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April 27, 2015

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Tales: That Didn’t Go Well

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It was our first session with a new group. There was a Human Rogue, a Human Paladin,  a Halfling Druid, and I played an Elven Sorcerer. None of us had read any part of the handbook, but we were reassured by the DM (the only one in the company with proper D&D experience), that it was just an…

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April 27, 2015 07:25 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

How Dante Can Save Your Life

Rod Dreher. How Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life-Changing Wisdom of History’s Greatest Poem. New York, NY: Regan Arts, 2015. 320 pp. $29.95.

One of my honors college students asked me last week to identify my favorite epic. Though I have a deep and abiding love for the Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid, I answered without hesitation: Dante’s Divine Comedy. Nothing, not even Milton’s Paradise Lost, comes close to the monumental scale of Dante’s three-part journey through hell, purgatory, and paradise. And yet, despite its epic scale, few works have the power to touch their readers on the most personal and intimate of levels.

So Rod Dreher discovered, to his great and continuing surprise, when he picked up a copy of La Divina Commedia in a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Up until that moment, his life hadn’t been going well. He had returned from a sojourn in big city America to his rural Louisiana hometown to tend to his cancer-stricken sister, Ruthie Leming. After her death, he stayed on with his family in hopes of consoling his parents and his nieces, only to find that his decision led to an increase, rather than a resolution, of his sense of estrangement and isolation. To make matters worse, Dreher came down with stress-induced chronic fatigue syndrome, leaving his family to fend for themselves.       

In short, Dreher, senior editor at The American Conservative and author of Crunchy Cons (2006) and The Little Way of Ruthie Leming (2013) [interview], entered a Dark World, not all that different from the one Dante finds himself in at the beginning of Inferno. The journey toward that crisis moment had been a long and painful one for poet and journalist alike, and Dreher shares his with us in a prose style that balances local color with incisive analysis, sentiment with reflection, pop self-help with painful confession.

Existential Frustration

Though I was naturally eager to get to Dante, I enjoyed, if not savored, the opening chapters in which Dreher recounts the cycle of existential frustration that has dominated his life. Only the coldest of readers could not be moved by Dreher’s attempts to please his good father, who truly loves his son but cannot see him as a different person with his own views, desires, and dreams.

When the sensitive, bookish lad kills a squirrel and is troubled by the sight, his father scorns him and calls him a sissy. When he leaves Louisiana to seek a career, his father sees him as a traitor who has rejected the life he had planned for him. When he and his wife try to impress his family by cooking a fancy bouillabaisse, he is accused of being “uppity” and “inflicting his snooty cosmopolitan tastes on them” (19). To add insult to injury, in all three cases Ruthie sides with her father. Indeed, after Ruthie’s death Dreher learns she’s convinced her daughters that their uncle is a user who cares only about himself and his career and is fundamentally disloyal to his family.

Given his life experiences, it would have been easy for Dreher to paint himself as a victim and blame everyone else for his woes. But neither God nor Dante allows him to do so. Rather, as he descends the levels of the inferno and then ascends the cornices of purgatory alongside the Florentine poet, he comes face to face with his own propensity to make golden calves out of his family and his tradition: in a word, southern ancestral worship. Yes, his father and sister must bear some guilt, but Dreher alone allows himself to become bound to these false idols.

Just as Dante, standing before the Gate of Dis (lower hell), is nearly turned to stone by the face of the Medusa, so Dreher’s memories of his childhood paralyze him and impede his spiritual progress. “My sins,” he comes to realize in a moment of Dantean enlightenment, “always emerged from anger at the unjust way I had been treated and impotent rage at my inability to change my family’s minds or to overcome the power of these memories over my emotions” (112).

Recurring Refrain

In what becomes a recurring refrain throughout the book, Dreher learns what exactly he can and cannot change. “You cannot control other people, but you can control your reaction to them” (66). And that goes for family as well as church. Though raised Methodist, Dreher, whose return to Christian faith was initiated by a visit to Chartres Cathedral in France, converted to Roman Catholicism in his 20s. A decade later, though, he left the Roman Catholic Church for the Orthodox when his journalistic work on the priestly sex scandals caused him to lose faith in the Roman Catholic clergy and hierarchy.

While not regretting his embrace of Orthodoxy, Dreher is convicted by Dante’s ability to rage against the corruption of the medieval church while remaining firmly loyal to its leadership and rule of faith. For Dreher, the Divine Comedy becomes, in part, a long search for a proper father figure. Indeed, Dreher’s analysis is most acute when he takes up Dante’s conversations with the heretic Farinata and the sodomite Ser Brunetto Latini.

Both of these anti-fathers lure Dante into a false kind of adoration that promises to supply him with a pseudo-purpose for his existence that doesn’t take into account his true Father in heaven. In the case of the magnificent but arrogant Farinata, Dante must resist the temptation of “keeping up appearances” (119), of acting as if only the earth mattered. As for the literary Brunetto, perhaps the most deceptive speaker in the Inferno, Dante must guard against two erroneous beliefs: that “the purpose of writing is to win worldly fame” and that one “should plot his course through life not by following the divine plan but by seeking his own interests” (142).

Once free from the self-imposed shackles of hell, Dreher moves upward through purgatory, seeking to disentangle himself from the hold of the seven deadly sins. Here, as he does throughout How Dante Can Save Your Life, Dreher gets to the heart of Dante’s understanding of sin as a distortion of love that cuts us off from our true potential and causes us to “worship the thing itself rather than to see the transcendent reality that lies behind the thing” (261).

Though Dreher has far less to say about Paradiso, he correctly highlights one of the chief characteristics of Dante’s heaven: that it is a place where “we are perfected according to our own natures” (273). By the end of his journey, Dreher is empowered to let go of the false “idealized past” (260) he’s carried around with him for years and to accept his own limitations and those of his family.

Just as importantly, he realizes that his childhood home cannot completely cure his feeling of exile. For that he must, like Dante, take a longer and more painful journey to his “true and only home: unity with God, in eternity” (281).

by Louis Markos at April 27, 2015 05:02 AM

Gospel Growth in North Myanmar

Theologically hungry pastors in Myanmar recently had their souls fed with a large assortment of solid books donated by The Gospel Coalition-International Outreach (TGC-IO). What a pleasure to see the glow of appreciation on their faces! These Kachin pastors serve small, remote churches in the mountains of northern Myanmar (formerly Burma) and in larger urban churches along the Irrawaddy River.

Their resources are few, but hope is rising despite their ongoing oppression as Christians under a Buddhist-dominated dictatorship.

Long-Term Relationship 

Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis has a relationship with this people group dating to 1890, when the church ordained and commissioned Ola Hanson to serve among the Kachin people of Burma. He and his wife, Minnie, arrived seven years after the first Kachin believers were baptized. Hanson devoted the next 37 years of his life to learning Jinghpaw, the language of the Kachin. He chose an alphabet and a script to commit the language to writing for the first time to translate the Old and New Testament from the original languages.

The Kachin culture has retained a story passed down through the generations. Its people heard about the creator-god who gave them a book that became lost, but would one day come back to them. In 1927, when Hanson gave the Kachin the Scriptures in Jinghpaw at a formal ceremony, they received this gift with unusual joy. Their long-held hope was realized. Since then, the gospel has spread steadily and, at times, rapidly throughout their region.

Today the majority of the Kachin people profess to be Christians, though nominalism and liberal theology have afflicted many of the churches. Today a number of key leaders want to get the Kachin churches back on the solid ground of biblical truth. In 1990 Bethlehem Baptist Church re-connected with the Kachin and was invited to help their churches grow in the commitment to God’s Word. Many of our teams have been sent to Myanmar over the years, and Kachin believers have visited us in return.

Long-Term Reinforcements

As I write this dispatch from Myitkyina, the capital city of the Kachin state, I am watching our Bethlehem team teach a select group of pastors who represent each geographical association of the Kachin Baptist Convention. In partnership with Training Leaders International we are teaching the attributes of God and pastoral theology. These are part of an eight-course sequence we will share with them over a four-year period. The Packing Hope books donated through International Outreach sit bundled together in the pastors’ study library. Virtually all of these will supplement the courses we teach here. Many of the pastors know sufficient English to benefit from these books. They will return home with resources to reinforce those things they learn. 

Our prayer is that some of these books will be translated into Jinghpaw, and that is beginning to happen. On this visit, we also had the privilege of putting into their hands Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology in Jinghpaw—a ten-year project. This combination of personal teaching and well-written biblical resources will serve these pastors well.

by Tom Steller at April 27, 2015 05:01 AM

6 Ways an Interim Pastor Can Help a Church in Crisis

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” — Winston Churchill

I still remember my first day as the interim pastor. I was hardly in the building 15 minutes when an assistant pastor shared with our pastoral team just moments before the 8 a.m. service that he and his wife sold their condo and would be moving to Kentucky in a few weeks. I thought to myself, Happy days are here again! It gets better: eight days later, another assistant pastor confided that he would be leaving for Tennessee to accept a deserving opportunity as a family pastor at a prominent church.

These two departures were not the reason I came as interim pastor to this church. Several months before, their lead pastor abruptly resigned and left—overnight—with no warning or announcement to the leaders or to the congregation. An assistant pastor found the departed pastor’s letter of resignation on his desk the next morning.

Although this was a good, loving congregation in many ways, you can imagine the shock, bewilderment, and feelings of crisis that came as three beloved pastors—tenuring more than 30 years ministry—left for different reasons. 

Interim amid Crisis

Welcome to the world of interim pastoring in a crisis.

What do you do when you are thrust into such a situation? On my first day, I encountered residual shock over the senior pastor’s unforeseen departure. Now the situation compounded itself with two more pastors leaving. Where would you start? In my one year of service, God’s grace dripped with many wonderful resolutions: the congregation secured not only a permanent senior pastor, but also several key staff members; the finances of the church remained in the black and actually increased towards a building program; and a feeling of optimism anchored the congregation before the new pastor’s arrival when I left.

Upon reflection on that interim pastorate, God’s grace brought to light six important dimensions of leadership engagement that converted this congregation’s shock into opportunities for strategic advancement in ministry. These six dimensions provide an evaluative template for a church leader or pastor in an interim period.

This is important: if you are a leader (interim pastor, officer, staff, or lay person) in a church that is currently in transition, make sure that before, or at least in the beginning days of interim ministry, you and the other leaders resolve the following issues with heartfelt unity. From experience, this resolution enables practically everyone in leadership to play and to sing off of the same page.

Six Dimensions of Leadership

1Engagement: how will you engage this interim period? 

Is it a season for growth, ministry development, and forming identity, or is it a time of waiting for the next pastor to come? More specifically, what is the emphasis of the position title? Does more stress fall on the “interim” (implying a short-term, “keep it together” approach), or on “pastor” (implying a comprehensive engagement)? Whatever side you choose (proactive or maintenance), whole-hearted unity is needed between the interim pastor and other leaders. 

My two interim experiences showed that both churches wanted to move ahead, so goals were formulated to steer the ministry forward. However, this stance should never be assumed. There are legitimate times when a congregation needs to pause and enter a time of respite, especially if their former pastor (long-term or founding) has died or from some other tragedy that has left parishioners in need of healing space. Keep in mind that both approaches to engagement can intertwine on occasions.

2. Priorities: effective leadership necessitates printing and communicating as early as possible the objectives for the interim period.

This step should be done no matter how long the interim period lasts. What I found strategic was a “first 100 days plan of action,” a document outlining intentional initiatives that not only required aggressive participation by the leaders (through their buy-in), but also held the interim pastor accountable. In any transitional period, a pastor will need to be a leader, manager, overseer, coach, preacher, conflict-resolver, counselor, and trail guide, to name just a few roles. When you think about it, a 100-day action plan is good for practically any pastor (short term or long-term) who wants to inject new vitality into a congregation’s ministry.

3. Communication: reinforcing leadership priorities necessitates explanation.  

You may fulfill this task through preaching, church bulletin, newsletter, website, and social media. People need to hear and to see things as much as four to five different ways to impress new perspectives upon their consciences. This point especially applies to sermon themes. Make sure that the chosen biblical propositions connect with the leadership objectives that were initially adopted. That way preaching becomes a springboard on Sunday for leaders to reiterate within the congregation throughout the week.

4. Presence: when a congregation suffers a crisis, strong pastoral presence is needed

Personal, proactive presence by the interim pastor (with help from other leaders) initiates calm, stability and confidence within the parish. Presence and time are especially important with staff members who need reassurance that everything will eventually be fine over time. After a number of meetings (either in the parishioners’ home, the pastor’s home, restaurant, and so on), a growing sense of buoyancy should develop within the congregation, something similar to what one parishioner said privately to me after the first three months: “You know, it’s going be okay.” There is no substitute for an active, shepherding presence within a congregation and among a staff/leadership dealing with crisis.

5. Identity forming: an interim pastorate is an excellent opportunity to prayerfully reflect on a congregation’s calling in mission. 

Asking, “Who are we?” and “What are we called to do?” can allow congregations to express their convictions and vision for present and future ministry.

For nearly four months, I led the staff and officers through a time of strategic planning, culminating in an official document that we presented to the congregation and the pulpit search committee used to evaluate and to communicate with potential candidates. Giving people a sense of identity and direction is crucial in an interim ministry period. Comprehensive and carefully communicated strategic planning leads to greater likelihood of increased stewardship (the time, talents, and treasures package). During my interim, the giving not only improved, but also the groundwork for a capital campaign was prepared before the permanent pastor’s arrival.  

6. Optimism: it is important to spot moments of accomplishment and to communicate them publicly as another “win” for God.  

These wins can come from a stewardship milestone reached, a successful outreach endeavor, a new staff hire, or something else that instills optimism and a sense for God at work. The idea is to look for substantive, strategic moments to inject hope and to encourage broader participation within the church.

Winston Churchill said it best: there is opportunity and difficulty in leadership, especially in an interim period. Yet, if engaged strategically, collaboratively, optimistically, and prayerfully, this time under God’s providence can produce lasting fruit—and friendships—for years to come.

by H. Curtis McDaniel at April 27, 2015 05:01 AM

How God Met Me in My Deepest Pain

Eliana Joy Davis was born on December 13, 2014, at 12:30 in the morning—three months prior to her due date. Days earlier my wife, Rachel, had gone in for a checkup after not feeling our baby move as she normally did. It was nighttime in Qatar, where I’d been deployed for several months, when I received a video call on my computer.

I’ll never forget that moment. Rachel was lying in a hospital bed with my mother and brother surrounding her, choking back tears as she delivered the news. There was no heartbeat. Eliana would be born lifeless. That was Monday night. By late Wednesday I was reunited with my wife in California. On Friday morning the doctors began inducement.

Different Kind of Delivery

It took 14 hours for the delivery to be completed. Mercifully the process went as smoothly as possible. That day in the hospital was much different from the delivery of our firstborn, Graedon. It was longer and quieter. Our room was less busy. There were fewer monitors. Notably the one measuring fetal heart rate was absent. When the moment finally arrived, only the doctor and a nurse were present. There was no assisting staff waiting to receive our baby. No pediatrician ever came to perform an initial check and monitor vitals. Most painfully, no infant cry pierced the silence of the room. The only sound was Rachel’s and my uncontrollable sobbing as we clung to each other in sadness. I called my mom to let her know Eliana had arrived. While the nurse bathed her and wrapped her in newborn blankets, the doctor finished ensuring Rachel was okay before departing to another delivery room. Soon the nurse was handing Eliana to my wife before leaving us alone to spend our only moments with our daughter on this earth.

Initially I was scared to meet Eliana. I didn’t know how she would look. How she would feel. Those fears melted away when Rachel took her in her arms and said through tears, “Oh, she’s so beautiful.” It was true. Eliana was beautiful. At 26 weeks her eyes, nose, and lips looked much like Graedon’s as a newborn. Her face was peaceful. Rachel and I sat there looking at our daughter and wondering in amazement at the beauty of God’s design. After a while Rachel handed me the daughter I had been longing to hold for the past six months. Never in my life have I experienced the inexplicable mingling of sorrow and joy more than I did in that moment. This was my little girl—a beautiful gift given by God to a man so undeserving.

Saying Goodbye

My dad and mom arrived at the hospital with my brothers and sisters who were in the area. They all held Eliana. My mom rocked her in the hospital chair, just as she did with us as kids and just as she does now with all her other grandchildren. For two hours we shared many tears and many smiles. My brother and dad prayed for us and then they all left, leaving Rachel and me to say our final goodbyes. We both held her and spoke to her again. Then I climbed into the bed beside my wife and together we sang Eliana my favorite hymn to sing to Graedon as I rock him to sleep, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”

The nurse came to transfer us from the labor and delivery unit to a room on the mother and baby floor. We laid Eliana in the bassinet and gathered our belongings to leave. There were a few items that I would have to return to retrieve. When I did, the room was empty and Eliana was lying in the bassinet where the nurse would eventually take prints and molds of her hands and feet. I gathered our final belongings and then stood next to my daughter’s side looking at her face. Not wanting to leave her behind. Not knowing how to say goodbye. I leaned over and whispered a final “I love you” and then turned around and walked out of the room.

It was the hardest, most painful thing I’ve ever done.

Finding Grace Amid Suffering

How does one endure such an experience? How do you bear up under the weight of sadness that threatens to crush? My wife and I have found that God gives grace for the moment and faith for the day. From the earliest moments of our video conversation, God has granted Rachel and me a measure of hope and joy that has grown ever stronger in the days following. He has flooded our lives with truth from prayers, conversations, emails, and phone calls from family and friends all around the world. A week following her birth, we laid Eliana to rest in a grave donated by my grandparents. At her service I had the opportunity to share the following truths that God has used to sustain and encourage us during these difficult days.

1. God was and is absolutely sovereign and unceasingly good.

Nothing takes God by surprise. He knows and ordains the events of this world, and everything he does is good. We certainly cannot see exactly why God chose to take Eliana when he did, but we have felt an undeniable assurance and peace in knowing that her passing was not a mistake. One of the passages read at Eliana’s service was Psalm 139:13-16:

For it was you who created my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise you because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and I know this very well. My bones were not hidden from you when I was made in secret, when I was formed in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in your book and planned before a single one of them began.

That God planned each and every one of Eliana’s days—all 26 weeks’ worth—is a remarkable truth. It was never in God’s plan for Eliana to live outside of Rachel’s womb here on earth. He allowed her nearly seven months of safety and comfort with her mother and then called her home. This was no mistake. It was God’s good plan for her life. Psalm 119:68 says, “You are good; and you do what is good.” In the book of Job, God comes to his doubting and suffering servant who has experienced more loss in a single day than most will endure in a lifetime. Amazingly, he doesn’t give Job a reason-by-reason analysis for all that had happened to him. Instead, he allows Job to see and behold the greatness of his glory and sovereignty. Job 38:4-11 says:

Where were you when I established the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who fixed its dimensions? Certainly you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? What supports its foundations? Or who laid its cornerstone while the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Who enclosed the sea behind doors when it burst from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and thick darkness its blanket, when I determined its boundaries and put its bars and doors in place, when I declared: “You may come this far, but no farther; your proud waves stop here”?

When life’s events are inexplicable, there is great hope in knowing we serve a God who is always in control. The same God who commanded the violent waves, “You may come this far, but no farther” is the same God who whispered to Eliana, “This is as far as you come my little girl—I’m taking you home.” Were it not for the truth of God’s absolute sovereignty in all things, Rachel and I would surely be swallowed up in grief and despair. Yet we see that Eliana’s death was not a mistake. It was not meaningless. Rather, her life and death are part of God’s grand tapestry of work in human history and in eternity to come.

2. Not only is God completely sovereign and unceasingly good, he also intimately knows what it means to suffer.

Two years ago Rachel and I were anticipating the joy of the Christmas season by welcoming the birth of our firstborn, Graedon. I thought often about the fact that God knew the overwhelming joy of a father at the birth of his son. Almost immediately after hearing of Eliana’s passing, God laid on my heart the truth that he also knows the sorrow of a father after the loss of his child.

Indeed, there is a measure of sobriety to the joy of Christmas when one considers that Christ came in order to be killed for the sake of God’s people. It was always God’s plan that his Son would die. Thus he intimately shares in our suffering and loss. Christ himself was a man of sorrows and grief. The writer of Hebrews makes the case that Christ is our perfect high priest and Savior because he is able to identify with us in our suffering and weakness (Heb. 2:9-18). God is not detached. He is not distant and aloof. He’s ever-present and all knowing, with us in our grief and sorrow. He truly is Immanuel.

3. Rachel and I have greatly rejoiced in the assurance of Eliana’s eternal security.

Though we mourn the life we have lost with her on earth, we praise God for the life she has gained in heaven. Our deepest prayer for our son, Graedon—as it was for Eliana while she lived in the womb—is that God would grant him faith and repentance that leads to salvation. Graedon lives in a world of rebellion and sin. He needs a Savior. He needs to know and believe the beauty of the gospel—that Christ came to offer forgiveness of sins through his life, death, and resurrection.

This is our deepest longing and prayer for Graedon, and God answered this prayer for Eliana. Her deepest need was not to be held and raised by her earthly parents, but rather to know and love her Savior. God gave her 26 weeks of life inside Rachel’s womb, hearing and knowing the voices of her parents, brother, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Then he took her and brought her face-to-face with her Lord and Savior.

What a life! What an inheritance! Our future hope is her present reality. Life is hers in abundance. She will never taste sorrow. Never see violence. Never fear death. Never feel the sting of sin. Her portion was none of the suffering and all of the gain. This is because of God’s good grace—because of Christ’s finished work. These truths fill Rachel’s and my heart with inexpressible joy in the midst of deep sorrow. God provided and cared for our daughter in a way that we could not and, for that, we are forever grateful. We also had 1 Peter 1:3-4 read at Eliana’s service:

Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to his great mercy, he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, uncorrupted, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.

So we rejoice, knowing that one day we will hold our daughter in an eternity without sorrow or loss. And we mourn, but not like those without hope (1 Thes. 4:13).

Eliana’s middle name comes from her aunt Rebecca—Rachel’s twin—a wonderful woman of faith whose life is marked by joy and service to others. The name Eliana means “God has answered.” In the days and weeks following her death, we’ve asked ourselves why God would take her so soon. This side of eternity we may never fully know. However, we do know that God has answered—once and for all—in the person of his Son, whose life, death, and resurrection have swallowed up death and secured eternal life for all who call on his name.

by Alan Davis at April 27, 2015 05:00 AM

eagereyes

Conference Report: CHI 2015

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the CHI 2015 conference in Seoul, South Korea. CHI technically stands for Computer-Human Interaction, but it has become a name rather than an acronym in recent years. And CHI’s scope is very broad, it covers many areas that are not strictly part of HCI (Human-Computer Interaction – why use one acronym when you can have two?).

Below, I talk about a few papers that I found particularly interesting. CHI has 15 parallel tracks, so there is obviously no way to see them all. I mostly went to the visualization sessions, but even from those I’m only picking out less than half the papers here, to focus on the really interesting ones.

Visualization and Interactions

There were a few classic visualization papers (that would have fit InfoVis just as well) that presented new techniques or systems for data visualization. Statsplorer: Guiding Novices in Statistical Analysis by Chat Wacharamanotham, Krishna Subramanian, Sarah Theres Völkel, and Jan Borchers is a system that helps people with statistical analysis when performing experiments. It guides them through the entire process from planning to reporting, and helps avoid overtesting and other common mistakes. It’s web-based and open source.

Investigating the Direct Manipulation of Ranking Tables for Time Navigation by Romain Vuillemot and Charles Perin is a pretty straight-forward JavaScript library that provides interaction for working with rankings in tables by different criteria, especially when they change over time. They have some nice initial interactions, and the idea is for other people to contribute more. It’s not an earth-shattering new revelation, but it’s nice to see some new ideas about interaction in an area that doesn’t get a lot of love.

Dynamic Opacity Optimization for Scatter Plots by Justin Matejka, Fraser Anderson, and George Fitzmaurice presents a very interesting and fairly straight-forward metrics to choose the opacity for scatterplots to make them the most readable. Scatterplots often suffer from overplotting, and it can be difficult to find a good opacity level to see the data, especially when also zooming, filtering, etc. While the talks at CHI were generally pretty good, this was perhaps the best research talk I saw there. Very well done.

Following transitions is difficult, particularly when many points are moving. This is well known and documented, and even the very clever staging method doesn’t seem to work as well as previously assumed. The paper Trajectory Bundling for Animated Transitions (PDF) by Fan Du, Nan Cao, Jian Zhao, and Yu-Ru Lin proposes a technique that groups points that belong to the same class by moving them along bundled paths. This is basically taking the idea of edge bundling and applying it to motion paths. They argue that this works because of the gestalt law of common fate, but I think it mostly just reduces the number of targets you need to track (since each group essentially merges into one). There’s also a short video, though you’ll have to watch the important part a few times to get it.

Putting Science Into Infographics

Several papers dealt with issues in information graphics, attempting to generate some science around common assumptions. Infographic Aesthetics: Designing for the first Impression by Lane Harrison, Katharina Reinecke, and Remco Chang looked into quick aesthetic judgments of information graphics. Their most important finding is that people’s judgments are quite consistent and also vary over a large range (just because it’s an infographic doesn’t mean people like it). They also found some interesting gender differences (women respond stronger to color and prefer lower complexity, men prefer higher complexity but don’t respond much to color).

Another challenge is that there are commonly distortions to axes, etc. in the charts used in information graphics. Those are often considered to be bad, but do people actually get confused by them, or are they able to see through those? How Deceptive are Deceptive Visualizations? An Empirical Analysis of Common Distortion Techniques by Anshul Vikram Pandey, Katharina Rall, Margaret L Satterthwaite, Oded Nov, and Enrico Bertini reported on some experiments that showed that people actually misread the data, and just the way you’d expect. This means that it is possible to misdirect people’s understanding of data by choosing the kind of skewed representation that suits your purpose. There doesn’t appear to be a webpage for the paper, but Enrico Bertini has written about it in one of his rare blog postings.

Our paper, ISOTYPE Visualization – Working Memory, Performance, and Engagement with Pictographs is of course also worth a mention here. We looked at the ISOTYPE technique and found that is sometimes used in infographics as well, and found it to be quite effective (and never harmful) in presenting data.

Storytelling

An entire session was devoted to storytelling, though not all the papers really fit the theme. It started out with a bang though, with the paper Storytelling in Information Visualizations: Does it Engage Users to Explore Data? by Jeremy Boy, Jean-Daniel Fekete, and Francoise Detienne looking into whether stories actually lead to more engagement. They measured time and number of interactions in an interactive visualization that was either preceded by a short story or presented by itself. In both metrics, people were less engaged (i.e., spent less time and interacted less) after having seen the story. It’s an important study, but also easy to criticize: they did not measure memory or understanding, so it’s not clear if people learned more from the story (they probably did). But they certainly did answer the question, at least for a small set of stories. In addition to the paper, they also made the stories they used available online, which is great. I see more studies coming out of this.

I really liked Boy’s final slide too, where he asked whether information visualization should really be

  • a medium for communication and persuasion (traditional narrative vis approach)
  • a tool for exploration and analysis (traditional infovis approach)
  • a (data-agnostic) social object for triggering discussions and debate

Understanding Data Videos: Looking at Narrative Visualization through the Cinematography Lens by Fereshteh Amini, Nathalie Henry Riche, Christophe Hurter, Bongshin Lee, and Pourang Irani looked at the narrative structure of data videos. They used ideas from film and comic theory to analyze existing videos and to come up with guidelines for the design of the narrative arc of such videos.

Overall Impressions

CHI is a large conference (almost 3000 attendees), but it follows the standard format: there are keynotes, paper sessions, panels, posters, as well as an exhibition area for companies and an art show. This was my first time at CHI, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

I found the quality of the visualization papers quite good. I was a bit underwhelmed at first (perhaps partly because last year’s InfoVis had upped my expectations quite a bit), but I saw some really good ones.

It’s still a bit unclear to me what gets accepted and why, and the extreme breadth of the conference can be a challenge. CHI is definitely a conference to follow if you’re interested in visualization, and will stay on my radar for publishing papers in the future.

 

by Robert Kosara at April 27, 2015 02:17 AM

CrossFit Naptown

Use Your Fitness!

Monday’s Workout:

Strength:
Back Squat
5 reps at 67.5% of 1RM
3 reps at 76.5% of 1RM
1+ reps at 85.5% of 1RM

Master’s Qualifier WOD 1:
5:00 As Many Rounds As Possible
5 Muscle Ups
10 Cleans (155/105)
*scale muscle ups to 10 pull ups and 10 push ups

Post Workout:
Tabata L Sit

 

3962566_orig

Switch up those barbells and weights for a shovel and wheelbarrow of dirt — volunteer at South Circle Farm on Sunday, May 3 from 8am-11am. 

South Circle Farm is a local farm, run by Amy Matthews, that grows fresh, healthy food using organic methods– just 2 miles south of downtown! Just like Crossfit Naptown, Naptown SWIFT and Practice Indie, South Circle Farm is a small business committed to helping create a healthier Indianapolis.

You’ll be guaranteed to get a good workout, as we will most likely be helping fill the last fourth of the farm with topsoil to create more growing space, as well as other active tasks around the farm. Bring a water bottle and snacks and wear clothes that you don’t mind getting a little dirty.

Learn more about Amy and her awesome space here: http://www.southcirclefarm.com

For more information or details please contact Muriel Cross <murielcross12@gmail.com>

Thanks!

Sign up for this volunteering event on the whiteboard above the water fountain!

 

CONGRATULATIONS!

Huge congratulations to all of the amazing women who competed individually or in pairs at Project GLOC this weekend! We are so proud of all of your hard work and your willingness to go out and put your fitness to the test in a fun and empowering competition.

by Anna at April 27, 2015 12:55 AM

April 26, 2015

Natural Running Center

Why Minimalism Went Flat, Part III

by Jim Hixson, CSCS It’s clear that minimalism is alive […]

by BillK at April 26, 2015 11:39 PM

Join Us On Facebook

Discover newsworthy stories from all over the world on […]

by BillK at April 26, 2015 09:36 PM

Inconsolation

since: Since you last checked

I promised I would get since onto these pages before the end comes, mostly because I don’t remember any other log viewer that has this behavior by default … and I want to be able to remember it in the future.

2015-04-26-6m47421-since

It’s hard for me to be sure though, after so many years and so many log utilities. :\

since seems different because, as you might have inferred from the screenshot, it only displays log data since the last time it checked. So you can see the last portions of pacman.log at the top of that image, then the repository update. The next invocation of since only shows the two lines that had been added.

I’m sure other tail-esque tools can do this, and possibly add a few nifty tricks in passing. It’s just a matter of finding the right flags and getting them in order.

For its own part, since keeps its state file in ~/.since, and you have the option to ignore it. You can also tell since to use a special state file, to run periodically, to ignore compressed logs, ignore missing logs, and a lot of other options.

I am not a real bloodhound when it comes to keeping an eye on logs, so at its best, since is useful … but only rarely. On my pseudo-desktop system, there’s almost no call for it.

On a more complex system or in a situation where log files are critical, it might save you some time trying to get the information you need. I’m willing to give it a thumbs-up. :)


Tagged: information, log, system, tail, viewer

by K.Mandla at April 26, 2015 02:00 PM

confused of calcutta

Murmurations on a Sunday morning

Murmuration. What a wonderful word. I remember being fascinated by collective nouns at school, particularly those to do with birds. An unkindness of ravens. A parliament of rooks. A murder of crows. An ostentation of peacocks. And a murmuration of starlings. That one stuck with me. Really stuck with me. Particularly since I then had … Continue reading Murmurations on a Sunday morning

by JP at April 26, 2015 08:15 AM

Market Urbanism

Travel Update: Recent Articles On Housing

I wrote a housing-related article this week for Forbes, and in the process of research, came across several other interesting recent ones. Here’s the roundup:

1. My article discussed the connection between rent control and high housing prices. To my surprise, only 6 of America’s 50 largest cities still have rent control, as numerous others ended what they saw as a counterproductive policy. But those six remain among the nation’s most expensive, and I argue that rent control is a big reason why.

2. This didn’t prevent Seattle from trying to revive the policy this week, led by Socialist Party councilor Kshama Sawant.

3. While rent control is seen today as antiquated, this hasn’t stopped the rise of its close cousin, “inclusionary zoning.” Steven Greenhut writes for Reason about a California state court case that could determine the policy’s constitutionality. The case, he says, is “about whether cities have unlimited power to extract concessions from homebuilders for things that are not ‘impacts’ from the project. In other words, it’s legitimate for government to require new developments to pay to mitigate the effect of the new residents on local infrastructure (roads, sewers, fire service), but is it OK for cities to require affordable housing just because officials want to see more of it built?”

4. Michael Lewyn challenges the notion that Airbnb hurts housing affordability by taking units off the market.

5. Recently the New York Times published a short time-lapse video of lower Manhattan’s various developmental stages over 500 years. Daniel Bier at Newsweek points out something strange about the video’s last few decades: “The pace of change slows dramatically toward the end…because the city government has deliberately calcified New York City, encasing the city’s structures in a legal state of suspended animation.”

6. Emily Badger writes on Wonkblog about the rise of urban adult singles, and the way that cities’ housing stocks have failed to adapt–thanks to government regulation. Her piece is worth quoting at length.

Our housing stock wasn’t built for a society full of singles. Our communities instead are full of homes meant for the traditional nuclear family — two-bedroom starter homes, three-bedroom houses, apartments with more bathrooms than a singleton needs, full-service kitchens when 25-year-old bachelors now primarily dine by microwave….In New York, Austin and Denver, nearly 57 percent of adults were single in 2010 (although not necessarily living alone). In Washington, D.C., that figure is a whopping 71 percent. But none of these cities have anywhere near enough small-sized housing to accommodate them. That means that a lot of people are probably living with unrelated adult roommates who’d prefer to live alone (half you people in D.C. group homes?). And it means that some people who do live alone are likely paying more for space they don’t want in a large one-bedroom because there aren’t enough alternatives in studios and efficiencies.

Changes in demographics and social norms invariably occur faster than changes in the built world around us…[But] a lot of cities are also actively making it hard for the housing supply to adjust. The rise of singles calls in particular for more micro housing: apartments the size of studios or even smaller, and “accessory dwelling units” (think in-law cottages or garage apartments) that might be built in the back yard of existing homes. It also calls for a different model of housing where, for instance, four singles might share a communal living space adjacent to their separate units instead of each having their own living room. Neighborhood opposition and existing regulation make this kind of housing hard to build in most cities, though. Parking requirements, for example, often mandate that new housing come with new off-street parking spots, too. But that rule is impractical for someone who wants to rent a cottage in her backyard. And it makes projects financially unworkable for a developer who wants to build an apartment full of micro units next to a train stop for residents who don’t own cars. Other laws set minimum standards for how small a housing unit can be — in much of New York, it’s 400 square feet — making micro units effectively illegal.

 

by Scott Beyer at April 26, 2015 03:22 AM

CrossFit Naptown

Partner GLOC Today!

Sunday’s Workout:

NapTown Rowing Class 10:00-11:00am at CrossFit NapTown

*this is the last week of Sunday morning rowing, Tuesday and Thursday will be the only rowing class times starting in May*

Open Gym 11:00-12:00pm and 12:00-1:00pm at CrossFit NapTown

 

NapTown Fitness at 922 N. Capitol Ave.

Adopatbull 3:30-4:45 hosted by Casa Del Toro Rescue!

SWIFT Workout 4:00-4:45pm at NapTown Fitness Capitol

Donation Yoga at Practice Indie 5:00-6:15pm and 6:30-7:30pm at NapTown Fitness Capitol

 

GLOC Pairs:

The individual ladies threw down yesterday and pairs of amazing women are going at it today! There will be tons of ladies from CrossFit NapTown competing at the event and it would be amazing to have a bunch of people come out to support them! Click here to visit the GLOC website and get your spectator tickets!

Click here to see the heat line ups for the weekend to know when your favorite ladies are going!

10264922_698430800193668_3840798428794704023_n

 

by Anna at April 26, 2015 02:13 AM

The Art of Non-Conformity

6 Discoveries from Near and Far: Volume XLII

6694510175_c29471893a_z

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: Ed Yourdon

by Chris Guillebeau at April 26, 2015 12:10 AM

April 25, 2015

Inconsolation

rfc and httpdoc: Two terminal references

I have a couple of simple but related tools today, both from the same author. At left is rfc, and at right is httpdoc.

2015-04-25-6m47421-rfc 2015-04-25-6m47421-httpdoc

I’ve known about rfc for a while, but got a reminder about httpdoc earlier this week via e-mail. Since they both have the same style and same creator, it makes sense to lump them together.

rfc, when supplied with a number or a topic line, will pull the text of that RFC from the web and dump it into your $PAGER. No fancy formatting, no color-coded document histories, just one-shot quick access to RFCs all the way back to … well, back to number 1.

The home page has a three-step process for “installing” rfc into your $HOME directory, although I daresay it could be rearranged to allow for more than just one person to use. In any case, it takes very little effort and rfc itself won’t bog down your system, seeing as it’s just a bash creation.

As an added bonus, rfc will keep its documents stored locally, so you don’t have to re-download a request. If you rely on rfc frequently, you’ll probably be interested in some of the built-in actions — like update or list, which give rfc a little more oomph, and search, which … well, you should be able to figure that one out. :roll:

httpdoc is similar, in a way. As you can see above, httpdoc becomes an offline reference tool for HTTP documentation. In the screenshot above, I only showed the 404 status code, but httpdoc can also return documentation on header fields, if you need that.

I can see where httpdoc is still being updated even in the past few days, so I expect there will be more references to come.

httpdoc is written in go, so you’ll need that installed before it will play along. There are also some environment variables that you’ll want to adjust before using it, but it’s nothing complicated.

Both of these tools might strike you as too simple to be noteworthy, but that will depend a lot on your perspective. I use things like dict on a daily basis, and even have it hot-wired for thesaurus entries as part of my .bashrc.

If you have a similar need for RFC or HTTP documentation at the command line, then you might find both of these install-worthy. Necessity is the mother of invention. Or is it the other way around … ? ;)


Tagged: documentation, html, http, reference, references

by K.Mandla at April 25, 2015 03:15 PM

Greg Mankiw's Blog

Congratulations, Roland

Roland Fryer has won the John Bates Clark Award.  The past three winners have been Roland Fryer (Harvard faculty), Matthew Gentzkow (Harvard undergrad and PhD), and Raj Chetty (Harvard undergrad, PhD, and faculty).

by Greg Mankiw (noreply@blogger.com) at April 25, 2015 01:51 PM

One Big Fluke

Response to "The Long-Term Problem With Dynamically Typed Languages"

I enjoyed this post quite a bit: "The Long-Term Problem With Dynamically Typed Languages". I think he's got some great points. I especially like the analogy with the "broken windows effect". It's interesting to hear about someone's experience using a software system or practice for a long time.


The best data point I have on this personally is my current project/team. The codebase is over 500KLOC now. The majority of it is in Python, followed by JS. I’ve been working on it since the beginning—over 4 years. We’ve built components and then extended them way beyond their original design goals. There’s a lot of technical debt. Some of it we’ve paid down through refactoring. Other parts we’ve rewritten. Mostly we live with it.

As time has gone on, we’ve gained a better understanding of the problem domain. The architecture of the software system we want is very different than what we have or what we started with. Now we’re spending our time figuring out how to get from where we are to where we want to be without having to rewrite everything from scratch.

I agree we have the lava layers problem the author describes, with multiple APIs to do the same thing. But I’m not sure if we would spend our time unifying them if we had some kind of miraculous tooling afforded by static types.

Our time is better spent reevaluating our architecture and enabling new use-cases. For example, one change we’ve been working towards reduces the turn-around time for a particular data analysis pipeline from 30 minutes to 1 millisecond (6 orders of magnitude). Now our product will be able to do a whole bunch of cool stuff that was impossible before. It took a lot of prototyping to get here. I don’t think static types would have helped.

My team’s biggest problem has always been answering the question: “How do we stay in business?” We've optimized for existence. We’ve had to adapt our system to enable product changes that make our users happy. Maybe once your product definition is so stable, like Google Search or Facebook Timeline, you can focus on a codebase that scales to 10,000 engineers and 10+ years of longevity. I haven't worked on such a project in my career. For me the requirements are always changing.

(Originally from my comment here)

by Brett Slatkin (noreply@blogger.com) at April 25, 2015 05:46 AM

April 24, 2015

CrossFit Naptown

Movement Clinic and GLOC Today!

Saturday’s Workout:

Partner Workout:
30:00 As Many Rounds As Possible
800 Meter Run
40 Kettlebell Thrusters
400 Meter Farmer Carry with Kbs

 

 

Movement Clinic:

12:00-1:30pm 

Go over skills and drills for improving your push and split jerk followed by tons of information and work on all things KIPPING (toes-2-bar, pull ups, muscle ups, bar muscle ups, you name it) with Coach Anna and Coach Rachel!

 

GLOC Individuals:

It is that time of year again! The Gorgeous Ladies of CrossFit will be throwing down this weekend with individuals competing on today and pairs going tomorrow. There will be tons of ladies from CrossFit NapTown competing at the event and it would be amazing to have a bunch of people come out to support them! Click here to visit the GLOC website and get your spectator tickets!

Click here to see the heat line ups for the weekend to know when your favorite ladies are going!

10264922_698430800193668_3840798428794704023_n

 

by Anna at April 24, 2015 11:39 PM

Cal Newport » Blog

The Original Four Hour Workweek

The Four Hour Consensus

russell-400pxIn 2007, Tim Ferriss published a hit book that suggested “work,” in the traditional money-making sense of the term, could and should be reduced to as little as four hours per week — freeing time for more fulfilling pursuits.

Seventy-five years earlier, the British philosopher Bertrand Russell, in an essay titled In Praise of Idleness, suggested this same number of working hours as a worthy goal, explaining…

In a world where no one is compelled to work more than four hours a day, every person possessed of scientific curiosity will be able to indulge it, and every painter will be able to paint without starving…Young writers will not be obliged to draw attention to themselves by sensational pot-boilers…Men who, in their professional work, have become interested in some phase of economics or government, will be able to develop their ideas…

Russell and Ferriss propose wildly different paths to this goal: while the former believed a radically reduced workweek requires socialism to realize, Ferriss argues that the productivity tools of the Internet Age suffice.

But both writers hit on a deeper idea that has remained as intriguing today as in the 1930s: the notion that industry (what we might now call “busyness”) is intrinsically virtuous is suspect. It’s worth instead working backwards from a more general confrontation with the question of what matters and deciding how best to act on the answers.

I don’t have a specific point of view here (I know Russell mainly from his work on mathematical philosophy), I just thought the coincidence was cool, and the ideas interesting…

######

On an unrelated note, my friends over at the exceptional 80,000 Hours organization have recently released a (free) career guide that is among one of the most thoughtful and grounded I’ve seen. If you read SO GOOD, you’ll probably appreciate their technical take on cultivating (not finding) passion.

by Study Hacks at April 24, 2015 11:01 PM

Front Porch Republic

Localist Linkfest

If Rush Limbaugh hates it, it’s probably a good idea:

When Dan Price said last week that he would cut his own pay and profits to make it possible to raise the minimum wage at his credit card processing company in Seattle to a hefty $70,000 a year, he had little idea of the whirlwind it would stir.

While the overwhelming majority of responses on social media and elsewhere were positive — punctuated with labels like “hero” and hand-clapping emojis — there were also skeptics and naysayers.

Czech libertarian creates his own country, will use solar power to run its Internet, and has attracted 250k applicants. Chris Roth, per usual, has the best piece on it.

BBC has a great piece about living on Sealand:

Modern Sealand is equipped with phone and the internet. They have a gift shop, have issued passports (they stopped after 9/11, but Michael said they plan to start issuing them again soon), and even started a data haven called HavenCo in 2000. HavenCo closed down in 2008 amidst numerous problems, but re-opened in 2013 with the help of internet entrepreneur Avi Freedman.

When I asked Michael what Sealand does to make its estimated GDP of $600,000 (where this number comes from is unclear, since Sealand is not included on most official lists of GDP by country), he said: “We’ve been involved in different things over the years, including internet data havens. We have our own stamps, coins, passports, right now we cover our expenses with our online shop. We market titles of nobility and T-shirts and mugs and stamps, coins, just about anything to do with our little mini-state. I travel on other business as well, I have other business interests involving shellfish and other internet stuff.”

Modern Sealand also has a futuristic ideological heir: seasteading. The concept isn’t quite the same – seasteaders plan to build their own floating nations rather than commandeer existing structures. “So seasteaders think a lot bigger and more glamorously,” said Joe Quirk, the communications director for the Seasteading Institute, “we also like to think we’re very pragmatic.” But in many ways, they share the same ideals – independence, freedom, adventure.

Jeb Bush loves NSA bulk data-collection. (He’s the tech Bush, after all)

Pope Francis and crypto-Catholicism

Ross Douthat on Pope Francis

Translating Mao’s poetry and touring Taoist temples with Allen Ginsburg:

Q. What happened at the White Cloud Temple?

A. I went there with Allen. We walked in there, and the abbot was wise, as Taoists should be, and generous. We were interested in everything, and although I’m not religious, religion is something I know well, so we had a lot to talk about. We were walking around, and we saw a room. Allen said, “What’s in this room?” and the abbot said, “Look inside.” Allen opened the door, and there was a young man wearing a loincloth, but otherwise completely naked. He was in a posture where his hands touched his feet, like a circle, but his eyes were open. Allen said, “Oh, oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb him.” And the abbot said, “Don’t worry. No one will disturb him for 24 hours.” Allen said he had been in India for three years, but this is the real thing

Ted Cruz isn’t great about showing up to work

Jim Antle on how Rand Paul can sell peace

Social classes today

Scythe v. brushcutter

Sony leaks reveal execs tried to get their kids internships at Buzzfeed

Gown made of beetle wings

Francis Cardinal George on Christian anarchism:

Instead of a world living in peace because it is without religion, why not imagine a world without nation states? After all, there would be no American ambassador recently killed in Libya if there were no America and no Libya! There are, obviously, individuals and groups who still misuse religion as a reason for violent behavior, but modern nation states don’t need religion as an excuse for going to war. Every major war in the last 300 years has been fought by nation states, not by the church. In our own history, the re-conquest of the secessionist states in the Civil War was far bloodier than the re-conquest of the Holy Land by the now despised Crusaders. The state apparatus for investigating civilians now is far more extensive than anything dreamed up by the Spanish Inquisition, although both were created to serve the same purpose: to preserve a government’s public ideology and control of society, whether based on religion or on modern constitutional order.

Analogies can easily be multiplied, if one wants to push a thesis; but the point is that the greatest threat to world peace and international justice is the nation state gone bad, claiming an absolute power, deciding questions and making “laws” beyond its competence. Few there are, however, who would venture to ask if there might be a better way for humanity to organize itself for the sake of the common good. Few, that is, beyond a prophetic voice like that of Dorothy Day, speaking acerbically about “Holy Mother the State,” or the ecclesiastical voice that calls the world, from generation to generation, to live at peace in the kingdom of God.

Swiss newspaper covers Hawaiian separatism

Books and Culture on Shirley Jackson

The Archdruid on preppin‘:

Those who become early adopters of the retro future, to use an edgy term from last week’s post, will have at least two, and potentially three, significant advantages. The first, as already noted, is that they’ll be much further along the learning curve by the time rising costs, increasing instabilities, and cascading systems failures either put the complex technosystems out of reach or push the relationship between costs and benefits well over into losing-proposition territory. The second is that as more people catch onto the advantages of older, simpler, more sustainable technologies, surviving examples will become harder to find and more expensive to buy; in this case as in many others, collapsing first ahead of the rush is, among other things, the more affordable option.

The third advantage? Depending on exactly which old technologies you happen to adopt, and whether or not you have any talent for basement-workshop manufacture and the like, you may find yourself on the way to a viable new career as most other people will be losing their jobs—and their shirts. As the global economy comes unraveled and people in the United States lose their current access to shoddy imports from Third World sweatshops, there will be a demand for a wide range of tools and simple technologies that still make sense in a deindustrializing world. Those who already know how to use such technologies will be prepared to teach others how to use them; those who know how to repair, recondition, or manufacture those technologies will be prepared to barter, or to use whatever form of currency happens to replace today’s mostly hallucinatory forms of money, to good advantage.

Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy visits Basque country, condemns Chinese abuses. Tibetan government-in-exile calls for the release of the Panchen Lama.

Went to a forum this week to hear the authors talk about their cover story in the National Interest, and the danger of war with Russia. Read the whole thing, it games out how, though all parties may officially be against it, we may be headed for confrontation.

Alex Tabarrok reviews Joseph Heath’s new book:

Rational ignorance is magnified by rational irrationality, a term coined by Bryan Caplan in The Myth of the Rational Voter. We all face conflicts between what we want to believe and what it is rational to believe. I want to believe that I am a skilled fighter with God on my side. But I don’t want the punch in the nose that acting on such an irrational belief would surely bring. Fortunately, if I choose to believe what is rational—that I am more a lover than a fighter—I can avoid the punch in the nose. Beliefs, in this case, have consequences.

But suppose that I believe that my country’s military is the greatest military in the history of the world and that God is on our side. Given such beliefs, I will vote for war. If I believe that my country has an average military and no strong claim to side with God then I will vote against war. Unfortunately, voting sunders beliefs from consequences. The war will happen or not depending not on how I vote but on how others vote. I don’t get to choose the war but I do get to choose my beliefs and if I choose the former, I can bask in the warm glow of patriotism and righteousness. But if I choose the latter, I am an unpatriotic outcast, out of step with my fellow citizens and fearful that the country is out of step with God. Since the only difference in consequence is the warm glow, I have little incentive not to go with the glow and vote irrationally but patriotically and righteously in favor of war.

A Dominican tours the Capitol:

The rites of civic religion which colored my tour of the United States Capitol Building did not have their intended effect—I did not have a religious experience, my devotion was not kindled, I was not roused to offer incense—but I did receive a revelation from the lips of the idol’s servant. For years and years, I had been seeking the foundational principle, the bedrock reason why American soil was becoming so hostile to Gospel seeds. Why had receptivity turned so quickly to indifference, and indifference to hostility? What strange teaching had inoculated hearts to the beauty of the Crucified? What strange doctrine had made his disciples bigoted prudes in the eyes of their countrymen?

What I searched for in books of the wise and learned, I found uttered in the simple faith of my humble Temple guide:

“Nothing stands taller than liberty.”

Weekend listening

The Fleetwoods, “Mr. Blue”

Waxahatchee, “Under a Rock”

Jackie Shane, “Any Other Way”

Luke Kelly, “Parcel of Rogues”

The post Localist Linkfest appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by J. Arthur Bloom at April 24, 2015 09:48 PM

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

Monster Hunter Wright

Larry Correia made on his blog the following announcement:

From editor Bryan Thomas Schmidt: I am very pleased to announce that Larry Correia and I have signed a contract as co-editors with Baen for an anthology with the working title MONSTER HUNTER TALES which will feature stories set in the universe of his NYT Bestselling MONSTER HUNTER INTERNATIONAL series. Besides Larry, authors will include Jim Butcher, Jonathan Maberry, Jessica Day George, Faith Hunter, John Ringo, Sarah A. Hoyt, John A. Pitts, Jody Lynn Nye, Mike Kupari, Maurice Broaddus and more. For release in 2017.

And then in the comments, added this little tidbit:

I am happy to announce that John C Wright is in there. (Bryan only listed like half the names on his announcement for space)

Unless Mr Schmidt insists on changing the title, my story is called The Manticore Sanction.

by John C Wright at April 24, 2015 09:08 PM

Inconsolation

undistract-me: Quashing your ADHD

I fear this little utility might be usable only for a discrete set of fans. Technically speaking it’s a text-based application, but … well, I’ll let you take a look and see what you think.

2015-04-24-lr-0xtbe-undistract-me

In principle, it’s rather simple: undistract-me simply takes note if a shell command takes longer than 10 seconds to execute. If it does, it waits until the program finishes, then throws up the alert message you see in the screenshot above. Kind of cool, in an odd way.

Strictly speaking though, you’ll need all the underpinnings of a graphical desktop, plus whatever alert system is in use there, before you’ll get close to that kind of behavior. On my semi-graphical Arch system with just Openbox, I ended up adding gtk3, polkit, dconf, json-glib and a mess of themes and libraries before the git version was close to running.

So I don’t know if I’m being fair by including it. Don’t expect to suddenly plop this into place on your 400Mhz Celeron running screen, because you’re going to need a lot more to get close.

I won’t deny that I like the idea though, and if something comparable could be implemented in a text only environment, it might be worth trying. For my own part, I used to append long-running commands with aplay yoo-hoo.ogg so I would get an audible when something finished.

So in that way, I can sympathize. But unless you use a lot of terminal commands on a Linux Mint desktop and need some sort of blinky reminder when one finishes … well, like I said, it will probably only appeal to a slim range of fans. :\


Tagged: command, desktop, finish, notify

by K.Mandla at April 24, 2015 09:00 PM

CrossFit 204: Fitness in Winnipeg, Manitoba

204 Legends Program – New Class Times Added!

Our Legends athletes!

Our Legends athletes!

If you’re looking for information on the 204 Legends program, we’ve collected it here. We’re thrilled that you’re interested, and we’ve laid everything out below to help you learn more about the program.

Location: 483 Berry St. between Silver and St. Matthews, two minutes from Polo Park. We’re right beside d.a. Niels Kitchenware, and its owner is one of our Legends clients. There’s one-hour street parking in front, and we have a lot in the back.

Phone: 204-880-1001 (If we can’t answer the phone because we’re coaching a class, please leave a message and we will return your call as soon as we can)

Email: Info@CrossFit204.com

Classes: As of April 6, the program has been expanded to weekdays at 10 a.m.

Introductory cost: $105-$210 for two or four one-hour one-on-one intro sessions ($52.50 each) in which a qualified coach will learn about you and your goals while teaching you everything you need to know to get started. Some clients are ready to go after two sessions, but others really appreciate a few extra hours getting comfortable with the coach and the movements. We evaluate each client and recommend the path that will best help that client accomplish his or her goals, and we never rush people into group classes. We want you to feel totally confident and comfortable. Additional sessions are available if a client prefers personal training.

Legends monthly rate: $105 (GST included) for 2 classes per week or $126 (GST included) or 3 classes per week (Monday or Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday)

Credentials: All our coaches hold a wide variety of well-regarded fitness credentials. You can view the biography and credentials of each coach on our Staff Page.

Availability: We currently have space available, and we will add more coaches as needed to preserve a low coach-to-athlete ratio.

Introductory Sessions Description

To begin, an athlete spends two to four sessions one-on-one with a coach to learn movements and address any mobility issues or other concerns. A bit of stiffness or an old hockey injury are common at this age, and we can work around them as we learn about the athlete.

When necessary, we work with athletes’ health-care providers to ensure all activity is safe and reasonable. We’ve found doctors are ecstatic that their patients want to be more active, which helps them improve quality of live and positively affect health markers including blood pressure, cholesterol and weight. If your doctor has made recommendations about your activities, please let us know. We always defer to your care provider and work closely with doctors, physiotherapists and athletic trainers to ensure you’re getting all the attention you need.

Class Description

Make no mistake: the members of our Legends crew certainly care about improving and getting stronger and faster, but it’s all about fun, vitality, community, and long-term health and function. We are looking to add vigour to your life and help you do the things you want to do.

We use functional movements with our athletes, meaning we teach them how to move properly. You’ll learn how to stand up and sit down using the correct muscles. We’ll teach you how to brace your core when picking something up. We’ll safely elevate your heart rate to improve your cardiovascular system. And you’ll have a good time.

If a client has an old injury or a mobility concern, we simply modify movements and apply very moderate amounts of intensity. Intensity might be slowly squatting to a box with only body weight as resistance to start. That level of intensity might slowly increase to include a small dumbbell as resistance, and we might remove the box at some point. Then we might add a light barbell, and then a heavier one after that.

The idea is progressive overload with strength work, and we take the same approach with conditioning. Walking briskly might become running, which might become pushing a sled or using a rowing machine.

The overall goal is safely improving both strength and conditioning. And “intensity” just means “a little further than yesterday.” We are not taskmasters. We are fitness professionals who are 100 percent invested in your long-term health and fitness. Is the work challenging? Yes, but it’s tailored to your needs, and the results will make the work very worthwhile. We apply these same principles to the mobility and flexibility work that’s included in every class.

An example of an entire class is below. Don’t worry if you don’t know what the movements are. You will learn them in your introductory sessions. All classes are led by a qualified coach. You will receive constant instruction and supervision.

      • Rowing warm-up
      • Core work: 3 sets of 10 lying leg raises
      • 10 minutes of various hip-mobility work
      • Back squat: 4 sets of 6 (modified as needed)
      • Group shoulder prehab including work on the deltoids and external rotators
      • Conditioning circuit: 3 rounds of a 250-m row, 15 ball slams (12 lb.) and 15 Russian kettlebell swings (15 lb.)

Interestingly enough, this workout could easily be scaled up to provide a challenge to our top athletes. That’s the beauty of CrossFit: it can be tailored to any athlete.

The best part of all is that the body of a senior athlete responds like the body of a younger athlete, if slightly more slowly. We can improve levels of strength and conditioning, and we hope to help our older athletes retain muscle mass, increase bone density and improve their cardiovascular systems—all things that will help people live a healthy life and avoid injury.

Results

Results don’t come instantly, but they will come steadily in you attend regularly. You can speed up the process by addressing your diet. Very simply, reduce the amount of sugar and processed carbohydrates in your diet and eat more vegetables. A person’s diet is more complicated than that, but we’ve found that simple advice helps bring about dramatic changes. We advise you to track your sugar intake for a week, then identify places where you can easily reduce it.

You can expect a little initial muscular soreness as you start the program, but know that slightly sore muscles are normal and to be expected. You’re “waking them up.” Should any joint pain occur due to old injuries or a lack of flexibility, we will adjust the movements for you and work with your care provider. We never push through pain and will always make you comfortable with every movement.

As you train, you can expect strength levels to increase, and we’ll keep track of them so you can see for yourselves. These gains are steady, and in some cases they are dramatic. You’ll also improve your conditioning. Very quickly, a flight of stairs will be no problem, and you’ll notice the walk to the car with groceries is easier. Grandchildren will feel lighter. Posture will improve.

Your doctor may also notice other improvements. Our clients generally see improved blood work, and weight loss is common. Osteoporosis can also be prevented through regular strength training, and risks of heart disease and other ailments can be reduced through fitness.

But don’t take our word for it. Ask our current clients. They will tell you exactly why they train with us, and their words should carry more weight than ours. We base our reputation on the satisfaction of our clients.

See you in the gym!

If you have any questions, please call Crystal at 204-880-1001, or email Info@CrossFit204.com.

by Mike at April 24, 2015 08:48 PM

Workout: April 27, 2015

Running!

Nothing like a few friends to make a tough workout easier.

Grace

30 clean and jerks (135/95 lb.)

3 rounds:

200-m farmer carry

Rest 1 minute

by Mike at April 24, 2015 08:47 PM

Workout: April 26, 2015

One of the old-school originals: The burpee king.

One of the old-school originals: The burpee king.

Tabata This!

Burpees

Pull-ups/ring rows

Push presses

Double-unders

Kettlebell swings

Skills Session

Snatch 1-1-1 @ 65%

Snatch 1-1-1 @ 70%

Overhead squat 3-3-3

by Mike at April 24, 2015 08:41 PM

SMBlog -- Steve Bellovin's Blog

What Congress Should Do About Cybersecurity

For the last few years, Congress has been debating an information-sharing bill to deal with the cybersecurity problem. Apart from the privacy issues--and they're serious--just sharing more information won't do much. A forthcoming column of mine in IEEE Security & Privacy magazine explains what Congress should do instead.

April 24, 2015 08:25 PM

Front Porch Republic

Garage Sales, Yard Sales, Estate Sales: The Putrefaction of America

Capitol Hill Seattle Garage Sale 2013

What used to be called garage sales and are now also called “yard” and “estate” sale are the scourge of the neighborhood and a major contributor to the putrefaction of America. I was reminded of this ugly part of the American…

Read Full Article...

The post Garage Sales, Yard Sales, Estate Sales: The Putrefaction of America appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Ulf Kirchdorfer at April 24, 2015 08:24 PM

The Frailest Thing

The Pleasures of Self-Tracking

A couple of days ago the NY Times ran a story about smart homes and energy savings. Bottom line:

Independent research studying hundreds of households, and thousands in control groups, found significant energy savings — 7 to 17 percent on average for gas heating and electric cooling. Yet as a percentage of a household’s total gas and electric use, the reduction was 2 to 8 percent.

A helpful savings, but probably not enough of a monthly utility bill to be a call to action. Then, there is the switching cost. Conventional thermostats cost a fraction of the $249 Nest device.

That’s not particularly interesting, but tucked in the story there were a couple of offhand comments that caught my attention.

The story opens with the case of Dustin Bond, who “trimmed his electricity bill last summer by about 40 percent thanks to the sensors and clever software of a digital thermostat.”

A paragraph or two on, the story adds, “Mr. Bond says he bought the Nest device mainly for its looks, a stylish circle of stainless steel, reflective polymer and a color display. Still, he found he enjoyed tracking his home energy use on his smartphone, seeing patterns and making adjustments.”

The intriguing bit here is the passing mention of the pleasures of data tracking. I’m certain Bond is not alone in this. There seems to be something enjoyable about being presented with data about you or your environment, consequently adjusting your behavior in response, and then receiving new data that registers the impact of your refined actions.

But what is the nature of this pleasure?

Is it like the pleasure of playing a game at which you improve incrementally until you finally win? Is it the pleasure of feeling that your actions make some marginal difference in the world, the pleasure, in other words, of agency? Is it a Narcissus-like pleasure of seeing your self reflected back to you in the guise of data? Or is it the pleasure of feeling as if you have a degree of control over certain aspects of your life?

Perhaps it’s a combination of two or more of these factors, or maybe it’s none of the above. I’m not sure, but I think it may be worth trying to understand the appeal of being measured, quantified, and tracked. It may go a long way toward helping us understand an important segment of emerging technologies.

Happily, Natasha Dow Schüll is on the case. The author of Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas (which also happens to be, indirectly, one the best books about social media and digital devices) is working on a book about self-tracking and the Quantified Self. The book is due out next year. Here’s an excerpt from a recent article about Schüll’s work:

She was subsequently drawn to the self-tracking movement, she says, in part because it involved people actively analyzing and acting upon insights derived from their own behavior data — rather than having companies monitor and manipulate them.

“It’s like you are a detective of the self and you have discerned these patterns,” Ms. Schüll says. For example, someone might notice correlations between personal driving habits and mood swings. “Then you can make this change and say to yourself, ‘I’m not going to drive downtown anymore because it makes me grumpy.’”

One last thought. Whatever the pleasures of the smart home or the Quantified Self may be, they need to compensate for an apparent lack of practical effectiveness and efficiency. Here’s one customer’s conclusion regarding GE’s smart light bulbs: “Setting it up required an engineering degree, and it still doesn’t really work [….] For all the utopian promises, it’s easier to turn the lights on and off by hand.”

The article on Schüll’s forthcoming book closed with the following:

But whether these gadgets have beneficial outcomes may not be the point. Like vitamin supplements, for which there is very little evidence of benefit in healthy people, just the act of buying these devices makes many people feel they are investing in themselves. Quantrepreneurs at least are banking on it.


by Michael Sacasas at April 24, 2015 06:59 PM

Englewood Christian Church: We Blog! » ERB

ERB Weekly Digest – Thomas Merton, Leonard Sweet, Shakespeare – April 24, 2015

 
 

Get Thomas Merton’s book THE SIGN OF JONAS for only $2.99 now on Kindle…
http://thriftychristianreader.com/2015/04/11/thomas-merton-the-sign-of-jonas-on-sale/

 

A bunch of great ebooks for pastors / church leaders on sale now for Kindle…
http://thriftychristianreader.com/2015/04/21/pastoral-toolbox-ebook-sale-from-zondervan/

 


 

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

  • Leonard Sweet – From Tablet to Table [Feature Review]

    Life at the Table   A Feature Review of: From Tablet to Table: where Community is Found and Identity is Formed Leonard Sweet Hardback: NavPress, 2015 Buy now: [ ] [ ]   Reviewed by Andrew Camp     I was raised at the table. Every morning and every evening, I, along with my three […]

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  • 5 Kindle Ebook Deals – 24 April 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 […]

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  • Ronald Sider – Nonviolent Action [Feature Review]

    Testing the Possibilities of Nonviolence A Feature Review of Nonviolent Action: What Christian Ethics Demands But Most Christians Have Never Really Tried Ronald Sider Paperback: Brazos Press, 2015 Buy now: [ ] [ ] Reviewed by Tyler Campbell   Ronald Sider has worn many hats since publishing his bestselling book Rich Christians in an Age […]

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  • William Shakespeare – 5 Favorite Sonnets!

    Yesterday (April 23) marked the birthday of William Shakespeare…   Here are a few of our favorite of his sonnets: Download The Complete Series of Shakespeare’s Sonnets as a FREE ebook: | A variety of other formats   Sonnet 147 William Shakespeare My love is as a fever longing still, For that which longer nurseth […]

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  • Jon Krakauer – Missoula: Rape & The Justice System [NPR Interview]

    One of this week’s excellent new book releases is:   Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town. Jon Krakauer Hardback: Doubleday, 2015 Buy now: [ ] [ ] Listen to an interview that Krakauer did with NPR’s Weekend Edition… (If you are on a mobile device that does not embed the […]

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  • Mike Matheny – The Matheny Manifesto [Brief Review]

    A Little Walter Mitty in All of Us. A Brief Review of   The Matheny Manifesto: A Young Manager’s Old-School Views on Success in Sports and Life Mike Matheny Hardback: Crown Books, 2015. Buy now: [ ] [ ] Reviewed by Dave Baker.   Everyone loves a good story and Mike Matheny has provided one. […]

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  • New Book Releases – Week of 20 April 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…) By Toni Morrison Read the NY TIMES review of this novel… NEXT BOOK >>>>>

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by csmith at April 24, 2015 04:03 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

Is Surgery Part of God’s Story? — An Excerpt from “The Scalpel and the Cross”

9780310516057In the past several years we have been considering health care from a number of angles, some old, some new:

  • economically, the costs of surgery specifically and health care generally have exploded;
  • politically the issues have been a powder keg since the Affordable Health Care Act was signed into law;
  • technologically we have leapfrogged several stages of care thanks to advances in robotics, genetics, and other sciences.

What about theologically?

That’s the aim of Gene Green’s new book The Scalpel and the Cross (releasing 5/5/15). He hopes that “through this short book many will begin to think in new ways about surgery and Christian theology.” (17)

In the excerpt below Green wonders: Is surgery part of God’s story, “as expressed in the Bible and brought to bear on the great questions of every age through Christian theology?” (14)

Read the excerpt and engage his book yourself to find out.

You’re not going to China,” Dr. Carroll announced after reading the results of my hurriedly scheduled echocardiogram. “You’re going in for surgery.”

For a moment the explosive words left me speechless, yet I clearly understood. During the preceding weeks, while preparing to teach a course on 1 Peter at Peking University, I had felt increasingly exhausted and out of breath when cycling, running on the treadmill, or even trimming hedges. My wife, a medical professional, wisely insisted that I visit my doctor before embarking on the long, strenuous journey to China. Jim Carroll, my cardiologist, explained that
my aortic valve was calcified to the point that the blood flow through it had become restricted, accounting for my symptoms. I needed to have the valve replaced and undergo a single coronary bypass graft as well. Surgery was imminent.

The days preceding the surgery were filled with a myriad of housekeeping activities, including paying bills, drawing up a new will “just in case,” calling the insurance company to check on coverage, and talking with my wife and daughters about the surgery and our future. We all believed I would come through well, but prudence dictated that we at least look at what life would be like for them should the operation not have a happy outcome. Just as my wife likes leaving the house in order when we head out on vacation, so too I wanted to be able to focus on the surgery and recovery without worrying about my family’s well-being. Best leave things tidy.

In the middle of the preparations, however, I realized that surgery was more than a technical medical procedure. A whole history, stretching back to the Greco-Roman era, undergirds the surgical procedure I was about to undergo. The modern operating theater is radically cleaner than it was in the nineteenth-century hospital when Joseph Lister began using antiseptics to reduce infections. He had become aware of the germ theory developed by Louis Pasteur. The contemporary surgeon stands on the shoulders of centuries of medical personnel and practice.

Not only is surgery connected with history, but it also has a social dimension. Surgeons undertake their work in concert with other medical professionals who labor together within the confines of the modern hospital run by administrators and staffed with scores of support personnel.

Surgery intersects economics as well. The cost was going to be exorbitant, I knew, and so I made sure that everything was done within the parameters outlined by my insurance company. Surgery is about more than scalpels and skills.

As a Christian, I also began to ask questions about the relationship between my faith in Christ and what I would soon experience. How does my understanding of the Bible and Christian Theology frame what was going to occur in the operating room? To be sure, I wanted people to pray for me — before, during, and after the operation. I trusted God to help the surgeon and help me.

But was surgery part of another story, God’s story, as expressed in the Bible and brought to bear on the great questions of every age through Christian theology? We know the bedrock themes that uphold the Christian faith: God created the world; humanity fell into sin in rebellion against him; God not only brought judgment upon humanity but offered a promise of redemption as well; that promise began to reach its fulfillment in the incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ; we anticipate the full realization of God’s promise when Christ returns. His kingdom comes and his will will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Indeed, his coming kingdom has broken into the present as both John the Baptist and Jesus taught us (Matt. 3:1 – 2; 4:17; Luke 17:21, “the kingdom of God is in your midst”). As Christians, we live within these great moments of God’s plan for humanity and all of his creation. In other words, our life is part of Christian theology. How we think about what happens in our life, and our reflections about how we should live, are intertwined with God’s great deeds and his truth recorded for us in the Bible. Our life and what we do is tied together with God and what he does. For the Christian, life and theology cannot be separated. They are joined at the hip.

We understand this well when we debate some of the critical moral issues of our age. Our affirmation that human life is a gift from God gives us great pause and moves us to action as we consider questions about abortion or euthanasia. Our theological convictions commonly enter into our discussions and actions surrounding these issues. Similarly, during the Civil War, theological questions permeated the debates about abolishing slavery, with different interpretations of the Bible going head-to-head in the midst of the move to secede from the Union and to engage in war. So too, many leaders in the Civil Rights movement found guidance and clarity from Scripture. Likewise, our political discussion at the beginning of the twenty-first century intersects questions that arise from our faith, making some civic discourse extremely theological in nature whether the topic is healthcare or the nature of marriage.

So, if we bring the Bible and theology into our understanding of the nature of humanity and the beginning of life, into questions of human and civil rights, and into our debates about healthcare and marriage, why should we isolate medical care and surgery from our theology? Is it possible to construct a theology of surgery that helps us examine this medical event under the intense light of the Christian faith? Can theology lead us to informed Christian thinking about how surgery should be carried out? To put it another way, does a Christian perspective on surgery only mean that we should pray for the patient and the surgeon? Does it have a place in God’s plan, and can we think about it more holistically, more theologically?

The Scalpel and the Cross

By Gene L. Green

Order it Today:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
ChristianBook.com
Buy Direct from Zondervan

by Jeremy Bouma at April 24, 2015 03:35 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Writing a Three-Line Poem Every Day for a Year: Yvonne Whitelaw’s Quest

This is a quest case study. (Read others or nominate yourself.)

As I wrote in The Happiness of Pursuit, a quest need not be an athletic struggle or travel adventure. I loved this story of how this former medical resident wrote a haiku every day for a year.

Introduce yourself.

I’m Yvonne Whitelaw. I was born in Britain, but raised in Nigeria and the United States. I’m a stay at home mom and former physician. I decided to tweet a haiku a day for 365 days, even though I barely knew what a haiku was and had never actually written one.

Interestingly, the practice of daily haiku writing has helped my ADD. Haikus have trained me to focus and express myself succinctly.

YW5

Why haiku?

I first heard the word haiku during my medical residency, from which I eventually burned out and left. I knew other residents were writing them, but I never did (between working 80 hour weeks and my infant daughter, I was a little too busy!).

I’m a rhythm guitarist and former drummer, so the 5-7-5 structure not only appealed to me, but stuck with me.

Did anything in particular inspire you to take on a quest?

I’ve never quite felt like I fit in. Tall, eclectic, dreadlocks in my hair at medical school – I was boho rock in a preppy world. After I left my medical residency program I felt isolated and had a lot of shame for resigning.

Six years later, I went to WDS and suddenly fit in. I was surrounded by visionary, positive, creative world-changers who wanted to make an impact. I felt like I was glowing all weekend long. No one was going to make fun of me for being a bleeding heart because they all were, too.

After seeing the speakers, I felt a jolt in my thinking to get out of the box, and suddenly there was fire in my bones to do something.

YW3

How much does writing a haiku every day cost?  

Financially, nothing. It does cost me time-wise. And emotionally! Putting myself out there and posting a haiku even when it is silly, trite, or just plain awful isn’t always easy.

How do you find inspiration each day to write?

I’ve learned that creativity is a decision. I no longer wait for inspiration to strike. I just decide to write and post. Sometimes, the process of writing actually inspires the creativity. Sometimes I get stuck. Sometimes, it flows. But either way, a haiku gets posted daily.

YW4

How have you dealt with a low point in your quest?

About 100 days in, I took a break from social media. I was going through what I’d call a “dark night of the soul.” I could sense a calling to go back to medicine as a coach and facilitator for physicians, helping with compassion fatigue, disillusionment and burnout – basically becoming the support I needed in residency that might have helped me succeed.

However, I was having a classic hero’s journey moment and resisting the calling. See, my residency was a challenge because I didn’t have family and friends to help with my baby or my work, let alone my emotions. And I thought I was the only one in my program to be struggling.

I’ve since learned that there is a silent epidemic in medicine. About 400 physicians commit suicide every year (which is equivalent to an entire medical school closing down annually), presumably at least partly due to everything I was experiencing.

With all this going on in my head, I needed time away from the noise, to get really clear about what I needed to do—which meant stepping away from the haiku project for a month, too.

Stepping away from social media was actually a great thing. It allowed me time to see clearly what I could do to help. Rather than go back to medical school, I realized I’d rather help physicians at all levels thrive in medicine. I decided to get certified as a coach in positive psychology.

I kept writing haiku throughout this time—in fact, I wrote more than one a day!—and when my month break from social media was up, I again felt excited to continue on my quest.

Is there an encounter that sticks out in your mind?

Dr. Pamela Wible, a well-known physician who has been working on physician suicides, liked one of my haikus that I had posted on Twitter. She kept tweeting and retweeting it. It sounds like such a small thing, but this was actually huge.

I’ve often compartmentalized myself, keeping my artistic nature and medical interests separate. Dr. Wible’s recognition of my haiku made me feel it was possible to be all parts of myself, without hiding. I don’t have to be the serious expert. I can be creative, authentic, and vulnerable, and still make a difference.

What was that haiku?

To those it needs most

Medicine is becoming

Inhospitable

Now that you’re combining the two, do you see any connections between haiku and health?

Brene Brown says that the way to get from your head to your heart is through creativity. Sometimes we get stuck in our heads and don’t live the way we know we want to. She says by practicing our creativity, we heal our hearts.

Haiku, or any creative endeavor, gives you something to look forward to – and that in itself gives you hope. A creative endeavor gives your life meaning,  gives your a sense of service and making a difference in the world. And the more meaning you have in your life, the less likely you are to not want to live.

YW2

Do you have any advice for how to begin a creative quest?

Be prepared for the quest to become a living thing.

I know that sounds weird, but here’s an example: I usually get quiet and mutter a prayer before I write. I ask, “What do you want to say to the people?” and then I write. Whenever I try to manipulate or control or change the message of a haiku, it never works. The writing just stops. But if I just go with whatever comes to me, it flows. I can edit, but I can’t see to change the message.

Don’t worry about the quality. Just show up daily and consistently.

You might think you should wait til inspiration strikes before you write, but I’ve found that inspiration is usually waiting for me to show up with a pen in hand.

Share your work.

I don’t feel like my haikus belong to me. They belong to the people with whom they resonate. Many times I have been tempted not to share a haiku because I judged it as trite, only for it to end up getting a ton of accolades (usually in the form of “Likes” or “Retweets” – this is a social media project after all) I never expected.

What’s next?

I finish out the year writing haiku, and then focus on my physician coaching practice.

Follow Yvonne’s writing on her site, Live Your Ideals, or via Twitter @yvonnewhitelaw.

###

by Chris Guillebeau at April 24, 2015 02:35 PM

Crossway Blog

Using the ESV Bible App On Your Apple Watch

God’s Word . . . On Your Wrist

Did you know that Crossway’s free ESV Bible app for iPhone supports full integration with the Apple Watch?

You can do the following things directly via your Apple Watch:

  • Look up a specific passage
  • Read or listen to today’s passage from your reading plan
  • Respond to reading plan reminders
  • Play and pause audio
  • Quickly pull up the last passage you were reading on your iPhone or iPad

In the coming months, we plan to add even more features to the ESV Bible app on Apple Watch. Stay tuned!

Learn more about Crossway's new ESV Bible app for iPhone and iPad and why we're giving away a free study Bible to everyone who downloads it.

by Matt Tully at April 24, 2015 01:36 PM

Remembering Your Baptism

Saturate: Remembering Your Baptism from Crossway on Vimeo.

Have you forgotten your baptism?

In this video, pastor Jeff Vanderstelt encourages us to remember our baptism—the sign of the new identity that Christians have in Jesus Christ. Just as God gave Abram a new name before he became the father of many nations, so too God declares that we are his righteous children—even though we're actually sinful rebels in and of ourselves.

Our baptism into the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit is a sign of new this new identity, compelling us to go out into the world and share the abundant love of God with those who are not yet part of his family.


About the Book

In Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life, Jeff Vanderstelt wants us to see that there’s more—much more—to the Christian life than sitting in a pew once a week. God has called his people to something bigger: a view of the Christian life that encompasses the ordinary, the extraordinary, and everything in between.

Packed full of biblical teaching, compelling stories, and real-world advice, Saturate will remind you that Jesus is filling the world with his presence through the everyday lives of everyday people…

People just like you.

Learn more about the book and read a free excerpt today.

by Matt Tully at April 24, 2015 01:20 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

NIV 50th Anniversary Bible and Reference 50% Off Sale

NIV Greek and English New TestamentThis year the Committee on Bible Translation, Zondervan, and Biblica are celebrating the 50th year anniversary of the commissioning of the New International Version Bible.

We are celebrating this milestone with a sale offering 50% off essential resources in our Core Reference Library for people at every level of ministry—but only until May 10, 2015.

This curated selection of essential Bible and reference resources includes:

Bibles
NIV Greek and English New Testament by John R. Kohlenberger III
Sale: $35.00 | Was: $69.99

NIV Life Application Study Bible
Sale: $30.00 | Was: $59.99

Bible Backgrounds Commentaries
Genesis (Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary) by John H. Walton
Sale: $8.50 | Was: $16.99

Isaiah (Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary) by David W. Baker
Sale: $10.00 | Was: $19.99

Psalms (Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary) by John W. Hilber
Sale: $8.50 | Was: $16.99

General Reference
Essential Bible Companion to the Psalms by Brian Webster, David R. Beach
Sale: $9.00 | Was: $17.99

Essential Companion to Life in Biblical Times by Moisés Silva
Sale: $8.50 | Was: $16.99

 

Take advantage of this sale today before it expires May 10, 2015!

by Jeremy Bouma at April 24, 2015 12:15 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Learning from a diversity of ways to live a significant life

I have plenty of role models in terms of people who’ve done wonderful things as part of regular careers and entrepreneurs who’ve created products or services. I even have a few role models who’ve explored alternative paths: simple living, writing, arts, crafts, trades… I love having such a diversity of life paths illuminated for me, with so many examples of people doing well.

I’ve been thinking about the path that I might take. The path of growing outwards – self, household, close relationships, and beyond – seems unusual, or at least harder to find information on. It feels a little feminine, I think, skewed towards domesticity. I think that’s part of the appeal for me. I want to take the skills I’ve learned in the mostly-male world of the technologies I’ve learned, and apply those skills in areas that might not be gender-balanced for a long time. This way I can maximize learning and difference-making.

2015-04-10b Reflecting on paths for living a meaningful life -- index card #experiment #evil-plans

2015-04-10b Reflecting on paths for living a meaningful life – index card #experiment #evil-plans

The impression I sometimes get from stories of startup founders is that they jump so quickly to imagining and building a service or product instead of developing deep understanding of needs, people, systems, opportunities… I know that doing things is a great way to learn things – fail fast and fail often – but I’m also curious about developing my understanding by other ways. I imagine that if I do this well, I’ll gradually develop the relationships and insights that would help me make a good difference. In the meantime, I can focus on improving myself, helping and connecting with people, and taking and sharing my notes.

2015-04-20e At peace with a small life -- index card #experiment

2015-04-20e At peace with a small life – index card #experiment

It’s getting easier and easier to not be tempted to shortcut this process. At a recent party, I was talking to a serial entrepreneur who was looking for a successor he could mentor. He seemed to derive a great deal of pride from having created a wonderful product, and it was well-deserved.

He asked me if I had created any products that could be identified with me, and if I wanted to. Reflecting on the conversation, I realized that no, I don’t particularly need to work toward that kind of significance right now. I’m happy to continue my experiment to at least the 5-year mark that I had initially set for myself, and possibly longer.

2015-04-19c 5-year plan vs 5-year experiment -- index card #experiment

2015-04-19c 5-year plan vs 5-year experiment – index card #experiment

The 5-year experiment thing boggled him too. I think he was thinking of it more as a 5-year plan: have a certain goal, get there with actions and the occasional workaround. I think of this 5-year experiment as creating a safe space for me to explore and learn, and the timeframe is there to prevent me from running back into my comfort zone too early.

I guess I could describe my aims this way: I work towards cultivating happiness/equanimity and producing understanding as my first two priorities. At this point, I’m not working towards wide impact, fame, influence, or money. I might get to that someday, but I’d like those first two things well-covered first.

2015-04-20f Experiment timeline -- index card #experiment

2015-04-20f Experiment timeline – index card #experiment

When might I move on from this phase? It’s not that I don’t think I’m ready, that I’m waiting for the stars to line up, or that I feel constrained to do this right now. I’m stacking the deck, and I’m collecting people and ideas.

2015-04-20h Conditions for considering a startup -- index card #experiment #startup

2015-04-20h Conditions for considering a startup – index card #experiment #startup

What will likely happen is that, after I figure out a little more about life, I’ll have these relationships with people I strongly want to help as a business partner or as a provider (preferably both). For example, if W- wants to start a business, or if I resonate strongly with a friend’s idea, I might dig into it more deeply. But I’d still want to see if we could build a company without making the personal health or relationship sacrifices that you often hear about in entrepreneurship circles. I’d want people to still get good sleep and spend time with other people who are important to them.

So that’s how my Evil Plans might unfold…

The post Learning from a diversity of ways to live a significant life appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at April 24, 2015 12:00 PM

Table Titans

Tales: The Fall of the Drow

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Travelling by night, our party of mid-level adventurers were passing through a mountain forest of tall dark pines that clustered thickly together. Snow was on the ground and there was no moon. The sky was clear and full of stars, looking down on our progress as we trudged over the crunchy…

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April 24, 2015 07:09 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Great Ape Personhood and the Seventh Commandment of Animalism

The Story: A judge in Manhattan has ordered a hearing that will touch upon the continuing debate over whether caged chimpanzees can be considered “legal persons,” in the eyes of the law, and thus sue, with human help, for their freedom.

The Background: The case in question was brought by the Nonhuman Rights Project, a group that, as the New York Times’ notes, has been active in promoting a legal theory that some animals, such as chimps, are “legal persons” with the right to “bodily liberty.” The group claims that two chimpanzees, Hercules and Leo, are being “unlawfully detained” at a university on Long Island. The order, by Justice Barbara Jaffe of New York State Supreme Court, directed officials at Stony Brook University to show cause for holding the two chimps, at a May 6 hearing.

This case is the most recent brought about by the great ape personhood movement which seeks to extend personhood and some legal protections to the chimpanzees , gorillas, and orangutans. Prominent advocates in this movement include primatologists Jane Goodall, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, philosopher Peter Singer, and legal scholar Steven Wise, president of the Nonhuman Rights Project.

Why It Matters: The concept of personhood for certain animals will strike many people as absurd, but ultimately harmless. In reality, the redefining of personhood may have profound ramifications for human dignity and could even lead to the denigration and exploitation of human infants.

The Christian worldview is not longer the dominant framework in our culture for considering questions about ethics, science, or technology. Unfortunately, we live in a society where answers that cannot be shoehorned into an acceptable non-religious interpretative structure must be discarded altogether. It is similar to being asked to provide the sum of 4 and 3 but having to do so without resorting to a “religiously based” prime numbers. The absurdity of this approach is obvious since no answer we could give would ever be correct. Yet this is often what is expected when we are asked to provide answers to questions about animal rights that must rely on non-religious criteria.

Take, for example, the question of why humans have more intrinsic dignity than other animals. The reason, according to Christian thought, is because our dignity rests upon being created in imago dei, in the image of God. Our dignitas, our worth, is not a characteristic we acquire, an ability we possess, or a condition we can lose. It is based on our being created for the purpose of entering into covenant fellowship with our Creator.

Secularists, however, not only deny that this explanation is essential to explaining dignity, but reject all such “God-talk” as irrelevant and thus excluded from all debate on the topic. Instead, they believe the search for a moral distinction between humans and animals must be rooted solely in non-religious criteria.

But just as in the search for a non-prime seven, the search for a moral distinction between humans and animals will be in vain. Inevitably, they will have to either tacitly accept the Christian answer that humans are metaphysically different or they will have to reject the question altogether. Most, like Princeton philosopher Peter Singer, will choose the latter. In his 1989 essay titled All Animals Are Equal, Singer claimed:

The truth is that the appeal to the intrinsic dignity of human beings appears to solve the egalitarian's problems only as long as it goes unchallenged. Once we ask why it should be that all humans—including infants, mental defectives, psychopaths, Hitler, Stalin, and the rest—have some kind of dignity or worth that no elephant, pig, or chimpanzee can ever achieve, we see that this question is as difficult to answer as our original request for some relevant fact that justifies the inequality of humans and other animals. In fact, these two questions are really one: talk of intrinsic dignity or moral worth only takes the problem back one step, because any satisfactory defence of the claim that all and only humans have intrinsic dignity would need to refer to some relevant capacities or characteristics that all and only humans possess. Philosophers frequently introduce ideas of dignity, respect, and worth at the point at which other reasons appear to be lacking, but this is hardly good enough. Fine phrases are the last resource of those who have run out of arguments.

Singer is correct. Once we reject the idea that humans have intrinsic dignity merely because they are humans we must accept, as his title claims, that “all animals are equal.”

Singer obviously missed the irony of taking the title from George Orwell’s Animal Farm. As the book’s readers will recall, when the animals took over Manor Farm, the pigs painted the tenets of Animalism on the barn wall. The seventh commandment “written on the tarred wall in great white letters that could be read thirty yards away” was “All animals are equal.”

At Animal Farm it did not take long before all the commandments were reduced to one: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” I suspect we will see the same thing occur once Singer’s concept of equality becomes the norm. Singer, who is always ahead of the bioethical curve, sees no relevant distinction between animals and human infants:

The preference, in normal cases, for saving a human life over the life of an animal when a choice has to be made is a preference based on the characteristics that normal humans being have and not on the mere fact that they are members of our own species. This is why when we consider members of our own species who lack the characteristics of normal human beings we can no longer say that their lives are always to be preferred to those of other animals. In general, though, the question of when it is wrong to kill (painlessly) an animal is one to which we need give no precise answer. As long as we remember that we should give the same respect to the lives of animals as we give to the lives of those human beings at a similar mental level we shall not go far wrong.

If it is considered morally acceptable to experiment on monkeys then why should we not also experiment on human infants? Similarly, if we would have no qualms about euthanizing a severely deformed newborn orangutan why would we object if the newborn is a human child? If all animals are equal and some animals (i.e., a 3-year old ape) are more equal than others (i.e., a 3-day old human) then the definition of what constitutes “animal experimentation” could be broadly expanded. And this is where the true danger lies in expanding personhood to animals. We won’t merely be treating some animals like humans, we’ll begin to treat some humans like animals.

by Joe Carter at April 24, 2015 05:05 AM

How to Practice a Gospel-Centered Spirituality

As you’ve surely noticed, everyone is “spiritual” today. Some years ago I came across a USA Today survey where even a majority of atheists consider themselves “spiritual” people. Come to think of it, I’ve never heard anyone say, “You know, I’m just not a spiritual person.” Perhaps for many spirituality simply means spending time occasionally in personal reflection. For others maybe it means consciously trying to live by certain principles, or attempting to be thoughtful on important issues like the environment or homelessness.

However, the common perception of spirituality is not the biblical one. I’m writing from the perspective that spirituality includes—but transcends—the human spirit, and involves the pursuit of God and the things of God, through Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit in accordance with God’s self-revelation (that is, the Bible).

Spirituality and the Gospel

This kind of spirituality is not self-generated; rather it is one result of the new spiritual life that God creates in the soul as he works through the gospel. In other words, Christian spirituality is part of living in response to the gospel. In theological terms, spirituality is an aspect of the sanctification that necessarily begins at and follows justification.

Think of it this way: we come to God through the gospel, and we live for God through the gospel. The apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him” (Col. 2:6). Through the gospel by faith we receive Christ, and through the gospel by faith we walk in Christ.

The gospel—in a word—is Jesus. In a phrase, the gospel is the person and work of Jesus Christ. That’s why we can speak of the Christian life as a gospel-centered life. We come to God initially on the basis of faith in who Jesus is and what he has done for us. And we continue to come to God and to live a life pleasing to him on the same basis. To paraphrase Paul in Galatians 3:3, having begun by the Spirit through the gospel, we are perfected (that is, sanctified; made like Christ) in the same way—by the Spirit through the gospel.

Role of Spiritual Disciplines

Although the Holy Spirit gives a believer the desire and the power for a biblical spirituality, some reformatting of life and habits must also take place to practice a gospel-centered piety. Thus Paul also wrote, “Train yourself for godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7). This doesn’t refer to physical training, for mere bodily activity—despite its health benefits—does not by itself build godliness, as the next verse makes plain. Rather, the kind of training or exercise that promotes godliness (that is, Christlikeness) is spiritual training.

No Christian coasts into Christlikeness. Godliness, according to this text, requires training. Some Bible translations render “train” as “exercise” (KJV) or “discipline” (NASB). Thus the biblical and practical ways in daily life of living out this command to “train yourself for godliness” have often been termed “spiritual exercises” or “spiritual disciplines.” (Note: some false teachers have also used these expressions, but that doesn’t invalidate such biblically derived terms any more than a heretic’s use of the word Trinity nullifies our orthodox use of that term.) What was true in Paul’s day is still true: by means of the spiritual disciplines found in Scripture we are to pursue godliness.

Of course, legalism is always a danger in spirituality. Anything a Christian can count, measure, or time can be twisted into something that falsely assures a person that by this—instead of the sufficiency of the life and death of Jesus—he is more spiritually secure or favored by God. But just because the disciplines of godliness can be misused doesn’t mean they should be neglected. “Train yourself for godliness” is God’s command, therefore it must be possible to pursue obedience to it without legalism.

Disciplines in Practice

So how do Christians practice a gospel-centered spirituality?

First, practice the right disciplines—those personal and interpersonal spiritual disciplines found in the Bible. A gospel-centered spirituality is a sola scriptura spirituality. For individual practice, the most important personal spiritual disciplines are first, the intake of Scripture, and second, prayer; all the others relate to these two. The interpersonal spiritual disciplines we observe are primarily those biblical practices related to life together in a local church.

Second, practice the right disciplines with the right goal. Consciously practice these disciplines with Jesus as the focus—pursuing intimacy with Christ and conformity (both inward and outward) to Christ. To put it more succinctly, by means of the biblical spiritual disciplines seek to be with Jesus and like Jesus.

Third, practice the right disciplines the right way. Emphasize the person and work of Jesus in each one. Through them, learn from, gaze upon, and enjoy Jesus—who he is and what he has done. Let your soul be restored by the truths of the gospel.

Engage in the spiritual disciplines given by God in Scripture so that you are continually shown your need for Christ and the infinite supply of grace and mercy to be found by faith in Jesus Christ.


Editor’s note: This article adapts one that originally appeared in Tabletalk magazine and is republished here with permission. For more on this topic, check out Donald Whitney’s updated and revised work Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (NavPress, 2014).

by Donald S. Whitney at April 24, 2015 05:01 AM

God Moves in a Mysterious Way

“God Moves in a Mysterious Way” by William Cowper

God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform; he plants his footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines, of never-failing skill; he fashions up his bright designs, and works his sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints fresh courage take, the clouds that you much dread, are big with mercy and will break in blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust him for his grace; behind a frowning providence, he hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding every hour; the bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err, and scan his work in vain; God is his own interpreter, and he will make it plain.


I love this hymn for the same reason I love Romans 8 and country music. I’m not talking about modern-day country music, the kind that is slick and well-packaged, the sort that is merely countrified pop music. By country music, I mean Hank (Senior), Cash, Jones, the Hag. Legends, all, whose lives were marked by the profound suffering and searching of which they sang. They were not dime store cowboys and neither was the author of “God Moves in a Mysterious Way.” In some ways, the British poet William Cowper is to classic, Reformation-tradition hymnody what Hank Williams was to country music: both men perennially suffered deep, dark depression and anguish of soul. Out of their pain, each man wrote deeply emotional, heart-felt poetry that was set to music. Of course, their biographies part ways there: both diagnosed the illness that drove their angst in a deeply fallen world, but only Cowper found the transformative cure, locating his healing balm in the old rugged cross. Sadly, Hank sought solace in the bottom of a whiskey bottle and died of an overdose of alcohol and pain killers at 29. Hank sang “I Saw the Light,” but never seems to have run to it.

Two bruised reeds, two smoking flaxes, two different outcomes, but two men who were unsentimental about the mysteries of life and God’s providence east of Eden. “God Moves” is my favorite for two fundamental reasons: the story of the man behind the lyrics and the robust theology of Romans 8 that it expresses in unforgettable poetry. Every time I sing it in corporate or family worship (and I love the revised tune by Bob Kauflin and our friends at Sovereign Grace Music), I think of its author, and I am strengthened by the grace of which it speaks.

Embattled Soul

John Calvin referred to fallen humanity and the world in which we live as broken actors performing on a broken down stage. Cowper’s brokenness was as profound as it was palpable. In his excellent biographical essay on the life of William Cowper, John Piper wrote of him, “The battles in this man’s soul were of epic proportions.” Indeed.

Cowper lived from 1731 to 1800, a contemporary to John Wesley and George Whitefield in England and Jonathan Edwards in America. Heartache was his handmaiden virtually from birth. William and his brother John were the only two among seven siblings to survive past infancy. At age 6, his mother died giving birth to John, leaving William deeply distraught. Cowper moved from school to school before landing at Westminster school in 1742 where he was bullied mercilessly by older students. While studying for a career in law as a young adult, he fell in love with his cousin Theodora and sought her hand in marriage. Her father refused to consent to the union and nuptials were never exchanged. Lost love left him crestfallen.

As he progressed into adulthood, things grew appreciably worse. In 1763, he was offered a position as a clerk of journals in the House of Lords, but the specter of the job examination sent him off the rails; he experienced grinding depression that bordered on insanity. Three times he attempted suicide and was sent to an asylum for recovery. The asylum turned out to be a place of grace for Cowper. Dr. Nathaniel Cotton, an evangelical believer, cared for Cowper and showed him the love of Christ. One day at the hospital, Cowper found a Bible and opened it. The pages fell upon Romans 3:25. God opened Cowper’s blind spiritual eyes that day, and he was converted to a saving hope in Jesus Christ. Salvation changed his heart, but not his propensity for melancholy.

In 1767, two years after leaving the asylum, Cowper met the slave-trader-turned-preacher John Newton, author of “Amazing Grace” and curate of the church at Olney. Newton mentored Cowper. He encouraged Cowper and ministered to him. There were numerous additional suicide attempts as the viper of melancholy gripped the poet every ten years, usually every tenth January. Cowper wrote “God Moves” in 1773 at the behest of Newton, who later published it in the Olney Hymnal. Soon after Cowper wrote “God Moves,” the darkness returned, and he attempted suicide by drowning. He died on April 25, 1800, in the throes of depression. The final poem he composed in 1799 was titled “The Castaway,” but by God’s grace that did not describe his eternal state.  

Hymn for Rough Weather

Cowper’s story makes this hymn all the more remarkable. Life between the times is full of hurt and pain; we live in what John Bunyan aptly called a vail of tears. Relationships sour. Malignant tumors grow inside our frail bodies. A phone call shatters our dreams. The spring flowers die, and our lush summer lawns turn brown in winter. The only thing consistent in this embittered cosmos is that nothing stays the same. Cowper lived in and wrote out of this reality as much as any figure in church history. “God Moves” was originally titled “Conflict: Light Shining out of Darkness.” Cowper knew first-hand that life is warfare.

This hymn is my favorite for the same reason Romans 8:28-39 is my favorite Bible passage. The final four of the six stanzas are pure gold for suffering saints—that’s all of us on various levels—on pilgrimage through the valley of the shadow of death: “You fearful saints, fresh courage take, the clouds that you now dread, are big with mercy and will break in blessings on your head.” The world is groaning, we are groaning, but God is protecting us, forging our faith on the anvil of affliction because of his love for us and because of a passion for his own glory. Charles Spurgeon once said that God’s sovereignty is a doctrine for rough weather; “God Moves” is a hymn for stormy days, and there are many such days in a fallen world. 

Behind a Frowning Providence

The fourth stanza is the best-known: “Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust him for his grace; behind a frowning providence, he hides a smiling face.” It is easy to hear echoes of Isaiah 55 here: “My ways are higher than your ways, my thoughts than your thoughts.” We are not omniscient. We have a limited ability to exegete our experiences. We face moments when the God who has declared himself good won’t seem so good. Life may seem bad, sometimes, very bad. But we do not find peace in our ability to interpret events but in the God who is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works (Ps. 145:17). The fifth verse is a healing balm: “His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding every hour; the bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower.”

Cowper concludes the hymn with a reminder for forgetful Christians like me, a reminder I need to hear hourly: “Blind unbelief is sure to err, and scan his work in vain. God is his own interpreter, and he will make it plain.” We don’t know the future. We don’t often understand his ways. But we can trust him because he is never late and never gets the wrong address.

I have never suffered anywhere near the level of William Cowper, but I am grateful that he has set to verse the theology that describes his thorny life so that we might be encouraged and equipped for the fight. Cowper may have spent much time in darkness, but he truly saw the light. 

Editors’ note: This article is the first in a new series titled “This is My Story, This is My Song,” which will explore the favorite hymns of various evangelical writers and leaders within and without TGC. 

 

by Jeff Robinson at April 24, 2015 05:01 AM

Burdened Preaching, Serious Gospel

Editors’ note: A new documentary on the life and ministry of Martyn Lloyd-Jones debuted at The Gospel Coalition 2015 National Conference: Logic on Fire: The Life and Legacy of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones from Media Gratiae. TGC continues to feature a series of articles on Lloyd-Jones. Ben Bailie appeared in the film and has studied and written extensively about the life and ministry of Lloyd-Jones. 


One of the beautiful things about the film Logic on Fire is the way it juxtaposes Martyn Lloyd-Jones’s sternness in the pulpit and his sweetness outside of it. In one of the opening scenes, his daughter Anne Beatt says, “He was grave in the pulpit,” which is followed by an image of him scowling in his black Geneva gown. But his grandson, Jonathan Catherwood, tells us that one of the most disturbing things about his legacy is that the glaring man on the book covers was nothing like the sweet grandfather they all knew at home.

So why was Lloyd-Jones so serious in the pulpit and so sweet outside of it? Because he entered the pulpit a burdened man. 

Burden from the Lord

Lloyd-Jones’s preferred term for a sermon was a “burden.” He believed every time a preacher enters the pulpit he should come with a burden from the Lord. The burden should be a specific message God has given the preacher to be delivered at a specific time to a specific congregation from a specific text. This burden should shape every aspect of preaching, from the manner of delivery to the content. A preacher is a burdened man. The burden shaped his manner in the pulpit. For example, if challenged about his stern demeanor he would respond:

This is how Paul entered the pulpit—conscious that he was about to address immortal souls; aware of the terrible nature of sin; knowing the love of God in Christ. The great responsibility! The fear that he might in some way stand between the people and the message!

The burden was the driving motivation behind his many great sermon series:

  • The Sermon on the Mount” is driven by the burden that spiritual superficiality is the curse of the age.
  • Ephesians” is driven by the burden that the most urgent need for the church is a clear understanding of who we are in Christ.
  • The Gospel of John” is driven by the burden that the most urgent need for the church is a personal experience of what is true of us in Christ.

Repetition of Key Words

The burden shaped both the form and also the content of his sermons. A particular rhetorical device Lloyd-Jones used to drive the burden of his sermon home to the congregation was the repetition of key phrases.

One of the most striking and haunting elements of his preaching was the way in which he repeated and emphatically enunciated one or two key words through out a sermon. Generally, those words would be the specific words, or word, from the text that he desired to emphasize. One way to analyze every sermon he preached is simply to note the phrases he repeated. Since Lloyd-Jones never gave any of his sermons a title, practically all of the titles provided by the editors of his sermons are the key phrases that control and dominate that sermon. 

Sometimes the repeated phrase would control his entire sermon. For example, in a sermon in the series on 2 Timothy 1:12, the phrase “that day” serves as the constant refrain. Lloyd-Jones repeated “that day” 37 times, each time enunciating the words with a rhythmic, Welsh growl that served to sear the words into the hearers’ subconscious. Weeks after hearing the sermon, one needed only to hear the phrase “that day” and the full force of the message would come back in all its rhetorical potency. 

On other occasions, Lloyd-Jones would simply use a keyword to emphasize his main point for part of the sermon. For example, in his first message on Isaiah 40:1 the burden of the sermon explains that the gospel is a message of comfort that has been sent by God to man who is in a state of warfare. His first major point is, “The first thing we must always realize about the gospel of Jesus Christ is that it is a message sent by God.” In the actual preaching of the sermon, Lloyd-Jones begins this point at the 9:22 mark and ends right at the 17-minute mark, taking more than eight minutes to develop the point. But in those eight minutes he repeats “God” 53 times. In so doing, he sought to bombard the congregation with the fundamental reality that the gospel comes from God—it is God’s action, God’s activity, and God’s doing.

Another prime example comes from his four-part evangelistic sermon series on Psalm 1. The key word for the second sermon is chaff. The burden of the sermon is to unpack how true happiness should not be pursued. In this sermon he repeats, or better yet growls, the word chaff, often with a note of clear and obvious disdain, 61 different times. The cumulative effect is that the word enters into the hearer’s subconscious and creates a repulsion and desire not to be like chaff. By this method, he infused the scriptural words into the audience’s mind.

Apostolic Model 

Of course, this approach is not unique to Martyn Lloyd-Jones. All great preachers have done something similar. Augustine did it. Chrysostom did it. Spurgeon did it. One of the marks of a great preaching is powerful repetition.

But for Lloyd-Jones, the apostles were the model. In commenting on Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, he exclaimed, “Now that is preaching! Do you get tired of hearing me saying the same things, my friends? Well, I am just doing what the apostle Peter did. I am sure he was right and I am sure I am right! Our greatest trouble is that we forget.”

Why was he so grave in the pulpit? The burden of the Lord demanded it. Every time Lloyd-Jones entered the pulpit he was a burdened man. And this apostolic repetition was the primary way in which Lloyd-Jones sought to brand his burden upon the minds of the congregation.

by Ben Bailie at April 24, 2015 05:00 AM

Justin Taylor

An Interview with Kevin DeYoung on What the Bible Really Teaches about Homosexuality

9781433549373I highly recommend Kevin DeYoung’s new book, What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? (You can get it for less than $10 at Amazon. WTS also sells them by the case.)

The book has a simple structure.

The first part is on understanding God’s Word:

  • One Man, One Woman, One Flesh
  • Those Infamous Cities (Genesis 19)
  • Taking a Strange Book Seriously (Leviticus 18, 20)
  • The Romans Road in the Wrong Direction (Romans 1)
  • A New Word from an Old Place (1 Corinthians 6; 1 Timothy 1)

The second part is on answering objections:

  • “The Bible Hardly Ever Mentions Homosexuality”
  • “Not That Kind of Homosexuality”
  • “What about Gluttony and Divorce?”
  • “The Church Is Supposed to Be a Place for Broken People”
  • “You’re on the Wrong Side of History”
  • “It’s Not Fair”
  • “The God I Worship Is a God of Love”

He then closes with three appendices:

  • What about Same-Sex Marriage?
  • Same-Sex Attraction: Three Building Blocks
  • The Church and Homosexuality: Ten Commitments

All of this in 160 pages.

Here is one of the things I appreciate about Kevin. Not only is he an excellent writer and an insightful thinker, but he brings pastoral wisdom and care to this contentious and often personal discussion. For example, here is one section from the book that I appreciated, something that conservatives (in particular) who care about this issue should take to heart:

Of the many complexities involving the church and homosexuality, one of the most difficult is how the former should speak of the latter. Even for those Christians who agree that homosexual practice is contrary to the will of God, there is little agreement on how we ought to speak about it being contrary to the will of God. Much of this disagreement exists because we have many different constituencies in mind when we broach the subject. There are various groups that may be listening when we speak about homosexuality, and the group we think we are addressing usually dictates how we speak.

  • If we are speaking to cultural elites who despise us and our beliefs, we want to be bold and courageous.
  • If we are speaking to strugglers who fight against same-sex attraction, we want to be patient and sympathetic.
  • If we are speaking to sufferers who have been mistreated by the church, we want to be winsome and humble.
  • If we are speaking to shaky Christians who seem ready to compromise the faith for society’s approval, we want to be persuasive and persistent.
  • If we are speaking to those who are living as the Scriptures would not have them live, we want to be straightforward and earnest.
  • If we are speaking to belligerent Christians who hate or fear persons who identify as gay or lesbian, we want to be clear and corrective.

In the following video, I was able to sit down with Kevin to ask him a few questions about the topic and the book.

In the following video, I was able to sit down with Kevin to ask him a few questions about the topic and the book.

And here is a special talk Kevin gave, seeking to answer four categories of objections to traditional biblical ethics:

  • not that much—Jesus didn’t say anything about homosexuality, we are only dealing with a few verses
  • not the same—there was a different kind of homosexuality in the ancient world
  • not a big deal—we are all broken, we ignore other sins, can’t we find a third way?
  • not fair—the traditional view doesn’t lead to human flourishing and doesn’t lead to fruitful ministry

For more information on the book—including a sample chapter and a free study guide—go here.

Finally, here are some endorsements for the book:

“This book provides a short, accessible, and pastoral toolbox for all Christians to navigate the shifting cultural landscape of sexuality and find confidence and hope in how the Bible directs our steps. DeYoung offers wise and readable apologetics here, providing his readers with both motive and model for how to think and talk about homosexuality and the Christian faith in a way that honors Christ and gives hope to a watching world.”
—Rosaria Butterfield , former tenured Professor of English at Syracuse University; author, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert; mother, pastor’s wife, and speaker

“DeYoung takes on the most pressing issue of our day: whether we will be conformed to the spirit of the age or whether we will follow Christ. Against the sexual revolution and its high priests, DeYoung presents an alternative vision, the ancient wisdom of a Christian sexual ethic. This is the best book on this subject that I have read. Every Christian confronted with these issues, which means every Christian, should read this book. You will finish this book better equipped to preach the gospel, to love the lost, to welcome the wounded, and to stand up for Jesus and his Word.”
—Russell D. Moore, President, The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; author, Tempted and Tried

“What a gift this book is to the church! Kevin approaches the difficult question of sexuality with compassion and clarity, showing us what God’s Word says about it and why it is important. Well researched, accessibly written, and gospel saturated—this, in my opinion, is now the book on this subject for our generation!”
—J. D. Greear, Lead Pastor, The Summit Church, Durham, North Carolina; author, Jesus, Continued…Why the Spirit Inside You Is Better than Jesus Beside You

“A superb, accessible resource for lay people in every walk of life who need help making sense of one of the most critical, defining issues of our day. Kevin DeYoung approaches this highly controversial topic in a way that is biblically faithful, pastorally sensitive, historically in-formed, and culturally aware. The stakes are high. We cannot afford not to understand what Kevin has so helpfully laid out for us here.”
—Nancy Leigh DeMoss, author; radio host, Revive Our Hearts

“Anyone looking for an accessible, reader-friendly, “one-stop” treatment of the biblical underpinnings of traditional Christian marriage and sexual ethics would do well to read this book. It is lucid but not simplistic, judicious but not obscure, and convicted but not shrill.”
—Wesley Hill , Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies, Trinity School for Ministry; author, Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality

“Kevin DeYoung has written a good and faithful treatment on the Bible and homosexual practice for the average churchgoer. His work addresses most of the main issues and does so in a succinct and articulate manner. I commend it.”
—Robert Gagnon, Associate Professor of New Testament, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary; author, The Bible and Homosexual Practice

“In the heated atmosphere that currently surrounds discussion of every aspect of homosexuality, the most important domain where we need careful thinking and constrained rhetoric is what the Bible does and does not say on the matter. With his customary directness and clarity, Kevin DeYoung has now met this need. For those interested in careful exegesis of the relevant passages and patient discussion of the issues that arise from it, packaged in brevity and simplicity, it would be difficult to better this book.”
—D. A. Carson, Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

“DeYoung provides a much-needed resource that addresses the important biblical and theological issues related to homosexuality while maintaining accessibility to a broad readership. The Ten Commitments at the end of this book display DeYoung’s pastoral heart and his understanding that regardless of our vices or virtues, we must preach the gospel, together strive for holiness, and exalt Christ above all things.”
—Christopher Yuan, Bible Teacher; speaker; author, Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God

“Written with the deftness, clarity, and tender grace we’ve come to expect from DeYoung, What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? answers, point by point, the revisionist theology making inroads in even the most conservative theological circles. It is simply the very best resource any follower of Christ can have to answer the challenge of homosexuality in the church.”
—Gregory Koukl, President of Stand to Reason (str.org); author, Tactics and Relativism

“Solid exegesis and tight writing make this book stand out. Kevin DeYoung concisely explains the key biblical passages and clearly responds to the key objections.”
—Marvin Olasky, Editor in Chief, World News Group

by Justin Taylor at April 24, 2015 04:05 AM

David Foster Wallace: “There Is No Such Thing as Not Worshipping”

davidfosterwallaceAlissa Wilkinson’s Books & Culture essay on David Foster Wallace is worth reading in full.

Here is an excerpt:

The philosopher Charles Taylor suggests that the difference between believers and unbelievers is not what they think as much as how they deal with three things humans experience: fullness, that feeling of euphoria and rightness you get when you’re happiest; absence, the exact opposite; and the middle condition, the things-are-pretty-okay place in which many of us are fortunate enough to live our daily lives. Everyone wants to experience fullness, and most everyone structures their lives around that pursuit, Taylor argues. But to believers, the place to find fullness is God, or something godlike; for unbelievers, it’s to be sought within ourselves.

Wallace hung himself while his wife was out for a walk. He did this after a life-time of struggling with depression, which might be best described as the unabated experience of absence. In his most popular work, “This Is Water,” a commencement speech he delivered at Kenyon College, he talks about the struggle of living in that middle condition, the everyday banality graduates were about to enter—the harried commute, the line at the grocery store, the grumpy cashier—and the “myriad petty, unsexy” choices one must make, every day, to live as if other people are real beings with feelings.

When you read the rest of his work, you realize that speech functions as Wallace’s ideal of what he wishes life could be. It lays out his own yearning for fullness—for a world in which everyone is aware of and careful with others. Be mindful of those around you, he says—something that sounds a lot like the unbeliever’s tactic for dealing with it all. “None of this stuff is really about morality or religion or dogma or big fancy questions of life after death,” he says near the end of the speech.

Except it totally is, and he knows that, because he also says this: “Here’s something else that’s weird but true. In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.” You can read his earlier declaration about religion at face value, or you can know that Wallace is always trying to connect with his audience, and detect a characteristic hyper-awareness of his listeners’ prejudices in his stretch to imprint something on their brains. What we worship, the thing we stretch for beyond ourselves that gets us closer to fullness, is his obsession.

You can read the whole thing here.

You can listen below to DFW’s 2005 Kenyon College address (note: language).

by Justin Taylor at April 24, 2015 01:21 AM

April 23, 2015

CrossFit Naptown

Weekend Activities!

Friday’s Workout:

Strength/Skill:
Snatch Balance
2-2-2-2-2

WOD:
8:00 As Many Rounds As Possible
3-6-9-12 etc.
Chest-2-Bar Pull Ups
Double Unders -or- Tuck Jumps

Post Workout:
Isometric Challenge!

 

 

Project GLOC

It is that time of year again! The Gorgeous Ladies of CrossFit will be throwing down this weekend with individuals competing on Saturday and pairs competing on Sunday. There will be tons of ladies from CrossFit NapTown competing at the event and it would be amazing to have a bunch of people come out to support them! Click here to visit the GLOC website and get your spectator tickets! Maybe you want to be even more involved with these bad ass chicks, you can sign up here still as a judge or volunteer to help out with the event even more!

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Movement Clinic:

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

What: 90 minutes of focused skill work on cleans and kipping (including BAR MUSCLE UPS)!

When: Saturday April 25th, 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 is here to stay and Rachel and Anna are back at it for this month’s movement clinic Saturday from 12:00-1:30pm. This month, we will be going over basic jerk progressions and skills, drills, and progressions for ALL THINGS KIPPING. 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 anna@crossfitnaptown.com or rachel@crossfitnaptown.com and we hope to see a bunch of you on Saturday!

 

 

Adoptabull

 

Casa Del Toro Pitbull Rescue will be at NapTown Fitness Capitol on Sunday April 26th from 3:30-4:45pm with adoptable pit bulls for you to love and snuggle! Come before the 4:00pm SWFIT class and stay for donation yoga at 5:00pm and adopt a new forever furry friend in between.

 

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by Anna at April 23, 2015 10:10 PM

Inconsolation

rmlint: The potential to purge

I am behind the power curve today, because of some real-life obligations. I am going to grab something quick and easy so as not to fall behind; things are going to be even busier into the weekend.

This is a snapshot of rmlint in action:

2015-04-23-l3-b7175-rmlint

rmlint cruises through your directory tree, and offers to remove files it thinks are duplicates, zero-byte or hollow folders. And as you can see, given enough space, it will take its time to come up with a menu of potential excisions.

I did say “offers,” which is an important distinction. rmlint’s output is a little unexpected: By default it generates a script that will remove suspicious targets, but doesn’t outright eliminate them.

Which is a good thing; it means you have the option to adjust its list, and it also means you take the next step — running the script — with conscious aforethought. You can’t blame rmlint for whacking apart your /usr/lib folder if you told it specifically to do it.

I like rmlint for a number of reasons — it’s rare that I see a system cleaner, it takes the safe route by creating the script, and it has a smidgen of color.

But that’s about all the time I have today; I’ll get deeper into something tomorrow … I promise. ;)


Tagged: cleaner, directory, duplicate, file, folder, system

by K.Mandla at April 23, 2015 09:32 PM

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

The Wall of Awesome

I wanted to start a list of what science fiction and fantasy stories need to capture in order to be awe-inspiring. So far I have two entries.

First is the ‘I wanted a Roc’s Egg’ speech from Robert Heinlein’s GLORY ROAD:

What did I want?

I wanted a Roc’s egg. I wanted a harem loaded with lovely odalisques less than the dust beneath my chariot wheels, the rust that never stained my sword. I wanted raw red gold in nuggets the size of your fist and feed that lousy claim jumper to the huskies! I wanted to get up feeling brisk and go out and break some lances, then pick a like wench for my droit du seigneur — I wanted to stand up to the Baron and dare him to touch my wench! I wanted to hear the purple water chuckling against the skin of the Nancy Lee in the cool of the morning watch and not another sound, nor any movement save the slow tilting of the wings of the albatross that had been pacing us the last thousand miles.

I wanted the hurtling moons of Barsoom. I wanted Storisende and Poictesme, and Holmes shaking me awake to tell me, “The game’s afoot!” I wanted to float down the Mississippi on a raft and elude a mob in company with the Duke of Bilgewater and the Lost Dauphin.
I wanted Prestor John, and Excalibur held by a moon-white arm out of a silent lake. I wanted to sail with Ulysses and with Tros of Samothrace and eat the lotus in a land that seemed always afternoon. I wanted the feeling of romance and the sense of wonder I had known as a kid. I wanted the world to be what they had promised me it was going to be–instead of the tawdry, lousy, fouled-up mess it is.”

Second is from a comment here, by Steve.  I have edited out the specific authoresses name, because I want the reader to notice the point of the comment as it applies generally, not just to this case:

In turbulent times such as these, I take comfort in knowing there are skiffy authors … who know how to write a compelling story:

[…] I have a book with an ace protagonist coming out next year.

When I was a wee lad in the 1980’s, “ace” meant “cool”. So will [the authoress] be writing about a rakish, devil-may-care space pilot who women love and men want to emulate? A dashing cavalier of the cosmos, a man who aims to misbehave and definitely would shoot Greedo first, but who – underneath his galaxy-weary cynicism – has a heart for romantic adventure and derring-do? The sort of man who rescues space princesses, smuggles Romulan ale, fights cylons, and has smoked kippers for breakfast?

No.

“Ace” apparently means “asexual”, as in people who are so sad and wretched that not only can’t they get Pon Farr at the sight of a pretty young Vulcan’s logically heaving bosom (or space-codpiece), they don’t even want to.

Fun times, right?

And there will be a no-prize for anyone who catches all the allusions in both speeches, from Arabian Nights’ to Ace Rimmer.

by John C Wright at April 23, 2015 05:00 PM

Personal Appearance

My lovely wife, L Jagi Lamplighter, and I will be guests are Ravencon 10 this weekend.

Doubletree by Hilton Richmond Midlothian

1021 Koger Center Blvd, Richmond, Virginia 23235
Guests of Honor:
AUTHOR: Allen Steele
ARTIST: Frank Wu
GAMING: Brianna Spacekat Wu
SPECIAL AUTHOR: Jack McDevitt
SPECIAL AUTHOR: Lawrence M. Schoen

Here is the facebook page with details: https://www.facebook.com/events/560726884060854/
And here is the registration page: http://www.ravencon.com/

by John C Wright at April 23, 2015 04:40 PM

The Urbanophile

What’s the Perfect Size For a City?

My latest post is online over at The Guardian. It’s called “What’s the perfect size for a city?” It is an expanded look at the right scale of regional governance – small box cities, large regional governments, etc. This goes beyond the United States to take a more expanded global view, incorporating some recent findings from the OECD and World Bank. Here’s an excerpt:

“Often, administrative boundaries between municipalities are based on centuries-old borders that do not correspond to contemporary patterns of human settlement and economic activity,” the OECD observed in a recent report. The thinktank argued that governance structures failed to reflect modern realities of metropolitan life into account.

Behind the report’s dry prose lies a real problem. Fragmentation affects a whole range of things, including the economy. The OECD estimates that for regions of equal population, doubling the number of governments reduces productivity by 6%. It recommends reducing this effect with a regional coordinating body, which can also reduce sprawl, increase public transport satisfaction (by 14 percentage points, apparently) and improve air quality.

The World Bank, meanwhile, is worried about the way rapid growth in developing cities has created fragmentation there, too. Metropolises often sprawl well beyond government boundaries: Jakarta, for example, has spread into three separate provinces. The World Bank calls fragmentation “a significant challenge in the East Asia region”.

Click through to read the whole thing.

by Aaron M. Renn at April 23, 2015 04:37 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

“Most Ambitions Belong to the Past”: Reflections on A Neurosurgeon’s Final Year of Life

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I recently stumbled upon an essay from Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon who died earlier this year at the age of 37.

I read the whole thing several times and was struck by several passages, including this one:

“Everyone succumbs to finitude. I suspect I am not the only one who reaches this pluperfect state. Most ambitions are either achieved or abandoned; either way, they belong to the past.

The future, instead of the ladder toward the goals of life, flattens out into a perpetual present. Money, status, all the vanities the preacher of Ecclesiastes described, hold so little interest: a chasing after wind, indeed.”

There’s also a short film on his perspective of time in the final months of life:

 

Link: Before I Go

Obituary: Stanford Medicine

Image: Robert

###

by Chris Guillebeau at April 23, 2015 03:41 PM

CrossFit 204: Fitness in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Workout: April 25, 2015

That moment when Sherri realizes Kailee is thinking about running through the photographer instead of around him.

Hockey girls: That moment when Sherri realizes Kailee is thinking about running through the photographer instead of around him.

Back squat 6-6-6-6-6

4 rounds:

50-foot sled push

50-foot sled pull

by Mike at April 23, 2015 03:29 PM

Workout: April 23, 2015

PAul

Captain of the Dawn Patrol!

Deadlift 5-5-5

Romanian deadlift 10-10-10

Russian KB swings 20-20-20

by Mike at April 23, 2015 03:11 PM

Workout: April 24, 2015

One for a friend.

One for a friend.

Keeping It Riel

3 4-minute stations (rest 1 minute between each station):

1. Hydrant run + max wall balls

2. Hydrant run + max double-unders

3. Hydrant run + max toes-to-bars or leg raises

4. Hydrant run + max deadlifts (225/155 or 135/95 lb.)

Evening Skills Session

Jerk balance 3-3-3

Push press 2-2-2

Jerk 1-1-1

by Mike at April 23, 2015 03:10 PM

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

An Unexpected Gift

Here I reprint a fan letter for my work, with some unfan comments about Mr. Sandifer’s recent and unfortunately public attack of verbal gas, and an observation about the duty of due diligence reviewers owe their readers:

Before this post is buried by time, I wanted to share this experience with our host. On my bus ride home I was reading through Castalia’s collection of your Hugo-nominated works, and “Parliament of Beasts and Birds” came up. I had noticed Mr. Sandifer included it among his “Very Lousy Pieces of Science Fiction” that he compared unfavorably to “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love.” I was pleased that I had the opportunity to finally read your tale, which came to me much vaunted after several months of my lurking here and reading related blogs, and compare it with Mr. Sandifer’s analysis.

I was spellbound. From the opening lines to the conclusion, I was enraptured. The conceit, the rich detail and description, the poetic and Biblical allusions, the characterizations of these animals that fit like gloves, the living vein of the fabulous that underlay and animated the story just embraced me and sucked me in. I felt as I did at the conclusion of your “The Ideal Machine,” except for the entire length of the tale instead of just the grand finale. “Parliament” was, in a word, beautiful. Your story was like the empyrean garments presented to the beasts, except spun with heavenly words rather than heavenly threads. It was a story like a fine glass of wine and a hearty roast beef dinner. You gifted me a most rewarding, uplifting, fulfilling and gorgeous tale and one hell of a magical bus ride home. My sincerest thanks.

With my mind aglow with “Parliament,” I get home and after dinner and coffee I return to Mr. Sandifer’s blog to read his arguments for why it’s lousy and weigh them against the story. True, I thought it marvelous, but surely Mr. Sandifer will deliver on the promise he makes in his section heading that “several very lousy pieces of science fiction” will be “analyzed in depth.” Perhaps his critic’s eye, honed by years of comics and Doctor Who analysis, caught something. I scroll down, eager for his critical analysis of “Parliament,” and…

Four sentences. That’s it. Four sentences that boil down to “I didn’t like it.” No argument, no analysis. Just dismissal.

I am agog. If you assert a work is lousy, you are making an objective statement you must back up with arguments. You must show how the prose and technique were poor, point out how the author failed to deliver on his promises, demonstrate a plethora of plotholes or the egregious failure of the author to think through the logical consequences of his story’s conceit, etc. “I didn’t like it” is not an argument. It’s rhetorical jazz hands, and does nothing to prove “Parliament of Beasts and Birds” is a lousy work. It simply proves Mr. Sandifer doesn’t like it, and we already knew that from his section header. He wasted words and his time restating his opinion. Ironic for a guy who faulted “Parliament” for being tautological. Moreover, he promised in-depth analysis, and instead gave me a brief opinion. He wrote me an intellectual check, and it bounced. As a fellow academic-in-training (classicist, currently an M.A. student in classical archaeology), I’m both betrayed and insulted. We academics slip up, giving sloppy arguments, usually in the heat of passion, which Mr. Sandifer was certainly in (it’s not long before he starts flinging f-bombs like poo). I forgive Mr. Sandifer such a transgression. I’m just worried it’s indicative of a deeper failure to reason. If so he is pissing on the Grove of the Athenian hero Akademos, a grove I reverence for its roll in nurturing and sustaining Western civilization and assisting man in discovering God’s truth, which is why I intend to enter it in spite of the barbarians within hacking down its olive trees and torching its out-buildings. I pray this is not the case with Mr. Sandifer, and my reading of his comics and Doctor Who analysis will soundly demonstrate the truth of the matter.

Thank you, Mr. Wright, for “Parliament of Beasts and Birds.” It is a living tale which one day I shall read to my own children, hoping they in their innocence will be even more enchanted and enthralled than I was. And worry not, I have not stopped to listen to your song without throwing change in your guitar case. Back around Christmastime I used my Amazon gift money to buy several of your works, “Book of Feasts and Seasons” included. Castalia’s free collection of your Hugo-nominated works simply gives me a second copy. If “Parliament” is indicative of the rest of “Book of Feasts and Seasons,” I’ve many more magical bus rides ahead of me. You have richly earned your wage, which if I recall your sentiments correctly, is the most I can do to honor you as an author. I feel it’s the least I can do, but enjoy a meal out with your family on me. You earned it, and a devoted fan.

My comment:

When I decided, roughly at age nine, to be a science fiction writer, I never one imagined I would get fan mail, much less fan mail like this. I am republishing it, first, because I am proud, but second, because I want to share with anyone who is curious about my motives why I do what I do. I do it not to get letters like this, but to be worthy of such letters, whether I get them or not.

As for Mr Sandifer, I did not have the patience to read his whole screed.

When I reached the sentence where he conflated a sentiment I was describing, namely, the nostalgic basis of high fantasy, with a sentiment he alleged I possessed, namely, the alleged medieval yearning for modern nationalistic socialist fascism, I realized I was dealing with a third rate mind, driven into fourth rate performance by the indoctrination of his anti-education. At that point I walked with him no further.

For this buffoon to wave his credentials at someone with an education like mine, a real education, as is appalling and grotesque as a sideshow freak who eats chicken heads waving his certificate of lobotomy, to prove the bad parts of his brain have been successfully excised. One would think it a matter of shame rather than pride.

He cannot even do a hit piece correctly!

A hit piece is supposed to be short, ironic, arch, and make allusions to things without stepping into actionable libel. You do not talk about yourself, but try to be unseen by the reader, as if you are passing along facts, real or invented, and letting him decide. A quote or misquote is necessary, and then the lift of an eyebrow, and the reassurance to the reader that there are even worse things, albeit unprintable. Statements that are literally accurate but with defamatory implications are a must; such innuendo is a dark art, and forms the backbone of properly done character assassination journalism.

What an amateur. What a maroon.

Read the hit piece that Popular Science did on me. That was a pro job, done by a pro thug, a yob who knew how to deliver a dirty punch below the belt without letting the ref spot it.

 

by John C Wright at April 23, 2015 02:58 PM

Justin Taylor

If God Is Sovereign, Why Is My Sanctification So Slow?

If God is sovereign (and he is), and if our sanctification brings him glory (and it does), then why do we continue to struggle so much (which we do)?

For example, Christians know that communion with God in prayer, faith, and the Word will give us substantive joy. But we often cut it short or skip it all together for trifling things.

Writing to a correspondent in 1776, John Newton described it this way:

Though he knows that communion with God is his highest privilege, he too seldom finds it so; on the contrary, if duty, conscience, and necessity did not compel, he would leave the throne of grace unvisited from day to day.

He takes up the Bible, conscious that it is the fountain of life and true comfort; yet perhaps, while he is making the reflection, he feels a secret distaste, which prompts him to lay it down, and give him preference to a newspaper.

Newton then raises the sovereignty problem:

How can these things be, or why are they permitted? Since the Lord hates sin, teaches his people to hate it and cry against it, and has promised to hear their prayers, how is it that they go thus burdened? Surely, if he could not, or would not, over-rule evil for good, he would permit it to continue.

Newton’s answer is not to excuse spiritual dullness or laziness, nor to browbeat us, but to look up and beyond to see what God is doing through our sometimes painfully slow progress in the faith:

By these exercises he teaches us more truly to know and feel the utter depravity and corruption of our whole nature, that we are indeed defiled in every part.

His method of salvation is likewise hereby exceedingly endeared to us: we see that it is and must be of grace, wholly of grace; and that the Lord Jesus Christ, and his perfect righteousness, is and must be our all in all.

His power likewise, in maintaining his own work notwithstanding our infirmities, temptations, and enemies, is hereby displayed in the clearest light; his strength is manifested in our weakness.

Satan likewise is more remarkably disappointed and put to shame, when he finds bounds set to his rage and policy, beyond which he cannot pass; and that those in whom he finds so much to work upon, and over whom he so often prevails for a season, escape at last out of his hands. He casts them down, but they are raised again; he wounds them, but they are healed; he obtains his desire to sift them as wheat, but the prayer of their great Advocate prevails for the maintenance of their faith.

Farther, by what believers feel in themselves they learn by degrees how to warn, pity, and bear with others. A soft, patient, and compassionate spirit, and a readiness and skill in comforting those who are cast down, is not perhaps attainable in any other way.

And, lastly, I believe nothing more habitually reconciles a child of God to the thought of death, than the wearisomeness of this warfare. Death is unwelcome to nature;—but then, and not till then, the conflict will cease. Then we shall sin no more. The flesh, with all its attendant evils, will be laid in the grave. Then the soul, which has been partaker of a new and heavenly birth, shall be freed from every incumbrance, and stand perfect perfect in the Redeemer’s righteousness before God in glory.

Newton goes on to answer the question of how such sin can be mitigated or overcome. Here’s a summary of what he recommends:

Faithfulness to light received, and a sincere endeavor to conform to the means prescribed in the word of God, with an humble application to the Blood of sprinkling and the promised Spirit, will undoubtedly be answered by increasing measures of light, faith, strength, and comfort; and we shall know, if we follow on to know the Lord.

Newton was one of the the most spiritually healthy Christians in church history. You almost certainly will not regret any chance to read his counsel. The best introduction to his vision of the Christian life is now Tony Reinke’s Newton on the Christian Life: To Live Is Christ (Crossway, forthcoming in May).

by Justin Taylor at April 23, 2015 01:58 PM

Crossway Blog

A New Identity

Saturate: A New Identity from Crossway on Vimeo.

Who are you?

In this video, pastor Jeff Vanderstelt helps us rethink the way we perceive ourselves, reminding us that our identity as believers is first and foremost in Jesus Christ and what he has done on our behalf.

Our worth is not impacted by our successes or failures. Rather, we have Christ's righteousness leading to God's total acceptance. With God, our being always precedes our doing. This is the good news of the gospel—good news that frees us to live for him each and every day.


About the Book

In Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life, Jeff Vanderstelt wants us to see that there’s more—much more—to the Christian life than sitting in a pew once a week. God has called his people to something bigger: a view of the Christian life that encompasses the ordinary, the extraordinary, and everything in between.

Packed full of biblical teaching, compelling stories, and real-world advice, Saturate will remind you that Jesus is filling the world with his presence through the everyday lives of everyday people…

People just like you.

Learn more about the book and read a free excerpt today.

by Matt Tully at April 23, 2015 01:29 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

How Should Holiness Shape Our Public Posture? Abortion Shows Us — An Excerpt from “The Political Disciple”

The Political Disciple by Vincent Bacote“What does it look like for people to become enemies, and what might be a model of a holy public posture?”

Vincent Bacote asks this important question in his new book The Political Disciple, a primer on the intersection of the Christian faith and public life.

In the following excerpt, Bacote explores the development of the political “other,” the tendency “to conflate individual people with the political issues dear to them” and turn them into enemies.

He uses the politics of abortion to illustrate his larger thesis:

If our public advocacy is conveyed in a manner that can present neighbor-love with the same strength as the pro-life position, our sanctification would come across in a way that would confound many.

Read this excerpt to be reminded that “the call to holiness ought to profoundly shape and inform our private and public posture.” Buy his book to learn more.

Our pursuit of holiness should not be limited to our internal transformation but should extend to all our public actions. A word I haven’t used till now, but which must be a part of this discussion, is enemy. Whether or not we identify any other humans (or nations) as enemies, Christians are called to exhibit love for those who in some way fit the “enemy” category (Matthew 5:44, Romans 12:17 – 21). The public discourse around political issues often has an intensity that makes it easy for “them” (anyone with an opposing view of certain important issues) to become the enemy.

If we are honest, we know how easy it can be to conflate individual people with the political issues dear to them, and when those issues are ones of great tension, then that person can be seen as an enemy. It may have never been anyone’s intention, but those who become political “others” because of their issues (and sometimes because of their rhetoric and behavior) morph into objects to be opposed at any cost because the stakes are high. Yet even when the stakes are high, the path of sanctification challenges us to see political opponents as neighbors, as those we must love and regard as fellow human beings.

What does it look like for people to become enemies, and what might be a model of a holy public posture? The issue of abortion is one example. This has been a longstanding political battleground (since the mid-1970s) on which some Christians have expended considerable energy and where the rhetoric and political action on both sides has sometimes gone to extremes. The issue has been framed in terms of rights, which, as Michelle Kirtley observes, has brought with it some unintended consequences directly related to the question of our public posture.

The abortion debate has been one of the most polarizing debates in our culture in recent years, in part because many view the issue of abortion through the lens of individual rights. Indeed, a right to privacy was the basis for the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade. Yet this perspective of rights-based autonomy has been destructive for both supporters and opponents of abortion. Supporters claim a “right” for individual women to choose and control what happens to their own bodies, and opponents of abortion claim a “right” to life for the unborn. As a result, the rights of the unborn are pitted against the rights of women, creating a win-lose paradigm with enormous emotional stakes for all involved. Because of this paradigm, many Christians have essentially taken sides, choosing to focus on protecting the unborn, neglecting to promote women’s dignity. As a consequence, the pro-life movement and the Church by association have been quite effectively labeled as anti-woman, despite some concerted efforts to challenge this stereotype. Another troubling consequence of the rights-based paradigm is that cultural and political efforts to oppose abortion have been separated from efforts to promote women’s dignity and address the many injustices women face — some of which lead women to face the awful, unwanted decision of whether or not to have an abortion.

Though I doubt that the great majority of pro-life supporters are against women, it is interesting to consider the fact that many pro-choice supporters interpret the rhetoric and actions of the pro-life side as an assault on women. It may seem nonsensical to believe that the issue is about “men desiring to control women’s bodies,” but perhaps this is the result of rhetoric that is so focused on the unborn child that it renders the pregnant woman incidental. This may seem ridiculous, but how much evangelical discourse about abortion is focused on the woman expecting the child, apart from the consequences of choosing an abortion?

What would it mean for Christians who oppose abortion to be known as much for expressing concern about the mother as for the child? If rhetoric and practice were also reflective of our continued growth into full human beings, it would be more difficult for those in favor of a different policy to regard pro-life Christians as those who are inhumane because they are anti-woman. Try this thought experiment: What would it be like if the first thought of a woman with an unplanned pregnancy was, “I know who I can call — I can call the church, because they are committed to my well-being even if I have disagreements with them.” If our public advocacy is conveyed in a manner that can present neighbor-love with the same strength as the pro-life position, our sanctification would come across in a way that would confound many. Abortion is only one example; whether areas of focus are immigration, environmental concerns, strategies for addressing poverty, or many other important issues, the call to holiness ought to profoundly shape and inform our private and public posture.

“But what about speaking the truth in a culture that is against Christ?” Surely this is the position of some conservative and progressive evangelicals who emphasize the prophetic dimension of public discourse. After all, if we are speaking the truth and find ourselves labeled as “haters,” “zealots,” or “those justice radicals,” is this not merely akin to a contemporary experience of persecution or an emotional martyrdom? This is an important question, especially when it comes to the posture that seems to attend public discourse that emerges from a strong sense of justice or as a reaction to forms of injustice.

Sanctification is not antithetical to the passionate expression of truth or even expressions of anger, but we should be hesitant to immediately associate our strong rhetorical expressions with the most pristine form of divine discourse. My point is not that we should never speak with strong passion but that we cannot forget the command to love our enemies even when we “stand for truth.” Our commitment to the truth, and even our outrage at injustice and evil, are not sufficient to excuse us from remembering that even our greatest enemy should be accorded respect. To put it another way, we cannot wear the offense of others as a badge of honor because we represent truth while they do not. And perhaps we should also consider whether any pursuit of persecution or “martyrdom” in the name of truth is really more about puffing ourselves up rather than worshiping the triune God. “Holy indignation” can be one way our sanctification is expressed, but it will be discourse that identifies the truth while remaining committed to love of all neighbors. (pg. 65–70)

The Political Disciple by Vincent Bacote

The Political Disciple

By Vincent Bacote

Order it Today:
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ChristianBook.com
Buy Direct from Zondervan

by Jeremy Bouma at April 23, 2015 12:07 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Cultivating coping mechanisms

2015-04-20b Cultivating coping mechanisms -- index card #self-care #coping

2015-04-20b Cultivating coping mechanisms – index card #self-care #coping

I’m not sure if other people do this, but I figured I’d write about how I deliberately cultivate certain coping or self-soothing behaviour, in case it resonates with anyone.

Whenever I come across a mildly stressful situation, I use that as an opportunity to practice and reinforce ways to deal with it. For example, I like getting hugs, so I’ve learned to create that feeling for myself and I’ve learned to ask people for hugs when I need it. I associate hot chocolate with comfort and self-care instead of having it as a regular luxury, so it’s there as a treat when I really need it. I tell myself that it’s impossible for me to stay sad when I’m eating ice cream, and that becomes the case. I practise elucidating what I’m feeling, accept it, and experiment with ways to improve the situation. I give myself permission to stop trying to do things that require a lot of thinking and energy, and to instead focus on cooking and other easy ways to create value for myself and others. I figure out good walks and relaxing forms of exercise. I guiltlessly spend time cuddling the cats.

Sometimes I’ll focus on remembering what it feels like to be comforted and happy and safe while, say, mind-mapping thorny feelings, and eventually it becomes easier and easier to do so.

When more stressful situations come, I have some idea of what works for me, and I have positive associations around those techniques. I wonder if it’s a little like clicker-training yourself… =) Anyway, I’ve been finding it easier and easier to deal with life’s little curveballs. I don’t know the magnitude at which things will start to overwhelm me again, but it’s nice to know that I can handle more and more. In the meantime, even obstacles can be fuel for greater happiness and equanimity. =)

The post Cultivating coping mechanisms appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at April 23, 2015 12:00 PM

Table Titans

Tales: The Strange Green Stone

News

My friends and I are pretty hardcore gamers. We meet every Sunday for one of four games currently in progress, lasting from noon until well into the morning. During a game I was running, my friends were caught in a portion of the Abyss with no way out.

The party consisted of a Wizard, a…

Read more

April 23, 2015 07:35 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Do Your Laundry and Engage the Issues

I have two of the busiest, sweetest (I’m biased), bundles of joy. Obviously, I’m leaving out the various struggles of motherhood, but we do enjoy one another. And when I say busy, I mean insane. It’s nonstop listening, talking, cuddling, breaking up fights, and cleaning up spills. They are young, so I’m still doing much of the heavy lifting. It’s easy for me to see why many women who are busy at home and at work simply don’t feel they have the capacity to add things like worrying about the issues of today.

But I’d like to encourage you to engage, and not just engage but press in on what’s happening in areas like racial injustice and reconciliation, ISIS, and other current events. I have no desire to add to your burden. Instead, I’d like to provide reasons why you might get involved without taking time away from what you are already doing.

Women in the Church

Researchers have long observed that more women than men attend church. Our service to the body of Christ, then, must include being aware of the world around us, for what is in the world will indeed affect the church.

David Mathis suggests that Christians reverse the popular saying “in the world but not of the world” to “not of the world but sent into it.” Mathis uses Jesus’s high priestly prayer to argue his point:

But notice that for Jesus being “not of the world” isn’t the destination in these verses but the starting place. It’s not where things are moving toward, but what they’re moving from. He is not of the world, and he begins by saying that his followers are not of the world. But it’s going somewhere. Jesus is not huddling up the team for another round of kumbaya, but so that we can run the next play and advance the ball down the field. Enter verse 18: “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” And don’t miss the surprising prayer of verse 15: “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.”

So often we run from these hard issues, because they seem too hard to tackle along with laundry. It seems they’re best left to social justice workers, pastors, or even the media. Others might simply fear engaging—these issues seem too burdensome. How can we be sent into the world when there’s a child crying over spilled milk in the corner of the room? How can we be in the world and not of the world, when just going to the grocery store is a burden?

Great Motivator

I understand and feel the same tensions. But the Great Commission motivates me to engage and learn. If I am to go and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18-20), it is helpful to know what might be on the hearts and minds of those I engage with at the park, the grocery store, and in the church. I don’t want to assume that my burdens are the same as others. I want to be informed so that I can effectively relate to others as I seek to also share the best news they’ll ever hear.

Another motivator is the calling to love our neighbor as ourselves. If my neighbor is from Turkey, Israel, or Nigeria, for example, I’d like to at least know this background so I might ask questions and if necessary and possible, provide comfort. We don’t have to be international reporters to love our neighbors. We don’t have to know much to ask questions, but we do have to care.

We are busy with caring for the immediate, but we must remember the world.

What if we began to talk about current events and topics at the dinner table, while doing dishes, or during play dates, where appropriate? Our children will learn about these things on the playground and in the neighborhood, but wouldn’t it be helpful if we added gospel-informed understanding to what they are learning? What if we began to make praying for these current events a part of our lives? Our hearts would begin to burst.

Making It Easier

Perhaps you see the need to be informed but find the search for information to be overwhelming. The internet is saturated with information, so how might you find something helpful? Here are a few ideas to get you started: 

Listen to a podcast. Podcasts are great way to listen in on relevant issues, topics, and stories without much effort. There are a number of podcasts available, but perhaps The Briefing by Albert Mohler could be a good place to begin. You might also try Question and Ethics by Russell Moore.

Find a news source. You won’t agree with everything shared by a news source, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find something valuable. The Washington Post has a new blog, Act of Faith. I also skim the headlines on CNN.com. Christianity Today and WORLD magazine are wonderful resources as well.

Find a few good sites. I find the current events channel at The Gospel Coalition and specifically Joe Carter’s contributions helpful in this area. The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission also highlights current events and news from a Christian worldview.

This is not an exhaustive list, but perhaps it’s a start. We are busy with caring for the immediate, but we must remember the world. Taking even one step could prove to be just what the Lord uses as you seek to serve and love your neighbors. We want to be informed so that when we face the discouraging news of the hour, we mourn with hope in the gospel. Let’s be ready to give an answer by hearing the trouble and pouring out peace and hope (1 Pet. 3:15). Let these words from our Savior bring us comfort: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). 

by Trillia Newbell at April 23, 2015 05:03 AM

Join Them in Their Joy

As Christians who take the Bible’s teaching on heaven and hell seriously, we are often faced with the tension between the mundane joys of life and the reality of the eternal stakes. During certain seasons of my life this tension has been paralyzing. How could I attend a college football game knowing that thousands of my fellow fans were lost and perishing? How could I enjoy the simple joys of picnics and Frisbee when many of those passing by were accursed and cut off from Christ? How can I experience and enjoy the normal delights of human life when we’re all perched on a ledge with the New Jerusalem on one side and the burning fields of Gehenna on the other, and millions traveling the broad way that leads to destruction?

I thought about these questions recently as I was reading The Brothers Karamazov with my students. After the death of the beloved elder Zosima, Alyosha Karamazov is torn between the sanctified life of the monastery and his concern for his debauched father and unbelieving brothers. In the midst of his wrestling, Alyosha has a strange experience, an encounter with the grace of the God that marks him for the rest of his life. While meditating on Christ’s first miracle at Cana of Galilee, Alyosha is stunned afresh by Jesus’s surprising way of fulfilling his mission: 

Christ visited [men’s joy] when he worked his first miracle, he helped men’s joy . . . He who loves men, loves their joy . . . [He did not come down] just for his great and awful deed [the cross], but his heart was also open to the simple, artless merrymaking of some uncouth but guileless beings, who lovingly invited him to their poor marriage feast.

Alyosha’s epiphany cut through the tension I feel between the simple joys and the eternal stakes. It revealed how much I need a bigger heart, one that’s big enough both to preach the great and awful deed, and to be open to simple and artless merrymaking. I need a heart deeply convinced that life is deadly serious, and therefore refuses to take myself so seriously. I need a heart that deeply delights in watching the game with friends, and does so precisely because we’re standing on hell’s overlook.

Alyosha’s Epiphany in the Home

For those of us who are parents, God has given us a tremendous testing ground for Alyosha’s insight. My young sons will one day stand before God. They will give an account of their lives. They will either enter into his presence, standing on his grace, or they won’t. Their faces will shine when they hear “Well done, good and faithful servant,” or their teeth will gnash as they are cast from joy with a “Depart from me, you workers of iniquity.” That’s reality. And because of that reality, it is essential that I join them in their joy, in their simple and artless merrymaking. It is essential that I turn the couch pillows into a fort, that I defend the Lego castle from the band of pirates, that squeals of laughter echo off of the walls of my home because fatherly fingers are tickling a toddler tummy. I love my sons, and I want more than anything for them join me in my joy, to join me in the joy of the Son of God (John 17:13). So I must join them in theirs.

But we can’t stop with our own families. If we only love those who love us, how are we any different from the Gentiles who don’t know God? When we love our neighbors (and even our enemies), when we join them in their joy, then we see how deeply the power of the gospel and the example of Jesus penetrates our souls.

Alyosha’s Epiphany in the World

The Jesus of Cana’s wedding compels us to get creative in loving our neighbors and friends and co-workers. We must find ways to join them in their joy, which is much harder when many of their joys have been twisted almost beyond recognition. But God gives a greater grace. The difficulty of pursuing holiness while pursuing sinful people can’t deter us (even if wisdom must make us mindful of our particular weaknesses). We don’t have to endorse their abuses to join them in their joy. Instead, we anchor ourselves in the gospel, say “thank you” for common grace, and find the beauty amid the ashes of their delight. Perhaps we need an addendum to one of our evangelical proverbs: Love the sinner, hate the sin, and love the good that sin has corrupted. 

So we search and inquire carefully. We ask questions about their interests. We look for opportunities. We remember that weddings belong to Jesus. So does cycling. And college basketball. And gardening, and Tom Clancy novels, and Wes Anderson movies, and classic cars. The earth is the Lord’s, and all of its fullness.

Make no mistake: the stakes are real. Eternal joy and eternal destruction hang in the balance. And all of us are moving one way or the other. Because of this gravity, because of the weight of glory, we must join men in their joy.

From Cana to Calvary and Back

Alyosha’s epiphany would mark him for the rest of his life. In that moment, he came face to face with the Jesus of Cana’s wedding, the Jesus of Calvary’s tree, and it broke him to the dust. “Someone visited my soul in that hour,” he would say afterward, with firm belief in his words. When he arose, he was no longer a weak and timid youth burdened by doubts and fears. He was a champion, a warrior, a fighter for men’s joy, ready to venture out on his “sojourn in the world.”

This is the glorious movement of the gospel. It leads us to Calvary and then sends us back to Cana. We ascend the Hill of the Skull and then descend to Galilee, bearing the easy yoke of the weight of glory. And we do so in hope that by joining men in their joy, they might join us in ours, that by entering into the joy of our neighbors, they might enter into the joy of our master.

by Joe Rigney at April 23, 2015 05:00 AM

CrossFit Naptown

Reminders and Updates

Thursday’s Workout:

Strength Cycle:
Back Squat Every 3:00
3 @ 63%
3 @ 72%
3+ @ 81%

WOD:
Every 4:00 Complete
40′ Lunge with Wall Ball
20 Wall Ball Sit Ups
5 Wall Climbs
5 Rounds
*rest the remainder of the 4:00 once work is completed

 

Reminders:

 

5:45am, 7am, 9am, Noon class members should be mainly parking in the 7 verticle spots on the North end of the parking lot or the parking area between the bike rack and the garage door. Please see the map below for a visual of what the heck we are talking about because directions are hard (I have no idea which way is North)! 

 

 

parking_crossfit_naptown

 

Movement Clinic:

 

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

What: 90 minutes of focused skill work on cleans and kipping (including BAR MUSCLE UPS)!

When: Saturday April 25th, 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 is here to stay and Rachel and Anna are back at it for this month’s movement clinic Saturday from 12:00-1:30pm. This month, we will be going over basic jerk progressions and skills, drills, and progressions for ALL THINGS KIPPING. 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 anna@crossfitnaptown.com or rachel@crossfitnaptown.com and we hope to see a bunch of you on Saturday!

Endurance Updates:

 

Starting in May, we will be canceling Sunday Rowing Club Class. The Tuesday and Thursday classes will remain as is. Be on the lookout in coming weeks for updates on the NapTown Running Club getting back in action!

 

by Anna at April 23, 2015 02:02 AM

512 Pixels

Apple updates its App Store Marketing Guidelines →

Apple has updated its guidelines for marketing App Store apps. There are some real gems concerning Apple Watch:

  • Always use the name Apple Watch in singular form. Do not use plural form. Do not make Apple Watch possessive. Never say Apple Watches or Apple Watch's. Modifiers such as model, device, or collection can be plural or possessive.
  • Do not use the article the before Apple Watch.
  • When referring to Apple Watch collections, use the terms Apple Watch collection, Apple Watch Sport collection, and Apple Watch Edition collection. After the first mention of a collection in copy, subsequent references can say simply Sport collection or Edition collection.
  • Custom photography and video of Apple Watch are not permitted.

Apple Watch is awkward to talk about, much less write about. Apple's removal of articles before their product names isn't anything new, but the whole collection business is a new world of hurt.

Permalink

by Stephen Hackett at April 23, 2015 01:21 AM

April 22, 2015

ASCII by Jason Scott

That Time Archive Team Decided to Back Up The Internet Archive

iabakIt’s inevitable that Archive Team would try to archive the hand that archives it.

We dump a lot of data into the Internet Archive – hundreds of gigabytes a day. And the Archive itself has a goodly amount of petabytes in its stacks. Thanks to a series of articles and appearances, the Archive’s getting some pretty good general attention. Lots of it. People are amazed, filled with wonder, impressed.

They also tend to ask the same set of questions. Some of them tend to deal with the archive’s “backup plan” or various off-the-cuff engineering questions. It’s natural, I suppose. The Internet Archive definitely has engineering and backup plans; let’s get that straight.

But the idea intrigued me, just because I like the idea of there being data that people recognize is precious (“digital heritage” is still a new and not universal concept) and the inherent power that people felt with the Archive Team downloading projects being applied to storing away additional copies of collections on archive.org, not bound by geography, politics or censorship.

So, I kind of launched into the idea of an experiment to back up the Internet Archive. Here’s the initial essay and random thoughts about it. (It’s not required reading.)

What followed then was a miniature storm, with a bunch of people weighing in about how such a thing “should” be done, how impossible it was, good people will die on the beach, etc.

But after a couple weeks of poking at the project with a stick, a working prototype came into being. We’ve been working on it, here and there, ever since, and right now, roughly 10 terabytes of Internet Archive materials are now backed up in at least three geographically separated areas around the world.

More thoughts after the short list of relevant information I wanted you to have.

  • Again, it must be stressed, this is not an Internet Archive Project. Engineers and admins at Internet Archive work all day to make the site resilient. This is 100% separate.
  • We have 47 people/clients helping at the moment. We’re ready to take on many, many more.
  • Here is a page showing the current status of the project. You can see how we add more data, and how we have people worldwide contributing.
  • As the project absorbs and verifies the 3 additional copies of the collections, additional collections are being added. So the more people, the better.
  • If you’re packing a few hundred gigabytes of disk space (or more!) connected to the Internet, and are mounting it using a Unix/Linux variant, read up here.
  • The disk space you contribute need not be permanent – if you need it back, you can delete data in stages and the system will deal with it. We just want to use space you weren’t using anyway.

Again, the startup document for getting git-annex going on your system is located here.

Some thoughts.

First, the resistance and anger from some quarters when I brought this up was unexpected, although looking back, I guess it was inevitable. The idea that it might be done “wrong” in some way, that some attempt to back up the data in an errored approach would be worse than remaining at the status quo, seems to be endemic. Regardless, I strongly believe you need something done to be able to improve it, so we’re pushing on.

Next, the way to back up the Internet Archive is not to back up the entire Internet Archive – it’s to move forward, incrementally, playing the game of “what is in here that’s almost nowhere else and the world would be rather poor for it being going”. In that way, we go for more of the “historical usenet” and “old time radio recordings” than, say, a random 1990s dance music collection. That said, as things go on, and if this experiment is successful, the dance music will get gathered up as well.

Finally, what I like about this experiment is the amount of learning that goes into it. I like being on the ground, asking the questions that need to be asked – how big exactly is the whole thing? What sort of problems occur when you’re tracking petabytes of data to back up? How how disk space is floating out there, unused, looking for a purpose, even if only temporary? What constitutes vital digital heritage? Finding out answers to those questions, getting the answers down, talking about what the whole thing means – that’s where learning comes from.

IA.BAK – it’s the best thing you could be doing with unused disk space.

 

by Jason Scott at April 22, 2015 09:43 PM

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

James May on Jack Vance

An excerpt:

When Jack Vance, one of the greatest writers of SF and fantasy, died in May of 2013, one of SF’s new breed of racialized feminists, Aliette de Bodard, multiple nominee and winner of SF’s highest awards, the Hugo and Nebula, Tweeted, “I don’t actually think I’ve read any Vance. Should I?”

Had Jack Vance been a non-white gay woman, de Bodard would’ve sent up rocket flares when he died, since she is well acquainted with the most obscure women, non-white, non-Western authors in SF and fantasy. De Bodard represents a culture within SFF that fetishizes a black mid-list SF author like Octavia Butler whose influence and talent compared to Vance is minimal but whose race, politics, and gender represents a trump card. Vance represents the complete opposite: devoted to word and artistry to the exclusion of all else. And yet Vance has been enrolled in a de facto supremacist ideology by radical feminism by fiat and so is of no interest to them whatsoever other than an example of a smotheringly oppressive patriarchy. Aside from that, an SFF writer who had never read Vance is like an Egyptologist missing a dynasty or two. It’s betrays a rather stunning disinterest and lack of knowledge of one’s own literary ancestors and history of one’s own genre.

On her blog and Twitter, De Bodard never ceases recommending literature according to the race and gender of those writing it; whether they’re actually any good or not seems immaterial. It shouldn’t be any surprise that in this new climate, de Bodard is relentlessly nominated for awards based on her own patronized and pandered to racial identity and that of her stories rather than her skills, which are nominal.

Some people saw this coming years ago, such as Gary Westfahl:

“In all the science fiction of the last half-century, the influence of the pulp tradition is, to any knowledgeable reader, not merely palpable but overwhelming. It would seem an era that science fiction scholars would be eager to study in depth.

“In the case of science fiction, the process of excluding the pulp magazines from the history of science fiction can already be observed in a number of critical studies, some of them well respected, for reasons that demand little discussion. Stories from the pulps cannot qualify for preservation on the basis of their literary quality, which is uneven at best, and given our contemporary commitment to diversity, the literature of the pulps appears to be discomfitingly and overwhelmingly white, male, North American, heterosexual, and middle class.”

The truth about SFF’s politically correct is they don’t admire any part of America’s past but condemn it wholesale, the whole ball of wax. The same is mostly true of America today, which they routinely portray as an oppressive, misogynist and racist gulag.

What is an art community that doesn’t know who its Jack Vance is? In the visual arts, what if the greatest expert on Van Gogh died and an artist said, “I’ve heard the name ‘Van Gogh’ but I’ve never seen the work; should I?” Aside from the laughingly obvious fact the answer wouldn’t depend on a dead artist’s race and gender, as is so painfully obvious with now deceased Octavia (one true cross) Butler, the answer depends on what you imagine a world of artistic endeavor looks like that doesn’t know Hemingway, Hendrix, Rembrandt, Lloyd Wright, and by extension Frazetta, Shelley, Poe, Heinlein, Lovecraft, Wells, and Burroughs. Some of the people on the wrong side of that answer are as predictable as machines:

“Cecily Kane ‏@Cecily_Kane Jun 24 Re: misogyny in SF/F. This is a rough day so far and it’s only lunchtime. *clutches new O. Butler stories*”

SFF author Michael Swanwick addresses this issue at his blog in a post titled “Losing Our Literary History.” In it Swanwick writes:

“…somebody reported attending a panel of fantasy novelists at Comic Con where a reader asked if any of them were influenced by Lord Dunsany. None of the writers had ever heard of him.”

To me, if that’s true, it’s stunning. Dunsany is a key voice in the evolution of fantasy literature and people who were fans of that literature used to be connoisseurs; without Dunsany there is no H. P. Lovecraft. When fandom failed a half-century ago there was the fan/historian/editor/writer to pick up the slack and and bring back into focus a lost voice such as Lin Carter did with Robert E. Howard and many other fantasy authors, and Sam Moskowitz did with William Hope Hodgson. What is a fan who has lost the ability to connect the dots in the evolution of his own genre? Worse, what kind of a writer is that? For an SFF writer to not know who Jack Vance is is like an architect not knowing what the Chrysler Building is. What will that architect build?

This is from an eye-opening monograph on the Death of SFF at the hands of SJWs

My comment:

SFF =/= SJW for the simple reason that no literature, speculative or not, survives the ignorance of its partisans concerning their own field. Certainly no field survives the willful, blatant, vainglorious, aggressively insolent ignorance of partisans who entered the field solely to destroy it, or, as they would say, radically transform it.

To evolve a field into new forms, as classical music grew out of baroque, is fundamentally conservative, because it honors older forms by building on them. Modern painting did not grow out of the Preraphaelite movement, or the Mannerists before them, because it merely destroyed, and did not create, leaving a wasteland, a junkyard, a cesspool.

Cesspool science fiction winning awards makes puppies sad.

by John C Wright at April 22, 2015 09:11 PM

Signal to Noise

The beautiful and talented Mrs Wright holds forth on an issue of timely import:

http://www.ljagilamplighter.com/2015/04/22/superversive-blog-signal-to-noise/

Ever wonder why you are having such a hard time getting along with that once-dear friend who is now on the far side of the political Great Divide? This post might help bridge that knowledge gap.

by John C Wright at April 22, 2015 07:59 PM

512 Pixels

Jony Ive, on Apple and the Watch →

Scarlett Kilcooley-O’Halloran, writing for Vogue:

“We don’t think about what we do in those terms,” said Ive. “Our focus has been doing our very best to create a product that’s useful. When we started on the iPhone it was because we all couldn’t bear our phones. The watch was different. We all loved our watches, but saw that the wrist was a fabulous place for technology, so there were different motivations. I don’t know how we can compare the old watches we know, with the functionality and the capability of the Apple Watch.”

The story of the Watch’s conception — in contrast to the iPhones’s — has been shared before, to the stress of many Apple watchers[1] and fans. Could something created this way be any good? Has Apple lost its touch?

I think the answer is a little further down this article:

“I think that we’re on a path that Apple was determined to be on since the Seventies, which was to try and make technology relevant and personal. If people struggle to use the technology then we have failed,” said Ive. “The consequences of that path? I don’t know. Sadly so much of our manufactured environment testifies to carelessness - something that was built to a price point or a schedule. The products that we have developed describe who made them. I hope that people will like the watch and find it a beautiful item.”

That language about technology being well-designed, relevant and personal is the language Steve Jobs taught Apple to speak.


  1. See what I did there? I'm actually very sorry. ↩

Permalink

by Stephen Hackett at April 22, 2015 06:36 PM

Google FI →

New from Google: a pay-for-what-you-use, invite-only, Nexus 6-only cellular plan that stiches together service from Sprint, T-Mobile and a Wi-Fi networks.

I can't think of anything more Google-like.

Permalink

by Stephen Hackett at April 22, 2015 06:15 PM

Light Blue Touchpaper

Medical privacy seminar on May 4th

On Monday May 4th, the Dutch medical privacy campaigner Guido van’t Noordende will visit us in Cambridge. OK, it’s a bank holiday, but that’s the only day he’ll be in town. His talk will be on The Dutch electronic patient record system and beyond – towards physician-controlled decentralized medical record exchange.

Four years ago, Guido blocked an attempt to legislate for a central hub for medical records that would have enabled doctor A to see the records of doctor B on a simple pull model; there would have been a hub at the ministry with read access to everything. Other countries have wrestled with this problem, with greater and lesser degrees of success; for example, Norway just passed a medical data-sharing law and are starting to figure out what to build. In Britain of course we had the care.data fiasco. And in the Netherlands, they’re revisiting the issue once more. This will become a live issue in one country after another.

The announcement for Guido’s talk is here.

by Ross Anderson at April 22, 2015 04:32 PM

Table Titans

Tales: Barlowe the Pirate

News

During my time in the military there were long stretches of field duty where there was little to do or long weekends where my friends and I didn't have the energy (or the money) to go out. Most of us were gamers of one type or another. So, we decided to begin a campaign with one of our more…

Read more

April 22, 2015 04:28 PM

Front Porch Republic

Why Aldo Leopold Wasn’t (thank God!) an Economist

51VFT0438HL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

He knew that costs are costs.

Read Full Article...

The post Why Aldo Leopold Wasn’t (thank God!) an Economist appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Jason Peters at April 22, 2015 02:58 PM

One Big Fluke

Feed: » stratechery by Ben Thompson

Facebook and the Feed

In a week where much of the Internet was all atwitter about Mobilegeddon, Google’s pre-announced algorithm change that will favor mobile-friendly sites in mobile search results, a potentially far more impactful announcement was much more of a surprise: Facebook is tweaking the News Feed algorithm.

This is a big deal for publishers in particular: according to Shareaholic, social referrals passed search referrals last summer and are now up to 31% of site traffic as of December, and Facebook is responsible for an incredible 79% of those social referrals.1 What is perhaps more interesting though, is what these changes mean for Facebook itself.

Understanding Facebook’s Dominance

It is increasingly clear that it is Facebook — not iOS or Android — that is the most important mobile platform. Facebook’s family of apps account for 24% of time spent on mobile, and the main Facebook app is responsible for 75% of that. Mobile apps thrive on “found time” — moments in line, or on the bus, or even on the couch where people simply want to look at something interesting — and Facebook consistently delivers for an increasing number of users all over the world. More impressively, Facebook isn’t just increasing its user base: its existing users continue to deepen their engagement with the app over time.

In this respect Facebook really is the new AOL: in the 1990s the service provided a far easier and more accessible way to get online, and by 1997 nearly 50% of all Americans got online via the service. And, just as publishers and anyone else eager for people’s attention flocked to get their content on AOL, the same is the case for Facebook: as I discussed last month publishers like the New York Times and BuzzFeed are reportedly on the verge of placing their content directly on Facebook. As long as Facebook is the easiest way to access content on mobile, publishers have little choice but to go where their readers are.

The problem with this comparison — at least from Facebook’s perspective — is that 1997 was AOL’s peak. North America’s first broadband service had launched the year previously, and as more and more customers got online through their phone or cable providers, AOL’s moat — dial-up access — evaporated away. And in the end, AOL’s content, compelling though it may have been, simply couldn’t compete with the breadth of the entire Internet.2

Facebook’s Moat

This is where, to my mind, the AOL comparison falls apart. AOL provided an essential utility that was far easier-to-use than the alternatives, but that utility was obsoleted by broadband. Facebook, on the other hand, is built on the social graph: its users’ relationships. And given that the very nature of humanity is to connect and communicate with other humans, the need that Facebook has traditionally met will be with us forever. The only danger is that another service somehow takes Facebook’s place as the Rolodex of the world.

I simply don’t see that happening. At this point, my most extreme Facebook bear case is that the service is the equivalent of an email address: something nearly everyone has because you can’t function without it, even if it’s not their preferred means of communication.

However, I say “extreme” for a reason: for many Facebook is much more than that. Here in Asia, for example, Facebook is LinkedIn: it is standard for an introductory business meeting to conclude with Facebook friend invites. Facebook is also the homepage for the vast majority of businesses: a page is much more discoverable and much easier to maintain, and most don’t even bother with a website.3 A significant amount of e-commerce happens on Facebook as well, and most celebrities and well-known bloggers post primarily or exclusively on Facebook (although Instagram is increasingly important as well). True, messaging services like WhatsApp and LINE increasingly handle one-on-one or private group conversations, but in country after country that I visit or research the social paradigm is Facebook + X social network; the X changes (and is often a Facebook property), but Facebook is the constant.4

Still, the argument I just made is about the ongoing usefulness of having a Facebook account. What about engagement?

What Drives Facebook Engagement?

This is the central question facing Facebook, and a fascinating way to think about yesterday’s News Feed changes. The Verge has a good summary:

Facebook has announced it’s twisting the knobs that control what content you see in your News Feed to favor more content from your close friends. In a post titled “News Feed FYI: Balancing Content from Friends and Pages,” Facebook said it’s making three changes. The first is that it won’t let people reach the “end” of a News Feed as easily, because it will be willing to show more content from the same publisher than it was before. Previously, you wouldn’t be likely to get two posts from the same Page. But the other two changes are more ominous for publishers, but potentially great for users who actually want to see content from their friends: “content posted by the friends you care about” will be “higher up in the News Feed.” Also, if a friend interacts with a post from a brand or publisher page, it will be less likely to show up in your News Feed.

This is hardly the first major change to Facebook’s News Feed algorithm:5 consider, for example, this major update from December 2013:

We’ve noticed that people enjoy seeing articles on Facebook, and so we’re now paying closer attention to what makes for high quality content, and how often articles are clicked on from News Feed on mobile. What this means is that you may start to notice links to articles a little more often (particularly on mobile)…

While trying to show more articles people want to read, we also don’t want people to miss the conversations among their friends. So we’re updating bumping to highlight stories with new comments…With this update stories will occasionally resurface that have new comments from friends.

This December 2013 change had a huge effect, crushing viral sites like Upworthy while bumping up traffic for sites like BuzzFeed, Business Insider, and The Guardian. What is perhaps more interesting, though, is that yesterday’s changes seem to run in the opposite direction: prioritizing friends, when 2013’s update prioritized news; and deprioritizing friends’ comments and likes, when 2013 bumped them up.

Here’s the thing: I’m quite sure the 2013 changes weren’t arbitrary. Facebook is a very data-driven company, and all available evidence suggests that the changes had their intended effect: as I noted above Facebook is not only increasing users but also deepening the engagement of their existing users quarter after quarter. That’s why I’m curious just how important data was in yesterday’s changes compared to the personal preference of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his belief about what makes Facebook valuable.

Facebook’s Vision and Potential

Zuckerberg is quite clear about what drives him; he wrote in Facebook’s S-1:

Facebook was not originally created to be a company. It was built to accomplish a social mission – to make the world more open and connected.

I am starting to wonder if these two ideas — company versus mission — might not be more in tension now than they have ever been in the past. I’m increasingly convinced that Facebook has an absolutely massive business opportunity on its hands: to capture, almost completely, the imminent wave of advertising dollars deserting TV for digital. To do so, though, will require an embrace of Facebook’s status as the “homepage of the Internet” (on mobile in particular), and an abdication of sorts of the social interactions that built the company.

For several years now the percentage of people’s attention devoted to digital has far outstripped the percentage of advertising devoted to the medium. Television and (especially) print, on the other hand, keeps a far greater share of advertising than it seems they deserve:

via BuzzFeed

via BuzzFeed

A big reason for television’s dominance in particular is that it is simply the easiest way to reach a large audience. Twitter may offer interest-based targeting, for example, but your typical brand manager simply doesn’t have the time or expertise to optimize every dollar across a broad array of platforms. Efficiency is just as much a feature of advertising as is targeting capability, conversion tracking, or price.

Still, as I wrote in Old-Fashioned Snapchat, advertisers care above all about attention, and there’s no question that television is losing it both to alternative video services like Netflix but also to digital services, especially Facebook. Last year the average user gave Facebook over 40 minutes of attention a day (and another 20 minutes to Instagram, a property capable of supporting a very Facebook-like advertising unit), and that number continues to grow. Given Facebook’s excellent targeting capabilities and aspirations for Atlas’s ability to provide conversion tracking (members-only), it’s not inconceivable that, at some point in the relatively near future, it is Facebook that is the default advertising medium, commanding dollars that exceed its already dominant share of attention. Still, this outcome depends on Facebook driving ever-more engagement, and I’m not convinced that more “content posted by the friends [I] care about” is the best path to success.

What Matters to Users?

Everyone loves to mock Paul Krugman’s 1998 contention about the limited economic impact of the Internet:

The growth of the Internet will slow drastically, as the flaw in “Metcalfe’s law”–which states that the number of potential connections in a network is proportional to the square of the number of participants–becomes apparent: most people have nothing to say to each other!

It’s worth considering, though, just how much users value what their friends have to say versus what professional media organizations produce. Again, as I noted above, Facebook made the 2013 decision to increase the value of newsworthy links for a reason, and in the time since, BuzzFeed in particular has proven that there is a consistent and repeatable way to not only reach a large number of people but to compel them to share content as well. Was Krugman wrong because he didn’t appreciate the relative worth people put on what folks in their network wanted to say, or because he didn’t appreciate that people in their network may not have much to say but a wealth of information to share?

I suspect that Zuckerberg for one subscribes to the first idea: that people find what others say inherently valuable, and that it is the access to that information that makes Facebook indispensable. Conveniently, this fits with his mission for the company. For my part, though, I’m not so sure. It’s just as possible that Facebook is compelling for the content it surfaces, regardless of who surfaces it. And, if the latter is the case, then Facebook’s engagement moat is less its network effects than it is that for almost a billion users Facebook is their most essential digital habit: their door to the Internet.

Facebook’s Choice

I’ve written previously about publishers and the smiling curve, the idea that value is increasingly flowing to aggregators on the right and differentiated content creators on the left; publishers are being left in the cold.

Publishers and the Smiling Curve

Publishers and the Smiling Curve

Facebook is slowly but surely building a bridge between the left and right sides of that curve: publishers are being invited into a revenue-sharing content-on-Facebook deal now, but what is to stop the program from extending to individuals? Same thing with Facebook’s video unit, which is on pace to attract more advertisers than YouTube. Were this to happen, it’s easy to see Facebook as a one-stop shop for even more users than today, and were that to happen, advertisers would inevitably follow to an even greater degree.

This course, though, depends on Facebook giving users exactly what they want, or at least a good enough mix, in their news feed, and as I noted, I’m not convinced personal updates is enough. Moreover, while Facebook may view “the network” as their differentiator, the fact is that a lot of “friend” sharing is indeed moving to alternative networks like Snapchat and LINE and WhatsApp. With this News Feed update I am concerned that Facebook is limiting itself and committing to a battle — the private sharing of information — it can’t necessarily win.

Consider Facebook’s smartest acquisition, Instagram. The photo-sharing service is valuable because it is a network, but it initially got traction because of filters. Sometimes what gets you started is only a lever to what makes you valuable. What, though, lies beyond the network? That was Facebook’s starting point, and I think the answer to what lies beyond is clear: the entire online experience of over a billion people. Will Facebook seek to protect its network — and Zuckerberg’s vision — or make a play to be the television of mobile?


I will admit, I write this analysis with mixed feelings: from a strategic perspective, I think Facebook should go for it — be the dominant interaction model on mobile for every user on earth (outside of China). On the other hand, as an advocate and beneficiary of the open web, I do fear this future and wonder: What might be the broadband to Facebook’s dial-up?

  1. Pinterest is second, with 16% of social referral, and Twitter a distant third, with only 3% of social referrals
  2. AOL — now Aol — still exists of course, but it’s basically another Yahoo; relatively high-traffic sites monetized through relatively undifferentiated advertising. That said, it is more profitable…thanks to dial-up!
  3. As I’ve written previously, WeChat fills these roles in China, where Facebook is banned
  4. That is why I was not surprised to see this month’s Pew Research report that showed that Facebook was still the dominant social networking service amongst teenagers, past scaremongering notwithstanding
  5. Buffer’s blog has a running list

The post Facebook and the Feed appeared first on stratechery by Ben Thompson.

by Ben Thompson at April 22, 2015 02:19 PM

eagereyes

Link: The Power of Wee Things

Lena Groeger (of ProPublica) has written a beautiful piece about the Power of Wee Things. She talks about using small things, multiples, and units to display data and get people interested. The article goes through many, many examples covering many different areas and ideas. She also gave a great talk on the topic at OpenVis 2014.

On a somewhat related note, Jake Harris wrote about the importance of individual items in data journalism and visualization, and how to connect with them. The two pieces work very well together to illustrate a way of visualizing data that is often overlooked.

by Robert Kosara at April 22, 2015 02:17 PM

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

Do presently lose all desire for light

A man with a PhD in English holds forth on my hidden neofascism:

“If you got John C. Wright drunk at the bar, you could get him to admit that he thinks transhumanism and black people are ugly for the same reason.”

Actually, I am a teetotaler, and I always tell the truth, and I have absolutely no inhibitions about telling the truth requiring the seduction of wine to overcome. It will come as a surprise to my adopted daughter that I am a racist, I assure you.

Someone who pretends to know me well enough to discern the secret and yet strangely always discreditable workings of my hidden heart would know those two things about me.

This is the way of evil. Evil lies because no one is attracted to evil when its nature is clear. The lie serves only limited use, and must be extended and expanded in order to maintain credibility. The lie metastasizes, and grows to a point when no sane man can believe it any longer.

They tell lies even beyond the point where anyone is expected to believe or be deceived by them, pointless lies, absurd lies, unintentionally comedic lies. (Note this comment here.)

At that point, a man makes a decision: either he is loyal to sanity, abandons the lie and saves himself; or so great is his loyalty to the lie, he makes himself go mad, hating sanity and sunlight, and he rides the cherished wreck down through the maelstrom into the darkness.

Even such souls as that can be saved. I was sunk lower than this, and so I pity and do not despise. How empty his life must be if he has nothing but these cold and angular self deceptions to clasp to his breast for comfort, false as the smile of a harlot, and nothing but venom for his milk.

For those of you who do not catch the obscure reference above, it is from the pen of Tim Powers:

“…They move in dark, old places of the world:
Like mariners, once healthy and clear-eyed,
Who, when their ship was holed, could not admit
Ruin and the necessity of flight,
But chose instead to ride their cherished wreck
Down into darkness; there not quite to drown,
But ever on continue plying sails
Against the midnight currents of the depths,
Moving from pit to pit to lightless crag
In hopeless search for some ascent to shore;
And who, in their decayed, slow voyaging
Do presently lose all desire for light
And air and living company-from here
Their search is only for the deepest groves,
Those farthest from the nigh-forgotten sun.. .”
-from “The Twelve Hours of the Night”
(The Anubis Gates)
 

by John C Wright at April 22, 2015 01:58 PM

Reformedish

Mere Fidelity Podcast: Beyond the Abortion Wars

This week we had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Charles Camosy of Fordham University on the show. He’s written an impressive new book on the subject of abortion Beyond the Abortion Wars, and so we wanted to have him on to engage him on some of the more difficult questions such as exceptions in the case of mortal threat to the mother and so forth. Because why talk about the easy bits? Please give it a listen, and feel free to weigh in over in the comments at MereOrthodoxy.com.

Soli Deo Gloria


by Derek Rishmawy at April 22, 2015 01:23 PM

Crossway Blog

How to Win 2 Study Bibles for the New ESV Bible App

A Powerful New Tool for Studying the Bible

The new ESV Bible app for iPhone and iPad allows you to read study content alongside the biblical text—helping you understand and engage with God's Word on a deeper level.

How to Enter

We're giving 25 people free digital access to both the ESV Study Bible and the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible via the new app.

To enter the drawing, all you need to do is fill out a brief survey and share what you like about the new app on social media.

Enter today!

by Matt Tully at April 22, 2015 01:19 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

Reliving Christ’s Passion [Awakening Faith]

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

We must sacrifice ourselves to God, each day and in everything we do, accepting all that happens to us for the sake of the Word, imitating his passion by our sufferings, and honoring his blood by shedding our own. We must be ready to be crucified. If you are a Simon of Cyrene, take up your cross and follow Christ. If you are crucified beside him like one of the thieves, acknowledge your God like the good thief. For your sake, and because of your sin, Christ himself was regarded as a sinner; for his sake, therefore, you must cease to sin. Worship him who was hung on the cross because of you, even if you are hanging there yourself.

Choose to benefit from your shame, and purchase salvation with your death. Enter paradise with Jesus, and discover how far you have fallen. Contemplate the glories there, and leave the other blasphemous thief to die outside. If you are a Joseph of Arimathea, go to the one who ordered hiscrucifixion, and ask for Christ’s body. Make your own atonement for the sins of the whole world. If you are a Nicodemus, the man who worshiped God by night, bring spices and prepare Christ’s body for burial. If you are one of the Marys or Salome or Joanna, weep in the early morning. Be the first to see the stone rolled back, and even the angels perhaps, and Jesus himself.

Gregory of Nazianzus

 

Awakening Faith DevotionalAwakening Faith: Daily Devotionals from the Early Church

by James Stuart Bell and Patrick J. Kelly

Buy it Today:

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by ZA Blog at April 22, 2015 01:00 PM

Why is the Bible Always the Number One Bestseller?

(Can’t see the video? Watch it here)

A Doubter's Guide to the BibleExcept for 2007, when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows sold 40 million copies, every year the Bible has been the number one bestseller.

Why is the Bible so popular? In today’s video John Dickson, author of A Doubter’s Guide to the Bible, explains two possible reasons:

  1. “The Church imposes it on the world; it makes this Book the popular book.”
  2. “The Bible tells a story from the first book, Genesis, to the last book, Revelation, that people long to be true.”

Dickson goes on to explain what he says in his book: “[the Bible's] account of humanity and the world we live in rings true. Reading the Bible can be like meeting someone you don’t know who, oddly, somehow seems to know you deeply.” (10)

A Doubter’s Guide to the Bible takes people who doubt through the entire biblical narrative that touches on their skeptical questions. Watch his video to learn more.

by Jeremy Bouma at April 22, 2015 12:20 PM

Inconsolation

x_x: The Dead Guy CLI

With barely a week left for this site, I’m beginning to trim away programs that I just probably won’t get to, by virtue of time or technical dilemmas. I’m also making a conscious effort to pick out titles that amuse me in one form or another, so I finish with happy memories. :P

x_x, which I mentally refer to as “the Dead Guy CLI,” because the home page uses that as a subtitle, is a rather nifty tool that I’m surprised I haven’t seen covered elsewhere. Using a bland, dull, boring Excel spreadsheet borrowed from a corner of the Interweb, Dead Guy CLI transmogrifies it into this:

2015-04-21-6m47421-x_x

Well isn’t that clever.

Dead Guy CLI gives you a small measure of control over your output, by allowing you to specify a header row or allow for special encoding. It also works with CSV files, so you’re not strapped trying to convert back and forth to Excel, just to fiddle with x_x.

Aside from that though, Dead Guy CLI seems very simple. Of course, your spreadsheet may need some management if you expect it to fit into a certain dimension, but I am confident that as a skilled and capable member of the information age, you won’t throw a wobbly over a pear-shaped spreadsheet.

Keep x_x in mind when you’re thinking about things like csv2xls or xlhtml, since it may save you a step or prevent you from relying on graphical tools just to extract data from a spreadsheet. And of course, if you’re working with csv files, x_x could supplement what tabview or other tools can do.

For my own recordkeeping, Dead Guy CLI gets points for doing something obvious that I don’t recall seeing elsewhere. And also for the snarky name. I’m a fan of snarky names. :twisted:


Tagged: ascii, change, chart, convert, csv, data, excel, file, spreadsheet, xls

by K.Mandla at April 22, 2015 12:00 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

What Stoicism means to me

One of my friends told me that he couldn’t quite square Stoicism and what he knew about me. The general impression of Stoicism is, well, the “stiff upper lip” sort of stoicism, and quite a few people have told me that I’m one of the happiest and most optimistic people that they know. So I figured I’d write about it a little.

2015-04-20d What does Stoicism mean to me -- index card #stoicism

2015-04-20d What does Stoicism mean to me – index card #stoicism

I get my understanding of Stoicism from people like Epictetus, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, the people who translated their books, and more recent authors like William Irvine. The philosophy was pretty similar to how I saw the world growing up, and reading about the ancient Stoics (and similar schools of thought) helped me flesh out those thoughts further because I could take advantage of other people’s insights.

I really appreciated having inspiring role models, time-tested tools, and a wider vocabulary for recognizing and working with my thoughts. I liked the validation of equanimity as a goal in itself (not just pleasure or happiness). I found negative visualization and other Stoic practices to be really good at helping you develop appreciation and deepen your joy. I liked the sharp delineation between things you can control and things you can’t, and the radical freedom and responsibility this helps you realize.

More about equanimity:

2015-04-03d Equanimity -- index card #philosophy #equanimity

2015-04-03d Equanimity – index card #philosophy #equanimity

On a related note, this might explain a little bit about the wonder that fills my universe:

2015-04-20c The glass is amazing -- index card #philosophy #perspective

2015-04-20c The glass is amazing – index card #philosophy #perspective

Anyway, so that’s how that works for me!

The post What Stoicism means to me appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at April 22, 2015 12:00 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

“Happiness Depends on You”: On the Road with Scott Bold and Michelle Eshleman

This is a traveler case study. (Read others or nominate yourself.)

Dreams can change, as was the case of Scott Bold’s childhood dream. The younger Scott wanted a good job and decent salary, but his adult self wanted something else. So along with his girlfriend Michelle Eshleman, they set out on a different course.

Introduce yourselves.

I’m Scott, and my girlfriend is Michelle. We were both working successful but stressful jobs (engineering for me, counseling for her) in Washington, DC. I had worked my whole life to have a job I liked, and was disappointed to instead feel like I was slowly dying. We decided we wanted to get away from our jobs and lives and backpack from Nicaragua all the way to Torres Del Paine, Patagonia by land or sea only (no planes), learning Spanish and volunteering along the way.

What inspired you to travel?

After I achieved everything I had dreamed of as a child – a nice car, high-paying job, good friends, fancy meals, and gadgets – I still wasn’t happy. I looked at everyone higher up than me at my job and didn’t see my happiness reflected there (not to mention they didn’t seem happy, either). So I questioned what made me happy, and realized what I wanted was freedom, new experiences, and exploration.

Michelle had considered traveling in a two-week per year sort of way until we met. She supported my dream, and decided focusing on herself and changing the way she worked might be for her, too.

ScottBold8

Michelle in the San Blas Islands.

How did you transition away from full-time employment?

Once I saved enough money to leave my job, Michelle still needed more time. We road-tripped down the east coast of the U.S. to find the perfect, relaxed beach town to finish saving money and stumbled upon Wilmington, North Carolina.

But a few days after we moved, Michelle’s job fell through. With a seven month lease and no income, we fretted that we’d have to go back to the life we were trying to escape.

However, Michelle was always an artist and I was always a creative, business-minded hustler. Michelle started to create paintings with inspirational quotes and tried selling them on Etsy under the name Paintspiration Art. Within two months, sales were strong enough that she stopped looking for a “real” job.

Simultaneously, I turned our apartment into a thriving Airbnb rental which allowed us to pay most of our bills, host great people, and meet travelers from all over the world.

After a short time home for the holidays, we bought one-way tickets to Nicaragua.

ScottBold11

Crossing from Costa Rica into Panama over a bridge on the Caribbean side.

Did traveling chase away your inner feelings of unhappiness?  

About 4 months in, I started getting sick of backpacking. I missed home, was exhausted, and wished I could take a break. I couldn’t believe I felt that way – it was akin to how I’d felt at my job. I had been so sure that once I was in charge of my life, I would never wish I was elsewhere, dreaming of the future. But there I was with that exact feeling.

That moment really hit me. I understood my sense of happiness and contentment had nothing to do with external circumstances and everything to do with what I was focusing on.

And I was focusing on the negatives: the bad food, the questionable living conditions, the difficulties of communication. I was doing it so much that I forgot about all of the amazing positives.

The same thing had happened at my job. I focused on the fact that I had to be there and didn’t like what I did. I could have focused more on the great friends I had and the awesome lifestyle I was able to live.

From that point forward, I practiced catching myself when I was focusing on the negative and switched it over.

ScottBold10

Scott with the kids at the Milagro School in Peru, where we volunteered for 6 weeks as Teachers/Coordinators.

What was it like to pause your traveling and volunteer? 

It was my idea to volunteer teaching English in Peru, and I went into it with high expectations. I’d never taught anything formally, but I liked teaching and am good with kids, so it seemed like a good fit.

But my first day was rough. I wound up leading my first class alone – it was trial by fire. Despite appearing confident, I was terrified. My Spanish was conversational, but that didn’t mean I felt comfortable in my abilities to engage and entertain a roomful of 34 hyper Peruvian kids.

Walking into the classroom, my heart was pounding. Why did I volunteer for this? Travel was supposed to be fun.

The class was out of control, kids literally bouncing off the walls. The door fell shut. I was officially trapped. I’d be teaching this class whether I liked it or not. I don’t know who wanted to be there less, me or the kids.

I said my first greeting, “Buenos Dias, Clase!”

Crickets.

Thirty four sets of eyes glued on me: blank, suspicious stares. They were not amused. I was just another white guy volunteer that knew a couple of words of Spanish. They’d seen people like me before.

I was nervous and it showed. I was certain they could smell the fear from the moment I walked in.

At this point I was panicking. A thousand thoughts, all at once, racing through my brain. My already fragile ego was crumbling and I didn’t think I could recover.

But I did recover.

Not so much that day (my first class was admittedly bad), but over the course of the next 6 weeks I learned and started to look more like a teacher. I shifted my focus from trying to change the world to building meaningful relationships with those kids and my fellow volunteers. I spent less time ‘trying’ to teach and force English on them and more time just being there for them and teaching them what they wanted to know.

And with those shifts, the teaching became a lot easier. The kids started to trust and even like me. And I learned to relax and laugh at the silly mistakes I made. We all laughed together and I think we learned too.

By the end my time there, it was hard to leave. The kids had taken to calling me “Professor Thor” because I had long blonde hair and liked to work out. I could barely leave my apartment without hearing the calls of children, “Professor Thor! Professor Thor!” as they laughed and played in the streets.

ScottBold7

Scott in Calafate Patagonia.

Tell us about a memorable moment from the road. 

As we got close to the southern tip of South America, we were excited to hike in the famous Torres del Paine National Park. Several people told us to skip the 62 mile “W” trek we planned because the weather was unpredictable. Then, we met another American couple who just finished the W trek – and told us about the beauty they experienced. They made us promise not only to start the hike, but not to quit.

We were nervous the night before we left. We could hardly sleep through the howling winds, pouring rains, and freezing cold temperatures– and we were inside and under a pile of blankets! How in the world would we survive the Patagonian winter weather armed with nothing but a tent and sleeping bag?

Come morning, we saw countless rainbows on our drive to the park – and we mistook them for good omens. We hiked 10 miles with freezing rain whipping in our faces. Everything we brought was soaked – our clothes, sleeping bags, packs. That first night in our tent, Michelle woke up shivering and was certain in her half sleepy state that she was getting frost bite on her toes. The next morning, toes intact, we were greeted by the most beautiful sunrise over a brilliant aqua blue lake. We had to keep going.

Over the next 4 days we encountered snow so thick we couldn’t see the mountains and valleys along our path, winds so strong they literally knocked us off our feet. At some of the higher elevation look-outs, we had to literally crawl to the edge because we couldn’t stand up. The 100 mph wind gusts ripped bridges apart and viciously snapped at our tiny tent. But we pressed on, sleeping in our little tent each night and huddling together for warmth – and seeing the sunrise over the famous Torres the park is named for was absolutely worth it.

How do you pay for your travels?

Originally, savings. We travel on the cheap and slow: couchsurfing, volunteering, independent hiking, camping, hitch-hiking, and homestays allow us to reduce costs considerably. During 9 months in Latin America, our average daily costs were around $25 per person.

Now though, I’ve been using investing strategies to make my savings last longer, and have income from my personal blog. Michelle’s paintings cover her daily expenses and she manages her shop from the road.

ScottBold12

Crossing the border from Peru to Bolivia (it was a zoo that day!).

You’re travel hackers. Tell us your favorite programs!

I started travel hacking a few years ago and passed on that skill to Michelle, who is a skeptic turned travel hacking pro. We focus on big credit card bonuses and put as much of our spending as possible on our cards. Typically, we each open 1-2 credit cards a year to take advantage of sign-up bonuses.

We’ve used various programs and airlines (United, American, Starwood, Chase Ultimate Rewards), but more recently Chase has become our favorite due to the signup bonuses and flexibility. United Airlines is my favorite for booking award travel because they have great availability, even on ridiculous flights like NRT to SXM (only 37,500 miles).

In the last 5 years, we’ve earned somewhere between 500k-700k miles.

The great debate: aisle or window?

Michelle loves the window, and I prefer the aisle.

ScottBold6

Michelle about to gnaw on me and the rest of tour group in the Salt Flats (Salar de Uyuni) of Bolivia.

Best travel tips. Go:

Travel is 90% attitude.

Learn to appreciate each experience for what it is and to remind yourself that it’s only temporary. I’ve noticed discomforts and challenges, when taken with a light attitude, tend to become my best stories.

Book on arrival.

We’ve found it’s cheaper to book as you go. When you book online or in advance, the price is often inflated. Don’t pay the premium for convenience (and miss the chance to haggle!).

Where are you headed next?

Our plan is spend the first half of 2015 in India and SE Asia. We are buying a one way ticket but will return by the summer for several weddings. After that we plan to settle for a year and focus on creative fulfillment through the small businesses we plan to run.

Follow Scott’s travels on his site, For the Ride, or via Twitter @scottbold.

###

    by Chris Guillebeau at April 22, 2015 09:07 AM

    Brewster Kahle's Blog

    Locking the Web Open, a Call for a Distributed Web

    Presentation by Brewster Kahle, Internet Archive Digital Librarian at Ford Foundation NetGain gathering, — a call from 5 top foundations to think big about prospects for our digital future. (via archive.org )


    Hi, I’m Brewster Kahle, Founder of the Internet Archive. For 25 years we’ve been building this fabulous thing—the Web. I want to talk to you today about how can we Lock the Web Open.


    CodeLawOne of my heroes, Larry Lessig, famously said that “Code is Law.” The way we code the Web will determine the way we live online. So we need to bake our values into our code.

    Freedom of expression needs to be baked into our code. Privacy should be baked into our code. Universal access to all knowledge. But right now, those values are not embedded in the Web.


    IA_serversIt turns out that the World Wide Web is very fragile. But it is huge. At the Internet Archive we collect 1 billion pages a week. We now know that Web pages only last about 100 days on average before they change or disappear. They blink on and off in their servers.


    map_China_RussiaAnd the Web is massively accessible, unless you live in China. The Chinese government has blocked the Internet Archive, the New York Times, and other sites from its citizens. And so do other countries every once in a while.


    Censorship_flic.kr_p_gZZRQvSo the Web is not reliableAnd the Web isn’t private. People, corporations, countries can spy on what you are reading. And they do. We now know that Wikileaks readers were targeted by the NSA and the UK’s equivalent. We, in the library world, know the value of reader privacy.


    It-is-FunBut the Web is fun. We got one of the three things right. So we need a Web that is Reliable, Private but is still Fun. I believe it is time to take that next step. And It’s within our reach.

    Imagine “Distributed Web” sites that are as functional as Word Press blogs, Wikimedia sites, or even Facebook. But How?


    Tubes_flic_kr_p_89HvvdContrast the current Web to the internet—the network of pipes that the World Wide Web sits on top of. The internet was designed so that if any one piece goes out, it will still function. The internet is a truly distributed system. What we need is a Next Generation Web; a truly distributed Web.


    Peer2PeerHere’s a way of thinking about it: Take the Amazon Cloud. The Amazon Cloud works by distributing your data. Moving it from computer to computer—shifting machines in case things go down, getting it closer to users, and replicating it as it is used more. That’s a great idea. What if we could make the Next Generation Web work that, but across the entire internet, like an enormous Amazon Cloud?

    In part, it would be based on Peer-to-peer technology—systems that aren’t dependent on a central host or the policies of one particular country. In peer-to-peer models, those who are using the distributed Web are also providing some of the bandwidth and storage to run it.

    Instead of one web server per website we would have many. The more people or organizations that are involved in the distributed Web, the safer and faster it will become. The next generation Web also needs a distributed authentication system without centralized log-in and passwords. That’s where encryption comes in.


    Private-e1423717177408And it also needs to be Private—so no one knows what you are reading. The bits will be distributed—across the Net—so no one can track you from a central portal.


    MemoryAnd this time the Web should have a memory. We’d build in a form of versioning, so the Web is archived thru time. The Web would no longer exist in a land of the perpetual present.

    Plus it still needs to be Fun—malleable enough spur the imaginations of a millions of inventors. How do we know that it can work? There have been many advances since the birth of the Web in 1992.


    Blockchain_JavaWe have computers that are 1000 times faster. We have JAVAScript that allows us to run sophisticated code in the browser. So now readers of the distributed web could help build it. Public key encryption is now legal, so we can use it for authentication and privacy. And we have Block Chain technology that enables the Bitcoin community to have a global database with no central point of control.


    NewWebI’ve seen each of these pieces work independently, but never pulled together into a new Web. That is what I am challenging us to do.

    Funders, and leaders, and visionaries– This can be a Big Deal. And it’s not being done yet! By understanding where we are headed, we can pave the path.


    DistributedWebLarry Lessig’s equation was Code = Law. We could bake the First Amendment into the code of a next generation Web.

    We can lock the web open.
    Making openness irrevocable.
    We can build this.
    We can do it together.


    Delivered February 11, 2015 at the Ford Foundation-hosted gathering: NetGain, Working Together for a Stronger Digital Society

    by brewster at April 22, 2015 08:30 AM

    The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

    When Ministry Success Becomes an Idol

    I remember exactly where I was when I lost interest in professional sports.

    In 1998 the World Cup was in France, and the player to watch was Michael Owen, starting forward for England. He was that country’s youngest player ever to participate in a World Cup. I was 16. Michael Owen was 18. I was in my parent’s basement in mid-Missouri. He was in the Stade de Toulouse in France. I played JV soccer, defense specifically, because I couldn’t score. But Owen was scoring goals against the best players in the world. He was internationally famous. I was moderately popular in my high school.

    The players were just as exciting as before I lost interest in professional sports; they hadn’t changed. But somewhere along the way, as I grew up, things had changed for me. My perspective had become twisted. I loved sports because one day I could be a star, or so I thought.

    But at 16, I now had the sinking feeling that dreams long cultivated would not be harvested: in two years, I was not going to catch Owen.

    All of this came flooding back to me a few months back at the church office. In the stack of mail was Christianity Today. The cover story was titled “33 Under 33.” I just stared at the cover, as though opening it and skimming the pages would declare me guilty of something.

    Temptation won.

    The article celebrates, as you might expect, 33 leaders in Christianity (authors, pastors, musicians, entrepreneurs, political activists, and even a dancer) who are making a difference for Jesus. And they all have one thing in common (besides being on Twitter): they are all 33 years old or younger.

    I flipped the pages, and I stared at them—their super cool bios, trendy haircuts, and young faces. And they stared at me, all smiles.

    I frowned. It seemed, all over again, as though Michael Owen was scoring goals in France, and I was in my parent’s basement.

    Since this initial, deflating moment in the church office, I’ve had more time to think. Here’s what was going on in my heart.

    1. Anything Can Become an Idol

    The capacity of the human heart to turn anything into an idol is astounding. To paraphrase Tim Keller in Counterfeit Gods, when something, even a good thing, becomes an ultimate thing, then idolatry happens. Keller writes:

    What is an idol? It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give. . . . 

    An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, “If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I’ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure.” There are many ways to describe that kind of relationship to something, but perhaps the best one is worship.

    We can do this (idolatry) with just about anything. We can do it with soccer and athletics, or with beauty and power. We can do it with career advancement, reputation in academia, political causes, or with family and children. We can do it with marriage or with singleness, profit or artistic expression.

    “A-good-thing-turned-ultimate-thing” can even be true of Christian ministry success—the kind of Christian ministry success that appears in the glossy pages of Christianity Today, calling to pastors from the stack of mail on the counter. In the CT article, Sam Hurd wrote:

    Today, as American Christianity faces declining affiliation, intense public debates over religious freedom, changes in the family structure, and technological advances, millennial Christians have already picked up the baton. For this story, CT set out to find young believers who we think are leading today’s church in key ways—and who embody what it will look like in the years to come (Sam Hurd, CT, July/August 2014, 35).

    The problem was not with the article; it was with my own heart. In other words, we should celebrate the provision of God and the faithfulness of his people, not bemoan our own anonymity. It was never about “us.” It was never about me. Lord, forgive me for making the advancement of your kingdom about the advancement of mine. 

    2. God Changes People

    By the grace of God, people can, and do, change. Their desires can change; their worship can change. Through the gospel, people leave behind false gods and turn to the true God. Through Jesus, we can say that God “has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his the beloved Son” (Col. 1:13).

    On the morning I read “33 Under 33,” the jealous urge was just a twinge, just a moment. Fifteen years ago, watching Owen in the World Cup, it was not just a twinge. Fifteen years ago, a sinkhole opened up, a foundation crumbled, and a house built on sand went splat. Fifteen years ago, there was not sorrow, but despair. Keller writes:

    There is a difference between sorrow and despair. Sorrow is pain for which there are sources of consolation. Sorrow comes from losing one good thing among others, so that, if you experience a career reversal, you can find comfort in your family to get you through it. Despair, however, is inconsolable, because it comes from losing an ultimate thing. When you lose the ultimate source of your meaning or hope, there are no alternative sources to turn to. It breaks your spirit.

    Since the time of Michael Owen, international phenom, versus Benjamin Vrbicek, JV peon, a decade and a half of life has passed. In that time—only by God’s grace—a new foundation has been laid with Christ as the cornerstone. That foundation cannot be shaken.

    3. Start Strong, Finish Strong

    What matters in a race is how you finish. That’s when they give the medals. I’m thankful for the young men and women celebrated by CT. I really am. I read their blogs and listen to their music. And now I’m praying for them the same thing I pray for myself: that we would finish strong.

    Marriages can start well, pastorates can start well, and so can the Christian life. But consider Solomon in the Old Testament or Demas in the New Testament (Col. 4:14, Philemon 1:4, 2 Tim. 4:10). They seemed to start well, but they failed at what really counts: finishing well. 

    When we get to heaven, the true measure of every ministry will be evaluated, and faithfulness to Christ will be fully seen and rewarded. In light of that future, our highest aim should be to finish well, and hear in the end, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” No matter our age, relative fame, or anonymity, may we all be able to say with Paul, “[We] have fought the good fight, [we] have finished the race, [we] have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7).

    by Benjamin Vrbicek at April 22, 2015 05:01 AM

    Can Tax Law Have a Caring and Creative Side?

    Bob Oesch lives in St. Louis, Missouri, where he serves as managing partner of the law firm of Reizman Berger, P.C. He has practiced in the field of estate planning since 1989, and chairs the trusts and estates practice at his firm. He and his wife attend The Journey, where TGC Council Member Darrin Patrick is lead pastor.


    How would you describe your work? What do you do every day?

    My law practice falls into two primary categories—planning and administration. On the planning side, I help clients own and pass assets to their beneficiaries in wise ways while trying to avoid four different types of taxes. On the administration side, I guide fiduciaries in carrying out their complicated jobs of administering a trust or estate. I strive to be a family advisor and counselor at law, providing both tax advice and wisdom in dealing with families.

    As an image-bearer of God, how does your work reflect some aspect of God’s work?

    My work reflects God’s work in three main ways. First, in the planning stage, I get to be intellectually creative and innovative. The tax law is complex, with a lot of rules and regulations, but I seek creative ways for families to save money. Creating tax strategies and applying them in my client’s situation is actually creative, and a tiny echo of the creative nature of God.

    Second, estate planning is in essence helping people be good stewards of their family resources. Stewardship includes preserving and protecting assets, and also designing ownership methods that are wise and appropriate for their loved ones.

    Finally, when a client passes away, I have a chance to be what’s rather unexpected: a caring and compassionate attorney. I try to add expertise to these qualities so I can help care for surviving loved ones by administering the will and ensuring that one’s wishes are carried out. In most cases, the husband passes away first, leaving his widow with a tremendous amount of financial and tax pressure. I get to help her in practical ways during this time of great need.

    How does your work give you a unique vantage point into the brokenness of the world?

    On the planning side, the ultimate brokenness of the world—our very mortality—is at the center of my work. All of us are going to die, and I help my clients plan for this certainty.

    On the administrative side, I work with broken family dynamics, personal problems, and relational struggles. Each family is broken in a unique way—whether siblings are fighting or the love of money is driving a wedge in the family.

    Jesus commands us to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” How does your work function as an opportunity to love and serve others?

    In my work, I get paid to be the expert—but that doesn’t mean that I have to be caring or compassionate. While a young attorney, I took a theology class at Covenant Seminary and was deeply affected by the concept of imago Dei. This doctrine shapes how I interact with and care for my clients as people, image bearers, no matter how rich or poor, problematic or broken. Yes, I want to be a tax expert and good attorney, but I also want to value people as image-bearers whose presence offers a glimpse of God’s glory.


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

    by Bethany Jenkins at April 22, 2015 05:01 AM

    8 Lies Christians Believe About Success

    I have spent my whole life trying to be successful. I thought it was what we were supposed to do. Worse than that, I thought success was the mark of a blessed Christian.

    If God loves you he’ll bless you, says the prayer of Jabez and North America’s favorite verse, Jeremiah 29:11. His desire is to prosper us, not to harm us—to give us hope and a future.

    Just look at all those megachurches, with their million-dollar sanctuaries. Look at all those bestselling Jesus-loving authors and speakers.

    But then there are the 21 Egyptians, or the 30 Ethiopians, martyred recently for their Christian faith. There are the faithful pastors who don’t have megachurches, who suffer heartache and setbacks. And there is my own journey as a Christian author, through anorexia, miscarriage, and anxiety. And there are countless other believers who do the right thing, who say the right prayers, who believe, and yet who know the anguish of Job.

    At some point in my life, Christianity had become a magic wand instead of a humble posture.

    Here are some lies we in the church often believe about success.

    1. Bigger is better.

    No, in fact, small is good. Small is the only way to get into the kingdom of heaven. We are to become like a child. A child is defenseless, dependent. A child has no “status” in today’s world. He or she doesn’t strive, but rather dwells. “Unless you become like one of these,” Jesus says, “you will not enter the kingdom” (Matt. 18:3).

    2. God’s blessing is tangible.

    Blessed are the poor, blessed are the meek, blessed are those who grieve, blessed are those who hunger and thirst, blessed are the pure in heart. These beatitudes have nothing to do with physical or material blessings, and everything to do with entering eternal life now by knowing Christ fully.

    3. God helps those who help themselves.

    When God tells us to become like a child, he doesn’t mean “become like a child emotionally but make sure you have life insurance and pension and a stocked pantry.” No, he means seek first the kingdom of heaven and all of these things—the food, the clothing, the future—will be added unto you. He wants to take care of us while we devote ourselves to him. And it will probably mean appearing foolish to the rest of the world.

    4. You are what you make of yourself.

    There’s a lot of pressure to speak up, to be assertive, and to make your name known lest you get lost in a sea of pixels. But Jesus says the last shall be first. Despite being God, he made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant and becoming obedient to death—even a cursed death on a cross (Phil. 2:5–11). He trusted God to glorify him, even as he emptied himself of glory. We’re called to do the same.

    5. Suffering is a sign of failure.

    When did North American culture become averse to pain? If we begin to feel uncomfortable, we pop a pill. If we struggle with depression or discouragement, or if we encounter a terrible diagnosis, we rush to therapy or the doctor instead of first going to the Father and asking him what he wants us to learn through this suffering. God uses suffering for our good, even if it should end in death. We carry around within us the death of Christ, and we will never know the power of Christ’s resurrection if we don’t enter first into suffering.

    6. If it feels good, do it.

    We are big on praying for answers, but not big on waiting for them. We figure if we’ve prayed about something, it’s been heard and blessed. But God so often asks us to wait for his timing, and this waiting hurts. It’s so hard to be patient when you want something now. The world, and the prosperity gospel, teach us to seize opportunities and chase after our dreams. But the Bible says, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4). Become pliable to the Lord, submit yourself to him, and then will give you the desires of your heart. Why? Because his desires will have become your desires, not the other way around.

    7. Believe in yourself and anything is possible.

    On the contrary, we are like dust. Apart from Jesus, we are nothing (John 15:5). Indeed, God “chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; he chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him” (1 Cor. 1:27–29).

    8. Only trust what you can see.

    Our faith depends on the unseen. True value and true success cannot be measured, it won’t be witnessed or grasped until we reach heaven. Look at Hebrews 11. Consider these Christians of the past who “were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect” (Heb. 11:39–40).

    They never received what they were promised, and yet they believed until the end—because they knew life wasn’t finally about them. They knew they were but a thread in a beautiful tapestry of faith God was weaving through his people. Many of us have lost this collective sense of story, trying independently to make a mark. But what would happen if we laid down our lives for one another, for the greater story, for the gospel?

    I spent my whole childhood thinking the point of life was to become an adult. Now I’m spending my adulthood trying to be like a child. Because that’s where the pearl is (Matt. 13:45–46).

    by Emily T. Wierenga at April 22, 2015 05:00 AM

    512 Pixels

    Connected 36: My Technique, but in France →

    This week, on the world's most jetlagged podcast:

    Federico, Stephen and Myke discuss Apple Watch shipments, search on Android, Chrome on iOS and music on the go.

    These awesome companies made it possible:

    • Hover: Simplified Domain Management. Use code 'MYKEWASRIGHT' for 10% off your first purchase.
    • Igloo: An intranet you'll actually like, free for up to 10 people.
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    Permalink

    by Stephen Hackett at April 22, 2015 02:06 AM

    CrossFit Naptown

    GLOC and SIOS

    Wednesday’s Workout:

    Push Jerk Every 2:00
    2-2-2-2-2

    WOD:
    2 rounds
    25 Power Clean and Jerks (185/135)
    20 Cal Row
    10 Muscle Ups -or- 30 Push Ups

     

     

    Project GLOC

     

    It is that time of year again! The Gorgeous Ladies of CrossFit will be throwing down this weekend with individuals competing on Saturday and pairs competing on Sunday. There will be tons of ladies from CrossFit NapTown competing at the event and it would be amazing to have a bunch of people come out to support them! Click here to visit the GLOC website and get your spectator tickets! Maybe you want to be even more involved with these bad ass chicks, you can sign up here still as a judge or volunteer to help out with the event even more!

     

    10264922_698430800193668_3840798428794704023_n

    CFNT member Meggie Dials sharing a fun moment with another Gorgeous Lady of CrossFit

     

     

    Strength in Our Streets

     

    We have cool updates in the Strength in Our Streets world! This epic team competition consisting of 5 females and 5 males is on June 20th and is sure to be even bigger and better in its second year. The competition filled up in one day, but we swept in to create a CrossFit NapTown team that has yet to be filled!

    We are opening that team up to you at this time. This is a first come, first serve opportunity and the first 5 men and 5 women to email rachel@crossfitnaptown.com will get the spots. Special note: this is a fundraising competition that benefits Wheeler Mission. Each team is responsible for raising a total of $750. This can be done in any way, all by one person or $75 from each person or anywhere in between. Last note: get on this, this competition is unlike any other and is a perfect opportunity to raise some money for a good cause and have a great time sweating alongside cool people.

     

     

    strengthinstreetspic

     

     

    by Anna at April 22, 2015 01:49 AM

    April 21, 2015

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

    Architect of Aeons TODAY

    ARCHITECT OF AEONS

    The next volume of my ‘Eschaton Sequence’  has been published today, and should be in your bookstore right now.  Rush right out in a panic of haste, without pausing to think, and buy nine volumes for your ghosts, noospheres, potentates, powers, principalities, virtues, hosts, archons, thrones.

    Potentates are Kardashev I civilizations for terrestrial planets and powers for Gas Giants; Hosts are Kardashev II civilizations; Thrones are Kardashev III.

    Anything of a higher order may not be interested in this book, because I do not deal with the Kardashev IV, V and VI order of magnitudes until the last volume.

    I forgot was this book is about. I think Blackie Del Azarchel and Meanie Monstrose have lost the Earth because the posthumans moved it. Darn those pesky posthumans! Either they are cooperating or trying to kill each other. And the End of Days arrives, and is not actually, literally the End of Days. Four new race of mankind are created, history goes off the rails at least once, and we move from the millennial scale to the tens of millennia.

    And someone gets shot in the last chapter. You’ll have to read it and find out.

    The promotional materials all say this is the last volume of the sequence, but it is not. That was a clerical error not caught in time. Two more volumes are in the pipeline: THE VINDICATION OF MAN, which is (as of this writing) sitting on the editor’s desk; and COUNT TO INFINITY, which I was supposed to be working on last night, but I watched Netflix’s Marvel’s DAREDEVIL instead.

    cover Architect of Aeons

     

     

    by John C Wright at April 21, 2015 11:06 PM

    CrossFit 204: Fitness in Winnipeg, Manitoba

    Workout: April 22, 2015

    Run to the Hills ... or the second hydrant.

    It might be a bit chilly on the 22nd. Please dress for success.

    In 6 minutes:

    Block run + max burpees

    Rest 2 minutes

    In 6 minutes:

    Fran 21-15-9 – thrusters (95/65 lb.) + pull-ups

    Rest 2 minutes

    In 6 minutes:

    Block run + max double-unders

    Evening Skills Session

    Two-position snatch (just above the knee, from the floor) 1-1-1-1-1 @ 70%

    10 legless rope climbs + 200 feet of handstand walking

    by Mike at April 21, 2015 08:30 PM

    Caelum Et Terra

    Two Poems

    big%20ol%20chicken

    Brother Cock

    there is a rooster
    living in the woods
    near the stream
    where i stop on my way home

    black he is
    with red wattles and comb

    i first knew of him
    hearing him crow
    when i stopped once in the morning

    startled i was
    then wary
    for i feared a rooster
    when i was small
    and my first memory
    is the dream i had
    of crazy bird eyes and talons

    and my father
    killing him with a hoe

    so i was nervous
    the second time i saw him
    when he sidled toward me
    in little jerks
    eyes blazing

    i backed away

    later i realized
    that he is wary too
    and we became friendly

    sort of

    and i called him
    brother cock

    now i think of him
    as a hermit eccentric
    though because we don’t speak the same language
    i cannot tell what kind

    half a mile from the sprawling hen-house machine
    from grain and warmth and shelter
    and all the fucking he could stand

    out here in the woods

    alone

    a refugee from the factory

    is he a monk or a rebel
    or is he just shy
    or sick of the chicks’ critiquing
    or worn down by beaks and pecks
    and choking on methane

    did he reject the life of privilege
    on principle

    or does he maybe
    just want to sing the dawning down

    alone

    painting the sky

    with his rough song

    Today

    today

    finally spring
    not tentative and hesitant
    like the crocus and the snowdrop
    not yearning and coaxing
    like the red birds in the treetops
    not the clenched potentiality
    of the tight buds and green sprouts
    but triumphant and glorious
    suddenly verdant and urgent

    jonquil
    tulip
    forsythia

    bright life raging
    in the high up
    haze of green
    in the underbrush
    the sudden rush
    of wide brown waters
    in the low place
    i have come to love
    first south wind of the season
    high water everywhere
    ditches and streams
    and fields
    all is changing
    and ever same
    spiraling and spinning
    out of and into
    within and beyond

    the wholly unnamable flame


    by Daniel Nichols at April 21, 2015 08:16 PM

    eighty-twenty news

    Downloadable Prebuilt Binary RabbitMQ Plugins

    From time to time, I make binary snapshot downloads of the RabbitMQ plugins that I have developed. You will be able to find the most recent downloads from this page. I sign the downloadable files with my public key.

    Older builds for previous versions of RabbitMQ may be available but not linked above; check the directory itself for a full list.

    by tonyg at April 21, 2015 07:23 PM

    pastorbrett.com

    My Heart, Christ’s Home (Again)

    I posted this previously on this blog (July 17, 2011) but in light of this week’s message on the 6th Beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart…” I want to repost…

    Several years ago I read a little booklet by Robert Munger titled, “My Heart, Christ’s Home.” It’s a great tool for examining our hearts to make sure we are completely surrendered to the Lordship of Christ in all areas of our life. Click HERE to read “My Heart, Christ’s Home.”


    by Brett at April 21, 2015 06:33 PM

    The Finance Buff

    The Right And Wrong Types of Questions For Customer Service

    The tax season is over. I also get a break from the deluge of questions via emails and comments on my tax-related articles. A common theme goes like this:

    I read your article, but when I called [Fidelity, Vanguard, fill in the blank] they told me [something contradictory].

    I’m surprised that customer service reps at Fidelity, Vanguard, and other financial institutions are giving tax information. It’s not their role. Customer service reps are in an execution role. If you want to do X, they will do X for you. They are not in a position to tell you whether you should do X in the first place or what the tax consequences are if you do X.

    “They told me if I contribute non-deductible to a traditional IRA and then convert it to Roth it would not be taxed.” Wrong. They don’t know what other IRAs you have.

    “They told me I have to convert to Roth before April 15.” Wrong. April 15 has nothing to do with it.

    I don’t blame the customer service reps. Customer service reps are great people doing a difficult job. Knowledge and training vary among the large number of reps. If you ask them questions, they feel compelled to give you an answer. They answer so many calls. Mistakes happen. If you don’t want to get misinformation, it’s better if you know what types of questions you should ask customer service and what types of questions you shouldn’t.

    Ask them whether they offer X or how to do X at that institution. Research and decide on your own whether you can or should do X. You reduce your chance of getting bad information if you don’t ask them the wrong questions in the first place.

    On the other hand, the whether and how questions are best handled by customer service. Policies and procedures change. Customer service is the best source if you can’t find the information you need on the institution’s website. Customer service is part of the package you are already paying for. Don’t be shy about using customer service. It will help you decide whether you want to continue using that institution.

    See All Your Accounts In One Place

    Track your net worth, asset allocation, and portfolio performance with FREE financial tools from Personal Capital.

    The Right And Wrong Types of Questions For Customer Service is copyrighted material from The Finance Buff. All rights reserved. ( b87e8215d24496480249d6aaf20c77ea )

    by Harry Sit at April 21, 2015 01:50 PM

    Inconsolation

    greg: You’re so vain

    Everyone named “Greg” out there in the world can now sit up straight and imagine this little program is named in their honor.

    2015-04-21-6m47421-greg

    I was introduced to greg after yesterday’s note about podcastxdl, and in spite of its lack of color and command-action-target input style, I think I like it better than the latter.

    Of course, that screenshot isn’t very interesting, but what you see there is a lot of the way greg works. It maintains a list of podcasts and addresses, and you can wrangle them with fairly straightforward actions.

    greg add adds to that list. greg remove drops it off, after you confirm it. greg check sees if anything is updated, and greg sync synchronizes your local folder with what’s available online. Like I said, it’s fairly straightforward.

    I don’t see anything offhand that disappoints me about greg. I ran into no errors except when I fed it an invalid link, and it warned me that it wasn’t going to work. And aside from the lack of color and lack of an “interface,” it seems to work perfectly without my empty-headed suggestions.

    So there’s greg, which we can add to the meager list of podcast aggregators for the console. Now do you see it? “greg”? “aggregator”? Aha. … ;)


    Tagged: audio, download, manager, player, podcast

    by K.Mandla at April 21, 2015 01:15 PM

    Crossway Blog

    Church Is More than a Building

    Saturate: Church Is More than a Building from Crossway on Vimeo.

    What do you think of when you hear the word "church"?

    In this video, pastor Jeff Vanderstelt questions our understanding of the word "church," helping us recapture a biblical vision for the body of Christ in community and on mission.

    Vanderstelt challenges believers to look beyond the walls of their churches that they might use their spiritual gifts to bless and serve their cities—filling the world with the presence of Christ and proclaiming his gospel among the lost.


    About the Book

    In Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life, Jeff Vanderstelt wants us to see that there’s more—much more—to the Christian life than sitting in a pew once a week. God has called his people to something bigger: a view of the Christian life that encompasses the ordinary, the extraordinary, and everything in between.

    Packed full of biblical teaching, compelling stories, and real-world advice, Saturate will remind you that Jesus is filling the world with his presence through the everyday lives of everyday people…

    People just like you.

    Learn more about the book and read a free excerpt today.

    by Matt Tully at April 21, 2015 01:15 PM

    Zondervan Academic Blog

    How Does Physical Surgery Impact Faith in Christ? An Ordinary Theology of Surgery

    Over a year ago I had surgery to remove my thyroid after discovering a cancerous tumor two days before Christmas. In the weeks leading up to the procedure, a burning question was left unanswered amidst the myriad of medical ones:

    How should I think about my surgery theologically?

    Gene L. Green understands this question. He asked similar ones before aortic valve replacement surgery. Before his procedure he discovered something startling:

    through all the literature I discovered nothing written that could be called a theology of surgery. How should I be thinking about the forthcoming surgery in relation to my faith in Christ, my theology? (20)

    That’s why he wrote The Scalpel and the Cross (Ordinary Theology Series, releasing 5/5/15). He wrote it for patients facing and recovering from surgery; for surgeons considering the meaning of their operating room; and for pastors who provide comfort and council in surgery’s midst.

    One of the biggest issues he addresses is the issue of the fundamental questions of human existence. Such questions about the meaning of being, plans for the future, and the inner soul inevitably arise before and after such experiences.

    With theological insight and pastoral care he helps patients and their caregivers navigate these questions by charting an ordinary theology of surgery.

    Questions About Meaning

    Many people who undergo surgery find that it impacts life at the deepest of levels, especially because it often impacts the things they can do. Often a crisis of meaning arises:

    A person’s concept of self and their labor morphs as surgery exposes weaknesses in the human frame and sometimes leaves the patient in a less-than-perfect state. (41)

    One of the risks for my surgery was the possibility of not being able to speak again, or at least having a severely curtailed voice. The nerves to the vocal chords run dangerously close behind the thyroid gland, which makes surgery tricky. As a pastor, the thought of never being able to preach again was frightening. What would I do and how would I define myself without being able to preach the Word?

    Because of the possibility of such physical limitations, for many surgery becomes a time to contemplate ones life meaning: “The period after surgery for many becomes a time of soul searching, especially if the surgery acted as an imposition of authority upon a very dreadful destiny.” (41)

    Questions About the Future

    Alongside questions about meaning are questions about the future. Green and his own family asked such questions:

    I knew beforehand that open-heart surgery brought with it risks, and prudence dictated taking the necessary steps to assure the well-being of my family should I perish in surgery or recovery. (41)

    With the possibility of death looming, Green explains how he and his wife signed new wills; discussed with their daughters what life would look like without his presence, support, and income; how they should get on with their lives after mourning his death; and they should look to the Lord Jesus and rely on each other to carry them through.

    “We could not control the outcomes,” Green explains, “but we could make wise plans…Yet we all moved forward in the hope that none of the talks and provisions would be really necessary.” (41)

    While such questions may seem morbid, they are a necessary aspect of surgery. And placing such future-oriented questions firmly in the hands of the Great Physician is a corollary of faith in Christ.

    Questions About the Soul

    9780310516057Inevitably, such brushes with death lead to questions about the soul and ones inner life.

    Like Green, I too experienced a spiritual cleansing that was “deep, surgical, and quite surprising…I did not anticipate the spiritual journey that would bring me to the heart of God’s concern for my eternal well-being.” (43)

    In the weeks preceding my surgery I was deeply aware of my fragility, which caused me to consider how I was living such a fragile life. After surgery, recovering in my hospital bed and later on my living room couch brought many sins to the fore.

    And yet perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by such questions:

    Surgery examines and corrects the inner workings of the body but also opens the patient to the deeper spiritual surgical intervention by the Lord. If surgery brings questions about the direction of a person’s life to center stage, what could be more important in this scene than one’s spiritual state? (43)

    The spiritual nature of surgery is perhaps the most unanticipated outcome of undergoing an operation.

     

    “Surgery leads to the core questions of human life” (45) Which is why I wish I would have had The Scalpel and the Cross before and after my thyroidectomy.

    Green’s book fills a crucial gap in surgery literature by helping patients, surgeons, and pastors navigate such questions. This post only scratches the surface, so engage his book yourself to learn more.

    by Jeremy Bouma at April 21, 2015 01:01 PM

    sacha chua :: living an awesome life

    More ideas for tech and the home

    There’s an upcoming wearable tech / Internet of Things hackathon (Toronto: May 8-10, 2015; other dates elsewhere). Since hackathons are great ways to collect interesting ideas and people, I thought about whether I wanted to join and what I might do. It’s easier to generate ideas when you have a particular focus, so I reflected some more on what I’d started thinking about tech and the home.

    Hackathons are handy ways to get access to hardware (sometimes even before they’re released to the general public) and to mentors who can help get past odd hurdles. I looked up the hardware that will be featured at the event:

    • Thalmic Myo: gestures
    • Intel Edison: low-power, small-form-factor computing
    • Nod Ring: gestures
    • Estimote Beacon: location tracking, sensors
    • Xbox Kinect: gestures, computer vision
    • Muse: biofeedback, brain waves
    • Arduino: electronics, shields, interfacing with the real world, small-form-factor computing
    • Xadow: various connected components for wearables

    Then I made a brainstorming grid and started matching up various interests and technologies. I filled in some ideas and researched past hackathon winners or existing companies for others. Here are those thoughts:

    2015-04-20i Tech and the home -- index card #tech-and-home

    2015-04-20i Tech and the home – index card #tech-and-home

    2015-04-20j Wearables, IoT, and the home -- index card #tech-and-home

    2015-04-20j Wearables, IoT, and the home – index card #tech-and-home

    I probably won’t go because I have some other personal projects to work on around that time. There are lots of opportunities to do things like this in Toronto, so maybe next time. =) In the meantime, I have a quick braindump of ideas that might be interesting to play with. I might start with gardening, since that’s the season for that. (Whee!) A 3D-printed seed dibbler doesn’t count as wearable tech or Internet of Things, but it would be handy right around this time, so I can use that to learn more about printing. I’ll also look into making those fabric aeration pots out of felt, laser-cutting markers, and possibly having some sensors for microclimate monitoring. Possibilities…

    The post More ideas for tech and the home appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

    by Sacha Chua at April 21, 2015 12:00 PM

    Table Titans

    Tales: Send More Monks

    News

    Have you ever felt that your DM was trying to kill you? Are there Assassins in every shadow waiting for you to drop your guard? Do random Dragons want a piece of you on a regular basis? Or have the Gods tried to smite your PC in person?

    Yep. Your DM might just want your character dead.

    In…

    Read more

    April 21, 2015 07:05 AM

    Reformedish

    Two Tips for Preaching: Manuscript and Practice Out Loud

    pulpitThis week saw a damning broadside in The New Republic against famed scholar Cornel West, by his erstwhile friend, mentee, and notable scholar in his own rights Michael Eric Dyson. I’m so far from competent to weight the merits of the case going in either direction, it’s beyond pointless for me to comment. I found the article fascinating, as much for the argument and the drama, as the compelling insights into the nature of writing, the academic life, and, yes, their application to preaching and teaching in the pulpit.

    In one section, Dyson goes after West’s apparent drop-off in scholarship. Apparently West hasn’t written anything by himself in years, and much of his work seems to be collections of spoken addresses, interviews, and conversations that have been transcribed and edited. So what’s the problem with this? Dyson explains:

    In Brother West, West admitted that he is “more a natural reader than natural writer,” adding that “writing requires a concerted effort and forced discipline,” but that he reads “as easily as I breathe.” I can say with certainty, as a college professor for the last quarter century, that most of my students feel the same way. What’s more, West’s off-the-cuff riffs and rants, spoken into a microphone and later transcribed to page, lack the discipline of the written word. West’s rhetorical genius is undeniable, but there are limits on what speaking can do for someone trying to wrestle angels or battle demons to the page. This is no biased preference for the written word over the spoken; I am far from a champion of a Eurocentric paradigm of literacy. This is about scholar versus talker. Improvisational speaking bears its wonders: the emergence on the spot of turns of thought and pathways of insight one hadn’t planned, and the rapturous discovery, in front of a live audience, of meanings that usually lie buried beneath the rubble of formal restrictions and literary conventions. Yet West’s inability to write is hugely confining. For scholars, there is a depth that can only be tapped through the rigorous reworking of the same sentences until the meaning comes clean—or as clean as one can make it.

    The ecstasies of the spoken word, when scholarship is at stake, leave the deep reader and the long listener hungry for more. Writing is an often-painful task that can feel like the death of one’s past. Equally discomfiting is seeing one’s present commitments to truths crumble once one begins to tap away at the keyboard or scar the page with ink. Writing demands a different sort of apprenticeship to ideas than does speaking. It beckons one to revisit over an extended, or at least delayed, period the same material and to revise what one thinks. Revision is reading again and again what one writes so that one can think again and again about what one wants to say and in turn determine if better and deeper things can be said.

    West admires the Socratic process of questioning ideas and practices in fruitful dialogue, and while that may elicit thoughts he yearned to express anyhow, he’s at the mercy of his interlocutors. Thus when West inveighs, stampedes, and kvetches, he gets on a roll that might be amplified in conversation but arrested in print. It’s not a matter of skillful editing, either, so that the verbal repetition and set pieces that orators depend on get clipped and swept aside with the redactor’s broom. It’s the conceptual framework that suffers in translating what’s spoken to what’s written, since writing is about contrived naturalness: rigging the system of meaning to turn out the way you want, and making it look normal and inevitable in the process.

    While I don’t find myself writing scholarly work every week–on top of my blog, or rather, before it–I’m usually spending a number of hours writing a couple thousand word manuscript on about 10-20 verses in order to preach them to about 20-odd students every Thursday night. On top of that, on Thursday itself, I’ll usually practice something like 4-6 times throughout the day as I prepare, before I ever get up to preach that night. The funny thing is, I’ve noticed that both parts of my sermon preparation are necessary for me. Dyson’s analysis of the different glories of the spoken and the written word speak to why.

    Manuscripting of some form is absolutely necessary for me. The first draft is where I figure out the logical order, find most of my major points, craft certain key phrases, and make sure the flow is there. Without the outlining and manuscript process, I would not be forced to wrestle with the fundamental meaning of the text, and establish the bones, so to speak, before I put flesh on it. That said, if you look at my sermon notes and then follow my sermon, odds are that on any given night there’s going to be a major discrepancy between the two. Oh, sure, the sections are likely in the same order, the logic is there, and the paragraphs are mostly in place, but there is still wide variation from my initial draft to my final delivery. The reality is that as I practice throughout the day, I find myself following the text, but rewriting the sections as I go. Indeed, I end up rewriting it in my soul, since by the time I get up there, I’m barely looking at my notes anymore.

    I know a lot of preachers hate practicing. The great thing about disciplining yourself to practice live before you go up a few times, is that you can begin to draw out those moments of improvisatory insight before you ever get in front of your people. And most preachers know that those are often your best points, right? By practicing, you take those flashes and work them into the structure of your sermon, dwell on them a bit more systematically, and draw out the implications with greater depth and persuasive power.

    But I need both halves of the process. For those preachers who seem to hate preparatory manuscripting, you need to know that the best flashes of improvisatory insight come after you’ve already wrestled with the text for a while, written and rewritten sections, and tried to string it all together as best as you can on the page. Without that foundational work, your riffing will be less likely to be grounded in a fresh engagement with the text and more drawn on the leftovers of more studious days.

    So those are my two tips: manuscript, then practice. I know every preacher is different, and plenty do it different, but if you’re young like me, or hitting a bit of a dry patch in your preaching, maybe consider giving it a try.

    Soli Deo Gloria


    by Derek Rishmawy at April 21, 2015 05:05 AM

    The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

    9 Things You Should Know About Genocide

    Because several genocides began in April or have a major anniversary in the month, many organizations and institutions around the world have set aside April to be a month of genocide awareness and action against genocide. Here are nine things you should know about genocide in the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries:

    1. The term genocide was coined in the 1940s by Raphael Lemkin from the rooted words genos (Greek for family, tribe, or race) and -cide (Latin for killing). Lemkin, a Polish lawyer who emigrated to the U.S. in 1941, drafted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, a resolution which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. The Genocide Convention was the first human rights treaty adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations.

    2. Article 2 of the Convention defines genocide as any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group:

    (a) Killing its members;

    (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

    (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

    (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

    (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

    3. In what is widely considered the first genocide of the twentieth century, the Ottoman Empire subjected the Armenian people to deportation, expropriation, abduction, torture, massacre, and starvation during World War I. The genocide began on April 24, 1915, when the Turkish government arrested and executed several hundred Armenian intellectuals. A group of nationalists known as the “Young Turks” organized “killing squads” or “butcher battalions” to carry out, as one officer put it, “the liquidation of the Christian elements.” An estimated 1.5 million of the 2 million Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire died between 1915 and 1923.

    4. On January 20, 1942, Hitler’s official plan for genocide was developed at the Wannsee Conference. Fifteen Nazi leaders, which included a number of state secretaries, senior officials, party leaders, SS officers, and other leaders of government departments, held the meeting to discuss plans for a “final solution to the Jewish question in Europe.” The most commonly cited figure for the total number of Jews killed is six million — around 78 percent of the 7.3 million Jews in occupied Europe at the time. Additionally, the Nazis murdered approximately two to three million Soviet POWs, two million ethnic Poles, up to 1,500,000 Romani, 200,000 handicapped, political and religious dissenters, 15,000 homosexuals, and 5,000 Jehovah's Witnesses, bringing the total genocide toll to around 11 million.

    5. One of the most horrific genocides to occur after the signing of the Genocide Convention occurred in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979. During that time, about 1.5 million Cambodians out of a total population of 7 to 8 million died of starvation, execution, disease, or overwork because of Pol Pot and his communist Khmer Rouge movement. Pol Pot died in his sleep on April 15, 1998, due to heart failure. To date, a United Nations-backed tribunal has convicted only a handful of Khmer Rouge leaders of crimes against humanity.

    6. The Rwandan Genocide was a genocidal mass slaughter of Tutsi and moderate Hutu in Rwanda by members of the Hutu majority. During the approximate 100-day period from April 7, 1994 to mid-July an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were killed, constituting as much as 20 percent of the country's total population and 70 percent of the Tutsi then living in Rwanda.The U.S. was reluctant to get involved in the “local conflict” in Rwanda and initially refused to label the killings as “genocide.” Then-president Bill Clinton later publicly regretted that decision in a television interview. Five years later, Clinton stated that he believed that if he had sent 5,000 U.S. peacekeepers, more than 500,000 lives could have been saved.

    7. In 1998, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda established the precedent that rape during warfare is a crime of genocide. In Rwanda, HIV-infected men had participated in the mass rape of Tutsi women. That same year the Tribunal also had the first genocide conviction when Jean Paul Akayesu, the Hutu mayor of the town, Taba, was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity.

    8. In 2002, an international treaty established the International Criminal Court (ICC) a universal response to past and present atrocities. The ICC is a treaty-based criminal court that can only try individuals for designated atrocity crimes. The ICC Is a permanent court, unlike the two ad hoc International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, that has the power under certain conditions to investigate and prosecute individuals accused of committing an atrocity crime within the ICC's jurisdiction after July 1, 2002. As of 6 January 2015, 123 states have ratified or acceded to the Rome Statute. (The U.S. has made it clear it will not ratify this treaty.)

    9. In 2003, two rebel organizations took up arms against the government of Sudan. In response, the government unleashed Arab militias known as Janjaweed, or “devils on horseback”, which attacked hundreds of villages throughout Darfur. Over 400 villages were completely destroyed and millions of civilians were forced to flee their homes. The genocide in Darfur killed 480,000 and displaced over 2,500,000 people. In 2004, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution calling for unilateral or multinational action to stop the genocide in Darfur, Sudan.

     

    Recent posts in this series:

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

    by Joe Carter at April 21, 2015 05:04 AM

    On My Shelf: Life and Books with Joe Carter

    On My Shelf helps you get to know various writers through a behind-the-scences glimpse into their lives as readers. I corresponded with Joe Carter—communications specialist for the ERLC, editor at The Acton Institute and The Gospel Coalition, and adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College—about what’s on his nightstand, some of his favorite works of fiction, and what books have most profoundly shaped him.


    What's on your nightstand right now?

    I’m a slow reader (and even slower thinker), so I like to fool myself into reading more by reading a dozen books at a time. By reading 10 to 20 pages a day in each I delude myself into believing I’m actually making progress on my book pile. Currently I’m working my way through:

    At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson. Bryson provides a fascinating intellectual history disguised as a tour of his home, a former Church of England rectory built in the 19th century.

    Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis. I don’t appreciate when authors feel superior to their literary creations, so I’ve never been enthusiastic about Sinclair Lewis.

    Physics for Future Presidents by Richard A. Muller. An introduction to the science behind public policy issues, like nuclear weapons and space programs. The chapter on energy has already made the book worth reading.

    A History of the World in 100 Weapons by Chris McNab. A good explanation of how military technology—from flint axes to stealth fighters—has changed human history.

    The Information by James Gleick. A fascinating account of the ways humans transfer information. The section on the talking drums of Africa is amazing.

    The Glamour of Grammar by Roy Peter Clark. Not as useful as his previous book, Writing Tools, but Clark has a love of language that is infectious.

    The Memoirs of U.S. Grant by Ulysses S. Grant. I wasn’t expecting the memoir of our 18th President to be so readable—or for Grant to be so relatable.

    In Defense of War by Nigel Biggar. Biggar provides a helpful contribution to the debate about how Christians should consider the ethics of war and peace.

    The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman. Tuchman’s excellent work is helping me fill in the vast gaps in my knowledge about World War I.

    King Henry V by Shakespeare. I’m trying to catch up on all the Shakespearean plays I’ve missed out on. So far, this is my favorite of his historical plays.

    The Bees: A Novel by Laline Paull. This science fiction story, told from the perspective of a bumblebee, is a weird and intriguing examination of politics, religion, and individualism in a society that requires conformity.

    Gospel and Kingdom by Graeme Goldworthy. TGC director of women’s initiatives Kathleen Nielson put it best: “A classic presentation of the Bible as one unified work centered in God’s redemption in Christ.”

    What are your favorite fiction books?

    The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

    Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

    The Sparrow and Children of God by Mary Doria Russell

    Lonesome Dove, Leaving Cheyenne, and Cadillac Jack by Larry McMurtry

    All the Pretty Horses, The Road, No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy 

    World Made by Hand, The Witch of Hebron, A History of the Future by James Howard Kunstler

    The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

    What books have most profoundly shaped how you serve and lead others for the sake of the gospel? 

    If you had asked me two years ago I wouldn’t have known how to answer. I had always read for personal growth and not deliberately for the sake of serving others. But last month I finished a year-long writing project on spiritual disciplines. For research purposes I read more than a hundred books related to the topic. Here are three that will certainly shape how I serve and lead others in the future:

    Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen. You see this one recommended a lot—and for good reason. Owen isn’t an easy read, but this book is well worth the effort.

    The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung. Kevin is such a superb writer and communicator that readers have come to expect his books will be worthwhile. And they are. But this one is different. This book is easily one of the best books on sanctification I’ve ever read—and I’ve plowed through a lot of them. I wish every Christian would read this book.

    Jesus on Every Page: 10 Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament by David Murray. I’ve become convinced that if you’re not reading the Bible to better see Jesus, then you’re reading it wrong. There are probably a half-dozen books I could recommend on seeing Jesus in Scripture, but Murray’s is the one I'd suggest as a starting point.

    What are you learning about life and following Jesus?

    Unflinching, self-denying obedience to Christ is absolutely essential to the Christian life. I’ve been a believer more than 30 years, and for all that time I’d have nodded in agreement with that statement. But it was only during this past year of research and study that I truly began to understand and appreciate the role of obedience in the life of the Christian.

    Obedience is such a core theme of the Bible that I don’t know how I missed it for so long. And now I don’t know what to do with that realization. Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Yet we live in a culture where obedience is considered an optional add-on to faith and the Christian life.

    I feel compelled to tell everyone I see that we can’t truly love Jesus and follow Christ if we are not keeping his commands. But too many people will dismiss that message as “legalism” and refuse to hear that the only appropriate response to grace is eternal gratitude and unquestioning obedience to the Lord of the universe. 


    Also in the On My Shelf series: Timothy GeorgeTim KellerBryan ChapellLauren ChandlerMike CosperRussell MooreJared WilsonKathy KellerTullian TchividjianJ. D. GreearKevin DeYoungKathleen NielsonThabiti Anyabwile, Elyse FitzpatrickCollin HansenFred SandersRosaria ButterfieldNancy Guthrie, and Matt Chandler.

    by Matt Smethurst at April 21, 2015 05:01 AM

    Religious Liberty Is Not Freedom from Ridicule

    About a year ago, I seethed over a compliment. Someone in Washington political circles said, “It’s really amazing; you’re a real-deal born-again type, and yet you are really intelligent and thoughtful.” I rolled my eyes, because I have heard this talk before. When I showed up in Washington as an 18-year-old congressional intern, a colleague from Massachusetts said, “You’re from Mississippi and you sure read a lot; good for you!” In both cases, I simmered inside, because both compliments were really forms of ridicule.

    In my mind, I was upset because I was protective of the reputation of evangelical Christianity. I thought: Are you so ignorant that you’ve never heard of Augustine or Justin Martyr or Blaise Pascal or Carl Henry? And, years ago, I thought I was protective of my home state. Yes, I think maybe William Faulkner and Eudora Welty and Tennessee Williams read more than I do. But in both cases, I was wincing at a personal slight. I’m a born Mississippian and a born-again Christian. When one insults these categories, one is insulting me—and I didn’t like it.

    In recent weeks, we’ve seen an unprecedented and nasty turn in American culture against basic religious freedoms, freedoms that once composed the bedrock of the American consensus. In the years to come, we will be called upon to advocate for religious liberty and soul freedom for everyone, over and against a government and media culture hostile to the very idea. In order to do that, though, we must learn to differentiate between persecution and insult, between religious liberty and freedom from ridicule. They are not the same thing.

    Why Religious Liberty Matters

    Religious liberty matters because religious liberty is an issue of worship. The state is given the power of the sword to coercively act against threats to public order and justice (Rom. 13:1-7). The state does not have the power of the sword to regulate what is owed to God (Mark 12:17). What God requires is not forced or feigned worship but that which flows from an open and pure conscience (1 Tim. 1:5; Heb. 9:14). A state that forces a person to act against conscience is a state that has overstepped its bounds, a state that is attempting violence on persons from a judgment seat at which the state is not a party.

    Moreover, in an American system of government, religious liberty is everyone’s problem, because the state is accountable to the people, who are, ultimately, the governing authorities. A Christian, then, who doesn’t care about working for religious liberty is a Christian not only wishing to be persecuted, and to consign others to persecution, but also wishing to be, by his silence, a persecutor of others. This is contrary to the way of Christ (1 Pet. 1:12-17).

    That said, there is always a temptation to conflate the right of soul liberty with the idea that we should be outraged when we are marginalized or ridiculed in the public square. We should fight this temptation.

    We can combat bad laws with better laws. We don’t combat ignorant insults with better insults.

    When we work for religious liberty, we are working in the interest of the common good; we are not just protecting ourselves. We are working to keep ourselves from participating in the evil of a conscience-restricting coercive government. The apostles denied the authority of a decidedly non-democratic authority to intrude into such matters (Acts 4:19-20). Much less should we expect it of a government with constitutional guarantees of the natural rights of religious freedom.

    We Aren’t ‘Normal’

    This doesn’t mean, though, that we should vent outrage when we are ridiculed or insulted or slighted. In fact, this impulse will leave us less equipped for contending for religious liberty. Behind our hurt at insults, after all, is a desire to be seen as “normal.” If people just saw us as we are, we think, they would see that we’re not as stupid or backward as they think. Nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus share such a concern. He is accused of drunkenness, of insanity, and even of demon possession, and through it all Jesus is frustratingly tranquil.

    As a matter of fact, whenever Jesus is received well, he presses on with his strange talking until people are outraged by the weirdness or subversion of what he has to say (Luke 4:22-28; John 6:22-70). Jesus didn’t hide the strangeness of the gospel, because he knew only a gospel strange to the course of this world can save us (1 Cor. 1:21).

    We should seek to keep our conduct honorable “among the Gentiles,” as the Bible tells us (1 Pet. 2:12), but we shouldn’t chafe at being strangers and aliens to them (1 Pet. 1:11). When we are ridiculed and mocked, it’s probably a sign that people are starting to actually hear what we are saying. Our gospel isn’t safe and normal. Our gospel is a strange message of turned cheeks and bloody crosses and empty tombs, of coming judgment and of poured-out mercy.

    Some will point out, rightly, that the ridicule is part of a cultural wind that brings with it religious liberty violations. That’s true. But we can combat bad laws with better laws. We don’t combat ignorant insults with better insults (Rom. 12:14-21).

    If we are a free people in a constitutional government, we should expect our government to leave consciences free. We will work for liberty and justice, for all. But that means we should also expect many free people to jeer at us as crazy or stupid. We will walk with Jesus and bear such reviling, without reviling back (1 Pet. 2:22-23).

    As citizens, we should expect freedom of religion. As Christians, we shouldn’t expect freedom from ridicule.

    by Russell Moore at April 21, 2015 05:00 AM

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

    Not so much Dino-hate, Please!

    At the risk of alienating my beloved fans who voted either for Sad Puppies or Rabid   and elevated my humble work to a world-record number of nominations, I would like to state something for the record.

    A lot of us are ragging on Rachel Swirsky’s prose poem ‘If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love‘ which was Hugo nominated and won a Nebula for its category.

    And, for the record, I for one do not think ‘If You Were a Dinosaur’ is bad. I do not think it is great, but tastes differ.

    The author with admirable brevity of space establishes a gay and playful mood, using a stream of consciousness technique and adhere to a strict textual scheme (lifted from IF YOU GIVE A MOUSE A COOKIE) and then fishtailing into a surprise ending that is poignant and moving, all within less than 1000 words.

    More to the point, she did what she set out to do, and created the emotional effect she meant to create if a fashion I and other readers found memorable and moving. She hit the mark at which she aimed. Not every writer can say that.

    It is not a great story, not the best of the year. I do not like it because it places technique above story telling — indeed there is no story at all, no characterization, nothing outside the vignette. But that, again, is a matter of taste. Some people do not like Shakespeare sonnets.

    And her editor should have polished on or two roughs spots, which in a story so short are more obvious, have more ability to jar the reader out of suspension of disbelief.  One rough spot was the one-line depiction of the bigoted Southern bigots as ‘gin-soaked’ — this was lazy writing, laughably inept.  Gin in not what we drink in roughneck bars in the rural South.

    Another was that in a racially motivated beating the racists usually know the name of the race they hate, and do not need to guess.

    And, had I written it, I would have taken a different approach: but her muse is hers and mine is mine, and the realm of the imagination, being infinite, grants generous room to all.

    But, please, the lady wrote a serviceable story that appealed to the tastes of many readers, and, of course, to the corrupt clique which gave her an undeserved award.

    I hope I offend no Rabid Puppy by saying that, in a certain light, the story could be seen as above average, and showed originality and clear professional craftsmanship.

    Let us give credit where credit is due.

    by John C Wright at April 21, 2015 03:24 AM

    CrossFit Naptown

    Kick Starter for Artie’s Paleo on the Go

    Tuesday’s Workout:

    Strength Cycle:
    Front Squat Every 3:00
    3 at 63%
    3 at 72%
    3+ at 81%

    WOD:
    5 Rounds
    5 Overhead Squats (155/115)
    6 Turkish Get Ups (24/16kg)
    15:00 Cap

    *squat cycle days this week: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday

     

    Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 9.12.15 PM

    It’s official. Peter and I will be teaming up with Artie Stevens of Artie’s OnTheGo to bring him downtown to our 922 Capitol Avenue location. The goal is to make his food accessible to the general public 7 days a week rather than just one day a week as it currently stands.

    We have a unique opportunity for the general public to become “Steakholders” in this company. We want to build a community around this food establishment and allow YOU to take part as “investors” that receive “food dividends.” For example, pledging $1000 will get you the following:

    1. One free meal a month in perpetuity. (for life)

    2. 10% Discount for ToGo Meals for life. (current customers = this is a steal!)

    3. Decision making suggestions at our annual “Meetings” (Parties!)

    4. The chance to name your own meal! (more to come later)

    5. Invitation for you and your family to the Launch Party!

    6. Your name plate in the lobby of Artie’s OnTheGo recognizing you as a “Founding Member.”

    7. A chance to make a change in your health and nutrition.

    Click Here for More Information 

     

    If you are unable to help us financially, then please help us by sharing this with your friends and family. No amount is to small to help make this a reality. We want to bring the first of its kind, community-driven, Paleo-friendly, food spot to downtown Indianapolis. We can make this happen with your help.

     

    by Anna at April 21, 2015 01:20 AM

    CrossFit 204: Fitness in Winnipeg, Manitoba

    Workout: April 21, 2015

    Glenda!

    Glenda puts in some effort!

    Floor press 5-5-5-5-5

    Gymnasty

    Gymnasty+ – As many reps as possible in 7 minutes of:

    1 handstand push-up

    1 muscle-up

    2 handstand push-ups

    2 muscle-ups

    Etc.

    Cashout at 7 minutes: 50 push-ups

    by Mike at April 21, 2015 12:22 AM

    April 20, 2015

    CrossFit Naptown

    Movement Clinic Saturday

    Monday’s Workout:

    Pull Up Program
    -or-
    10:00 Every Minute on the Minute
    2 Bar Muscle Ups
    -or-
    Bar Muscles up learning only if they can do 5 strict pull ups and 5 strict dips

    2011/2013 Team Regional WOD
    21-15-9
    Dead Lift (275/185)
    Box Jump (30/24)

     

     

    Movement Clinic Saturday

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

    What: 90 minutes of focused skill work on cleans and kipping (including BAR MUSCLE UPS)!

    When: Saturday April 25th, 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 is here to stay and Rachel and Anna are back at it for this month’s movement clinic Saturday from 12:00-1:30pm. This month, we will be going over basic jerk progressions and skills, drills, and progressions for ALL THINGS KIPPING. 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 anna@crossfitnaptown.com or rachel@crossfitnaptown.com and we hope to see a bunch of you on Saturday!

     

    Inov-8 Shoes at CFNT Tonight!

    Tonight, Adam from the Runner’s Forum will be joining us with his Inov-8 Rep., Paul. They will have various shoe samplings for you to try and then work out in. If you are interested or needing a new pair of shoes, come check it out. He is expected to arrive around 4:30pm and will be around for the 5pm and 6pm classes.

    by Anna at April 20, 2015 11:02 PM

    sacha chua :: living an awesome life

    What I’m learning about small talk

    After RJ’s recent party, I realized that my perception of and approach to small talk had shifted quite a bit from what it was a few years ago. In the past, I used to feel annoyed with how small talk conversations tend to cover the same ground repeatedly (“So, what do you do?”) and how they didn’t often result in follow-up actions or connections. Now I see small talk as a way to explore and appreciate other people’s stories (especially since few people blog) and discover which aspects of myself might resonate with other people (and vice versa). It’s also a lot of fun to play with the mental models that other people build up, which is why I’ve been experimenting with introducing myself as a housewife and then letting the conversations bring out other weird aspects. ;)

    2015-04-19f Small talk shifts -- index card #small-talk #growth

    2015-04-19f Small talk shifts – index card #small-talk #growth

    It’s also fun building up little chains of stories with the kinds of hooks that make people say, “Wait, what?” Some examples of things that are incongruous or that provoke curiosity: semi-retirement, step-parenting a 17-year-old, combining laser-cutting and sewing, disassembling a washer/dryer, wearing a vest with an unusual number of pockets.

    Weirdness is useful. Ideally, this weirdness brings out disclosures of other people’s weirdness, or prompts them to connect me with someone else they know, or demystifies something and encourages them to explore it. As for me, I like finding out if someone is the kind of person I might want to get to know further – perhaps collaborate with or mentally model. I look for people with shared values, interesting experiments, and a sense of growth.

    2015-04-19e Different worldviews -- index card #small-talk

    2015-04-19e Different worldviews – index card #small-talk

    Experiments are good because we learn from the divergences. That said, sometimes I can be too weird – when something I do or something I experiment with is just too far from someone’s worldview to relate to or understand. For example, sometimes I talk to people who just don’t get Stoicism, simple living, homebody-ness, tech customization (especially Emacs), quantified/experimental thinking, or blogging.

    That’s cool. I don’t need other people to validate me and I don’t need to convert other people to my perspective, so it’s really more of an opportunity to explore.

    When people ask questions about one of my experiments, I’ve been leaving it up to them to drive the conversation since I’m happy to answer questions. Sometimes these end up in unproductive loops. It occurred to me that it might be fun to take a more sociological/anthropological approach to this: to deliberately explore other people’s perspectives and dig into why they think the way they do, possibly from the position that I make perfect sense to myself and it’s other people who are odd and deserving of study. ;)

    2015-04-19d On talking to non-Stoics about preferences and value judgments -- index card #stoicism

    2015-04-19d On talking to non-Stoics about preferences and value judgments – index card #stoicism

    Here’s a more detailed example. I talk about value judgments surprisingly often because people often press for information on whether I’d like to have kids, which I suppose is a standard small-talk question for women around this age. Harumph. They usually have strong opinions one way or the other. This is one of the things that I’m careful to not have strong value judgments around or be attached to specific outcomes for. Sometimes I use this as an opportunity to prod people to be more considerate about things by considering a wider range of scenarios. Sometimes I frame my response in terms of being happy either way. It’s pretty rare to find people for whom this position makes sense. Many people are quite boggled by it. But I talk about equanimity anyway in case that resonates with someone who’s been looking for that concept, and even if it doesn’t sink in, I can rest in the knowledge that it makes sense to me.

    On the other hand, my favourite kinds of conversations are with people who have deliberately cultivated their own differences from the mainstream and who can reflect on those experiments. Then our conversations become a high-bandwidth sort of brainstorming and swapping of notes. =) We might be doing different experiments, but we can understand and learn from each other’s perspectives.

    So, small talk. It’s an opportunity to discover interesting things about people (captured in quick notes after the party, because who knows), play with sharing aspects of myself and messing up people’s mental models, and learn more about things I do differently. Even when I’m talking to people who find it difficult to understand external perspectives or whose conversational skills are somewhat impaired by alcohol, I can pick up useful information about other people and myself. As I meet more interesting people and as those people grow through their own experiences, I trust that small talk will become even more fun. =)

    The post What I’m learning about small talk appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

    by Sacha Chua at April 20, 2015 09:59 PM

    Front Porch Republic

    Thoreau’s Walden: Embracing a Restorative Experience of Nature

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    Windswept and partially covered in snow, winter debris still clinging to its banks, Walden Pond offered no glamorous window into the preeminent beauty of nature when I visited in early April. Its crystal waters were masked by ice and the…

    Read Full Article...

    The post Thoreau’s Walden: Embracing a Restorative Experience of Nature appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

    by Adam Sylvain at April 20, 2015 09:34 PM

    QuirksBlog

    List of Android WebViews

    Last week Niels Leenheer of HTML5 Test told me he’d released a simple Android app that mimics a browser but runs in the device’s WebView. This is ideal for testing WebViews, a topic I’ve ignored so far.

    I downloaded the app to all my Android 4/5 phones except for the Huawei C8813 (Chinese firmware) where Google Play won’t run, and the LG L5, where the app crashes when you try to load a page, and catalogued which browser the WebView is (or purports to be). Here are the results:

    Device Android Default WebView
    HTC One X 4.2.2 Android WebKit Android WebKit
    Wolfgang Whoop 4.2.2 Android WebKit Android WebKit
    Samsung Galaxy Note 4.1.2 Android WebKit Android WebKit
    Sony Xperia S 4.1.2 Android WebKit Android WebKit
    HTC M8 5.0.1 Chromium 33 Chromium 37
    Samsung Galaxy S4 4.4.2 Chromium 28 Chromium 30
    Motorola Moto G 4.4.4 Chrome Chromium 33
    Nexus 7 4.4.4 Chrome Chromium 33
    Nexus 4 Cyanogen 4.4.4 Chromium 33 Chromium 33
    LG L70 4.4.2 Chromium 30 Chromium 30
    Xiaomi M2 4.1.1 Chromium 34 or 35 Android WebKit

    Niels told me how Google has been handling WebViews so far, and nothing I encountered contradicts his scheme:

    1. Before Android 4.4 all devices run Android WebKit as their WebView. (Is this the same Android WebKit as their default browser? Don’t know yet.)
    2. From Android 4.4 the WebView is Chromium 30.
    3. From Android 4.4.3 the WebView is Chromium 33.
    4. From Android 5 the WebView is Chromium 37. In addition, the promise is that the Android 5 WebView will be updated to newer versions app-wise, i.e. without a firmware update. I will keep an eye on that.

    I assume device vendors could write their own WebView if they want. So far I haven’t found a trace yet of that happening, but let’s give them a chance to get used to porting and changing Chromium and revisit this question near the end of this year.

    Next question: how to cram all these WebViews into my compatibility tables, which are overflowing as it is.

    by ppk (ppk@xs4all.nl) at April 20, 2015 08:23 PM

    Bible Reading Project

    A Small Study on the Conscience

    Cross-cultural ministry, circumstances, Scripture, and the Holy Spirit have led me to consider and reconsider what the Bible teaches about the conscience. There is clearly a large study to be done here, but I wanted to post some brief conclusions along with some verses that I will be adding to my daily prayer list.

    The Bible says that there are those with strong consciences, who correctly discern right from wrong and are free from guilt and shame. There are also those with weak consciences who feel conviction and guilt over things that are not wrong (such as eating the wrong foods). (1 Cor 8)

    The Bible also speaks of those with seared and defiled consciences who can no longer feel conviction (1 Tim 4:2, Titus 1:15).

    We must not violate our conscience. Whatever is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23).

    The blood of Christ cleanses us and our conscience (Heb 9:14, 10:22).

    We cultivate good, strong consciences by having a strong faith in the sacrifice Christ for a right relationship with God (no guilt, no shame) and by seeking the Word of God and the community of faith to keep us from blind spots and areas where our conscience has been hardened by experience.

    Verses for my prayer list:

    Acts 23:1
    Then Paul, looking earnestly at the council, said, “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.”

    Father I want to live in a good conscience before you every single day. I never want to violate my conscience. Teach me wisdom and give me strength to live according to every inner conviction. Help me to only make decisions when I know my conscience is clear on the subject.

    Acts 24:16
    This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men.

    2 Corinthians 1:12
    For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you.

    1 Timothy 1:5
    Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith,

    Hebrews 9:14
    how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

    Father, I want my conscience to be cleansed. Lord there are many things that I remember that still bother my conscience, and there are many things that I have questions about. I have confessed all known sin to you, and I now I ask that you would cleanse my conscience from every dead work, that all guilt and shame would be gone and that I would walk before you in complete confidence in my service to You, in Jesus name.

    by Jonathan Ammon (noreply@blogger.com) at April 20, 2015 07:26 PM

    512 Pixels

    The Relay FM app →

    Myke and I are working with the Glide team on an iPhone and Apple Watch app for Relay FM. Go check out the trailer.

    Permalink

    by Stephen Hackett at April 20, 2015 05:56 PM

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

    Prayer Request

    I got this letter today:

    Dear Mr. Wright,

    I am writing to ask if you would be so kind as to put a prayer request on your site. Through channels at my church it came to my attention that a family in Wisconsin, the Rogen family, is in dire need of prayers and help.

    Mr. Rogen dropped his wife off at the hospital to give birth to their eighth child. On his way to drop his seven children off for care while he stayed with his wife, an oncoming car hit a deer and the deer was flung through Mr. Rogen’s windshield. Mr. Rogen and his children were taken to the same hospital where his wife was in labor for treatment where Mr. Rogen later died. Thankfully, her children and their new baby are all well.

    A Go Fund Me site was started for the Rogen’s to buy them a new vehicle, to pay for funeral costs and to give them a cushion. I do not know this family personally, but my heart goes out to them. I’m a wife and mother and this is utterly unimaginable to me. I am trying to do what I can to help them out.

    Here is the Go Fund Me site and there is more information there:

    http://www.gofundme.com/s7hst8

    The news story is found here:

    http://www.waow.com/story/28828377/2015/04/17/update-highway-closed-due-to-marathon-co-crash

    I greatly appreciate your consideration in this.

    by John C Wright at April 20, 2015 05:16 PM

    Reviewer Praise for PARLIAMENT OF BEASTS AND BIRDS

    High praise indeed from Jeffro’s Space Gaming Blog

    https://jeffro.wordpress.com/2015/04/20/a-few-comments-on-john-c-wrights-the-parliament-of-beasts-and-birds/

    (a) I’m not necessarily right in the sweet spot of his target audience and (b) I’m not one to just flat out gush over every single thing that he writes.

    With that out of the way, let’s talk about his Hugo nominated short story, “The Parliament of Beasts and Birds”.

    This story… first it intrigued me, then it amused me, then it gripped me… then I laughed out loud. Once complete immersed into the world of the story, I next shared the creatures’ curiosity, their fear, and finally… their awe. I relished every transition, every change in tempo, every interaction, the precision in each characterization. And in the end when I finally understood just what was happening and what it meant… I experienced that rare joy that only the best science fiction stories seem to offer: that feeling of a gradually increasing cognitive dissonance due to my assumptions not quite matching up with where the story is going– and then the “aha” moment when I finally understood that the scope of this subcreation is larger and more nuanced than I first anticipated. It’s positively rapturous when all the parts that seem out of place just suddenly fall together.

    In other words, John C. Wright played me like a fiddle.

    I don’t expect everyone to have quite the same experience when they read it. I mean, there are people that will tell you straight up that they preferred “If You Were a Dinosaur My Love” to “The Queen of the Tyrant Lizards”. That’s fine. To each his own and all that.

    But I have to say… I have just been calling for people to attempt to be more mythic in their fantasy gaming, to go back to the parts of Tolkien’s work that we have passed over in recent decades and see what can be resuscitated and translated into new contexts. I really did not expect to see anyone writing quite in that vein– and certainly not at this caliber. I thought that sort of thing was done for, but really… this is about the only thing I’ve seen recently that I can honestly say is even close to being on par with with best work of Lord Dunsany, Jack Vance, and Robert E. Howard.

    Read the whole thing here.

    I suspect that I could not find a finer compliment if I paid a man to give it me in coins of yellow gold, massive, bright and round as the sun.

    Thank the reviewer for the exaggerated praise, but my tongue would be pinned to an oak with a stormbolt hurled by a wrathful muse justly punishing the hubris if I claimed to be on par with those three immortals.

    All I can gently suggest is one reread Blagdaross, then ‘The Last Castle‘ and then ‘Red Nails‘ to see the comparison.

    But there is not much real, old school speculative fiction being promoted these days, I will admit. Even a modest hill can seem a mountain when found in the middle of the salt flats.

    You may purchase the book here: http://www.castaliahouse.com/downloads/the-book-of-feasts-seasons/

    Feasts and Seasons Cover 2

    by John C Wright at April 20, 2015 05:11 PM

    512 Pixels

    Upgrade 33: Personal Electronic Notebooks →

    This week on Upgrade:

    Stephen Hackett joins Jason to talk about John Siracusa's semi-retirement, online shopping, the future of the OS X brand name, Photos for Mac, and Myke's trip to Atlanta.

    Permalink

    by Stephen Hackett at April 20, 2015 05:01 PM

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

    NPR Upholds Morlock Journalistic Ethics

    Well, well. The NPR weekend show ON THE MEDIA has joined the lynch mob, and done their level best to add hysteria and contumely and smother any trace of rational dialog in the little sortie of the Culture Wars known as Sad Puppies.

    They were paid for by my tax money, my dear readers, and yours.

    And before you ask, no, no journalist, no editor, no one contacted me or interviewed me or made any attempt known to me to hear from the counsel for the defense. At a real witch trial held by the real Inquisition, even the devil gets an advocate and someone speaks up for defendant being accused of witchcraft.

    It is a sad, sad comment on modern journalism that they are not even up to the moral and ethical standards of medieval Witch-burners.

    This is the first news outlet of which I have ever heard joining the bunny mobbing of the Sad Puppies. Alas, the sharp, sharp teeth of the coneys somehow fail to inspire my poet’s heart with terror.

    http://www.onthemedia.org/story/hugo-awards-sad-puppy-edition/?utm_source=local&utm_medium=treatment&utm_campaign=daMost&utm_content=damostviewed

    Note that Mr Chu claims that I am most famous for my THE GOLDEN AGE trilogy, but says my work declined in the years after that, on the grounds that in my fantasy LAST GUARDIAN OF EVERNESS, one character supports returning to the gold standard.  (If you listen carefully, you will hear the interviewer snort in disbelief. Who actually believes in sound economic policies these days? Unheard of!)

    He fails to mention that LAST GUARDIAN was the first novel I ever wrote, hence the most amateurish of my published writing, and that all my novels since have had less political intrusions into the story, not more. But this would cut against the narrative, that is, the lies, he is trying to promulgate, so he says the opposite.

    Mr Chu then spends the middle of the segment slandering Vox Day. As for Vox Day, allow me to quote the International Lord of Hate:

    Vox Day! VOX DAAAAaaaay!

    Vox Day wasn’t on the Sad Puppies suggest slate. Sorry. Can’t blame that one on us.

    Well, I suppose you can, in that I demonstrated how small this most prestigious award actually is last year. Vox Day’s alternate Rabid Puppies slate was him going directly to his fan base. Looking at the numbers, and he on his own was about as successful as I was last year for SP2.

    Now here is an interesting thought for you moderates out there who despise Vox Day. Above I talked about the angry reaction to SP2… Honestly, last year Fandom (capital F) insulted hundreds of outsider fans’ taste and intelligence, called them names, and basically treated them like trash (while the majority kept their mouths shut at best, or gave tacit approval at worst) and now you’re shocked when Vox Day has appealed directly to those people you mocked to vote in a manner that especially pisses you off?

    Well, duh.

    Mr Chu then pontification about the ‘Disco Sucks’ movement and he psychoanalyzes that movement as an Anti-Gay fear of castration. What Disco has to do with me and mine, I have not even the slightest idea.

    Mr Chu called me out by name. His argument is that my work — which he has not read — is not worthy of an award on the grounds that some unnamed radio shock jock from three decades ago who hates disco, a man or men whom Mr Chu does not know and has never psychoanalyzed, allegedly has Freudian psychological problems due to neurotic race hatred and pathological fear of sodomy and castration.

    It is not even a good ad hominem argument. It is not an argument at all: Mr Chu’s thoughts are not connected one to the next. His words are more like the disconnected and disjointed ramblings of a homeless beggar ejected from the madhouse found on a street corner seated in a puddle of his own spew.

    Mr Chu then makes the argument that ‘golden age’ science fiction preaches that society will not change. This is too stupid to merit rebuttal. The very definition of science fiction is that it is the genre that explores how changing technology causes changes in civilization. Only someone utterly unfamiliar with the genre speaking to an audience utterly unfamiliar with the genre would even venture such an argument.

    I am glad a complete stranger tells me I am motivated by the fear of being irrelevant rather than by what I have publicly and repeatedly stated my motive to be, and which even a casual onlooker can discern.

    I assume this character assassin has never read even a single syllable I have written: my utter and absolute indifference to being relevant (whatever that term means) is not a product of stoic resignation but of an inability even to imagine what the hell he is talking about.

    Newspaper reporting is supposed to be relevant, if that word means concerned with the here-and-now. Science fiction is concerned with the things far off and things to come.

    Science fiction, for example, is concerned with topics like Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, together with his bold Waziri warriors, a crew of German airman and radio scientist Jason Gridley, using a vacuum-buoyant Zeppelin to descend through the polar opening into the hollow earth to fight the man-eating lizard men of among the dinosaur-haunted jungles of Pellicidar to rescue David Innes, adventurer, kidnapped by pirates, and meanwhile Jason can rescue Jana, Red Flower of Zoram, brave and beautiful cavegirl. This material hardly betrays an obsession with relevance nor a fear of losing it.

    And this is what the foolish character assassin identifies as my main motivation? My alleged fear of losing the very thing I escape into science fiction to avoid?

    Again, it is an argument only someone utterly unfamiliar with the genre would make to an audience utterly unfamiliar with the genre.

    Perhaps he means something else by the word. Does he mean popular? Does he mean possessing an ability to influence the political and cultural milieu? Does he mean anything at all? Perhaps he means nothing, and selected the word for its poetic sound and cadence.

    Then the two chatterers rejoice that the conservatives are on the wrong side of history. What this has to do with Sad Puppies, who are deliberately and notoriously apolitical, I cannot fathom.

    The conversation degenerates into two monkeys picking lice off each other, a mutual petting spree of Marxists decrying those who oppose the revolution as reactionaries. The Morlocks rejoice in their ironclad grip on the future. Well,  HG Wells reports that the future does indeed belong to the Morlocks. However, he was not proposing this as an evolution, but a devolution.

    I note also that the two chattering Morlocks deny that the Sad Puppies are the underdogs here, and then chuckle and say that we are supposed to be the underdogs, and therefore it is absurd of us to claim to be the underdogs. Logic is not their strong suit.

    All this happens the same week I promoted a call for mutual peace. Well, I received the answer I expected.

    In order to answer the accusation of the Sad Puppies that the Hugo Award has degenerated into an explicitly political award, the mass media in lockstep rolls out its libel and slander campaign harping on one point and one point only: the composition and leadership of the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies is not politically correct. That is the only thing proffered as an argument: we are conservatives ergo hatemongers.

    Since I am, to my knowledge, the only actual political and social conservative in the Evil Legion of Evil, as well as the only Anglo-Saxon, I wonder at the sheer, mind-boggling stupidity of using politics, race, and sex as the tactic to disqualify our complaint that the award has been corrupted by those who subordinate literary merit to politics, race, and sex.

    Granting a literary award for political purposes perverts and demeans the award.

    The proper counterargument is to prove the awards have not been demeaned and ever have been awarded by literary merit. The counterargument that we accusers have doubleplus ungood politics and wrongsex and badrace supports rather than undermines the argument.

    Enough. Please write to NPR, and ask all the people involved in this act of rent-a-journalist character assassination to be fired.

     

    by John C Wright at April 20, 2015 03:13 PM

    512 Pixels

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    by Stephen Hackett at April 20, 2015 02:45 PM

    Daniel Lemire's blog

    To be creative, work alone


    In his excellent book How to Fly a Horse, Ashton makes a case for working alone. He quotes Apple’s co-founder and technical genius Steven Wozniak:

    Work alone. You’re going to be best able to design revolutionary products and features if you’re working on your own. Not on a committee. Not on a team.

    This should be qualified: Wozniak did not work alone. What he means is that he designed his work alone.

    Researchers such as Brooks have long advocated that design is a lonely task.

    The idea that building up ideas is best done alone or in tiny teams flies in the face of many of our managerial practices:

    • companies like Google and Facebook leave little private space to their employees;
    • most research funding bodies specifically encourage collaboration… having entire funding programs to encourage collaboration.

    Yet we know that researchers in smaller laboratories are more productive (Carayol and Matt, 2006). There is also no evidence that collaboration with outside groups improves productivity (Abramo et al., 2009).

    I believe that despite all of the evidence, our intuition about when good and innovative work happens is all wrong. If you cannot go for one hour in a quiet room to think, you are just responding. Your brain is not deeply engaged.

    Yet we think too often that it is in this multitasking mode, where we have many things on our minds, solving twelve problems at a time, that we are being creative.

    Time alone to think is often viewed as egotistical. I would argue that it is even slightly shameful. Who are you to request time alone in a private office?

    I think we have evolved a negative view of loneliness for good reasons. For our ancestors, being alone was being dead.

    Our brains are marvellous computers that have evolved for sophisticated relationships. We have complex interactions with a few people every day. Our livelihood depends on these interactions. I think you would be right to model human beings as nodes in a computing cluster. We are fundamentally geared to relate frequently and deeply with our tribe.

    For sure, there are a few people who cut off all lines of communication… but far fewer than you may think. Look at tenured professors… look at how many, at least in the sciences, write their papers alone. Further, look at how many write papers alone on work that has little to do with what other contemporary researchers do… Researchers are amazing gregarious.

    Most of my own work was done in small teams. I almost never work alone per se. I find it much more enjoyable to work with others. But my collaboration patterns are usually iterative:

    • Joe provides piece A;
    • I take time alone to study A, and after a time I provide B;
    • Joe takes B and valides it… maybe providing me with a revised version C…

    Each iteration can take hours, days… But notice how the core of the work, the important pieces, are done by individuals working alone.

    I have grown convinced over time that the reason we need to design alone is that it is difficult otherwise to reach a state of flow. In a good day, I might enter a state of flow for an hour or two. That is when I do my most important work. The rest of the day is spent answering emails, grading papers, reviewing articles, getting back to students, and so on.

    To enter the state of flow, I need to ignore everything but the problem at hand. In a robust state of flow, I will forget to eat. It is difficult to enter this state with people around unless they are careful not to disturb you.

    I like to compare a state of flow to a compute that shuts down all non-essential background processes. The entire CPU cache (i.e., your short term memory) becomes dedicated to one problem and one problem only.

    In a normal state, my brain has to think about many things… though I am not aware of it, I constantly check the time, review my agenda for the day, and so on. In a state of flow, all these background tasks are terminated.

    To do your best work, you need to focus. To get this result, you cannot be, at the same time, in constant interaction with others. So, effectively, you have to be alone… at least when you are doing your important work.

    by Daniel Lemire at April 20, 2015 02:07 PM

    Crossway Blog

    Reading the Bible with Dead Guys: Schaeffer on Romans 8



    Reading the Bible With Dead Guys is a weekly blog series giving you the chance to read God’s Word alongside some great theologians from church history. With content adapted from the Crossway Classic Commentaries series, these posts feature reflections on Scripture by giants of the faith like John Calvin, Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon, John Owen, and more.

    Today we’ll hear from Francis Schaeffer (1912–1984) on Romans 8:1-3


    There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. (8:1-2)

    If we have accepted Christ as our Savior, we will never have to face the prospect of eternal condemnation. This first verse of chapter 8 should remind us of the first verse of chapter 5, with which Paul introduced this section on sanctification: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

    He is really saying the same thing here in 8:1, and he will return to this great theme in verses 18-39: Eternal life is forever. Eternal life is eternal. If we have taken Jesus as our Savior, our condemnation is past forever.

    For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. (8:2)

    We just heard Paul ask, “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (7:24). And now comes the answer: “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has [once for all!] made me free from the law of sin and death” (8:2).

    Because I have accepted Jesus as my Savior, my condemnation is past. I am once for all free from the law of sin and death.

    For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh. (8:3)

    The law is good, but there is something it cannot do. It cannot save me. Why? Because it “was weak through the flesh.” The law is all right in itself, but it is weak through the flesh, that is, through my flesh and your flesh. We can’t keep the law. Therefore “God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.”

    We couldn’t keep the law, but Christ did. “God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin [by a sacrifice for sin], condemned sin in the flesh.”

    By emphasizing that Christ condemned sin specifically “in the flesh,” Paul seems to be reminding us again that he is talking about our present life, in our present bodies. He’s talking about life in the real world of real people like you and me.

    This excerpt was adapted from The Finished Work of Christ: The Truth of Romans 1-8 by Francis Schaeffer.


    Francis A. Schaeffer (1912-1984) authored more than twenty books, which have sold millions worldwide. He and his wife, Edith, founded L'Abri Fellowship international study and discipleship centers. Schaeffer passed away in 1984, but his influence and legacy continue worldwide.

    by Nick Rynerson at April 20, 2015 01:47 PM

    Zondervan Academic Blog

    Is “Has Been Causing to Grow” Redundant? (1 Cor 3:6) — Mondays with Mounce 259

    One of the important steps every Greek student must make is to move beyond the formal structures of first and even second year Greek, and start considering other issues such as the meaning of a word.

    Take for example 1 Cor 3:6. “I planted, Apollos watered, but God has been causing the growth (ηὔξανεν).” Because ηὔξανεν is an imperfect — past time; imperfective aspect — every first year Greek teacher would expect an explicitly durative translation: “has been causing.”

    This is great for first year Greek, but let me ask the question. Isn’t the actual meaning of “grow” a durative idea? Do we have to explicitly say “has been causing” to get the durative idea across? Of course not.

    In fact, it could be argued that having both “grow” and “has been causing” is redundant, translating the same form twice. That’s why the ESV/NRSV has “gave the growth,” NET has “caused it to grow,” the NLT has “made it grow,” and the KJV “gave the increase.” The concept of “growth” is inherently durative and the additional “has been … ing” is unnecessarily redundant.

    We often talk about formal and dynamic translation theory, but there really is a third alternative, “natural language translation.” The ESV is formal, the NIV is dynamic, and the NLT is natural. The ESV tries to somewhat rigidly stick to Greek order as long as it conveys meaning. The NIV tries to respect Greek order while still trying to communicate well. As far as I can tell, the NLT doesn’t care at all about Greek word order and constructions; they want to say the same thing in colloquial English as is being said in Greek. Remember, the NT is Koine, “common,” the every day language of the first century.

    The point is that in a natural language translation, you will see the meaning of the word carry more weight than rigidly repeating the formal Greek structure (e.g., its tense). But I suspect that even in the case of the NIV, “has been making it grow” is redundant and the meaning of the verb can carry the sense of the imperfect just fine.

    _____________________

    William D. [Bill] Mounce posts about the Greek language, exegesis, and related topics on the ZA Blog. He is the author of numerous works including the recent Basics of Biblical Greek Video Lectures and the bestselling Basics of Biblical Greek. He is the general editor of Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words. He served as the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version Bible translation, and is currently on the Committee for Bible Translation for the NIV.

    Learn more about Bill’s Greek resources at Teknia.com and visit his blog on spiritual growth at BiblicalTraining.org/blog/life-journey.

    by Bill Mounce at April 20, 2015 01:31 PM

    Crossway Blog

    Why We’re Giving Away the ESV Global Study Bible (to Everyone)

    Why Give a Study Bible Away for Free?

    As of Monday, April 13th, Crossway now offers the ESV Global Study Bible free of charge, accessible via a variety of digital platforms.

    In providing free access to the Global Study Bible, we want to equip the global church with theologically rich, gospel-centered content aimed at helping God's people better understand the Bible and apply it to their own lives. This goal stands at the heart of Crossway’s mission as a not-for-profit ministry and reflects one of our ongoing global ministry initiatives.

    There are three ways people can access the Global Study Bible:

    It is our prayer that the Global Study Bible serves Christians around the world as they read, study, and teach the most important book that has ever existed: the Bible.

    To learn more about how you can support this ministry goal and others like it, please visit our Donate page.

    by Matt Tully at April 20, 2015 01:28 PM

    Church Isn't Just for Sunday

    Saturate: Church Isn't Just for Sunday from Crossway on Vimeo.

    What does it mean to be the church all week?

    In this video, pastor Jeff Vanderstelt helps us recapture a vision for everyday discipleship, pushing back against the idea that the only people who get to be the church are those on the stage on Sunday morning.

    He helps us to see that church is not primarily a Sunday event, but rather a people saved by the power of God for his purposes in the world—every day and in every place.


    About the Book

    In Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life, Jeff Vanderstelt wants us to see that there’s more—much more—to the Christian life than sitting in a pew once a week. God has called his people to something bigger: a view of the Christian life that encompasses the ordinary, the extraordinary, and everything in between.

    Packed full of biblical teaching, compelling stories, and real-world advice, Saturate will remind you that Jesus is filling the world with his presence through the everyday lives of everyday people…

    People just like you.

    Learn more about the book and read a free excerpt today.

    by Matt Tully at April 20, 2015 01:28 PM

    QuirksBlog

    Of undocumented Chrome features and unreadable W3C specs

    Today I rant about undocumented Chrome features and unreadable W3C specs. There’s too much of both nowadays, and I’m getting VERY tired of both. Google and W3C should clean up their act.

    Today’s problem: window.webkitStorageInfo, which gives information about available and used storage space for localStorage and sessionStorage (and maybe more storage types, but I haven’t tested that yet).

    Undocumented Chrome features

    Although it’s Chrome-only, I wanted to incorporate this in my upcoming local/sessionStorage test suite since it gives important information. But how does it work?

    Fortunately I found a developer.chrome article that gives a code example:

    // Request storage usage and capacity left
    window.webkitStorageInfo.queryUsageAndQuota(
    	webkitStorageInfo.TEMPORARY, 
    	//the type can be either TEMPORARY or PERSISTENT
    function(used, remaining) {
      console.log("Used quota: " + used + ", 
      remaining quota: " + remaining);
    }, function(e) {
      console.log('Error', e); 
    } );
    

    Lo and behold, this works. Cool. Except for the niggling fact that the console gives this message:

    'window.webkitStorageInfo' is deprecated. 
    Please use 'navigator.webkitTemporaryStorage' or 
    'navigator.webkitPersistentStorage' instead.
    

    Fair enough. Methods and properties evolve, and I’d like to test the most modern one. So I switched from window.webkitStorageInfo to navigator.webkitTemporaryStorage. And my script stopped working:

    Uncaught TypeError: Failed to execute 'queryUsageAndQuota' on 
    'DeprecatedStorageQuota': The callback provided as 
    parameter 1 is not a function.
    

    So apparently the first argument must be a function. Which function? What is it supposed to do? Can I get a code example? No, apparently. I searched for queryUsageAndQuota and found ... nothing. No documentation, no code example. No way of figuring out what the first argument should be.

    Related: it seems this entire API was removed from Web Workers, but kept in the main thread. I can’t judge the technical pros and cons, but I do know some sort of warning or note would have been useful.

    Way to go, Chrome team.

    Unreadable W3C specs

    Now it was suggested that the correct way of doing this can be found in the specification. That’s entirely possible, but I am unable to make heads or tails of the spec. A translation to a human language would be mucho appreciated; even a simple code example would help a lot. But no, W3C doesn’t do code examples. IDL definitions are teh coolnez, and who cares if developers can’t read the specs they’re supposed to develop against?

    Another example that irritates me: CSS Device Adaptation, which specifies the viewports, a topic near and dear to my heart. I think I can state that I’m one of the world’s leading experts on viewports, since I studied them since before anyone else figured out they were going to be important, and did so in ALL browsers, not just Chrome, Firefox and Safari.

    But the spec could as well be written in Luwian as far as I’m concerned. I can’t even figure out if it describes the current state of viewports or some idealised future that we should all work towards.

    Heads, tails, please report to me at your earliest convenience. I can’t make you of the spec. (And yes, that’s terrible syntax. Serves IDL well.)

    Way to go, W3C.

    Update: I wrote an article specifically about the problem I have with the Device Adaptation spec.

    Three problems

    It may be that I’m being an obtuse and stupid old fart (turning 45 this year), and that the solution is in fact fairly simple, but this example highlights three worrying trends that I see creep up too often in modern web development.

    1. Cram your browser full, and I mean FULL, of exciting new stuff and subsequently refuse to document it. Oh, there are happy-happy-joy-joy introduction articles, and they have their place, but I need documentation: a list of methods and properties I should test, and a clue as to what they do and which arguments they expect and so on. I need those lists to make sure I don’t forget to test something important.
      But Chrome sucks at documentation. I knew that already, but it’s biting me now.
    2. Write an exciting new spec that’s completely fucking unreadable due to all the IDLish W3-speak the authors need to impress other W3C authors. The only thing that’s needed is a simple code example, and I can take it from there. But it seems there’s no budget for code examples. (W? T? F?)
    3. Most web developers together, shouting at the top of their lungs: “But XXX is a brilliant tool that solves all this for you!”
      Some web developers, also shouting: “No! Use YYY instead!”
      Fuck tools. I don’t do tools. Besides, if no web dev can understand the specs any more and just uses tools ... do we want to go there?
      Also, tool makers need compatibility info. Guess where they get it?

    Anyway, this sad state of affairs prevents me from writing tests and reporting their outcome on all these new, exciting technologies. Chrome team, W3C, clean up your act. This is getting ridiculous.

    Can’t we just stop cramming new stuff into browsers for a while? Give people a chance to catch up? And to document all this exciting new stuff in a human language instead of bloody IDL?

    Thanks all for listening. I feel much better now.

    by ppk (ppk@xs4all.nl) at April 20, 2015 12:01 PM

    Inconsolation

    podcastxdl: One-shot downloads for your ears

    There are not many podcast tools I can mention, in the years spent spinning through console-based software. In fact, I can think of only about four. But here’s one you can add to your list, if you’re keeping one: PodcastXDL.

    2015-04-19-6m47421-podcastxdl 2015-04-19-6m47421-podcastxdl-02

    PodcastXDL works in a similar fashion to podget, which you might remember from a looong time ago. Give PodcastXDL a url and a file type, and it should parse through the stream and pull down everything that matches.

    It can also spit out links, meaning you can use PodcastXDL to supply links to files, rather than download them. There are also command-line options to start or stop at specific points in a feed, which might be helpful for cropping out older files.

    I’ll be honest and say I had a few difficulties working with PodcastXDL, most notably that it didn’t accept my target download directory. If you run into issues with PodcastXDL and nothing seems to be arriving, I would suggest leaving off any -d argument.

    Other than that small hiccup, PodcastXDL did what it promised, and I ran into no major issues. It has good color, plenty of options and has seen updates within the past month or so, if you shy away from dated software.

    If you need something quick and one-shot for podcast downloads, this could work for you and is better looking than podget was. If you’re looking for something more comprehensive and with more of an interface, stick with podbeuter.


    Tagged: audio, download, manager, player, podcast

    by K.Mandla at April 20, 2015 12:00 PM

    QuirksBlog

    The problems with the device-adaptation spec

    After last week’s rant about, among other things, the W3C Device Adaptation spec, one of the spec’s authors asked me to clarify my critique. Fair enough. Here’s my take on the current specification.

    My critique of Device Adaptation consists of three main themes:

    1. The spec does not address the actual current situation at all, while all browsers actually support my theory of the layout, visual, and ideal viewports decently, and I’ve already done the heavy lifting.
    2. The spec is obscure about what its most important components actually mean; I’m especially thinking of the initial and actual viewport. A simple schematic would have helped a lot here, and it’s fairly easy to produce.
    3. Although the spec treats relevant media queries as well as the meta viewport and the @viewport syntax, it does not treat the relevant JavaScript properties such as window.innerWidth and devicePixelRatio. That latter, especially, could do with some specification.

    Don’t get me wrong: I do not think that the concepts presented in the specification are incorrect, though I have my doubts about the practical application of some items, notably min-width and max-width for @viewport {width} (in other words, not giving an exact width for the layout viewport, but merely a range within which it should fall). Still, I could be wrong and web devs might love it. Trying them in a practical project might be interesting.

    However, the specification should first get the basics right. And it doesn’t.

    The current situation

    W3C is unfortunately heading back to the bad old days where it ignored actually-existing implementations in favour of completely new ideas whose connection to reality is sometimes tenuous. The Device Adaptation spec is an example of this trend.

    I think that my research, and the underlying theories I created, offer a good model of how viewports actually work in browsers nowadays. I define three viewports:

    1. The layout viewport defines the width of the entire page, which is equal to CSS’s initial containing block. If you give an element a width: 100% it stretches to 100% of the layout viewport width.
    2. The visual viewport defines how much of the layout viewport is currently visible on the screen. The visual viewport changes when the user zooms in or out.
    3. The ideal viewport defines the width and height of the layout viewport when width=device-width is set. It is the ideal layout viewport for the device the browser runs on; if set, it gives the browser’s user an ideal viewport width.

    If you want to read the viewport saga in easy-to-grasp format I recommend chapter 4 of my book.

    Having an actual specification for these three viewports would be useful. Even though all mobile browsers support them (partly thanks to my work in 2010-1), it’s useful to have a standard against which to measure implementations.

    Unfortunately the specification does not mention anything remotely resembling the visual viewport even once — and this viewport is important for position: fixed and a few other CSS declarations. I think the spec does mention the layout viewport (see below). As to the ideal viewport, it is vaguely implied sometimes (I think), but any formal definition is lacking.

    And that’s while I’ve already done the necessary research and the spec writers could just copy my definitions (or disagree with them, but at the very least acknowledge their existence as an accurate depiction of the current state of affairs).

    New concepts

    The specification instead defines the initial and actual viewports. Despite reading through the spec several times (once more just before writing this article), I’m not 100% certain which viewport(s) is/are meant here.

    My current guess is that the initial viewport equals the natural layout viewport; that is, the layout viewport any web page would get out of the box. In most browsers this layout viewport is between 800 and 1024 pixels wide. It is meant to display desktop websites that aren’t mobile-optimised in any way decently — although they may be not easily readable because they’re too wide for the screen, at least their CSS doesn’t misfire horribly.

    The actual viewport, I think, is the layout viewport after all relevant meta viewports have been executed. Thus it will usually be the same as the ideal viewport, since almost every practical use of the meta viewport uses width=device-width and results in the layout viewport being set to the ideal viewport’s dimensions.

    However, I’m not sure of this. A simple schematic or code example, or in fact any sort of explanation, would hve helped greatly here. Unfortunately the spec doesn’t provide any.

    Therefore I can’t tell you what the initial and actual viewport actually are, and, if my theory above is correct, why the spec does not mention the visual and ideal viewports.

    I’m not against these new viewports — they might help to define what actually goes on in browsers when they apply meta viewports. However, they should be described in addition to the actual current state of affairs, not instead of.

    JavaScript

    One of the more pleasant discoveries I made back in 2010 was that there was an emerging de-facto standard for JavaScript properties that expose viewport widths and heights. Specifically, document.documentElement.clientWidth gives you the actual current dimensions of the layout viewport, while window.innerWidth does the same for the visual viewport.

    I spent quite a bit of time telling browser makers to support these properties, especially the latter, and sometimes the going was slow (looking at you, Firefox), but nowadays they work in just about all browsers.

    Not a hint of all this enters the specification anywhere. Browsers will continue to support these JavaScript properties anyway, but a specification that doesn’t mention them is incomplete.

    DPR

    It becomes even worse when we study window.devicePixelRatio. Nowadays, on most mobile browsers, this is the ratio between the physical device pixels on the screen and the ideal viewport. The only exception is the iPhone 6+, which is blatantly lying when it says its DPR is 3, while in fact it should be 1080/414 = 2.60869565217391.

    Also, desktop browsers (except for Safari) have taken to treating DPR as a variable that depends on (is?) the current zoom factor. I’m not very happy with this state of affairs, since it breaks compatibility with mobile browsers, which all treat DPR as a constant.

    The situation is complex, and I need to run some desktop tests to be certain of what’s going on, but a specification here would help a lot, since it would at least create a consistent theory of what DPR ought to be. That, in turn, would give me (and browser makers) something to agree or disagree with.

    Unfortunately the specification doesn’t mention DPR even once.

    Conclusion

    Concluding, I feel the current Device Adaptation specification is flawed because it does not pay any attention to the actual system that’s in place right now in all browsers, because it doesn’t give a simple example to explain the initial and actual viewports, and because it doesn’t mention crucial JavaScript and media query properties; especially DPR.

    Without these features the specification is unlikely to have a lot of influence on how browser vendors actually implement viewports, and how web developers use them. And that’s a pity, since some of the spec’s new concepts could enrich our understanding of the viewports.

    by ppk (ppk@xs4all.nl) at April 20, 2015 11:56 AM

    Market Urbanism

    Travel Update: A Tale Of Two Latino Areas In Miami And San Francisco

    Miami, FL

    1. The two Forbes articles I wrote this week are about New York City mayor Bill de Blasio’s effort to modernize the city’s courts; and a tech program under New York governor Andrew Cuomo that failed colossally in year one.

    2. The highlight of my week, though, came at the tail end on Saturday night, when I explored Miami’s Little Havana, a Cuban neighborhood outside of downtown. What surprised me was how Cuban it actually was, despite abutting one of the nation’s booming financial districts. Almost everyone there is Cuban—save the few gringo tourists like me—and the neighborhood is rooted in their culture. Spanish is the first language, salsa music echoes through the streets, and retail areas are lined with Caribbean cuisine. It’s not unusual to find live chickens running though people’s backyards. The architecture reflects what I’ve seen in photos of Havana, and hasn’t been interspersed with condos and yoga studios.

    This surprised me because, usually when I walk into such neighborhoods that abut rich areas, I find that they have been gentrified past the state of being “ethnic.” For example in San Francisco, The Mission District, historically the city’s Mexican neighborhood, is a shell of its former self. While it may have some streets dedicated to Mexican culture, there is literally a one-block demarcation from hipster Valencia Street, and the only thing keeping the old-timers around is rent control. San Francisco also has an increasingly diluted Chinatown and Japantown, and the decline of its black culture is well-documented. Meanwhile Miami’s “Little Havana” is still Cuban and historically-black Overtown remains black. Both neighborhoods are a stone’s-throw from downtown.

    The fact that Miami is better than San Francisco at preserving close-in ethnic neighborhoods is surprising, because the cities are similar. Both have experienced a flood of new people and capital due, respectively, to their booming financial and tech industries. Both are warm-weather cities that attract tourists, artists, and the creative class. So how has Miami resisted gentrification? The answer lies in its downtown housing policies.

    Rather than acting like they had no clue what to do with all these incoming rich people, Miami officials allowed them a place to go: Brickell. This is a neo-liberal mecca that several decades ago was a low-slung neighborhood. But in the 1970s, it began attracting small banks, and in the decades since has boomed into the “Wall Street of Miami.” It is now home to dozens of banks, and more than just a daytime work center, has evolved into a 24/7 skyscraper neighborhood, with a residential population that doubled from 2000-2010, to 27,000. A 2013 report found that 19 new condos were under construction, and another two dozen were in the planning stages. Along with this has come the fancy restaurants, bars, light rail, and walkable streets.

    “If you’re a yuppie in Miami,” said a finance-industry woman who I went on a date with in the area, during a characteristically hopping Thursday night. “You’re going to live in Brickell.”

    brickell

    San Francisco, meanwhile, doesn’t have a Brickell-like area, and thus not a decisive place for its techies to live. The reason is politics. For one, Brickell’s ostentatious wealth displays conform with Miami’s culture, but would send San Francisco’s class warriors into spasms of outrage. Brickell also wouldn’t get built because San Francisco’s NIMBYs wouldn’t just allow a high-rise neighborhood to go up overnight—or at all. Even when something as harmless as a 12-story condo—8 Washington—is proposed in downtown San Francisco, it faces years of litigation. The stretch of land most eligible to become San Francisco’s Brickell would be the Mission Bay area around the Giants’ baseball stadium. But much of this land is government-operated, and all of it is regulated, leading to parking lots and low-scale buildings.

    If this area were allowed to explode with high-end condos, it would be a natural destination for SF’s techies—just as Brickell is for Miami’s bankers. Many of America’s rich young professionals, after all, have shown a taste for the type of high-rise, upscale, security-laden condos found in Brickell. But because San Francisco lacks such development, yuppies there instead settle for older housing in low-slung neighborhoods like The Mission, Potrero Hill, and the Tenderloin. And this has brought chaos to those neighborhoods, as prices rise and established tenants are evicted.

    All this, of course, suggests an ironic aspect of urban housing markets that is misunderstood by most government officials and NIMBYs: “if a city wants to preserve, it must build.” In other words, if a city is being flooded with rich people, then allow the market to build to their specifications, namely in under-utilized areas, and watch them concentrate there. That way, they won’t overwhelm the old-school ethnic areas, keeping prices down, and enabling those areas to function as they long have.

     

    by Scott Beyer at April 20, 2015 09:04 AM

    Table Titans

    Tales: The Staff of Striking

    News

    He thought he had me.

    I was DM'ing for several years when my group attained a nice high level. One of them found a Ring of Three Wishes. He went for all his little heart desired.

    "I wish I had a tamed Gold Dragon to ride."

    Since I was young and just read some dragon books, the wish was…

    Read more

    April 20, 2015 07:02 AM

    Natural Running Center

    eagereyes

    Paper: ISOTYPE Visualization – Working Memory, Performance, and Engagement with Pictographs

    Unit charts are not common in visualization, and they are often considered a bad idea. The same is true for using shapes other than rectangles. Neither is based on much actual research, however. In a new paper, we look at the specific example of ISOTYPE-style charts – and find them to be quite effective.

    I have written about ISOTYPE before: Otto and Marie Neurath developed the idea in the 1920s, Gerd Arntz created the iconic shapes. Neurath’s idea was to communicate facts about the world in terms of numbers that would be easy to understand. The charts they produced showed data like the kinds of technology used by people (radio receivers, cars, telephones), changes in the way people worked through the course of the industrial revolution, etc.

    ISOTYPE-population-livestock

    For a paper presented this week at CHI 2015Steve Haroz, Steven Franconeri (both at Northwestern University), and I conducted a number of studies to gauge how well people could read these charts, how well they would remember what they had seen, and how engaging they found them. The different experiments had varying numbers of participants, mostly in the range of 20-50.

    Here is the kind of image we used in the study to represent the ISOTYPE style. We focus on just the idea of repeating small icons. Icon shapes were drawn from a large number of different types of things, animals, etc.

    ISOTYPE-stacked-pictographs

    We compared this to four others: basic bar charts, stacked circles (to see if stacking alone would be better), scaled objects, and a superfluous image in the background.

    ISOTYPE-other-conditions

    In broad strokes, it turns out that repeated objects are easier to read and compare, as long as the number is low. But since ISOTYPE icons always represent some multiple anyway, that is not a significant limitation.

    Memory is also improved when using icons instead of generic shapes. This is not surprising, though it is worth pointing out that this did not come with a decrease in reading speed of the ISOTYPE charts when compared to bar charts. Also, using icons as labels (instead of words) for bars did not work nearly as well.

    Lest you think that this study can be used to justify chart junk, we also found that the superfluous object in the background (bottom right in the image above) was highly distracting and interfered with memory and reading performance.

    These are just some of the results, there are many more in the paper. Steve Haroz has put together a nice little landing page for the project with key take-aways and design tips, as well as the interactive playground to create ISOTYPE images. You can even try the studies yourself!


    Steve Haroz, Robert Kosara, Steven L. Franconeri, ISOTYPE Visualization – Working Memory, Performance, and Engagement with Pictographs; Proceedings CHI, pp. 1191–1200, 2015

    by Robert Kosara at April 20, 2015 06:15 AM

    One Big Fluke

    Some updates to dpxdt

    I landed a few updates to Depicted today:

    • We now use virtualenv to manage dependencies. No more git submodules! That was a huge mistake. At the time (two years ago) I thought pip was just as bad. But now I'm fine with it.
    • I rewrote the deployment instructions to use App Engine Managed VMs. It's now 10x easier to deploy. Still non-trivial because Google's Cloud Console is so complicated.
    • Instructions for local dpxdt are now at the top of the README, thanks to Dan. I moved the whole set of dpxdt local instructions over. Hopefully this will make the project less scary for newbies.

    What's left: Make it so you can install the whole server with pip install dpxdt_server and be done with it.

    by Brett Slatkin (noreply@blogger.com) at April 20, 2015 05:32 AM

    The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

    What Africa Needs More Than Food Aid or Democracy

    Over the past few years, I’ve enjoyed meeting and getting to know Ken Mbugua from Nairobi, Kenya. I’m excited about how God is at work in his life and ministry, preparing him for leading the church there. In 2013, my son and I spent a little time with Ken and his team at Emanuel Baptist Church. He recently completed an internship at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.

    Ken is one of the primary contributors to a recent book focused on dealing with prosperity teaching in Africa. The Gospel Coalition International Outreach is partnering with ACTS Kenya to put this book into the hands of thousands of church leaders all over Africa. To learn how you can join with us in this effort, visit our Relief Project page for Prosperity? Seeking the True Gospel.


    Why is prosperity theology such an important issue to address for Africa?

    There are millions of Africans attending churches where the only message they hear is the prosperity gospel. The churches that preach this false gospel are everywhere, but sadly they seem to thrive even more in the poor communities of urban areas. Famous prosperity gospel preachers in the United States are very popular here in Africa. Their books are readily available, and their sermons are played on local television. Many are caught up either as preachers or followers without ever having heard the true gospel. A softer version of the same false teaching is affecting even mainstream churches.

    From the Jerusalem Council to the Council of Nicea, the church has been called to contend for the faith against many different distortions. The primary distortion the gospel faces in Africa is the prosperity gospel. Although many believers and preachers oppose it, there are few resources addressing it. In many ways the prosperity gospel is being allowed to raid and plunder the church freely. We need more voices in the African church to put up a fight against this false gospel before it’s too late.

    Africa needs the gospel more than it needs food aid. We need the gospel more than we need democracy. The prosperity we need the most is not offered by the American dream.

    In what ways does this teaching negatively affect the lives of individual Christians?

    There are poor people giving their small earnings to false gospel teachers in exchange for a false hope that will often leave them broken and doubting. There are middle class people getting conned out of their wealth, being told to give up their cars, land, and so on to the pastor. There are thousands of Christians attending church every Sunday to hear messages void of the gospel but full of self-help poisonous fluff. There is the constant shame brought to Christ and his church at large when the media exposes one false teacher after another.

    Right now in Kenya this false gospel is destroying the foundations of the faith that are supposed to sustain Christians through times of persecution. As persecution of Christians increases in Kenya, we need Christians who truly believe that dying is gain and that Jesus is worth it all a million times over. The prosperity gospel, soft version or otherwise, is doing nothing but harm to a church that might soon be called to the same thing the church in Smyrna was called to—“faithfulness unto death” (Rev. 2:10).

    How does the biblical gospel bring the truth to bear on this false teaching?

    The biblical gospel tells us that the problem is far worse than the prosperity gospel suggests. Our greatest problem is not that we are broken or sick. Our greatest problem is that the God of the universe is righteous in his holy anger, and he is coming to pour out his divine wrath on all who do not worship him as God. The biblical gospel tells us that the good news is far better than the fact that we will be made healthy and wealthy (even though this will be true of all believers in the new heavens and the new earth). The biblical gospel tells us that we get God as our treasure. We get to worship God as God. He sets us free from all other posers that promised joys they could never provide.

    Africa needs the gospel more than it needs food aid. We need the gospel more than we need democracy. The prosperity we need the most is not offered by the American dream.

    As a contributor to this book, what are your hopes for the effect that it could make?

    All that we are offering to God with this little book is less than the little boy's lunch he once used to feed a multitude (John 6:1-15). We have seen God do amazing things with it already. Bible schools have started using it to prepare their pastoral students to defend the gospel. Other missionaries have bought multiple copies and distributed them at conferences in villages far beyond our reach. Hundreds of high school students have studied the book and written research papers on it.

    We can only hope that God will continue to use this much-improved version of the book to reach even more pastors and church members with the true gospel. We pray that many who believe the prosperity gospel will be unshackled and that many who have not yet been trapped will be protected from it. We pray that God will bring the truth of the gospel to those who are naively holding on to a false gospel. We pray that the sheep will hear the voice of their shepherd and follow him.


    Learn more about TGC International Outreach’s mission of Theological Famine Relief for the Global Church. And watch this video interview with Ken during IO’s 2013 visit to Nairobi. 

    by Bill Walsh at April 20, 2015 05:01 AM

    There’s No Such Thing as a Spoiler

    I have a confession to make. I am a former English teacher and lifelong reader who has what many people would consider an abominable habit. I almost always read the last page of a book first. Supposedly, I’m spoiling the surprise and maybe even ruining the whole reading experience. Some would say this habit demonstrates a lack of patience; my husband would say that I just hate surprises. Both are probably true. But even though my initial motivations for forming this habit may not have been so noble, I have come to realize over time that there is much to be gained by knowing how a story ends in advance. In fact, Scripture demonstrates the power of this principle as it applies to the Christian life.  

    Why is there a market for book, movie, and TV “spoilers”? What is the appeal of knowing how something ends before we’ve even begun to read or watch it? I think the answer is fairly simple: knowing the ending makes the process of reading or watching more bearable and perhaps even more enjoyable. When I begin reading a novel, I know that I am going to encounter conflict and tension, struggle and heartbreak. Though a book probably wouldn’t be worth reading without at least a little bit of this tension, I have a hard time wading through those parts unless I know that it ends well. I need to know that the struggle will be worth it, that the characters will grow, that relationships will strengthen, that there will be redemption in the end.

    Looking Ahead Brings Comfort

    The Christian life is much the same. We are better able to bear struggle and difficulty by looking forward to the reward God has promised for those who are in Christ. Jesus tells his disciples in John 16:33 plainly to expect difficulty: “In the world you will have tribulation.” Thankfully, he immediately follows that warning with a comforting truth: “But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Jesus is giving a glimpse of the ending, which is already written. He has overcome the world. When discouragement and defeat come to us personally, or when we witness the devastating effects of sin on our country and our world, we can continue on, strengthened and comforted in the knowledge that the ultimate victory is already won. 

    Jesus’s model of juxtaposing present reality with future hope is repeated many times in Scripture. Consider how David proclaims his assurance of God’s faithfulness in Psalm 23.  In verse 4 he alludes to a present struggle saying, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” But he ends looking to the future, proclaiming, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” He is comforted not only by the knowledge that the Lord is with him in present struggles, but also by looking forward to his eternal home. 

    Looking Ahead Encourages Obedience

    The author of Hebrews helps us to see how Abraham and Moses were spurred on in obedience to God’s will by looking forward to their heavenly reward. Abraham was called to go out “not knowing where he was going,” so “by faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land” (Heb. 11:8-9). How was Abraham able to take this huge step of faith, to uproot his entire life not knowing what was ahead? Verse 10 tells us: “He was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” 

    Similarly, Moses “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter” (Heb. 11:24). Moses chose “rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Heb. 11:25). How could Moses make the choice to be mistreated rather than pampered? Verse 26 explains, “He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.” Abraham and Moses were able to leave behind earthly comforts and act in obedience to God’s call on their lives because they were looking ahead to their eternal reward.     

    Looking Ahead Enables Faithfulness

    A future-sighted view can also strengthen the believer to remain faithful amid temptation, a concept that English Puritan preacher Thomas Manton (1620-1677) eloquently explained in a sermon he preached on Hebrews 11. He taught, “Foretastes of heaven will bring such a strong influence in the heart of a believer, that all the reasons in the world cannot alter or break the force of our spiritual purpose.” He explained the benefits of a forward-looking faith with these examples:

    • When tempted to disregard the service of the Lord in favor of earthly advantages, faith looks to the immeasurable riches of heaven.
    • When tempted to seek the fame and good opinion of the world, faith looks to the crown of righteousness that God will give us.
    • When tempted to complain and grumble under the weight of taking up our cross and following Christ, faith looks to the end of the journey, which will find us in sweet fellowship with him.

    Manton taught that God’s promises for the future protect our hearts. Knowing what God has in store for the believer does not spoil anything; to the contrary, it improves everything. 

    I hope you’ll agree that I’m not spoiling anything when I tell you (or perhaps remind you) how the greatest book ever written ends. It ends with a promise, a prayer, and a blessing. There is a promise to remind us that our future is sure, the victory is won, and our bridegroom is coming; a prayer that invites us to look forward with joyful anticipation to the fulfillment of God’s promises; and a blessing that gives us what we need to remain faithful until our hope is fulfilled. Be encouraged by the words of Revelation 22:20-21: “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.”

    by Winfree Brisley at April 20, 2015 05:01 AM

    Themelios 40.1

    The Gospel Coalition just released the latest issue of Themelios, which has 194 pages of articles and book reviews. It is freely available in three formats: (1) PDF, (2) web version, and (3) Logos Bible Software (coming soon). A print edition will be available for purchase in several weeks from Wipf and Stock publishers.

    The latest issue opens with editorials by D. A. Carson and Mike Ovey. It includes a review essay by Nathan Finn on three recent books on evangelicalism. The remaining four articles focus on the patriarch Abraham. David Gibson and Martin Salter explore Abraham’s important place in paedobaptist and credobaptist theology, building upon their earlier exchange on baptism in Themelios 37.2. Next, David Shaw reflects on the patriarch’s significance in Romans and Paul’s doctrine of justification. Shaw critically interacts with the influential interpretations by N. T. Wright and Douglas Campbell, among others. Finally, in the Pastoral Pensées column, Matthew Rowley addresses the problematic reception history of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac and offers guidelines for interpreting and applying Genesis 22. The issue closes with 59 book reviews in Old Testament, New Testament, history and historical theology, systematic theology and bioethics, ethics and pastoralia, and mission and culture.

    Links to all editorials, articles, and book reviews in Themelios 40.1 are included below.

    1. D. A. Carson | Editorial: Why the Local Church Is More Important Than TGC, White Horse Inn, 9Marks, and Maybe Even ETS
    2. Michael J. Ovey | Off the Record: Courtier Politicians and Courtier Preachers
    3. Brian J. Tabb | Editor’s Note: Abraham, Our Father
    4. David Gibson | ‘Fathers of Faith, My Fathers Now!’: On Abraham, Covenant, and the Theology of Paedobaptism
    5. Martin Salter | The Abrahamic Covenant in Reformed Baptist Perspective
    6. David Shaw | Romans 4 and the Justification of Abraham in Light of Perspectives New and Newer
    7. Nathan A. Finn | Evangelical History after George Marsden: A Review Essay
    8. Matthew Rowley  | Pastoral Pensées: Irrational Violence? Reconsidering the Logic of Obedience in Genesis 22
    9. Old Testament Reviews
    1. New Testament Reviews
    1. History and Historical Theology Reviews
    1. Systematic Theology and Bioethics Reviews
    1. Ethics and Pastoralia Reviews
    1. Mission and Culture Reviews

    by Brian Tabb at April 20, 2015 05:00 AM

    The Art of Non-Conformity

    6 Discoveries from Near and Far: Volume XLI

    publicdomainarchive-free-stock-images

    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:

    by Chris Guillebeau at April 20, 2015 03:00 AM

    sacha chua :: living an awesome life

    Weekly review: Week ending April 17, 2015

    Between dealing with a squirrelly brain and deciding to take it easy, I didn’t get very much done this week. Oh! Except for getting the garden started, whee! Anyway, I thought a lot and drew a lot and even sewed a fair bit, so the week actually turned out pretty well.

    Next week: more conversations, and continuing to take it easy… I might look into sewing fabric pots, since apparently that’s a Thing and it neatly combines three of my interests: gardening, sewing, and experimenting with lasers.

    2015-04-20k Week ending 2015-04-17 -- index card #journal #weekly output

    Blog posts

    Sketches

    Link round-up

    Focus areas and time review

    • Business (23.3h – 13%)
      • Earn (10.0h – 43% of Business)
        • Earn: E1: 1-2 days of consulting
        • Earn: E1: 1-2 days of consulting
      • Build (6.3h – 27% of Business)
        • Drawing (6.1h)
        • Paperwork (0.2h)
      • Connect (7.0h – 29% of Business)
        • Talk to Christina Gonzales about Quantified Self
        • Ask Eric and Nicholas about Hacklab board thing
    • Relationships (19.3h – 11%)
      • Work on project
      • Attend RJ’s party
    • Discretionary – Productive (16.5h – 9%)
      • Emacs (2.3h – 1% of all)
        • 2015-04-15 Emacs Hangout
      • Renew domain
      • Sew rest of snaps
      • Cut Marvel fabric
      • Review Createspace
      • Writing (2.3h)
    • Discretionary – Play (11.0h – 6%)
    • Personal routines (27.0h – 16%)
    • Unpaid work (9.8h – 5%)
    • Sleep (61.1h – 36% – average of 8.7 per day)

    The post Weekly review: Week ending April 17, 2015 appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

    by Sacha Chua at April 20, 2015 01:51 AM

    Reformedish

    15 Doctrines That Ought to Bring Comfort In Suffering

    Pedro_Fernández_-_Christ_Suffering_-_WGA07807One of my fundamental convictions is that theology, while possessing theoretical aspects, is eminently practical. It’s the “doctrine of living unto God” as some of the older theologians used to put it. One of the greatest tests of that “practicality” is understanding the various ways that the doctrines of the Christian faith can serve as a comfort to us in the manifold sufferings and tragedies we encounter in this life this side of Eden and before the Second Coming.

    In what follows, I’d like to simply (and briefly) point out some of the many ways the main doctrines of the Christian faith provide a comfort to the believer in times of struggle, suffering, and pain.

    1. Trinity.  Before moving to realities more directly oriented towards God’s actions on our behalf, it’s important to stop and remember the comfort of the fact that before all things, God has eternally been perfectly existent as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This God is holy, perfect, beautiful, righteous, loving, faithful, eternal, unchanging, impassible, all-powerful, all-present, blessed, and supremely good. In the midst of our suffering, it’s often crucial that we remember that there is a reality deeper and truer that grounds, funds, and surpasses the finite and fallen world we encounter. In that sense, God being God without me holds its own comfort for me.
    2. Creation. God created the world and blessed it by declaring it to be “very good.” In a very important sense, the world is something to be taken, received with gratitude, and enjoyed. Each and every breath in our lungs is a gift of the Creator who has provided us with every good thing, every tree in the Garden, so to speak, for our benefit. We are not souls trapped in prisons, alienated from and anxiously awaiting our natural home in the stars, but humans placed in the midst of beautiful habitat with deep purpose by a good God. Every blade of grass, tulip in the field, bright ray of sunshine, speaks of his power and goodness.
    3. Sin. Connected to this is the doctrine of sin. It’s a bit counterintuitive to think of the doctrine of sin as a comfort, but there is deep reassurance in knowing that the unease, the pain, the opposition we encounter in the world is not natural to it. The world is not meant to be this way and it is sin, not divine malevolence or weakness, that has resulted in the brokenness we experience in our bones and our souls. God hates the fractures in his handiwork and stands opposed to them as we do–indeed, even more than we do.
    4. Providence. God is not a hands-off deity who fell asleep at the wheel. Contrary to what we’re tempted to believe in our darkest moments, the world is not governed by a cold and cruel fate.  The doctrine of providence teaches us that the Triune God sovereignly causes, permits, and guides all things for the ultimate good of his creation and his children. Even the dark schemes of the Evil One will be turned on their head and used for the glorious blessing of creation.
    5. Christ. There are multiple comforts to be derived from meditating on the doctrine of Christ. John Owen gave us a few here. Still, at base, in whatever situation we find ourselves in, looking at Jesus we are given deep consolation in remembering that out of his unfathomable love, God has assumed my nature, experienced what I’ve experienced, suffered all that I have suffered, in order to redeem me, bring into proper relationship, and make me like himself.
    6. Cross. Meditating on the Cross yields comforts to carry us through a lifetime. Here are a few: First, God has damned all that opposes him. Evil cannot stand against him. Looking at the Cross reminds me of God’s utter righteous, holiness. Second, that damnation included my sin which has been punished, buried it, sent to hell. Beyond that, Christ has secured the ultimate victory against the Destructor who is ultimately behind all evil. Satan may still prowl about, but he is mortally-wounded and on the run. Because of this, I can look to the Cross and see my Crucified Savior, take up my own cross and follow him in this life.
    7. Resurrection. Christ’s resurrection teaches me many things. First, the truth is eventually vindicated. One of the great torments of life in this world is the falsification of reality, the lies we tell about each others, and God’s truth. The Resurrection is the great demonstration and unveiling of the Truth of the Son, teaching me that everything, every injustice will one day come to light. Second, death is not the end of the story because the Creator who declared the world to be very good decided to be its Redeemer who will not leave it to decay forever. Whatever threat comes against me, the worst it can do is kill me, and God can take care of that. Finally, nothing can separate me from the love of Christ. He’s already been killed once. What else could come against him?
    8. Ascension. The doctrine of the Ascension means that even now Christ on the throne of heaven, interceding for us. We have the king of the World as our advocate and High Priest. The ruler of the Universe knows what it is like to have walked through the dark vale of the world. He rules with compassion and mediates with sympathy, understanding our weakness.
    9. Holy Spirit. In the person of the Holy Spirit, God himself has come to indwell the believer. This is great comfort to us because we can know that wherever we are we are not alone in the world; not in the darkest dungeon of some authoritarian tyrant, nor the darkest recesses of our own despair. God is with us in all that we suffer and will give us whatever strength we need to face the trouble we encounter in the world.
    10. Union. By faith him, through the mysterious activity of the Holy Spirit, we are united to Christ. This means all of his benefits, all of his accomplishments are mine and secure. Every heavenly gift, all of his rights and privileges, are mine because I am his.
    11. Justification by Faith. Because of this union, I am justified entirely by faith. Christ’s death for sin on the Cross was my death, and his vindication through the resurrection as “righteous” is now mine. Because of that, I can know that none of the pain, or suffering I encounter in this life is God’s judgment or wrath against me, because that has been fully satisfied on the Cross and I’m righteous in Christ. I don’t have to fall into a pit of guilt or self-condemnation when pain or misfortune befalls me.
    12. Adoption. Also, we have been adopted in Christ. This means that God is our Father despite our sins, failures, and outward appearances. We have been fully and irrevocably been brought into the kind of relationship with God which allows me the privilege of bursting into the courtroom of the King, calling him “Abba” and making known my deepest needs, hurts, and pains with utter security and freedom.
    13. Sanctification.  Sanctification is comforting in a number of ways. I was listening to John Piper the other day talking about the joy of heaven and the end of earthly frustrations. He pointed out that the thing he’s most sick of in this life is his own sin. Sanctification is comforting in reminding us that we are not forever trapped in the sin that easily the greatest source of the daily suffering most of us face. Beyond that, the doctrine of sanctification teaches me that I have been set apart in such a way that I know that in all that befalls me, God is at work to make me holy, pure, and more like his Son.
    14. Church. The doctrine of the Church is a comfort, in that I don’t have to suffer alone in this life. The reality is that I am now part of a family, a body upon whom I can depend full of brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, mothers and fathers. Many of these have gone before me down this path and stand ready to counsel, support, uphold, encourage, and rescue in times of need.
    15. Last Things.  Finally, of course, there is an ultimate day when God will make himself all in all. He will do this through the Return of Christ who comes to judge the quick and the dead, punishing oppression, ending it, redeeming the world, rewarding the righteous, and ushering in a day of everlasting glory. Upon that day, we will behold our God and he will wipe away every tear from our eyes. This is the blessed hope and a vision to sustain us in the darkest of hours. The light shines just over the ridge, promising a weight of glory that overwhelms these light and momentary afflictions.

    I could continue at length with each of these doctrines. Indeed, in the section on the doctrine of God, each of his attributes provides a particular comfort of its own, for those of us willing to stop and meditate on them. For now, there is enough to see that what we need in times of torment, is not bland platitudes handed to us from spiritual gurus, or pinterest memes, but a soul that has marinated the deep truths of God’s Word. I’ll end by simply quoting one of the most comforting paragraphs in the history of theology, Heidelberg Q & A 1:

    Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
    A. That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.

    He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.

    Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.

    Soli Deo Gloria


    by Derek Rishmawy at April 20, 2015 01:09 AM

    Cal Newport » Blog

    It’s Not Your Job to Figure Out Why an Apple Watch Might Be Useful

    Apple-Watch-logo-600

    The Watch to Watch

    A couple weeks ago, the New York Times reviewed the Apple Watch. A paragraph early in the article caught my attention:

    First there was a day to learn the device’s initially complex user interface. Then another to determine how it could best fit it into my life. And still one more to figure out exactly what Apple’s first major new product in five years is trying to do — and, crucially, what it isn’t.

    It’s worth taking a moment to recognize what’s strange here. If it takes three days to figure out why something might be useful to you, then you probably don’t need it!

    In any other market, a product without a clear use case would be impossible to sell. But in the cultural distortion field of Silicon Valley, this is the new normal. They provide the hot new thing, and it’s up to you to figure out why you need it.

    Start With Why, Not What

    The reason this state of affairs worries me is because once you start letting other people tell you how to invest your limited time and attention, you’re almost certainly going to stray from the things you find most important.

    Here, for example, is the reporter from the above article explaining his experience with the Apple Watch (once, that is, he figured out how to work it): “[it] became something like a natural extension of my body, a direct link, in a way that I’ve never felt before, from the digital world to my brain.”

    For anyone trying to build (or write, or code, or paint, or plan) something of consequence, this is, to steal a line from George Packer, a truly frightening vision of the future!

    But when you work backwards from what’s hot, instead of what you need, this is the type of behavior you stumble into.

    The alternative here is simple: Decide what matters to you; seek out the tools that most directly and obviously help you accomplish these things; then get down to work.

    Life’s too short to waste three days trying to figure out whether some shiny new gizmo might be useful.

    by Study Hacks at April 20, 2015 12:43 AM

    April 19, 2015

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

    Daredevil: Blindingly Well Done

    I just saw the first episode of Netflix’ MARVEL’S DAREDEVIL. So much better than the Ben Afflick movie that it’s not funny.

    Recommended. Time permitting, I will write a more detailed review in days to come.

    Meanwhile, THE FLASH is also extremely well done, and a favorite show of mine. Their take on the character is more dramatic even than some of the magazine versions, and that takes some doing. THE ARROW did a similar make-over with the Green Arrow drawing out a more interesting angle on the character. Very well done shows.

    ADDED: as WATF says in the comments below, It’s a great time to be a comic book fan. This is a golden age of geek TV/movies.

    by John C Wright at April 19, 2015 11:38 PM

    Zippy Catholic

    The things you post on the Internet are forever

    I’ve been banned from the W4 thread on fractional reserve banking now, so to the relief of many I can get back to my blogging vacation.  But for the record, I’ve preserved my two (additional) comments which were deleted. I leave interpretation of events in the thread to readers.  I have all versions of the thread saved (up to the point of being banned) to prevent the “memory hole” effect, in case the thread is further “edited”, mainly because I wanted to preserve what I actually said.  I’ll just post the full unedited thread somewhere here if more bits of it start disappearing there.

    While the combative stuff may be amusing in a juvenile sort of way, the thread does contain quite a few comments from me explaining my perspective on fiat money, inflation, fractional reserve banking, and the like. So if you find those subjects of interest you might want to check it out.

    Here are the two deleted comments, for the record:


    Lydia:

    As always I say things as I really see them, and don’t much care how that strikes other people. Some people love it, others hate it, some love it when I agree with them and hate it when I don’t, and many attribute all sorts of things to me that I did not say; and I am willing to let the chips fall where they may. But what you see when you read my words is my actual thoughts expressed as clearly as my capacities allow. If someone else wants to package these concepts up in a way that modern entitled morally bankrupt people find less offensive, I’ll leave that to those with a more ‘pastoral’ bent.

    And it isn’t exactly a new theme for me that people need to take a hard look at themselves and own their own choices, rather than blaming society or the government for the consequences of their free acts.


    Tony:

    The government has no special obligation to look after the welfare of citizens …

    It is the government’s play thing to destroy as it wishes – as long as it does not engage in usury!

    We should play a drinking game where every time Tony puts words in someone else’s mouth, everyone takes a drink. Except we’d all die of alcohol poisoning. Just from his last comment.

    Posted by Zippy | April 19, 2015 5:54 PM


    by Zippy at April 19, 2015 10:28 PM

    confused of calcutta

    I Feel The Earth Move

    I feel the earth move under my feet I feel the sky tumbling down, tumbling down I feel my heart start to trembling Whenever you’re around Carole King: I Feel The Earth Move: Tapestry, 1971 Call me old. [If I wanted to be called Ishmael I would have changed my name by deed poll … Continue reading I Feel The Earth Move

    by JP at April 19, 2015 08:27 PM

    Reformedish

    Bavinck On Inequality: Culture or Sovereignty? Rousseau or Calvin?

    Jean-Jacques_Rousseau_(painted_portrait)In 1913 Herman Bavinck penned a little essay “On Inequality”, in which he directed his attention to the subject of social inequality, especially the tragic sort. The study begins by examining the thought of Jean-Jacques Rousseau who, in the modern period, was the first person to really broach the question, and do so in such a way that his thought has reverberated throughout revolutions and societies ever since. After giving a sympathetic brief biography and exposition of his thought–especially his basic answer that the wicked development of human culture has corrupted natural human equity–in an arresting passage Bavinck unexpectedly turns his attention to set up a contrast between Rousseau and another intellectual titan of Geneva:

    The name “citizen of Geneva,” as Rousseau liked to call himself after his second discourse, makes us think of another man who lived and worked in Geneva two centuries earlier: the powerful Reformed John Calvin. But what a tremendous contrast arises the moment these two names are mentioned together. Calvin, the classically formed humanist, a man distinguished in manners and appearance, with sharp mind and an iron will; over against Rousseau, the restless wanderer, who was often moody, whose thinking lacked logic, whose life was rudderless, who was a dreamer and a fanatic, and the first great romanticist of the eighteenth century! Both experienced a transformation in their lives, but with Calvin it consisted of turning away from the errors of the Roman Catholic Church and an embracing of the truth and the freedom of the gospel, which with Rousseau it was no more than a breaking with all culture and return to the instinctiveness of nature. Calvin had learned to see human nature as culpable and polluted in the light of Scripture, while Rousseau taught that nature, before it was contaminated by culture, was good and beautiful and without any corruption. Calvin sought the cause of all misery in sin, which was a personal act consisting of disobedience of God’s law. Rousseau blamed society and civilization, and he was moved to tears when he thought of his own goodness; no one had ever existed who was as good and compassionate as he! Calvin did not expect anything from nature but expected everything from God’s grace in Christ. In one word, Calvin cast man and all creatures in the dust before the overwhelming majesty of God. Rousseau, on the other hand, put man on the throne, himself first of all, at the expense of God’s holiness and justice.

    –“On Inequality” in Essays on Religion, Science, and Society (pp. 155-156)

    Clearly Bavinck had his preferences. But aside from the excuse to pen a bit of stunning prose, why bring up Calvin? Well, to set up a bit of a paradoxical contrast in their approaches to the issue of inequality.

    Calvin, according to Bavinck, was also concerned with inequality, but contrary to the social leveler, Rousseau, it was religious inequality that bothered him most. Why do some respond to the gospel and others turn away in their sin and folly? Calvin, Luther, and others, after examining Scripture and all the other options, could ultimately only acknowledge God’s sovereign good pleasure.

    Beyond establishing the certainty of faith, Bavinck says that this insight into the sovereignty of God as the deepest cause of all things gave Calvin foundation from which to build a theology of multiplicity, difference, and yes, even inequality. Nature, culture, and human choice do play their roles, but underlying them all is the sovereign good pleasure of God which sustains nature, culture, and even human choice.

    Of course, Bavinck knows this isn’t an immediately palatable thought; only “a strong generation can accept” it. Still, Bavinck thinks it offers a number of blessings. First, it teaches peaceable acceptance, submission, and contentment in times of struggle and hardship. Rousseau stirred up rebellion and resentment in their hearts by blaming society and culture, which set people up for the disappointment that inequality still exists on the other side of the Revolution.

    Second, Calvin’s teaching on sovereignty assures believers that no matter how opaque or inscrutable his purposes may be, they are where they are by the will of their loving Father, who cares for them and has provided a gracious salvation in Christ, not blind fate or pitiless nature. These are the comforts of the martyrs, the imprisoned, the simple suffering children of God, which Rousseau’s gospel could never offer.

    At this point, Bavinck points up a third and initially surprising contrast between the two philosophies, or rather the two thinkers. Rousseau might have indeed complained, stirred the populace with his fiery writings, and turned people against their monarchs, but at the end of the day, he walked away from them. He ended up retreating to reclusion “without moving a finger to reform society.” Calvin, on the other hand? Well, he got down to business. While some might see predestination and sovereignty as cutting the nerve of social reform, it actually funded it:

    If we steadfastly believe that the will of God is the cause of all things, then our reverence for that same will, which has been revealed in Scripture as the rule for our lives, must compel us to promote its dominion everywhere and as far as our influence reaches. If you believe, with Rousseau, that society is the cause of all evil, then you have pronounced its death sentence; you have given man the right to execute people, and you have legitimized the Revolution. But if you believe with Calvin that the will of God, his will of good pleasure, is the cause of all things, then that same will becomes his revealed will and the moving force and rule for our living. The words “Your will be done” encompass and provide not only the strength to acquiesce but also strength to act. (158)

    A bit later he goes on to substantiate his point further by pointing out the substantial reforms initiated in Geneva and the admirable commonwealth to be found there. Indeed, in Bavinck’s opinion, Rousseau was proud to be a Genevan largely because of the ripple effect of the Reforms initiated by Calvin’s very different theology of culture, nature, and inequality.

    Now, at this point, some of us may question Bavinck’s presentation of Rousseau. I suspect some of us–especially us Americans–might not understand his hostility to the Revolution, or understand the horror with which many Europeans regarded it. Still, it’s a remarkable essay and a paradoxical argument worth considering. A strong appreciation for the sovereignty of God can both keep us from the anxiety that causes us to revile the good gifts of God by identifying them with the source of evil (culture), comfort us in the midst of its difficulties, as well as the moral energy to work for its good.

    Soli Deo Gloria

     


    by Derek Rishmawy at April 19, 2015 08:11 PM

    Light Blue Touchpaper

    Another scandal about forensics

    The FBI overstated forensic hair matches in nearly all trials up till 2000. 26 of their 28 examiners overstated forensic matches in ways that favoured prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far. 32 defendants were sentenced to death, of whom 14 were executed or died in prison.

    In the District of Columbia, the only jurisdiction where defenders and prosecutors have re-investigated all FBI hair convictions, three of seven defendants whose trials included flawed FBI testimony have been exonerated through DNA testing since 2009, and courts have cleared two more. All five served 20 to 30 years in prison for rape or murder. The FBI examiners in question also taught 500 to 1,000 state and local crime lab analysts to testify in the same ways.

    Systematically flawed forensic evidence should be familiar enough to readers of this blog. In four previous posts here I’ve described problems with the curfew tags that are used to monitor the movements of parolees and terrorism suspects in the UK. We have also written extensively on the unreliability of card payment evidence, particularly in banking disputes. However, payment evidence can also be relevant to serious criminal trials, of which the most shocking cases are probably those described here and here. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of men were arrested after being wrongly suspected of buying indecent images of children, when in fact they were victims of credit card fraud. Having been an expert witness in one of those cases, I wrote to the former DPP Kier Starmer on his appointment asking him to open a formal inquiry into the police failure to understand credit card fraud, and to review cases as appropriate. My letter was ignored.

    The Washington Post article argues cogently that the USA lacks, and needs, a mechanism to deal with systematic failures of the justice system, particularly when these are related to its inability to cope with technology. The same holds here too. In addition to the hundreds of men wrongly arrested for child porn offences in Operation Ore, there have been over two hundred prosecutions for curfew tag tampering, no doubt with evidence similar to that offered in cases where we secured acquittals. There have been scandals in the past over DNA and fingerprints, as I describe in my book. How many more scandals are waiting to break? And as everything goes online, digital evidence will play an ever larger role, leading to more systematic failures in future. How should we try to forestall them?

    by Ross Anderson at April 19, 2015 05:59 PM

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

    Letter to the Editor

    I was not the only person libeled. This is from the pen of Theodore Beale of Castalia books, my publisher, who goes by the pen name of Vox Day. I join him in asking you, my readers  — for you were also defamed — to write:

    Dear Editor,

    I am writing to demand a retraction and apology for the libelous article posted Apr 17th, 2015 at 3:00pm by Mike VanHelder. Mr. VanHelder wrote:

    “Big winner Vox Day is an outspoken white supremacist and campaigner against women’s education and suffrage, who is on the record as supporting the Taliban’s attempt to assassinate Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousifazi, finding it “scientifically justifiable.””

    1. I am not a white supremacist. This is flat-out false. Also, I am a Native American with Mexican heritage.
    2. I am not a campaigner against women’s education. I am not an activist. I have never campaigned against it.
    3. I am not a campaigner against suffrage. I am not an activist. I have never campaigned against it.
    4. I am not against women’s suffrage. I support direct democracy for all, including women.
    5. I am not on the record supporting the Taliban’s attempt to assassinate Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousifazi. This is an absolutely outrageous accusation and utterly false.

    All of these statements are false, provably and demonstrably false, and appear to be malicious. Therefore, I am requesting an immediate retraction of this error-ridden article as well as a published apology to me. Some of these additional errors include:

    1. Gamergate is not anti-feminist.
    2. Neither Sad Puppies nor Rabid Puppies courted any assistance from GamerGate.
    3. The extent of the collaboration between the THREE groups, (not two, as in the article) is not difficult to quantify. There are precisely two GamerGaters who are also Rabid Puppies, myself and Daddy Warpig.
    4. It is false to claim “No nominated author has ever before withdrawn their work after making it onto the Hugo ballot.” It is actually not uncommon for an author to withdraw one of his works after getting more than one nominated in a category. To give a few examples, Harlan Ellison withdrew his Hugo nomination in 1968. Jack Gaughan withdrew his nomination in 1968. Fritz Leiber withdrew his nomination in 1971, as did Robert Silverberg in 1972.
    5. Therefore, the action of withdrawing a nomination is not “unprecedented”.

    I will appreciate your prompt attention to this matter.

    NB: If you would like to add your voice to this call for a retraction and apology, this is the editor’s email: letters@popsci.com

    ***

    Commenter Nate adds:

    Below too is a contact form for Bonnier Corporation, the parent company that owns PopSci.

    http://www.bonniercorp.com/contact/

    They would love to hear from you. It says so right there.

    And, more to the point, Commenter Zen0 adds:

    Jim C. Hines Blog

    DETCON1 AND DIVERSITY

    Detcon1 has gotten a lot of things right on that front. They established a Diversity Advisory Board, consisting of Muhammad A Ahmad, Anne Gray, Mark Oshiro, Kat Tanaka Okopnik, Mike VanHelder, Pablo Vazquez, and Sal Palland. They chose to honor a range of guests that acknowledges the broader scope of the genre. They established the FANtastic Detroit Fund to help provide free memberships to fans who might otherwise be unable to attend.

     

     

    by John C Wright at April 19, 2015 05:31 PM

    Roads from Emmaus

    Thomas Sunday: Death, Resurrection and Daily Life

    Thomas Sunday, April 19, 2015 Rev. Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Christ is risen! Here we stand, at the end of Renewal Week, also called Bright Week, and it is Thomas Sunday. We gather with the eleven disciples […]

    The post Thomas Sunday: Death, Resurrection and Daily Life appeared first on Roads from Emmaus.

    by Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick at April 19, 2015 05:00 PM

    mini. Quiet Babylon

    An incomplete classification of Augmented Reality techniques in use at a Maya Exhibition, recently explored

    Things labelled

    image

    Things very large, made very small

    image

    Foam ones

    image

    Those that translate

    image

    Those that restore

    image

    The overlaid

    image

    Portraiture

    image

    Those which proffer things to take home

    image

    April 19, 2015 04:27 PM

    Inconsolation

    ncdt: An interesting evolution

    Quick on the heels of tree and ddir, a loyal reader pointed out ncdt, which takes the tree model and adds a small feature or two.

    2015-04-19-6m47421-ncdt

    As you can see, ncdt adds the size of files and directories as part of its default display. So in situations where it’s useful to see directory structure and size — such as labeling removable media, like CDs — it is probably more useful.

    Unfortunately, I see no options to adjust what ncdt shows, so there are no “human-readable” (which I prefer) output flags or the like. What you see is what you get.

    ncdt also promises to show “special” data for mp3 files, but the Debian version as well as the version I built on my Arch system from the Debian source package showed nothing. Even the sample screenshot in Debian doesn’t show anything “special” for mp3 files. Hmmm. :(

    It’s possible that there is an added dependency that I don’t have, or perhaps the mp3 files I tried post-date what ncdt is capable of analyzing. I checked the ReadMe and source files, but I got no hints. And the only home page I have for ncdt is the Debian package page above.

    No matter. ncdt adds a little to the tree model and could probably, at one time in the past, show a little information about mp3 files. It’s an interesting evolution, even if it still needs some attention to reach fruition.


    Tagged: data, directory, folder, information, mp3, music, structure, tree

    by K.Mandla at April 19, 2015 01:15 PM

    Beeminder Blog

    Dealing with Beemergencies in an Emergency

    Panicked person fleeing

    This is another case-study post by Philip Hellyer — full of sage advice and inspiration (and a dash of productivity porn) — explaining how Beeminder is robust to and even actively helps cope with most anything life can throw at you. (UPDATE: See addendum.)

    I recently [1] had a highly disruptive event in my life. Overnight my priorities rapidly changed, and not all of my Beeminder goals made sense anymore. This is the story of how I dealt with my commitments during a period of stress.

    The day after

    When real life changes suddenly, you deal with it. Your beemergency days are no longer relevant. When the first derailment happened, I replied to the legitimacy check email explaining what was going on in my life and that not only was that particular derailment not due to avoidance, but that I had 3 other goals that would derail the next day for the same reason.

    The Beeminder support crew cancelled the pending charge, and injected a short flat spot in the 3 other goals. This made my life much easier, because I didn’t even have to deal with any legitimacy check emails the following day.

    The day after the day after

    Even though the incident in my life was going to span several weeks, by now I had enough of a plan for how to deal with it that I could start to think about triaging my Beeminder goals.

    Some goals were still relevant in my changing world, so I left those untouched. That includes all of the sanity-maintaining goals like getting some exercise and eating properly. (Though I relaxed the slope on some, because although I wanted to keep doing some exercise, I didn’t need to push myself.)

    Other goals would be relevant again one day, but not right now. For these I used the take-a-break feature to temporarily flatten the road for the expected duration of the disruption. (If the disruption turns out to be shorter than you expect, “take-a-break” can be used to restore your slope too!)

    For now-irrelevant goals, I set the end date to as soon as possible, i.e., one week out.

    “In times of stress, having a routine is a stabilising factor”

    For autodata goals, I mostly set a highly conservative (shallow) slope and left them running. The conservative (shallow) slope means that they’re unlikely to be difficult to keep up, and not cancelling them means that I won’t have the hassle of setting up the automation again.

    Any non-current goal I put on the back-burner by pressing the minus sign that appears when you hover over the graph in the goal gallery. These were the goals that I was willing to have derail.

    Reducing the fallout

    Now I was in a position where some goals were scheduled to end, others made conservative, and reasonably prioritised between front-burner and back-burner.

    Most of my goals are set to no-mercy recommits, because for myself I find that flat weeks make it more difficult to recover momentum. So I went through the settings of every non-urgent goal and put that back to an ordinary reset. If it happens to derail, I want that week.

    Similarly, if anything derails on me right now, it’s probably because of deliberate prioritisation, not procrastination. So I also set most goals not to increase the pledge if they happen to derail.

    I also looked at the goals that I’d pushed to the back-burner and noted down the high-pledge ones. These ones I really didn’t want to derail because of life prioritisaiton. So I sent a followup email to support asking for an immediate flat spot so that my more conservative road could kick in, rather than a derailment. In my case, there was only one goal that fit the criteria, out of the 29 on the back-burner. [2] So I knew that I wasn’t creating a support burden.

    Goals in the real world

    Not everything is in Beeminder. Not everything should be in Beeminder. Like me, you’ve almost certaintly got task lists [3] and projects on the go. All of those go on the back-burner too — start a new list. The new list will consist of the projects and tasks that are newly top-of-mind. Don’t forget to include the task of reviewing that backlog for actions that are still important in your new world.

    Aftermath

    At the end of this triage, all of my goals were in an almost ideal state, where the dollar value pledged was acceptable given the risk of derailment and the importance of the goal. Derailment on the back-burner goals became a rational and neutral decision because I’d effectively already sacrificed those goals in my head; any that stayed on the road were a bonus.

    In the end, I had a few minor derailments, but mostly this worked as planned. As much as anything can work as planned when the world has thrown a wrench in your plans. But you know what I mean.

    This was made easier because although I have a large number of goals, I manage the slopes fairly conservatively. I rely on my Plan Bee subscription to automatically ratchet the road so that even the goals with shallow minimum-desired-progress roads don’t build up too much safety buffer. I carefully choose which goals to be aggressive with, which is another way of saying that some of my goals are just intentions and others are proper things to achieve or do. There’s a difference, and Beeminder works well for both, if you set the parameters right.

    One thing that I worried about was whether I’d remember to undo the ultra-conservative settings. It turns out that it’s easier to manage goals that are on the front-burner. Every time I get the urge to move a goal off of the back-burner, that’s my cue to review its slope and settings. I had thought that I might need to make a note in my calendar to make doing that a mustdo task for sometime next week/month/whenever. Happily it has turned out to be a more natural process than I’d feared.

    Maslovian beeminding

    “Deciding priorities myself sometimes demanded more self-awareness than I was able to muster”

    One thing that surprised me is how difficult it became to concentrate on anything substantial. Events that were expected still knocked me sideways, and there were emotional rollercoasters to ride. A friend reminded me about Maslow’s hierarchy and the theory of human motivation. No wonder I was having trouble focusing on more abstract goals; my foundational levels had been destabilised.

    One thing that Beeminder is great at is reminding me to do routine items, things that aren’t difficult, but which would otherwise get neglected. In times of stress, having a routine is a stabilising factor. In retrospect, I could have done more of this, not putting quite so much on the back burner, and letting Beeminder dictate when each thing needed some attention. Because deciding priorities myself sometimes demanded more self-awareness than I was able to muster. The additional structure of having more active goals might have been welcome.

    I’m really pleased how Beeminder continued to support me and my goals during this time, and how the support team responded. I know that I’m biased, but it made me feel as though we can help our users cope with pretty much anything.

    Addendum by Danny

    I originally included this in the intro but it was distracting and awkward there so I’ll say it here! The conclusion of Philip’s harrowing, if cagily described, tale was brought home poignantly recently when we came across “How To Live Without a Stomach”, detailing how the author coped with a total gastrectomy. I admit to shedding actual tears at the author’s fourth point, that in the aftermath of cancer he needed structure in his life and Beeminder was the answer. Melt!

     

    Footnotes

    [1] Actually we sat on this for an embarrassingly long time. But the recency isn’t the point so just pretend, ok? —dreeves

    [2] Yes, I’ve got a lot of goals. I’ve been using Beeminder for over 2 years [UPDATE: over 3 years by the time we published this], and my ability to keep up with more goals has increased over time. A lot of that has come from figuring out what goals suit me, and how aggressive a slope to set. The actual number waxes and wanes based on real life deadlines, and several of the current set are related to upcoming conferences.

    [3] Beeminder makes a lousy task list, but it makes a great meta-system minder. Lots of people have a Beeminder goal to ensure that they do their GTD Weekly Review on something approximating a weekly basis.

    by Philip Hellyer at April 19, 2015 12:55 PM

    One Big Fluke

    This post explains how to implement the core API of React using jQuery. Good to understand.

    by Brett Slatkin (noreply@blogger.com) at April 19, 2015 05:57 AM