snowfall to end about lunchtime.

The cognitive problem

The cognitive problem isn't immediately obvious in this case because it's such a short sentence shown in isolation, but if you read thousands of pages of technical papers over the course of a year like I do, you know what it's like to have your head caught in the vise of a passive-voice-infected paper.

I've never seen a study that compares reading times between passively and actively written papers, but I would love to see one if anyone knows of one. Send it to me, please. Based on my (non-scientific) experience, it takes roughly 3–5 times longer to process technical literature riddled with passive voice.

The confidence problem

To me, someone who writes "snowfall is expected to end about lunchtime" just doesn't sound all warm and fuzzy that what they're saying is true.

Passive voice is the unconfident, if subconscious, mind's trick of deflecting responsibility from itself into abstract nothingness. I mean, who expects snowfall to end about lunchtime? The writer? The local news station meteorologist? Dark Sky? Nostradamus?

As a reader I have no idea, and that's kind of the point. There is no "we," "he," or "she," in "snowfall is expected to end about lunchtime." No one is at fault when snowfall ends well before or well after lunchtime.

Snowfall itself cannot expect itself to end about lunchtime, so if I'm being really cynical, I can only conclude that no one expects snowfall to end about lunchtime.

Snowfall is pretty innocuous, but there are plenty of other passively written forecasts in the world that are not. Maybe "inflation is expected to increase" or "it is suspected that vaccines are linked to autism." Many of these will translate to "bullshit is assumed."

You should always question anyone who makes recommendations without assuming responsibility or citing someone else.

Use passive voice as a tool for getting better

It's totally fine to write a rough draft in passive voice. The trick is to use it as a self-confidence barometer. If you catch yourself using passive voice when making recommendations or reporting results, ask yourself:

  • Do I really believe what I'm writing?
  • Do I really know who said what I'm writing? If yes, why am I not using their name?
  • Should I publish this at all?
  • Can I say this in simpler language?

And then. . . do the right thing, which is rarely the easy thing. You'll know what I'm talking about when you're at this point.

by Eddie Smith at February 24, 2015 07:34 PM


Fun with Zipf Forensics

As a student of all things weird and wonderful, I have this horrible habit of stopping what I'm doing, in the middle of the work day, to investigate this or that oddball idea (making a Detour to Codeville), and then five minutes later, an hour's gone by (but I've learned a heck of a lot).

That's kind of what happened yesterday, when I suddenly had to know not just how many words are in my latest book (I already knew that: 128,331) but what the total vocabulary of the book is: how many unique words. OpenOffice doesn't tell you that.

Thus began what should have been a five-minute coding adventure. But if you're a coder, you know I'm talking code-talk here, because five-minute coding adventure actually means hour-long bumbling misadventure leading to multiple head-slap Aha! moments, a few of which I just have to share with you in terms of graphs. Prepare to be amazed. (Fast-forward to the graphs, if you don't speak code.)

Getting the vocab count on my book Of Two Minds wasn't that hard. First, I had OpenOffice output the book as HTML, then I opened it in Firefox and (in a Scratchpad window) typed the following code:

  var text = document.body.textContent;

  var wordMatch = /\b\w+('|-)?\w*\b/gi; // magic

  var theWords = text.match( wordMatch );

var vocab = new Object; // get counts here
  for ( var i=0; i != totalMatches; i++ )
if ( theWords[i].toLowerCase() in vocab )
vocab[ theWords[i].toLowerCase() ]++; // bump count
vocab[ theWords[i].toLowerCase() ] = 1; // start counting

var results = []; // collect results here

for ( var k in vocab )
results.push( [ k, vocab[k] ] );

The magic is in the regular expression /\b\w+('|-)?\w*\b/gi, which is geek for "match a word boundary, \b, followed by one or more letters (\w+), optionally followed by an apostrophe or hyphen, followed by zero or more (*) word characters \w, followed by a word boundary \b, and do this globally in case-insensitive manner (gi)."

Thus, this regex will match can't as well as cant, but wouldn't've correctly matched wouldn't've, nor overly-hyphenated-expressions (treating each of those as two words). Close enough, though, right?

The other lines of code show how to tally unique words in an Object, which in JS is just a hash table (a table that will essentially let you use 'anyArbitraryText' as a key to store and look up values).

Once I had the results (all unique words) stored in a results array, I decided why not sort the array by word frequency? Bear in mind each array member is, itself, a mini-array of [ word, count ].

  function comparator(a,b) {
var count1 = a[1];
var count2 = b[1];
return count2 - count1;

return results.sort( comparator );

All of this gets wrapped in a function, returning the sorted results array.

Okay, so now the fun begins, because not only can I look at results.length to get the vocabulary count (which turns out to be huge: over 14,000) but I can now make a graph of word count by rank order. First I should tell you that around 1,000 "junk words" showed up in my initial attempt at a vocab count, due to things like single-letter matches of people's initials in footnotes ("R. L. Smith" gives three "words"), and other mischief, so I later modified the magic regex (inserting a \w) to force recognition of just two-letters-or-longer words. Which gave a vocab count of 12,886.

The top 20 words, by the way (minus one-letter words) are:

Word Count
the 4990
of 3430
to 3237
and 2516
in 2344
that 1654
it 1487
you 1333
for 1325
is 1163
was 1048
with 866
on 850
or 836
at 725
as 659
be 638
but 635
not 623
my 577

Geeks already know what's coming next. When you make a graph of word counts versus rank index, you find a curious phenomenon. Harvard linguistics professor George Kingsley Zipf was first to become fixated on the weird fact that the most frequent word, in English (or any other language), will occur approximately twice as often as the second most frequent word, three times as often as the third most frequent word, and so on, implying a power law, which means (skipping some math here) that if you plot the logarithm of a word's rank against the log of its frequency (count), you should get a straight line. Here's the plot for Of Two Minds:

Zipf plot of word frequency (count) vs. rank order for words in Of Two Minds. Click to enlarge.
As you can see, to a first approximation, the top 250 words in Of Two Minds show a striking power-law distribution pattern. Classic Zipf Law. I could have chosen the middle 1,000 words and gotten the same graph. (One of the characteristics of power-law relationships is that they are scale-invariant. Any part of the curve looks like any part of the curve.)

But here's the interesting thing. Since the code was already written (and trivial to modify), I decided to extract the vocabulary of 3-letter words and see if Zipf's Law applied to just those words. The graph I got looked like this:

Zipf plot of 3-letter words in Of Two Minds.
The Zipf relationship still holds (arguably). Three-letter words obey Zipf's Law. Of course, being a degenerate code whore  experimenter, I decided to go a step further and investigate 5-letter words. Surely 5-letter words are too perverse and unique in their special context requirements to obey any "power law"? This is the graph:

Zipf plot of 5-letter words in Of Two Minds.
A bit wavy, but still arguably a Zipf Law example.

At this point, drunk with power, I decided to wield my world-destroying code-wrangling abilities in a new way: I looked at the stats for my top 50 Tweets (you can download a spreadsheet of your Twitter statistics, from Twitter), sorted the "impressions" numbers (to rank them), then did a plot of log impressions versus log rank, and guess what?

My top 50 Tweets of all time, plotted as log impressions vs. log rank.

A classic Zipf Law situation (again)! If anything, the relationship of Tweet traffic to rank order is more Zipf-like than the relationship of word frequency to word rank.

So at this point, I'm thinking: "Okay, I know that if I do the same trick using blog traffic, I'm apt to see a power-law relationship again." But I've also long suspected that a couple of high-traffic posts (with way higher than normal traffic) are acting as honeypots for bots and spiders. Can Zipf's Law be used forensically, to detect out-of-whack numbers in a set of traffic stats?

I did a plot of log traffic vs. log rank for the last 270 posts on this blog:

Log traffic vs. log rank for 270 posts on this blog.
Notice the bulge caused by the 3rd and 4th points (from the left) on this plot. Those two blog posts, "Science on the Desktop" and "Nitric Oxide, Antidepressants, and Sexual Side Effects," with combined traffic of over 300,000 page-views, have always struck me as being bot-bait, because as worthy as those two posts are, I can't see how they'd draw that much human traffic, really, and the traffic numbers just keep piling on, week after week; are people really coming back to those posts over and over again? I think not. I think our friend G.K. Zipf is telling us that the two points that don't fit the left part of this curve are spurious. In other words, a Zipf plot has forensic utility, because it can tell you which points do not obey the power law and are therefore errant in some fashion.

Zipf Law, a.k.a. power-law (Pareto), distributions are worth taking time to understand, because they underlie so many natural phenomena. Zipf-Pareto distributions accurately describe the size of craters on the moon, word frequencies in languages, sales curves for bestselling books, intensity of solar flares, citations of scientific papers, wealth distribution, city-size distribution, and many other natural distributions. (See this excellent paper for details.) This is a fundamental phenomenon of nature, with huge forensic implications, because (think about it), if Zipf-Pareto describes bestselling book stats, you should be able to detect whether an author is "gaming the system" by looking for books whose sales stand out to an incredible degree. In any system that follows Zipf-Pareto laws, outliers (points that don't fall on the curve) are suspect; they have forensic importance, potentially.

Aren't you glad you took this Detour to Codeville with me? You can join the main highway again now. Coffee break's over. Back to standing on our heads.

Have you joined the mailing list? What are you waiting for? 

☙ ❧

I want to thank the following great tweeps for retweeting me yesterday. Click into these profile pics and Follow these people on Twitter! They retweet!

by Kas Thomas ( at February 24, 2015 07:26 PM

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

Suggested Reading List for Racialist Whineloons

Right Fans posts the list:

Commentary: If You Want to Avoid Reading White, Straight, Cis Male Authors for a Year…

.. have I got a list for you!

Sarah A. Hoyt, for example, is a first generation Portuguese immigrant who grew up in an impoverished village (at least by our standards). She is also a winner of the Libertarian Futurist Society’s Prometheus Award, which honors outstanding fiction with pro-liberty themes.

Larry Correia is also a “writer of color” who grew up in disadvantaged circumstances. As he relates in a recent post, “I grew up with all that fancy Portuguese Dairy Farmer Privilege, where I got to have an alcoholic mother and a functionally illiterate father… where I got to spend my formative years knee deep in cow shit at 3:00 AM, so that I could later work my way through Utah State.” Despite starting life on the bottom rung, however, Larry persevered and is now a multiple-award-winning urban fantasy author.

Jason Cordova is yet another “writer of color” and a survivor of sexual abuse who was bounced from group home to group home in his formative years. After a childhood fighting the oppression of “the system,” he went on to write some pretty fun kaiju novels. The one at left is especially noteworthy.

And let’s not forget James Young, an up-and-coming African American writer who has dipped his toes in both military science fiction and alternate history. An Unproven Concept is an excellent place to start sampling his work.

Then there are the womyn. For example:

Cedar Sanderson, whose fantasy is much beloved by the members of my household.

Amanda S. Green, who also writes under the pen names Sam Schall and, IIRC, Ellie Ferguson. Amanda plays the field, tackling urban fantasy, space opera, and romance, but no matter the genre, she always writes a ripping good yarn.

Karina Fabian, whose humorous fantasy is a genuine delight.

Daniella Bova, whose near-future dystopic science fiction features protagonists who are striking in their relatability.

And lastly, we have Karen Myers, who’s been writing a solid parallel-universe fantasy series set in my home state.

All of the authors listed above are authors I have personally read and recommended to others over the past few years. None of them are white, straight cis males.


Now what has prompted this ritual listing of names? That would be the bloviations of one K. Tempest Bradford, social justice warrior extraordinaire and special snowflake of the highest order:

The remainder of the take-down is delicious, a gourmet confection of scorn where scorn is due and overdue. Please read it.

And, no, I do not know what ‘Cis’ is and I do not want to know. I speak English, not lunatic. There are some concepts so stupid that, once they stain your brain, your brain can not be make clean again. No one tell me. I assume it is part of their glorification of sexual deviancy.

The Leftist are Victorians, just as stuffy, just as prone to pretend fainting and pretend hysteria, except that it is any slightest suggestion of normal, healthy, chaste sex-within-marriage sex which causes them vapors, sex based on serious babymaking; whereas anything that demeans the human soul and mars the image of God in man, they applaud.

by John C Wright at February 24, 2015 06:58 PM

512 Pixels

The Tom Bihn Synapse 19 →

I've got a new backpack, and I'm really digging it.


by Stephen Hackett at February 24, 2015 06:15 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

The Single Best Credit Card for Travelers: Earn 40,000 Points Now and More Everywhere You Go


Link: Chase Sapphire Preferred

Last year we had a celebration for Tyler, our Adventure Czar, when he came home from running a marathon on Antarctica. At the end of the night, I went to pay my tab, and the bartender said, “What is this card that all of you guys have?!”

It turned out that of the dozen or so folks that had an open tab at the bar that night, at least half of us were using the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

There’s a good reason for that! Our readers are smart. :)


Virgin Atlantic Lounge, Heathrow Airport, London


Virgin Atlantic Lounge, JFK Airport, New York

Over the years I’ve written a lot about travel hacking (and travel in general). I’ve gone on missions to apply for every rewards credit card I could find—documenting the process and showing how my credit score actually improved over time. Many readers have done similar experiments, earning hundreds of thousands of miles and taking off to see the world.

But I also hear from readers who want to start slow or only want enough miles to visit their grandma in Nebraska a couple times a year. I also understand that not everyone likes the idea of getting a dozen credit cards.

That’s why, if you don’t want to worry about whatever the latest-and-greatest offer is, you should just get one: the Chase Sapphire Preferred.


Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Bangkok, Thailand

I like a lot of different cards for different reasons. I wouldn’t want to be without the Platinum Card from American Express for domestic lounge access, and I use the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Card for a lot of business spending every year.

The Hyatt Credit Card is great for one free anniversary night every year—and I could go on with a list of a dozen more.

Still, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is the one I pull out of my wallet most frequently. If I didn’t have a small business (it’s important to keep business and personal spending separate, of course) or a bunch of other expenses to put on other cards, I’d still keep this one. It’s served me well for several years and I use it every day.


Dessert at the Park Hyatt, Shanghai, China

So, Why Is This Card So Great? A Few Reasons

  • You’ll earn 40,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months
  • You can also earn an extra 5,000 points when you add an authorized user within the first 3 months and they make a purchase of any amount (there’s no charge to add an authorized user, and no minimum spend to earn the additional bonus)
  • Ultimate Rewards points transfer (usually on a 1:1 basis) to nearly a dozen travel partners, including United, Hyatt, Marriott, British Airways, Korean Air, Singapore Airlines, and Southwest Airlines
  • You’ll earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & one point per dollar spent on all other purchases (very helpful the next time you visit 12 restaurants in one day)
  • There are no foreign transaction fees (that’s why this is my primary card for travel)
  • The annual fee of $95 is waived for the first year (and if you want, you can cancel before it shows up in year two—though for many of us the card is well worth keeping)

Park Hyatt Suite, Istanbul, Turkey


Park Hyatt, Milan, Italy

Again, there are a lot of options out there. You can earn hundreds of thousands of miles by putting in a bit of effort.

But if you want to skip that and just want the best possible card for daily use, complete with a nice introductory signup bonus, this is the best way to go.

Link: Chase Sapphire Preferred

Disclosure: Some of the links on our partner site Cards for Travel pay a referral bonus to us. We always promote the best available offers, regardless of benefit. Always be responsible with credit and don’t apply for cards you can’t use well.


Images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7,

by Chris Guillebeau at February 24, 2015 06:00 PM

Justin Taylor

FAQ on Baptism in the Early Church

61KHeeg2gUL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Some conclusions from Everett Ferguson’s 975-page tome, Baptism in the Early Church: History, Theology, and Liturgy in the First Five Centuries (Eerdmans, 2009):

Is there evidence for infant baptism exist before the second part of the second century?

“There is general agreement that there is no firm evidence for infant baptism before the latter part of the second century.” (p. 856)

Does this mean that infant baptism didn’t exist?

“This fact does not mean that it did not occur, but it does mean that supporters of the practice have a considerable chronological gap to account for. Many replace the historical silence by appeal to theological or sociological considerations.” (p. 856)

Why did infant baptism emerge?

“The most plausible explanation for the origin of infant baptism is found in the emergency baptism of sick children expected to die soon so that they would be assured of entrance into the kingdom of heaven.” (p. 856)

When did it catch on and become the dominant understanding of baptism?

“There was a slow extension of baptizing babies as a precautionary measure. It was generally accepted, but questions continued to be raised about its propriety into the fifth century. It became the usual practice in the fifth and sixth centuries.” (p. 857)

What was the mode of baptism in the early church?

“The comprehensive survey of the evidence compiled in this study give a basis for a fresh look at this subject and seeks to give coherence to that evidence while addressing seeming anomalies. The Christian literary sources, backed by secular word usage and Jewish religious immersions, give an overwhelming support for full immersion as the normal action. Exceptions in cases of a lack of water and especially of sickbed baptism were made. Submersion was undoubtedly the case for the fourth and fifth centuries in the Greek East and only slightly less certain for the Latin West.” (p. 857)

Was this a change from an earlier practice, a selection out of options previously available, or a continuation of the practice of the first three centuries?

“It is the contention of this study that the last interpretation best accords with the available facts. Unless one has preconceived ideas about how an immersion would be performed, the literary, art, and archaeological evidence supports this conclusion.” (p. 857)

Update: For another perspective on the evidence, see Tony Lane’s “Did the Apostolic Church Baptise Babies? A Seismological Approach.” The abstract is below:

The direct evidence from the first century is insufficient to establish conclusively whether or not the apostolic church baptised babies. An alternative approach is to look at the practice of the post-apostolic church and to ask what must have happened in apostolic times to account for this later development. Unequivocal evidence is not found until the beginning of the third century and for the next two centuries and more we see a variety of practice, with the children of Christian homes being baptised at any and every age. Significantly, no one claimed that anyone else’s practice was unapostolic or wrong in principle. Given that oral tradition offered real, though limited, access to the past, the most natural explanation is that this acceptance of a variety of practice goes back to apostolic times.

HT: Peter Sanlon

by Justin Taylor at February 24, 2015 05:00 PM

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

Book Bomb Tomorrow!

We have received a message, via the Gridley Wave from our Warlord, Marshal, Ninja-sensei, Cowpuncher and Commander-in-Chief of Sardaukar Terror-Troops, the International Lord of Hate, Larry Correia, about the next planned bombing run.

Sad Puppy Update: Book Bomb for the short fiction this Wednesday.

Mark your calenders. We will be Book Bombing the short fiction categories this Wednesday.

The Novella Category Bomb was a huge success. Thousands of copies were moved. A week later and they’re still on their respective genres bestseller lists. So basically we made sure that these will be the most widely read items in their category.

Now we’re going to do the same thing for the short stories and novelettes. Sad Puppies is all about getting people to nominate based on what they like, as opposed to what they are supposed to like.

Sad Puppies is all about you guys enjoying what you want, regardless of the finger shaking scolds.So, mark your calenders, Book Bomb this Wednesday. Where you can check out some of the awesome short fiction we’re suggesting on our Sad Puppies slate… Oh, and I think some of the authors aren’t horrible white “cismales”, and thus K. Tempest approved, but I since I don’t give a shit I haven’t bothered to check.

by John C Wright at February 24, 2015 04:27 PM

David Warren on Hobbes and Hobbits

This is your must read column for this month, dear reader. It is a meditation on the rights and duties of sovereign power, including Shakespeare’s and Tolkien’s refreshingly Mediaeval take on the issue:

The idea of the autonomous “prince” is modern. The mediaeval idea of hierarchy precluded it. The man at the top was lynchpin for a regime consisting of persons in various ranks of nobility, but in a curiously invertible pyramid, for though each in his place is servant to a master above him, he is also servant to the servants of those below him in station, pledged to their defence. The idea of “public service” survives today, but with a much different flavour. This is because the individual has ceased to be defined as a soul, a “being,” with duties. He has been redefined as a cypher or “function” with “rights.” Where to the old Christian view, rights followed from duties in the same man, to our post-Christian view the arbitrary rights of one man translate to duties for unaccounted others. (My right to a free lunch translates to your duty to pay for it, &c.) In this sense, all modern political thinking is in its nature totalitarian.

At the opposite extreme are the politics of Hobbitry: in its nature mediaeval, or if you will, sane. This I gather from perusing recent works on the political views of J.R.R. Tolkien, principally that of Jonathan Witt and Jay W. Richards in, The Hobbit Party: The Vision of Freedom That Tolkien Got, and the West Forgot. […]

The Hobbits of the Shire live under a system of Hardly Any Government. Almost everything is decided at the family level, which leaves, on the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, hardly anything else to decide. But it is better than this, owing to qualities in the Hobbits themselves. It appears that they have no understanding whatever of the concept of “fairness,” and no intellectual ability to distinguish redistribution of property from theft and rapine. They see things rather as they are. On the other hand, they have a perfect understanding of self-defence, engaged when they are occupied by liberal do-gooders. The solution to the problems these do-gooders create is thus very simple. Get rid of them. It is a task which everyone can join in.

Saruman, his Orcs, and their contrivances, provide the metaphor to liberal do-gooders and their obsessions with “process” and technology. They proved their value in resisting evil, arguably, once upon a time, until they became evil themselves. They would not understand Christ’s mysterious instruction, “resist ye not evil,” nor the parables in which He shows that “fairness” is of the Devil. They arrive in power with a do-gooder agenda, and in this are typically modern men. They toggle between damnable efficiency, and damnable inefficiency. They care not which, for over time their project is to create such a cat’s cradle of inter-dependencies that all freedom of action expires, and they may feed on human souls unchallengeably. (Whenupon, God destroys them.)

Hobbits lack agendas of any kind, which is what makes them pushovers, when dealing with the guileful. Instead they have customs, such as the meal times for which they are famous (breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, supper, &c). Their outlook is redemptively mediaeval. But how to protect them from e.g. Saruman and Orcs?

That is where thinking on kingship comes in. My suspicion is that the authors have been led by Tolkien’s whimsy into thinking him more naïve than he was. True enough, Tolkien the man hated democracy, and particularly hated tax collectors. Put more simply, he hated evil. He cannot have failed to understand that his Hobbits were in need of some sort of protection. They were not, however, in need of being changed. As a scholarly mediaevalist, Tolkien would have seen this plainly. I’m not sure Witt and Richards see it.

Read the whole thing.

by John C Wright at February 24, 2015 03:59 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

Knowing the Elephant: Revelation’s Place in a Theology of Religions

Maybe you’ve heard the famous story of the blind men and the elephant. The story is told from the vantage point of a king who watches as men grapple with the reality of the massive creature:

One man holds the tail, another its tusks; one person grasps the elephant’s ears, another touches its massive body. Each person insists the creature is as his perspective allows, which is why the story is often quoted in the interest of religious pluralism, even agnosticism.

Except, as Daniel Strange notes in his new book Their Rock Is Not Like Our Rock, the story demonstrates epistemic arrogance, for the king insists he sees the whole elephantine truth that all the world religions miss!

Given this story, when it comes to a theology of religions Strange insists one needs to reveal the foundation upon which they base their authority. “For pluralism, it is the exclusive claims of Kantian modernity.” (43) For him, his foundation is of a different source: the doctrine of revelation.

As he argues, “knowledge of the elephant is possible only because the elephant speaks and tells us who he is. Without this self-disclosure we may speculate, guess or dream, but we have no secure starting point for knowledge: we remain blind.”  (43)

Strange outlines five important aspects of his foundation for a theology of religions:

1) Ontology Precedes Epistemology

Strange insists that “the self-attesting, personal and ultimate authority of divine revelation is what it is, solely because it is derived from a God who is self-attesting, personal absolute.” (43-44) Quoting James Sire, Strange argues “before there can be revelation, there must be something to be revealed and someone or something to reveal it.” (Sire, Naming the Elephant, 68)

2) Beyond Modern Rationalism & Postmodern Irrationalism

Taking his cues from Mark Kreitzer’s transcendent foundationalism, Strange argues, “The nature of human knowledge is a reflection of the creature’s metaphysical total dependence upon, and distinction from, a totally independent Creator.” (44) What knowledge we can know comes to us from God himself.

As such, Strange insists we require multi-perspectivalism, because “there are both continuities and discontinuities between God’s knowledge and our own.” (45) Leaning on the work of John Frame and Vern Poythress, we understand religious truth when we incorporate different Christian theological perspectives into our formulations, ensuring they will more likely be biblically accurate. (45)

3) The Necessity of Sola Scriptura: What It Is

Strange confesses his theology of religions is decidedly Reformed. As such, he places a large importance upon the doctrine of Scripture and meaning of sola Scriptura: “The Bible has a unique role in the organism of revelation, as both a verbal and written revelation is understood to be necessary.” (46)

Given the universal human propensity to suppress and distort the truth of God’s revelation, “the gospel message, now exclusively revealed in the Bible (for Jesus has ascended and the apostles have died), is necessary to ‘correct’ our vision.” (46)

4) The Necessity of Sola Scriptura: What It Is Not

Yet, in adopting the Reformation view of Scripture, Strange is quick to argue he is “not divinizing the Bible, distracting from Christ, dismissing the role of the ‘rule of faith’ or dichotomizing Scripture.” (47-48)

Regarding th