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April 23, 2014

Inconsolation I can give you no guidance

Unfortunately, this is all I have to show for, which allows a console interface to


It’s true, I don’t have an account with I have a vague idea what it’s about, but I’m afraid it’s not interesting to me. A lot of things aren’t, though. is in AUR as shell-fm, and there is a shell-fm-git, but it looks like hasn’t seen updates in quite a while, so there might be no tangible difference. I only found shell-fm in Debian.

Sorry to be so uninformative. If you’ve worked with and can offer more than I, please feel free to make suggestions. It looks intriguing, but aside from what you see above, I can give you no guidance. :(

Tagged: audio, cloud, interface, music, streaming

by K.Mandla at April 23, 2014 12:15 PM

One Thing Well



Xapers is a personal document indexing system, geared towards academic journal articles.

Think of it as your own personal document search engine, or a local cache of online libraries. It provides fast search of document text and bibliographic data and simple document and bibtex retrieval.

April 23, 2014 12:00 PM


sh-todo: A simplistic to-do manager

I haven’t seen many to-do list managers in a while. Here’s sh-todo, a simple one that runs at the command line and needs nothing more than your shell to work.


Setting it up is no big trick: Move the todo, todone and todone-archive files out of the git clone folder and somewhere in your $PATH. Copy sh-todo to $HOME/.sh-todo, edit it to give it a path for your lists (the default is a Dropbox folder), and from there it’s very quick to learn.

todo prints a list of what you’ve got. todo plus a task adds it to your list of things to do. todone and a task will look for a match and mark it done.

And that’s 90 percent of what you might need a to-do list manager for.

sh-todo can also handle tags, which means you can lump things in groups, and filter through them that way.

If you want to reorder tasks, or edit them some other way, everything is stored as a text file in the folder you defined in .sh-todo. Edit to your heart’s delight.

I like sh-todo for the same reason I like pass: It handles the chore in a very simple and straightforward way, without incorporating gobs of pointless dependencies and staying close to the Unixy way of doing things.

On the other hand, it doesn’t have a lot of the bells and whistles of some other to-do managers, like doneyet‘s full-screen interface or ctodo‘s marvelously intuitive arrangement.

But if you want something that is 99 and 44/100 percent likely to work on your machine, without drawing in clutter just to show a box, this might be for you.

Tagged: manager, task, to-do

by K.Mandla at April 23, 2014 12:00 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Reinvesting time and money into Emacs

I received a wonderful token of appreciation from someone who found my Emacs posts useful. It got me thinking: what would it be like if I made Emacs a large part of my life’s work, and how can I invest even more into it?

Emacs is already a big part of my life. I like the community. I get a lot of positive feedback indicating I might be doing useful things. It’s not like much would change, except perhaps that I’d give myself permission to focus on this, to put more eggs in this basket. I might write about Emacs more often, even if it makes other people boggle. I might tweak the design of my blog to simplify browsing through Emacs-related resources, and maybe come up with an easier-to-spell domain name for that part of my site. Focusing on Emacs is probably low-risk, since my savings give me a decent runway if I need to build up more marketable skills like WordPress or Rails. (Or I could be, like, one of the few Emacs coaches/consultants in the world. ;) )

To make the decision clearer to myself, here’s what would go on the backburner: specializing in a more popular platform (WordPress, Rails, etc.), Quantified Self, helping people with blogging, helping people with sketchnoting, helping people with freelancing/semi-retirement, delegation, and so on. I could probably build up a reputation in those communities later on, but I like Emacs the most right now.

I like focusing on helping people discover the joys of exploring and customizing Emacs: blog posts, tutorials, suggestions, screencasts, maps, and maybe someday those guides and books I’ve been talking about writing. I like helping make Emacs learning slightly more manageable – “if you know about this, you might want to check out that.” I enjoy coding, but I haven’t gotten deeply into the big improvements people are working on for Emacs 24 and later. I’ll probably continue to focus on filling in the gaps instead of pushing Emacs forward.

I’ve been thinking about how I can reinvest money into the Emacs community. There was a recent thread on the Orgmode mailing list about donations – trying to figure out how to put people’s donations to the best use. Sometimes I receive donations too. Since I keep my expenses low and there’s only so much safety you can save up for, how can I put small amounts of money to good use in open source?

Domain name, hosting, etc.: I use a Linode VPS – I switched from Rackspace in 2011. A virtual private server is more expensive than shared hosting providers. I like how I can ssh to it to try different things. I’ve thought about lowering my costs by using DigitalOcean, but I don’t know enough yet about server optimization to properly configure my web server setup so that I’m confident I’d fit into a smaller plan. (Hmm, this might be worth experimenting with someday, especially since I could set up a snapshot and save it…) I’ve budgeted for this and for domain naimes since this is such a big part of what I do, so I don’t mind covering this myself and using donations/unexpected income for other things.

Transcripts for Emacs Chats and other videos: I’ve been outsourcing this instead of doing it myself because transcription is a well-specified chunk of work that I can pass to other people (who can learn a little more along the way). It takes about $35-$60 for a transcript, and then I often edit it a little. The assistant who does my Emacs Chat transcripts is interested in programming, but hasn’t gotten into Emacs specifically. It might be interesting to find someone who’s interested in Emacs and who will get even more out of transcribing videos. (If this describes you, e-mail me!)

Emacs/Org conference? Meeting folks in person was super-awesome. If last year’s conference happened because someone found a venue willing to host us for free, it makes sense for me to pay for a venue. Even if it’s over a thousand dollars, that’s cheaper than a flight and visas and all sorts of other things.

Emacs meetups? Quantified Self Labs supports QS meetups by sponsoring fees ($144 per year), pitching in for video cameras, and paying someone to process videos. They also have people working on blog posts and other community-related projects. Would a similar model make a big difference? Maybe it makes sense to get a few of them off the ground. What’s in the way of my hosting an Emacs meetup here?

Editors / information organizers: I try to make my writing easy to understand, but it can be good to have other people review something to see if it makes sense and to spot the gaps. Volunteers and blog readers help a lot. Still, it might be a good idea to pay people to help me with this. I’m not looking for surface-level editing, but more developmental editing: helping me organize ideas so that they make sense and they’re in a logical order. I’m not sure if looking on the usual freelance writer sites will help me find someone who can do this, but maybe if I can offer a good enough incentive, then maybe a freelance developer/writer will be able to spend some time helping me with this. (Or I can just take longer and I can get better at asking for feedback…)

Bounties? does not seem very popular for Emacs or Org. I’m still not sure how bounties interact with intrinsic motivation and unequal valuing of work, or how to even value a fix.

There’s still so much beyond money that I haven’t yet fully delved into. Aside from re-investing money, I can invest time – and that’s probably more important, more useful.

How can I invest more time into the Emacs community? What do I want to work towards? How can I improve how I learn and share?

Continue what I’m doing, and do more of it: Tweak Emacs and write about it. Be that friendly co-worker or friend you chat with because you know she’s always coming up with the weirdest things to try, and sometimes that leads to surprisingly useful things. Post more screenshots and screencasts, since we could really use those.

Fill in more gaps: Answer newbie questions. Map topics to learn. Write tutorials. Link to resources. Make screencasts. Organize information. Read EmacsWiki and other resources, and organize/edit/fill in as I come across opportunities to improve things.

Guide more people towards Emacs Lisp: Help people make that jump to writing their first custom bit of Emacs Lisp. Learn more about Emacs Lisp style and functionality, and help people improve their packages.

Help inspire and connect people. Bring the community together: Interview people for Emacs Chats, so that other people can get a sense of people like them who are enthusiastic about Emacs and who use Emacs to do interesting things. Set up a regular Emacs show-and-tell series?

On a related note: what would it take to figure out how to do Emacs coaching properly? I’d want to keep track of people’s progress and set up recurring calls, so probably Org, maybe in Google Drive or Git… I have a little bit of an impostor syndrome around this because I don’t know enough about setting up Emacs as a modern IDE, but I can learn. Clojure, Rails are probably good starting points, and there’s Emacs Lisp itself. On the other hand, if I answer questions in newsgroups and mailing lists, I help more people, and it’s easier (and more reliable) to turn those into blog posts. Plus they’re searchable. But sometimes one-on-one real-time helping is what helps me map or understand things better, and it can really make a difference in someone’s confidence or comfort level. So yes, continue to do these, and continue to nudge people to share.

Do these decisions make sense even considering a scenario where, say, Emacs becomes irrelevant? I’ll have learned more about related programming tools and topics. I’ll be a better writer and teacher. I’ll probably know a whole bunch of people who are happy about what I’ve shared and who can help me make the transition to other things as needed, maybe by sharing information or by taking a chance on me. And then there are all the other skills I’ll build on the way: making sense of technical things, learning more about how things learn, and playing with all sorts of other things along the way.

Payoffs? Tickled brain, happy mastery. Besides, you meet the nicest people using Emacs. =)

The post Reinvesting time and money into Emacs appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at April 23, 2014 12:00 PM


That’s Incredible that is!

breathe pic

Joanna Dobson introduces Incredible Edible, the local food movement that’s spreading across the world.

Ezekiel lay on his side for 430 days; Hosea took an unfaithful wife, and in the west Yorkshire town of Todmorden, Mary Clear ripped out her rose bushes and replaced them with vegetables and a sign saying ‘Help Yourself’.

Sometimes when you urgently need to get people’s attention, it’s better to act than talk. And you don’t have to inhabit the Hebrew scriptures to be a prophet.

Not that Mary Clear, mother of four, grandmother of twelve and co-founder of the Incredible Edible movement, would ever call herself that. But in keeping with the best prophetic tradition, this simple act of planting food for a whole community to share has given people a new way of looking at the world and brought hope to places where it was often in short supply.

Incredible Edible Todmorden was born when a few local residents got fed up with waiting for the powers that be to do something about the challenges facing their town – challenges it shares with many places up and down the country, such as a shortage of jobs, dwindling community spirit, and independent producers struggling to survive in a supermarket culture.

Another Incredible Edible co-founder, Pam Warhurst, was particularly worried about climate change. A seasoned campaigner, she could see that most people find the current environmental crisis overwhelming.  When you hear, for example, that we would need up to five Earths to sustain the Western lifestyle, it’s easy to despair – and despair never leads to engagement.

Mary, Pam and the other early Incredibles realised that what they needed was a common interest that would unite people regardless of their background or beliefs, and enable them to work together to create a stronger, greener, kinder town.

It turned out that common interest was food.

Soon vegetables began springing up in some very surprising places in Todmorden. Broccoli beside a bus stop, runner beans in a cemetery and some kale in the corner of the station car park. All of it was free for anyone to take. They called it propaganda planting and it started some conversations that have led to enormous changes in the town.

In the six years since Incredible Edible Todmorden began, volunteers have planted more than 1,000 fruit trees and created over 150 new growing spaces. Every school is involved in producing food and two social enterprises are training the market gardeners of the future. Families have started moving into the town because of the Incredible Edible effect.

Anyone can still help themselves to the fruit and vegetables but this isn’t about free food. It’s about changing mindsets.

The culture of consumerism needs us to be constantly anxious about not having enough because otherwise we might stop buying things. It works to make us fearful of one another and determined to hold on to our own possessions because that way we need more of them.

The Incredible Edible movement poses a direct challenge to the notion that security lies in accumulating ever greater quantities of stuff. It helps people to recognise the assets that they already have.

People visit Todmorden and see, for example, a health centre car park brimming with strawberries and apple trees and ask why we don’t do this everywhere. They learn that in the first year of sharing food, all the rhubarb got picked – and that the Incredible Edible solution was simply to plant more of it the next year.

They go away wondering if land is perhaps more abundant than we thought. They start asking questions about the way food is produced and how we can regain control of what goes on our plates.

The Incredible Edible movement is spreading across the world. There are now more than sixty groups in the UK and over 300 in France alone.

Incredible Edible won’t make those communities self sufficient in fruit and veg. But if it brings an understanding that ordinary people can work together to create change and that no action is too small to make a difference, then it may have sparked something even more powerful.

Lots more information about Incredible Edible Todmorden, can be found on their website.

To find your nearest Incredible Edible project, go to the Incredible Edible Network.

To pre-order a copy of Incredible!, a book about Incredible Edible Todmorden written by Pam Warhurst and Joanna Dobson, go to the Urban Pollinators website here.

Joanna Dobson is a writer with an interest in food, environment and Christian discipleship. She blogs at

Filed under: business, community, environment, family, food, generosity

by mattcurrey at April 23, 2014 11:16 AM

The Tech Report - News

Microsoft expected to further shorten Windows cycle

A couple years back, famed Microsoft rumor-monger Mary Jo Foley reported that Microsoft would shorten Windows' three-year release cycle. That came to pass: Windows 8.1 arrived about a year after Windows 8. Now, according to Foley, the scuttlebutt is that we're in for a further reduction of that cycle. Here's what Foley wrote for CNet News yesterday:

According to Foley's sources, this hastened cadence will lead to the next major Windows 8 update being released ...


April 23, 2014 11:00 AM

Karen De Coster

Boston Feel-Goodism

Radey Balko is right about Boston in this article for the Washington Post, though he is far too charitable because one has to be in order to be published in the mainstream media.

In Boston, 19,000 National Guard troops moved into an American city, not to put down a civil uprising, quell riots or dispel an insurrection, but to search for a single man. Armored vehicles motored up and down residential neighborhoods. Innocent people were confronted in their homes at gunpoint or had guns pointed at them for merely peering through the curtains of their own windows.

The masses have been propagandized to throw around the warm ‘n fuzzies concerning Boston, and this is how the state – the terror industry in this case – earns “support” from individuals who latch onto terror events and serve to spread the statist propaganda as “feel-good” citizens. The masses become voluntary soldiers for the state by way of ignorance. ‘Tis why I never “support” or worship any of these past events in the present – it only serves to prop up and endorse the state and its agents of totalitarianism.

by Karen De Coster at April 23, 2014 10:27 AM

Light Blue Touchpaper

PhD studentship: Model-based assessment of compromising emanations

I will be able to offer a fully funded 3.5-year PhD Studentship from October 2014 for a research student to work with me on “Model-based assessment of compromising emanations”. The project aims to improve our understanding of electro-magnetic emissions that are unintentionally emitted by computing equipment, and the eavesdropping risks they pose. In particular, it aims to improve test and measurement procedures (TEMPEST) for computing equipment that processes highly confidential data. I am looking for an Electrical Engineering, Computer Science or Physics graduate interested in the following areas: Electronics, Radio Communication, Hardware Security, Side-Channel Cryptanalysis, Digital Signal Processing, Electromagnetic Compatibility, Machine Learning.

Check the full advert and contact me for more information if you are interested in applying, quoting NR03180.

by Markus Kuhn at April 23, 2014 09:48 AM

Kevin DeYoung

Books at a Glance

Yesterday, Fred Zaspel (of B.B. Warfield fame) posted an interview with me on my new book at the new site Books At a Glance.

If you haven’t looked into Books At a Glance, you should. It’s not just another blog or website. It’s not a sermon research service. It’s a time effective, cost-effective way to get the low down on new books. While Books At a Glance does author interviews and traditional book reviews, their bread and butter–and what makes them unique–is the book summary:

First, what is the difference between a Book Summary and a Book Review? The easy way to say it is that a Book Review is evaluative in nature and interactive, whereas a Summary is simply a condensed re-presentation of the book’s contents. In a Review our staff will tell you generally what a book is about and then offer comments assessing the work, commending or criticizing this or that about its contents, and so on. But in our Summaries we “crunch” the book into 7-10 pages, condensing the argument(s) of each chapter into a paragraph or two.

Book summaries are the heart of what we do here. They are designed to help you keep up to date and informed regarding new and significant publications. After reading a given summary you will know what that book is about and how it develops its thoughts. From there you can decide if that is all you need or if you should purchase the book yourself to study the matter further.

“Executive summaries” like these have a long and proven value in the business world, and we are excited to bring the same to Christian readers and students of biblical studies.

The aim of this venture is to provide top notch book summaries from trustworthy evangelical scholars. There is a subscription fee for the summaries, but the small cost may be well worth it for many pastors and interested church members.

by Kevin DeYoung at April 23, 2014 09:47 AM

The Digital Antiquarian



Games were everywhere at Infocom. By that I mean all sorts of games, not just interactive fiction — although even the latter existed in more varieties than you might expect, such as an interactive live-action play where the audience shouted out instructions to the actors, to be filtered through and interpreted by a “parser” played by one Dave Lebling. Readers of The New Zork Times thrilled to the exploits of Infocom’s softball team in a league that also included such software stars as Lotus and Spinnaker. There were the hermit-crab races held at “Drink’em Downs” right there at CambridgePark Drive. (I had a Lance Armstrong-like moment of disillusionment in scouring Jason Scott’s Get Lamp tapes for these articles when perpetual winner Mike Dornbrook revealed that he had in fact been juicing his crabs all along by running hot water over his little cold-blooded entrants before races.) And of course every reader of The New Zork Times was also familiar with Infocom’s collective love for puzzles — word, logic, trivia, or uncategorizable — removed from any semblance of fiction interactive or otherwise. And then there was the collective passion for traditional board and card games of all stripes, often played with a downright disconcerting intensity. Innocent office Uno matches soon turned into “bloody” tournaments. One cold Boston winter a Diplomacy campaign got so serious and sparked such discord amongst the cabin-fever-addled participants that the normally equanimous Jon Palace finally stepped in and banned the game from the premises. Perhaps the most perennial of all the games was a networked multiplayer version of Boggle that much of the office played almost every day at close of business. Steve Meretzky got so good, and could type so fast, that he could enter a word and win a round before the other players had even begun to mentally process the letters before them.

Given this love for games as well as the creativity of so many at Infocom, it was inevitable that they would also start making up their own games that had nothing to do with prose or parsers. Indeed, little home-grown ludic experiments were everywhere, appropriating whatever materials were to hand; Andrew Kaluzniacki recalls Meretzky once making up a game on the fly that used only a stack of business cards lying on the desk before him. Most of these creations lived and died inside the Infocom offices, but an interesting congruence of circumstances allowed one of them to escape to the outside world as Fooblitzky, Infocom’s one game that definitely can’t be labelled an interactive fiction or adventure game and thus (along with, if you like, Cornerstone) the great anomaly in their catalog.

We’ve already seen many times that technology often dictates design. That’s even truer in the case of Fooblitzky than in most. Its origins date back to early 1984, when Mike Berlyn, fresh off of Infidel, was put in charge of one of Infocom’s several big technology initiatives for the year: a cross-platform system for writing and delivering graphical games to stand along the one already in place for text adventures and in development for business products.

It was by far the thorniest proposition of the three, one that had already been rejected in favor of pure text adventures and an iconic anti-graphics advertising campaign more than a year earlier when Infocom had walked away from a potential partnership with Penguin Software, “The Graphics People.” As I described in an earlier article, Infocom’s development methodology, built as it was around their DEC minicomputer, was just not well suited to graphics. It’s not quite accurate to say, however, that the DEC terminals necessarily could only display text. By now DEC had begun selling terminals like the VT125 with bitmap graphics capabilities, which could be programmed using a library called ReGIS. This, it seemed, might just open a window of possibility for coding graphical games on the DEC.

Still, the DEC represented only one end of the pipeline; they also needed to deliver the finished product on microcomputers. Trying to create a graphical Z-Machine would, again, be much more complicated than its text-only equivalent. To run an Infocom text adventure, a computer needed only be capable of displaying text for output and of accepting text for input. Excepting only a few ultra-low-end models, virtually any disk-drive-equipped computer available for purchase in 1984 could do the job; some might display more text onscreen, or do it more or less attractively or quickly, but all of them could do it. Yet the same computers differed enormously in their graphics capabilities. Some, like the old TRS-80, had virtually none to speak of; some, like the IBM PC and the Apple II, were fairly rudimentary in this area; some, like the Atari 800 and the Commodore 64 and even the IBM PCjr, could do surprisingly impressive things in the hands a skilled programmer. All of these machines ran at different screen resolutions, with different color palettes, with different sets of fiddly restrictions on what color any given pixel could be. Infocom would be forced to choose a lowest common denominator to target, then sacrifice yet more speed and capability to the need to run any would-be game through an interpreter. Suffice to say that such a system wasn’t likely to challenge, say, Epyx when it came to slick and beautiful action games. But then maybe that was just as well: even the DEC graphical terminals hadn’t been designed with videogames in mind but rather static “business graphics” — i.e., charts and graphs and the like — and weren’t likely to reveal heretofore unknown abilities for running something like Summer Games.

But in spite of it all some thought that Infocom might be able to do certain types of games tolerably well with such a system. Andrew Kaluzniacki, a major technical contributor to the cross-platform graphics project:

It was pretty obvious pretty quickly that we couldn’t do complicated real-time graphics like you might see in an arcade game. But you could do a board game. You could lay the board out in a way that would look sufficiently similar across platforms, that would look acceptable.

Thus was the multiplayer board/computer game hybrid Foobliztky born almost as a proof of concept — or perhaps a justification for the work that had already been put into the cross-platform graphics system.

Fooblitzky and the graphics system itself, both operating as essentially a single project under Mike Berlyn, soon monopolized the time of several people amongst the minority of the staff not working on Cornerstone. Kaluzniacki, a new hire in Dan Horn’s Micro Group, wrote a graphics editor for the Apple II which was used by a pair of artists, Brian Cody and Paula Maxwell, to draw the pictures. These were then transferred to the DEC for incorporation into the game; the technology on that side was the usual joint effort by the old guard of DEC-centric Imps. The mastermind on the interpreter side was another of Horn’s stars, Poh C. Lim, almost universally known as “Magic” Lim due to his fondness for inscrutable “magic numbers” in his code marked off with a big “Don’t touch this!” Berlyn, with considerable assistance from Marc Blank, took the role of principal game designer as well as project manager.

Fooblitzky may have been born as largely “something to do with our graphics system,” but Infocom wasn’t given to doing anything halfway. Berlyn worked long and hard on the design, putting far more passion into it than he had into either of his last two interactive-fiction works. The artists also worked to make the whole as pleasing and charming as it could be given the restrictions under which they labored. And finally the whole was given that most essential prerequisite to any good game of any type: seemingly endless rounds of play-testing and tweaking. Fooblitzky tournaments became a fixture of life at Infocom for a time, often pitting the divisions of the company against one another. (Business Products surprisingly proved very competitive with Consumer Products; poor Jon Palace “set the record for playing Fooblitzky more times and losing more times than anyone else in the universe.”) When the time came to create the packaging, Infocom did their usual superlative, hyper-creative job. Fooblitzky came with a set of markers and little dry-erase boards, one for each of the up to four players, for taking notes and making plans, along with not one but two manuals — the full rules and a “Bare Essentials” quick-start guide, the presence of which makes the game sound much more complicated than it actually is — and the inevitable feelie, which as in the Cornerstone package here took the form of a button.

Fooblitzky is a game of deduction, one more entry in a long and ongoing tradition in board and casual gaming. At the beginning of a game, each player secretly chooses one of a possible eighteen items. If fewer than four are playing — two to four players are possible — the computer then randomly (and secretly) picks enough items to round out the total to four. Players then take turns moving about a game board representing the town of Fooblitzky, trying to deduce what the three initially unidentified items are and gather a full set together. The first to bring all four items back to a “check point” wins.

Items start out in stores which are scattered about the board. Also present are pawn shops in which items can be sold and bought; restaurants in which you can work to earn money if you deplete your initial store; crosswalks which can randomly lead to unintended contact with traffic and an expensive stay in the hospital; phone booths for calling distant stores and checking stock; storage lockers for stashing items (you can only carry four with you, a brutal inventory limit indeed); even a subway that can whisk you around the board quickly — for, as with most things in Fooblitzky, a price. Adding a layer of chaos over the proceedings is the Chance Man, who appears randomly from time to time to do something good, like giving you a free item, or bad, like dropping a piano on your head and sending you to the hospital. By making use of all of the above and more, while also watching everything everyone else does, players try to figure out the correct items and get them collected and delivered before their rivals; thus the need for the note-taking boards.

Once you get the hang of the game, which doesn’t take long, a lot of possibilities open up for strategy and even a little devious psychology. Bluffing becomes a viable option: cast off that correct item in a pawn shop as if it’s incorrect, then watch your opponents race off down the wrong track while you do the rest of what you need to do before you buy it back, carry it to the check point, and win. If you prefer to be less passive aggressive and more, well, active aggressive, you can just run into an opponent in the street to scatter her items everywhere and try to grab what you need.

It can all be a lot of fun, although I’m not sure I can label Fooblitzky a classic. There just seems to be something missing — what, I can’t quite put my finger on — for me to go that far. One problem is that some games are much more interesting than others — granted, a complaint that could be applied to just about any game, but the variation seems much more pronounced here than it ought to. By far the best game of Fooblitzky I’ve ever played was one involving just my wife Dorte and me. By chance three of the four needed items turned out to be the same, leading to a mad, confused scramble that lasted at least twice as long as a normal game, as we each thought we’d figured out the solution several times only to get our collection rejected. (Dorte finally won in the end, as usual.) That game was really exciting. By contrast, however, the more typical game in which all four items are distinct can start to seem almost rote after just a few sessions in quick succession; even deviousness can only add so much to the equation. If Fooblitzky was a board game, I tend to think it’d be one you’d dust off once or twice a year, not a game-night perennial.

That said, Fooblitzky‘s presentation is every bit as whimsical and cute as it wants to be. Each player’s avatar is a little dog because, well, why not? My favorite bit of all is the dish-washing graphic.

Washing dishes Fooblitzky-style

Washing dishes Fooblitzky-style

On the way to the hospital after getting hit by a car

On the way to the hospital after getting hit by a car

Cute as it is, Fooblitzky and the cross-platform project which spawned it weren’t universally loved within Infocom. Far from it. Mike Berlyn characterizes the debate over just what to do with Fooblitzky as a “bitter battle.” Mike Dornbrook’s marketing department, already dealing with the confusion over just why Infocom was releasing something like Cornerstone, was deeply concerned about further “brand dilution” if this erstwhile interactive-fiction company now suddenly released something like Fooblitzky.

The obvious riposte to such concerns would have been to make Fooblitzky so compelling, such an obvious moneyspinner, that it simply had to be released and promoted heavily. But in truth Fooblitzky was far from that. Its very description — that of a light social game — made it an horrifically hard sell in the 1980s, as evidenced by the relative commercial failure of even better games like my beloved M.U.L.E. Like much of Electronic Arts’s early catalog, it was targeted at a certain demographic of more relaxed, casual computer gaming that never quite emerged in sufficient numbers from the home-computing boom and bust. And Fooblitzky‘s graphics, while perhaps better than what anyone had any right to expect, are still slow and limited. A few luddites at Infocom may have been wedded to the notion of the company as a maker of only pure-text games, but for many more the problem was not that Fooblitzky had graphics but rather that the graphics just weren’t good enough for the Infocom stamp of quality. They would have preferred to find a way to do cross-platform graphics right, but there was no money for such a project in the wake of Cornerstone. Fooblitzky‘s graphics had been produced on a relative shoestring, and unfortunately they kind of looked it. Some naysayers pointedly suggest that if it wasn’t possible to do a computerized Fooblitzky right they should just remove the computer from the equation entirely and make a pure board game out of it (the branding confusion that would have resulted from that would have truly given Dornbrook and company nightmares!).

And so Fooblitzky languished for months even after Mike Berlyn left the company and the cross-platform-graphics project as a whole fell victim to the InfoAusterity program. Interpreters were only created for the IBM PC, Apple II, and Atari 8-bit line, notably leaving the biggest game machine in the world, the Commodore 64, unsupported. At last in September of 1985 Infocom started selling it exclusively via mail order to members of the established family — i.e., readers of The New Zork Times. Marketing finally relented and started shipping the game to stores the following spring where, what with their virtually nonexistent efforts at promotion, it sold in predictably tiny quantities: well under 10,000 copies in total.

The whole Fooblitzky saga is the story of a confused company with muddled priorities creating something that didn’t quite fit anywhere and never really had a chance. Like Cornerstone’s complicated virtual machine, the cross-platform graphics initiative ended up being technically masterful but more damaging than useful to the finished product. Infocom could have had a much slicker game for much less money had they simply written the thing on a microcomputer and then ported it to the two or three other really popular and graphically viable platforms by hand. Infocom’s old “We hate micros!” slogan, their determination to funnel everything through the big DEC, was becoming increasingly damaging to them in a rapidly changing computing world, their biggest traditional strength threatening to become a huge liability. Even by 1984 the big DECSystem-20 was starting to look a bit antiquated to those who knew where computing was going. In just a few more years, when Infocom would junk the DEC at last, it would literally be junked: the big fleet of red refrigerators, worth a cool million dollars when it came to Infocom in 1982, was effectively worthless barely five years later, a relic of a bygone era.

Because Fooblitzky is such an oddity with none of the name recognition or lingering commercial value of the more traditional Infocom games, I’m going to break my usual pattern and offer it for download here in its Atari 8-bit configuration. It’s still good for an evening or two’s scavenging fun with friends or family. Next time we’ll get back to interactive fiction proper and dig into one of the most important games Infocom ever released.

(Just the usual suspects as sources this time around: Jason Scott’s Get Lamp interviews and my collection of New Zork Times issues.)


by Jimmy Maher at April 23, 2014 09:14 AM

Cool Tools

Grill Daddy Pro Grill Brush

I’ve been using this all summer to clean my outdoor grill. It is by far the best tool I’ve discovered for cleaning the actual grill surface—the steel bristles do an excellent job scraping the grill, the double-handed body makes it easy to apply some extra muscle to the process—and the use of the heat from the grill and the steam created by the water that is released through the brush itself both cleans and seems to sterilize the surface.

The best part is that you can clean the grill surface immediately after you are done using the grill—no waiting for it to cool down, forcing you to come back to it later. Using the grill is so much more convenient because you heat it, use it, clean it, and close it up until the next time. Efficient and effective.
I wish the reservoir held a bit more water, but other than that, no complaints or suggestions for improvement.

-- Ray Tetz

Grill Daddy Pro Grill Brush

Available from Amazon

by mark at April 23, 2014 09:00 AM

Matt Gemmell

Offscreen 8

Offscreen magazine issue 8 is now available. I have an essay in this issue about the meaning of legacy in the digital age (with a beautiful illustration by Tom Froese).

If you’re not familiar with Offscreen, here’s the blurb:

Offscreen is a high-quality print periodical with an in-depth look at the life and work of people that use the internet to be creative and build successful businesses. Ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of the technology that makes your digital lifestyle possible? We invite you to turn off your device, grab a cup of coffee and meet their makers off screen.

What that means is it’s an independent (one-man: Kai Brach) periodical, 150+ pages per issue, with gorgeous printing and paper stock, and strictly paper-only. It contains interviews, and introspective, medium-length essays about how technology and the web impact our personal lives.

It’s a beautiful and luxurious product, and I’m delighted to have added to the almost 50,000 words in this issue. It’d look damned good on your coffee table, I bet.

Offscreen issue 8

Issue 8 brings you conversations with Australian-born banking maverick Josh Reich; New Orleans-based ed-tech entrepreneur Jennifer Medbery; the founder of award-winning digital agency Big Spaceship, Michael Lebowitz; creator and print devotee Richard Moross; trailblazing Paper and Pencil maker Georg Petschnigg; and Twitter’s Vice-President of Design, Mike Davidson.

You can order copies and subscribe directly from the Offscreen site, and follow what’s happening via @offscreenmag on Twitter. You can also pick up a copy from these stockists in your country.

My writing is supported by readers like you. Any contribution helps enormously.

If you’re a business interested in reaching my readers, I also offer sponsorship opportunities.

April 23, 2014 08:00 AM


‘Once Saved Always Saved’, or ‘Preservation and Perseverance in Christ’?

one-with-christ-an-evangelical-theology-of-salvation-199x300From time to time I’m asked by one of my students whether or not I think you can lose your salvation. Being that many of them come to me as default Arminians, a few of them are clearly expecting me to dispel the silly notion that ‘once saved, always saved’ no matter what else you do. The idea that you could pray a prayer when you’re five, then go live your life in whatever kind of debauchery appeals to you for the rest of your life, and still be saved is repugnant to them. And rightfully so. Yet, still others, having caught the drift of some of my talks on grace, security in Christ, and so forth, strongly push back that grace is a grace and so it’s all covered. The idea of someone being lost by God is repugnant to them. And rightfully so.

At that point, the challenge is to explain a doctrine of perseverance that gives both the full assurance that those “whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Rom. 8:30), as well as the need to “continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard” (Col. 1:23).

In his excellent new work One with Christ: An Evangelical Theology of SalvationMarcus Johnson gives a little summary of the distinction between pop-level “once saved, always saved’ theology and a more classic understand of “preservation and perseverance in Christ” that ought to be helpful for anyone else struggling to explain this key truth. Prudently he begins with the words of the Heidelberg Catechism:

Q. 1. What is your only comfort in life and death?

A. 1. That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for Him.

Notice the careful wording of the catechism: the believer is able to express complete confidence that she will never be separated from Christ, but salvation has an ongoing content that includes willingness and readiness to live for Christ. This is why Reformed theology has always insisted that salvation includes “the perseverance of the saints.” This does not mean that believers are saved because they persevere in their faith— as if continually to merit God’s grace— but that they persevere as they are preserved by God’s grace in Christ. The saints indeed stumble in sin, and may sometimes even doubt that they truly belong to Christ, but they will never finally be overcome by sin or lose their assurance of God’s fatherly care. The saints experience in their lives the faithfulness of Christ as they grow into his manifold blessings.

This is why a doctrine of “eternal security” that asserts that believers are eternally saved irrespective of the carnality of their lives, including the act of apostasy, is to be rejected strenuously. Quite simply, this construal fails to take into account that the believer’s eternal security is grounded in his preservation in the living, crucified, resurrected Christ, who will never fail to nourish his body. It is also typically reductionistic in its understanding of salvation, emphasizing that we have been saved to the exclusion of the equally important truth that we are being saved. The content of salvation, according to this view, is reduced to, and is often synonymous with, what is referred to as the “gift of eternal life,” an abstraction that neglects the truth that Christ is himself eternal life. The inevitable result is a doctrine of “eternal security” that vitiates the good news that God continually imparts the very life of Christ to his children. When Christ promises us eternal life, he is promising more than a gift to be redeemed when we die— a “get-out-of-jail-free” card, as it were. He is promising us a life in and with him that begins when we receive him, manifests itself throughout our lives, and necessarily wells up into eternal blessedness (John 4: 14; 15: 1– 8; 1 John 5: 18– 20).

Contrary to the rather crass notion of “ once saved, always saved,” the doctrine of preservation in Christ insists that the one who is united to Christ (is saved) inevitably experiences the manifold benefits of that union (is being saved). Christ gives us himself in salvation, and because he is the crucified, resurrected, living Son of God, salvation means a participation in his death, resurrection, and life. This means we not only receive the benefit of justification through this union, we also receive the benefit of sanctification. Sanctification, as we have seen, means not only that we have been made holy in Christ , but that we are being made holy in him —and this because we have been crucified and resurrected with him. In fact, the very design of our predestination in Christ is that we will “be conformed to the image of [God’s] Son” (Rom. 8: 29). We are told, further, that we were created in Christ Jesus “for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2: 10). God is in the process of sanctifying us “completely. . . . He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thess. 5: 23– 24).

–One with Christ: An Evangelical Theology of Salvation (Kindle Locations 3548-3578). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

To be clear, it’s unthinkable that someone who has been truly united to Christ, placed in his unbreakable grip, to be lost. Johnson brings out the staggering implications if that were true:

When God joins us to Christ through faith, he is making real in our temporal lives what he has already decreed in his eternal will and accomplished in the incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of his Son. To be severed from the Son would require that the Father rescind what he has already decreed and accomplished. Every benefit that we have received from being united to Christ would have to be undone. Having already justified us in Christ, God would have to re-condemn us and repeal our participation in Christ’s righteousness; having already sanctified us in Christ, God would have to reverse our baptism into Christ’s death, burial, and new resurrection life; having already adopted us in Christ, God would have to make us orphans; having already resurrected us with Christ and raised us in his ascension, God would have to lower us into death and cast us from the heavenly realms; and having already glorified us in Christ, God would have to terminate the end to which he appointed all of his blessings. In sum, having joined us to Christ, God would have to dismember the body of Christ.

–ibid, (Kindle Locations 3523-3530).

And yet, it’s also similarly unthinkable that someone truly united with Christ, filled with the Spirit and the gifts of justification, sanctification, adoption, and so forth, to turn aside and live in unrepentant sin. In a sense, yes, “once saved, always saved” is true, but what the doctrines of preservation and perseverance make clear is that a more accurate summary is “once saved, inevitably saved.

 Soli Deo Gloria

by Derek Rishmawy at April 23, 2014 06:24 AM

Vincent Lefèvre's Blog (in English, when available)

Festival Hallucinations Collectives 2014 à Lyon

La 7e édition du festival Hallucinations Collectives à Lyon, organisée par ZoneBis, vient de se terminer. J'ai assisté à 24 séances (23 longs métrages et la compétition de courts métrages) sur les 27. Sur les 3 séances que j'ai ratées, il y avait deux films que j'avais déjà vus ces dernières années, et l'autre séance concernait les deux séances simultanées (il n'était donc pas possible de tout voir). Par rapport aux années précédentes, il y avait moins de films que j'ai vraiment adorés, mais dans l'ensemble, cela reste une très bonne édition. Mon classement des 25 longs métrages en incluant les deux déjà vus:

  1. Baxter (1989), de Jérôme Boivin [AC] [CaC]

  2. El castillo de la pureza (1973) (Le château de la pureté), d'Arturo Ripstein [AC] [CaC]

  3. The Babadook (2014), de Jennifer Kent [AC] (en compétition)

  4. TerrorVision (1986), de Ted Nicolaou

  5. Frankenhooker (1990), de Frank Henenlotter [AC]

  6. Di renjie: Shen du long wang (2013) (Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon), de Hark Tsui [AC] (en compétition)

  7. The Boys from Brazil (1978) (Ces garçons qui venaient du Brésil), de Franklin J. Schaffner [AC] [CaC]

  8. Crawlspace (1986) (Fou à tuer), de David Schmoeller [AC]

  9. Le locataire (1976), de Roman Polanski [AC] [CaC]

  10. Goal of the Dead (2014), de Thierry Poiraud / Benjamin Rocher [AC] [AC] [CaC] [CaC] (clôture)

  11. The Warriors (1979) (Les guerriers de la nuit), de Walter Hill [AC] [CaC]

  12. Street Trash (1987), de J. Michael Muro [AC] [CaC]

  13. The Nightcomers (1971) (Le corrupteur), de Michael Winner [AC]

  14. Aux yeux des vivants (2014), d'Alexandre Bustillo / Julien Maury [AC] [CaC] (en compétition)

  15. Dolls (1987) (Dolls - les poupées), de Stuart Gordon [AC] [CaC]

  16. The Double (2013), de Richard Ayoade [AC] [CaC] (en compétition)

  17. Vigilante (1983), de William Lustig [AC]

  18. Super 8 Madness! (2014), de Fabrice Blin [AC]

  19. Wolfen (1981), de Michael Wadleigh [AC] [CaC]

  20. Wara no tate (2013) (Shield of Straw), de Takashi Miike [AC] [CaC] (en compétition)

  21. R100 (2013), de Hitoshi Matsumoto [AC] [CaC] (en compétition)

  22. Night of the Juggler (1980) (Fort Bronx), de Robert Butler

  23. Au nom du fils (2012), de Vincent Lannoo [AC] [CaC] (en compétition)

  24. Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) (L'exorciste II: L'hérétique), de John Boorman [AC] [CaC]

  25. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984) (Les aventures de Buckaroo Banzaï à travers la 8e dimension), de W.D. Richter [AC] [CaC]

Mon court métrage préféré était Nectar, de Lucile Hadzihalilovic.

by Vincent Lefèvre at April 23, 2014 06:20 AM

The Gospel Coalition Blog

Gospel Inclusion and Instagram

When I was in elementary and junior high school, my parents insisted I never talk about invitations. Other parents similarly instructed my peers. When you get invited to a birthday party, your mom beat your brow to not talk about it at school, because you did not know who may or may not have been invited. If your buddy asked you and some friends over for a sleepover, you didn't brag about it at school. You did not want to make anyone feel excluded.

Instagram_Icon_LargeParents had good sense in that rule. Childhood and adolescence are delicate times when kids have a fragile sense of self. The feeling of rejection that comes from being left outside the circle stings particularly deeply.

I don't think I felt the sting of being left out until the end of high school when senior trip came around. One group of girls invited five of my friends to go with them. Another group of girls invited the other half of my guy friends to join their trip. I was the odd man out.

It stung. Badly. I felt rejected and alone. I had visions of all the fun everyone was having at the beach, while I headed to the mountains with my parents and our dog. It was not the finale to my senior year that I had envisioned.

Now imagine that experience being the daily rhythm for most teenagers who have been cursed with a smart phone and double cursed with the desire to download Instagram. A barrage of exclusion and rejection hammers kids each day.

While the ethic during my day was never to reveal your plans and invitations, today a competitive feeding frenzy occurs on Instagram throughout the week as kids vie to portray their life as the most fun, included, social euphoria one ever could imagine. It is common teen behavior to show up for a party with your friends, take a picture of the crew at said party, post it on Instagram, and then leave within ten minutes. For those not immersed in teen culture, this trend sounds like an outlier. Trust me, it's the normal routine of the weekend for many, many kids.

A parent told me a story about how on a holiday her son wanted his mom to take a picture of him lighting fireworks. She found this request strange since the family didn't do anything with fireworks this year. He lit one fuse, picture snapped, and the fireworks show concluded. Then she did further analysis after seeing the picture on Instagram. The child wanted to say, "Look everyone, we're having so much fun over here!" when in reality, he was chilling with his parents, watching Netflix on New Year's Eve.

On a weekend night, many kids sit on the couch watching all of the "fun" their peers are having via their pictures on Instagram. Even the kids in the pictures who appear as if they are "in" admit the scene reflects only a fleeting moment of companionship. They either see pictures of other parties, or they feel both emotionally and existentially lonely from working so hard to "appear" accepted. For me, the exclusion was left to my imagination; for these kids, it's in their face all the time.


The gospel is both narrow and wide. It is narrow in the sense that all implications of the gospel emerge from the saving life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The gospel is broad in the way that the benefits of Christ's complete work on the Cross encompasses immense vastness.

For those ministering to and caring for teenagers—both parents, volunteers, and pastors alike—the good news of God including sinners in his family rings fresh in the ears of teenagers. In Ephesians 2, Paul talks about the affinity of God to draw those who are on the outside into his presence:

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. . . He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

The feeling of exclusion and of being on the "outside" reflects the natural state of sinners in relation to God. The fear of social exclusion projects the dreaded fear of ultimate alienation from the Lord. Helping students understand the heart-level, spiritual reality of their fear and loneliness sets the stage for the hope described in this text.

But Paul describes the work of God as drawing those in isolation—those far on the fringes, those left on the couch with their parents on Friday night—near to God. In fact, he mentions those who are "near" (perhaps those at the party with 15,000 Instagram posts) being brought into this circle, as well. He speaks of an intimate unity whereby, all whom Christ has redeemed, enter into a communion with the triune God and all believers. This intimate connection is the substance of oneness with God, the deepest longing of every heart, especially the teenage heart.

Talking about the gospel in terms of forgiveness of sins, inheriting eternal life, and relationship with Christ always needs mention. And today's teenagers also need to hear the healing, hopeful word that through the Cross God brings sinners, who are "left out," into his inner circle, a place of intimate friendship with him.

by Cameron Cole at April 23, 2014 05:01 AM

Front Porch Republic

Give Me the Local Color


Ingham County, MI … If you’ll stop watching Friends and start making them, if you’ll turn down the volume on the purveyors of voluminous but distant and useless news, if you’ll ignore the Technicolor coverage of unlocal stories, you’ll discover that

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The post Give Me the Local Color appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Jason Peters at April 23, 2014 04:59 AM

John C. Wright's Journal

On the Way!

I wrote a short story in honor of Eastern I hoped to share with my readers. But my schedule has been a little hectic, and I had to take the kids to see CAPTAIN AMERICA — well worth the ticket price, may  I add.

I hope to get the story up this week. It was based on an opening of the story I wrote for a workshop. We each had an hour to write a one hundred word opening paragraph. I wrote a thousand, and I read mine last because I was the pro in the room. I did not know what to do with the opening until now.

by John C Wright at April 23, 2014 04:05 AM

The American Conservative » Articles

Turkey Cooks the Books in Syria

If you had been a reader of The American Conservative magazine back in December 2011, you might have learned from an article written by me that “Unmarked NATO warplanes are arriving at Turkish military bases close to Iskenderum on the Syrian border, delivering weapons [to the Free Syrian Army] derived from Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s arsenals…” Well, it seems that the rest of the media is beginning to catch up with the old news, supplemented with significant details by Sy Hersh in the latest issue of the London Review of Books in an article entitled “The Red Line and the Rat Line.”

The reality is that numerous former intelligence officials, like myself, have long known most of the story surrounding the on-again off-again intervention by the United States and others in Syria, but what was needed was a Sy Hersh, with his unmatched range of contacts deep in both the Pentagon as well as at CIA and State Department, to stitch it all together with corroboration from multiple sources. In a sense it was a secret that wasn’t really very well hidden but which the mainstream media wouldn’t touch with a barge pole because it revealed that the Obama Administration, just like the Bushies who preceded it, has been actively though clandestinely conspiring to overthrow yet another government in the Middle East. One might well conclude that the White House is like the Bourbon Kings of France in that it never forgets anything but never learns anything either.

The few media outlets that are willing to pick up the Syria story even now are gingerly treating it as something new, jumping in based on their own editorial biases, sometimes emphasizing the CIA and MI6 role in cooperating with the Turks to undermine Bashar al-Assad. But Hersh’s tale is only surprising if one had not been reading between the lines over the past three years, where the clandestine role of the British and American governments was evident and frequently reported on over the internet and, most particularly, in the local media in the Middle East. Far from being either rogue or deliberately deceptive, operations by the U.S. and UK intelligence services, the so-called “ratlines” feeding weapons into Syria, were fully vetted and approved by both the White House and Number 10 Downing Street. The more recent exposure of the Benghazi CIA base’s possible involvement in obtaining Libyan arms as part of the process of equipping the Syrian insurgents almost blew the lid off of the arrangement but somehow the media attention was diverted by a partisan attack on the Obama Administration over who said what and when to explain the security breakdown and the real story sank out of sight.

So this is what happened, roughly speaking: the United States had been seeking the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria since at least 2003, joining with Saudi Arabia, which had been funding efforts to destabilize his regime even earlier. Why? Because from the Saudi viewpoint Syria was an ally of Iran and was also a heretical state led by a secular government dominated by Alawite Muslims, viewed as being uncomfortably close to Shi’ites in their apostasy. From the U.S. viewpoint, the ties to Iran and reports of Syrian interference in Lebanon were a sufficient casus belli coupled with a geostrategic assessment shared with the Saudis that Syria served as the essential land bridge connecting Hezbollah in Lebanon to Iran. The subsequent Congressional Syria Accountability Acts of 2004 and 2010, like similar legislation directed against Iran, have resulted in little accountability and have instead stifled diplomacy. They punished Syria with sanctions for supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon and for its links to Tehran, making any possible improvement in relations problematical. The 2010 Act even calls for steps to bring about regime change in Damascus.

The United States also engaged in a program eerily reminiscent of its recent moves to destabilize the government in Ukraine, i.e., sending in ambassadors and charges who deliberately provoked the Syrian government by meeting with opposition leaders and openly making demands for greater democracy. The last U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford spoke openly in support of the protesters while serving in Damascus in 2010. On one occasion he was pelted with tomatoes and was eventually removed over safety concerns.

Lost in translation is the fact that Washington’s growing support for radical insurgency in Syria would also inevitably destabilize all its neighbors, most notably including Iraq, which has indeed been the case, making a shambles of U.S. claims that it was seeking to introduce stable democracies into the region. Some also saw irony in the fact that a few years before Washington decided al-Assad was an enemy it had been sending victims of the CIA’s rendition program to Syria, suggesting that at least some short-term and long-term strategies were on a collision course from the start, if indeed the advocates of the two policies were actually communicating with each other at all.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, whose country shared a long border with Syria and who had legitimate security concerns relating to Kurdish separatists operating out of the border region, became the proxy in the secret war for Washington and its principal European allies, the British and French. When the U.S.-Saudi supported insurgency began to heat up and turn violent, Turkey became the key front line state in pushing for aggressive action against Damascus. Erdogan miscalculated, thinking that al-Assad was on his last legs, needing only a push to force him out, and Ankara saw itself as ultimately benefiting from a weak Syria with a Turkish-controlled buffer zone along the border to keep the Kurds in check.

Hersh reports how President Barack Obama had to back down from attacking Syria when the Anglo-American intelligence community informed him flatly and unambiguously that Damascus was not responsible for the poison gas attack that took place in Damascus on August 21, 2013 that was being exploited as a casus belli. The information supporting that assertion was known to many like myself who move around the fringes of the intelligence community, but the real revelation from Hersh is the depth of Turkish involvement in the incident in order to have the atrocity be exploitable as a pretext for American armed intervention, which, at that point, Erdogan strongly desired. As the use of weapons of mass destruction against civilians was one of the red lines that Obama had foolishly promoted regarding Syria Erdogan was eager to deliver just that to force the U.S.’s hand. Relying on unidentified senior U.S. intelligence sources, Hersh demonstrates how Turkey’s own preferred militant group Jabhat al-Nusra, which is generally regarded as an al-Qaeda affiliate, apparently used Turkish-provided chemicals and instructions to stage the attack.

Is it all true? Unless one has access to the same raw information as Sy Hersh it is difficult to say with any certainty, but I believe I know who some of the sources are and they both have good access to intelligence and are reliable. Plus, the whole narrative has an undeniable plausibility, particularly if one also considers other evidence of Erdogan’s willingness to take large risks coupled with a more general Turkish underhandedness relating to Syria. On March 23rd, one week before local elections in Turkey that Erdogan feared would go badly for him, a Turkish air force F-16 shot down a Syrian Mig-23, claiming that it had strayed half a mile into Turkish airspace. The pilot who bailed out, claimed that he was attacking insurgent targets at least four miles inside the border when he was shot down, an assertion borne out by physical evidence as the plane’s remains landed inside Syria. Was Erdogan demonstrating how tough he could be just before elections? Possibly.

And then there are the YouTube recordings. Three days before the election, a discussion not unlike the Victoria Nuland leak in Ukraine surfaced. A conversation between Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Hakan Fidan, the chief of the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT), included Davutoglu saying that the “Prime Minister said that in the current conjuncture of time, this attack [on the Tomb of Suleiman Shah] must be seen as an opportunity for us.” Davutoglu was clearly referring to an attack on the tomb serving as a pretext for a Turkish incursion into Syria. Fidan then declared that “I will send four men from inside Syria, if that is what it will take. I will make up a reason for war by ordering a missile attack on Turkey. We can also prepare a direct attack on the Tomb of Suleiman Shah if necessary.” The recording reveals that Ankara was considering staging a false flag attack on the tomb of Suleiman Shah, the grandfather of Osman I, the founder of the Ottoman dynasty. The tomb is in Syria but because of its historical importance has been regarded as sovereign Turkish territory, much like an Embassy, and is guarded by Turkish soldiers. So the suggestion is that Ankara was prepared to kill its own soldiers to create an incident that would have led to a broader war.

Critics of Hersh claim that the Turks would be incapable of carrying out such a grand subterfuge, but I would argue that putting together some technicians, chemicals, and a couple of trucks to carry the load are well within the capability of MIT, an organization that I have worked with and whose abilities I respect. And one must regard with dismay the “tangled webs we weave,” with due credit to Bobby Burns, for what has subsequently evolved in Syria. Allies like Turkey that are willing to cook the books to bring about military action are exploiting the uncertainty of a White House that continues to search for foreign policy successes while simultaneously being unable to define any genuine American interests. Syria is far from an innocent in the ensuing mayhem, but it has become the fall guy for a whole series of failed policies. Turkey meanwhile has exploited the confusion to clamp down on dissent and to institutionalize Erdogan’s authoritarian inclinations. Ten years of American-licensed meddling combined with obliviousness to possible consequences has led to in excess of 100,000 dead Syrians and the introduction of large terrorist infrastructures into the Arab heartland, yet another foreign policy disaster in the making with no clear way out.

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.

by Philip Giraldi at April 23, 2014 04:05 AM

The Tech Report - News

The TR Podcast 153: 4K ascendant, CodingHorror resplendent

The Tech Report Podcast

Date: April 22, 2014
Duration: 1:32:07

Hosted by: Jordan Drake

Co-Hosts: Scott Wasson, Geoff Gasior, Cyril Kowaliski, and special guest Jeff Atwood

MP3 (66.3MB)

RSS (MP3) | RSS (M4A)
iTunes (MP3) | iTunes (M4A)

This episode of the TR Podcast is sponsored by Cooler Master, promoting their Nepton line of CPU water coolers. The 140XL and 280L are all-in-one cooling systems complete with radiators, fans, and a water block to cool your high performance CPU. These coolers are exclusively designed by the team at Cooler Master, factory filled with coolant, then fully sealed and pressure tested for zero maintenance. ...


April 23, 2014 03:43 AM

Havoc's Blog

It’s not new

If you’ve ever written a technical article, or announced some software you created, chances are someone commented “this isn’t new, it’s just like _____.”

Commenters of the world, slow down. Think about why you would say that. Readers, ask why you would think it, even if you don’t comment.

Do you mean:

  • I have already heard of this, and the article was written only for me, so you wasted your time.”
  • “This is not suitable for publication in an academic journal.”
  • “This could not be patented due to prior art.”
  • “There was another article about this once, so we need never mention it again.”
  • “I don’t know why you wrote this software, the only reason to write software is to demo a novel idea.”

I guess all of those are pretty silly.

So here is my theory. There’s an old, in no way new, cliché question: “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be effective?”

Most of us software people, at some point, had our self-esteem tied up in the idea of being “smart.” (Try to get over it.)

When we don’t watch ourselves, we would rather be right than effective. And we would rather think about a shiny new idea than learn, practice, refine, and teach a tried-and-true idea.

There are lots of old, endlessly-repeated ideas out there which you are not applying. I’m sure you can find some thousand-year-old ones in the world’s religious and philosophical heritage, unless you have your shit together a lot more than I do. And I’m sure you can find some 5– and 30– and 50-year-old ones related to software, which you should be using, and are not. I know I could.

So when someone writes an article about one of those ideas, or brings together some well-known ideas in a new piece of software, it is not because OH MY GOD I JUST THOUGHT OF THIS. Effective people do not ignore old ideas, nor do they consider “knowing” an idea to be the purpose of ideas. Ideas are for applying, not for cataloging.

Commenters, I’d ask you to work harder. Link to related articles and software; compare and contrast; discuss how you’ve used the idea; add to the discussion.

Here’s the thing: if you click on something on the Internet, and it’s not news to you and you learned nothing, the rest of us don’t need to be told that. We don’t plan to launch an initiative to remove all information you already know from the net. So close the browser tab, and move on.

Thanks for listening to this rant, and I welcome your pointers to prior art.

P.S. I drafted this post some time ago, but was just reminded to post it by a comment on an article about racial (re)segregation. Someone said “this is not new” and cited a previous academic research paper! The comment seems to be gone now (perhaps they came to their senses).

by havoc at April 23, 2014 01:39 AM

Text Patterns

the wrong vox

The other day ran an article claiming that the pace at which technological innovations are accepted is speeding up. The problem is, as Matt Novak pointed out, that really isn’t true. Not true at all.

And then things started getting a little weird. Vox began silently to make changes to the story, at first making slight alterations — where it has referred to “the internet” it now refers (more accurately) to the “World Wide Web.” Over the next day or so further changes were made — charts were deleted and added — still with no acknowledgement. But eventually two statements were added, at the beginning of the article:

Correction: This post originally gave incorrect dates for the introduction of radio and television technology and the invention of the cell phone. It also mis-labeled the web as the internet. We regret these errors.

and at the end:

Update: This post has been modified to include the original technology-adoption chart from the FCC that's the source for our graph. The graph has also been tweaked to more clearly denote the adoption of the web starting in 1991, not the broader internet. And Gizmodo is right: we should have noted these changes at the time. Our apologies.

“Matt Novak” or “Paleofuture” would have been better than “Gizmodo,” but this is a significant step forwards. However, it’s not all that it should be. In a smart post written before the corrections were acknowledged, Freddie deBoer wrote,

It’s okay to make corrections — better than okay, actually, it’s necessary and responsible. But you have to come out and say you did that by writing a brief section (a paragraph will do) saying “we changed X, Y, and Z, and this is why.” If you don’t, it just looks dishonest, and it risks contributing to a sense of imperiousness that is not a good look. Worse, it gives you less incentive to not make the same mistake in the future, if you just disappear the old problems. There’s an “Updated by” line at the top, but no other information, and for me, that doesn’t do enough. Don’t compound the problems, guys. Just own up to them.

By the standards Freddie lays out, which seem to me the right ones, Vox’s appended statements do half the job: they acknowledge that changes have been made, and made to correct errors, but they don't deal with the larger problem, which is that some of the key claims in the article were and remain simply incorrect. As far as I can see, Vox has corrected the factual errors which led to the inaccurate conclusions but left those conclusions in place. Which seems a little odd.

I think this little contretemps needs to be considered in light of the big essay that Ezra Klein wrote to launch Vox, “How Politics Makes Us Stupid.” Here too we find a strong argument based on what turns out to be, as Caleb Crain pointed out, a simple and straightforward misreading of the data. But Klein has made no corrections, and as far as I can discover, there’s no acknowledgement on the Vox site of Crain’s challenge.

That “as far as I can discover” is perhaps the most important point of all. Vox doesn’t have comments. There is no “letters to the editor” page. Vox has no ombudsman. You can email or tweet at its writers, but they’re free to ignore you, and who knows if the editors see any of those communications? The site has no contact page that I can find. There’s not even a search box on the site: you have to use Google to find articles. Basically, is a black box. Now, for the “card stacks” there is apparently some kind of correction model in place — but if for card stacks why not for articles? There seems to be no policy here, and only one person — the superb tech journalist Timothy B. Lee — whom I’ve seen responding to corrections. (He’s the one who let Matt Novak and me know about the changes made to the article I refer to at the beginning of this post. If others at Vox are doing this, please let me know in the comments.)

Klein has said repeatedly — see this interview for instance — that he wants to use Vox to explain the news to people, which is cool, but the explainer model coupled with the strong discouragement of feedback sends a pretty clear message: We know, we tell, you listen.

Contrast that attitude to the the model the venerable New York Times says it wants to follow in its new endeavor, called The Upshot.

Perhaps most important, we want The Upshot to feel like a collaboration between journalists and readers. We will often publish the details behind our reporting — such as the data for our inequality project or the computer code for our Senate forecasting model — and we hope that readers will find angles we did not. We also want to get story assignments from you: Tell us what data you think deserves exploration. Tell us which parts of the news you do not understand as well as you’d like.

The staff of The Upshot is filled with people who love to learn new things. That’s why we became journalists. We consider it a great privilege to be able to delve into today’s biggest news stories and then report back to you with what we’ve found. We look forward to the conversation.

Maybe The Upshot won’t live up to these noble ideals, but such an announcement is a good start. And shouldn't a high-profile “new media” venture like Vox be even more aware of and willing to embrace the communicative possibilities of ... well, of new media? Instead, they seem to be creating a one-way street, like a Victorian newspaper. Klein has said that he and his fellow Wonkblog writers “were badly held back not just by the technology, but by the culture of journalism.” But to me, the culture of journalism is not looking so bad right now. And while is definitely a work in progress, it's not a good sign that responsiveness to and intersection with readers doesn't seem to have been part of their initial vision at all.

I hope Vox fixes these problems. There are things about it I really like — many of the card stacks are crisply accurate and therefore quite useful, and it has some first-rate writers, like Tim Lee and Dara Lind: see Lee’s excellent explanation of the confusing Aereo case and Lind’s clear and information-rich stack on prisons. But as long as the site remains so closed-off to its readers, many people will be likely to conclude that the difference between old media and new is that the old has higher standards and more accountability.

by Alan Jacobs ( at April 23, 2014 12:41 AM

April 22, 2014

Simon's blog



A while ago I mentioned that

When you start learning Japanese you will be told that aoi means “blue” and midori means “green”. And then someone else who’s learning Japanese will tell you “Hey, did you know that the Japanese think that green traffic lights are blue, ha ha ha isn’t that stupid?” But of course they don’t. They don’t say that traffic lights are blue, because “blue” is English; they say that traffic lights are aoi. It’s only English speakers who say that traffic lights are blue. Aoi doesn’t really mean “blue”—because words don’t have meanings, they have uses. Aoi is used to refer to light with wavelengths of between roughly 400 and 500 nanometers, while midori is used for light between about 490 and 550nm. Traffic lights really are aoi, but it’s our broken system of translation-as-symbol-substitution that makes us think that Japanese think they’re blue.

Just as a follow-up:

See? Traffic lights really are blue. Uh, I mean, aoi.

Subject tags: 

by Simon at April 22, 2014 11:56 PM

CrossFit Naptown

Keep the new side organized!

Today’s Workout:


35min CAP
Run 1 mile
Row 2k
Run 1 mile

When you finish the WOD you will have the remainder of time to Bench Press

Bench Press
3-3-3-3-3 try to be about every 90 seconds

*working up to about 80% for your last sets. If you do not get all of your sets in due to the workout that is okay


We tried to clean up the new side a little. It is up to you all to help us keep it this way. Please take the time to put things back where the belong and keep it the way it should be. The way it should be does not necessarily always mean the way you found it. We will continue to work on the old side too. Thank you for your help. We also added a bike rack to the outside corner area. We ask that you lock your bikes to the rack to keep the inside more organized.

New Bike Rack Too!

bikerack1 bikerack2 sterlingcarrypeter


And Sterling and Peter are local Celeb’s!

by Peter at April 22, 2014 11:01 PM

Blog & Mablog

Their Temples of Reason

It is usually no fun when people play the race card, but when evolutionists do it, the results can be highly entertaining, at least after a few million years.

My brother Gordon is Senior Fellow of Natural History at New St. Andrews. He was recently engaged to teach a one-off course in microbiology at the University of Idaho, which drew this protest, and then this one.

There is a kind of evolutionist who insists that his theory can only be falsified with rabbit fossils in the precambrian, and then rests easily in the full assurance that anything with a rabbit fossil in it can’t be precambrian by definition. This method works swell for them, and so they try to use a similar approach to journal articles, terminal degrees, and teaching slots. Creationists are clearly not equipped to be in the proximity of any of those things — for are they not all cornpones? — and so whenever they see a creationist they chase him out promptly, and then use his strange absence as an argument. His absence is an argument, and his presence is an outrage. What my net don’t catch ain’t fish, and if it does catch one on accident, we can always throw it back immediately and pretend it didn’t happen.

The second protest, the one from P.Z. Myers, was the more flamboyant of the two. This post, coming from someone who is simply unwilling to engage an adversary straight on, supplies multiple opportunities for our continued diversion, provided we wish to go down that road. What is it with evolutionists and dates? For example, and this is just a suggestion, we could talk about how many NSA faculty have terminal degrees in 2014 instead of 2007. And where do these degrees come from? Do they fall out of the unaccredited sky onto our uneducated heads, or do we get them from places that Myers acknowledges as temples of reason?

But let us not get distracted. I mentioned the race card. In the course of his screed, Myers said this: “That’s right. The University of Idaho has just hired a young earth creationist, biblical literalist, and racist evangelical Christian to teach microbiology.”
Racist? Got that? My brother is a racist because he is related by blood to someone who thinks that race-based slavery should have been ended peacefully, instead of with a monster war. What is it with these guys and their monster wars?

Since Myers was kind enough to bring up the question of race in a discussion of evolution, let us see how it goes for us, and how quickly it gets there. Gordon and I are both young earth creationists, which means that we believe that all the races of men are cousins, branching out from one another at the Tower of Babel no earlier than 4400 years ago. In evolutionary terms, that’s a nanosecond. “And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation” (Acts 17:26).

Myers, in the meantime, thinks that all of us are blood related to the lesser simians, and the biological odds are that some of us are significantly closer to the trunk of that particular family tree than others are. It is only out of politeness we will not enquire too closely as to what Darwin and all those Smart Guys thought about this subject — but I think it safe to say that they were the ones who produced the prayer book that the Grand Kleagle Wizard uses for his evening devotions.

Look. If I were an evolutionist, I would make a serious attempt to avoid talking about race at all for another couple hundred years. And if I had to talk about it, I most certainly would not have the effrontery to accuse creationists of racism. Fremdschämen is the word the Germans have for getting embarrassed on behalf of somebody else who does not know to be embarrassed for himself — as what happens when an evolutionist chides other people about racism.

The equality of the races before God is a creationist doctrine. We were not endowed by a blind, impersonal process with certain inalienable rights. Right? Those who claim to be following reason need to work a little harder at following out the premises their arguments.

by Douglas Wilson at April 22, 2014 10:55 PM

Lift Big Eat Big

How To Build The Best Training Environment

Article written by Matt Mills
There are a lot of reasons you may not be making progress in the gym.  Some of the common reasons are: you flat out aren’t working hard enough, lack of proper nutrition, lack of sleep, you don’t keep a training journal, you do the same things over and over, just to name a few.  If a lack of programming is your problem then do yourself a favor, and pick up the AJAX Method to take your training to the next level.  But what about your training environment?  I would say this is one of the most overlooked aspects of making progress in the gym.   The training environment is everything from where you train, who you train with, and even what music you are listening to.  Building the right training environment is crucial to your training success, and finding the right training partners is most important yet the most difficult.

If you are a follower of LBEB then I’m guessing you like to make a little noise when you train, drop weights, grunt on a heavy lift, etc.  Unfortunately there are few commercial gyms that allow this anymore.  Your first line of business is to find a gym that suits your needs.  I don’t care how far the drive is either.  We are all busy and training should be a top priority for you so if you have to drive an extra 15 minutes to the big boy and girl gym then that is what you have to do.  You’re not going to be hitting deadlift PRs at a gym that doesn’t even allow you to use chalk.  I know you will miss the free pizza and tootsie rolls, but your results are more important.  For those of you in the Strong(wo)man and Powerlifting community, I highly suggest you check out Kalle Beck’s Strongman gym locator:  You want to find a gym that is based on results, not on looks.  If I were to be looking for a new gym to train in, I would stay far away from the ones that have endless cardio and if they have TVs, then forget it.  Give me the dusty old gym with equipment that hasn’t been updated since the 70’s, and I’ll be at home.  You need a gym with no distractions, and definitely not a “health club” that is really just a social scene.  At my facility I don’t allow my members to use their cell phones.  Cell phones will only be a constant distraction, and I’m sorry, you’re not that important, you can go without your phone for one hour.  

If you are a gym owner then building the right training environment is even more important for your gym’s success.  You will have to start by not allowing the negative people in.  I know this will be difficult as you will be losing money, but I promise it will only hurt your business in the long run.  You will save yourself endless frustrations, and your other members will thank you.  You want to build a positive, motivating atmosphere, and this will be impossible to do with toxic people.  Not only will these people drain the energy out of your training, it will also reflect badly on your business.  If you own a gym like mine, or a Crossfit gym, then your business is built on referrals.  Getting referrals from your members will only come from getting them results.  In my 14 years of being a coach and trainer, I can tell you that you will not get results out of whiners, and excuse makers.  “The path to nowhere is paved with excuses” is something I remind my members of everyday.  Trust me, I have tried my hardest over and over only to waste my time an energy that would have been better spent on my positive hard workers.  

Asking people to leave your gym is not easy to do, and will take some time to get used to.  I will simply take that person aside, and tell them that my style of training is not for them.  Most of the time people will appreciate your honesty.  Look for people that will only add more positive energy to your facility.  If they don’t bring anything to the table, then they can’t train with my crew.  There is an old saying in business that goes “you must put the right people on the bus”, meaning you need the right people in the right places.  You can use this as your model for the employees your hire, but I like to think of it as getting the right members in your gym.  With a positive training atmosphere and good coaching, your training business with only thrive.  You overall want to train at a gym where you are the weakest one as this means you will have the most room to grow.  The sad thing is that many people that ask me for advice like being a big fish in a little pond.  Trust me no real lifter is impressed that you can leg press the most at Planet Fitness.  You need to get out of your comfort zone, because that is how you will make real gains.

As I said before, finding the right training partners will be your most difficult task.  If you have been training for as long as I have then I’m guessing you have gone through dozens of them.  First you want a training partner that actually shows up when it’s time to train.  If you haven’t read Matt Falk’s article on lifting etiquette check it out here:  A good training partner is someone that will push you when you need it, but is also someone that will tell you to back off when you are about to do something stupid. A training partner should be someone that is somewhat on your own level.  I have had people ask to train with me many times that were beginners and this would only be a recipe for disaster for them.  First it will only slow your own training down, and second they will most likely get hurt by trying to keep up.  The beauty of training with someone of similar strength is that you will be most likely be stronger at different things.  I recently had this conversation with two members of my gym that started training together.  One of them is stronger at the barbell lifts so he pushes his partner to do more here.  The other is stronger on the events so he pushes his partner to do more here.  Personally my training partners and I like to do a lot of shit talking the day before a heavy day of training.  We are all competitors, and we are just as competitive in a competition as we are in training.  Nothing gets me more excited for a big squat day then having one of my friends tell me how he is going to do more than me.  Now let me state that this is all in good fun and when it comes down to training we are all business, and want each other to succeed.  This goes back to having negative people in your life.  Having a training partner like this will only hold your progress back, so get rid of them.  

If you train alone, as I know many of you do, then you better be keeping a training journal.  For years of my training I never recorded anything.  The only lifts I could remember were my PRs on the big 3 so whenever I couldn’t beat my previous max I felt like I was going nowhere.  Once I started recording my training I was able to hit a PR nearly every time I trained.  Just because you can’t hit a big number on your squat for that day, then maybe you will be able to hit one more rep, or 5lbs more on your accessory work.  Either way you are still getting stronger, and slow progress is still progress.  I have a few members of my gym that have great home gyms but still like to train at my facility just to be around like-minded individuals.  When you are having a bad day and feeling tired, there is no way you can’t get excited to train when you have a whole team behind you pushing you to do more. 
If you want to build a gym that attracts the hardest working people around, then you better compete.  Not only will you promote your facility through competing, you will also make great connections and lifelong friends along the way.  I can easily say at least 25% of the members of my gym have come to me because of my competitions.  Whether it is from my team competing, or from holding competitions at my gym it will draw new members.   

With competing, you also need to create a competitive atmosphere.  This is something Crossfit has done a great job with.  Nothing motivates people more than putting them in a group atmosphere where everyone has to push each other to be better.  This is a huge reason to have a record board.  Everyone wants to see their name at the top, and will push themselves harder to do so.  Since I started a record board at my gym I am amazed at the progress people have made.  We have had battles back in forth for the top spot many times, and these people never thought they would have been able to accomplish these things without that motivation. 
Drop a comment below or on the LBEB Facebook page and let us know what you think builds a great training environment.

by Brandon Morrison ( at April 22, 2014 09:49 PM

The Tech Report - News

New NZXT case flaunts stormtrooper looks for $70

Amid the multitudes of black, rectangular cases out there, NZXT's Phantom enclosures are a welcome departure from the norm. The latest one, the Phantom 240, offers the same curvy, black-and-white styling as its brethren—and the requisite enthusiast-friendly amenities—at a surprisingly tantalizing price.



April 22, 2014 08:36 PM

512 Pixels

Apple launches OS X Beta Seed Program →

Darrell Etherington at TechCrunch:

Before today, you needed a developer account to help test Apple’s upcoming software releases before they hit the general user population. You didn’t need to actually develop anything, but it would still cost you $99 per year to partake, and technically it was still sort of against the rules. Today, Apple introduced its OS X Beta Seed Program to make pre-release Mac operating system software available to all who want to help try it out.

Signing up is simple, and with WWDC just six weeks away, my guess is that things could get really exciting for program participants soon.

Of course, Apple hasn't had a public beta of OS X in a long time. I can't help but think that OS X may be getting a lot of attention in June.


by Stephen Hackett at April 22, 2014 08:31 PM


What's the Difference Between Creeds, Confessions, Catechisms, and Councils?


"Today's Christianity is directly affected by what earlier Christians chose to do and to believe." (9)

That's the central claim and driving force behind a new book by professor and Episcopal priest Justin Holcomb. The book is Know the Creeds and Councils, which provides an accessible overview of the historical development of Christian thought.

In a culture obsessed with the latest and greatest, Holcomb’s handy guide will help the modern Church rediscover the historic Christian faith. And he begins by helping us rediscover and differentiate four important terms: creeds, confessions, catechisms, and councils—while explaining why they’re so important.

1) Creeds: Basic Beliefs

The creeds “set forth the basic beliefs of the church that have been handed town from earliest times, what the New Testament calls ‘the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.’” (11)

Such beliefs were encapsulated in the so-called “rule of faith,” an unwritten set of beliefs which our early ancestors assumed had been passed down from the apostles themselves. This rule acknowledged one God, Creator of heaven and earth; Jesus as the Son of God who suffered, died, and rose again to save us; and the judgement of the world.

The creeds were used to teach new converts the basics of the Christian faith. Ordinary believers also learned about and pledged their lives to God through the creeds. Holcomb summaries the function of creeds well: “Creeds aren’t dogmas that are imposed on Scripture but are themselves drawn from the Bible and provide the touchstone to the faith for Christians of all times and places.” (13) 

2) Confessions: Denominational Distinctives

Confessions represent a more detailed sketch than the creeds. “The creeds are the boundaries of the faith that separate orthodoxy from heresy, while the confessions color in the picture, tying theology to everyday life in all sorts of ways.” (14)

Denominations formed confessions in order to address immediate needs and concerns of the time. Typically such statutes defined beliefs on secondary issues like infant baptism, predestination, and the eucharist. Such statements include: The Formula of Concord (Lutheran, 1577); The Belgic Confession (Reformed, 1561); The Twenty-Five Articles of Religion (Methodist, 1784); and Vatican II (Catholic, 1962-65).

These guides are used in two important ways: to form the basis of catechism; and maintain denominational unity by providing a doctrinal standard by which congregations should teach. 

3) Catechisms: Practical and Understandable

If creeds are the Church’s bones and confessions are denominational muscle, catechisms are the feet. They represent “the practical, ‘on-the-ground’ application of the main teaching agreed upon at church councils and expressed through creeds and confessions.” (17) They also make those teachings understandable for people unfamiliar with doctrine.

While such guidance has been around since the early church, the “Golden Age” was during the Reformation. Their catechisms continue to inform our modern methods of instruction to this day, including the Lutheran Small Catechism and the Heidelberg Catechism.

Holcomb quotes Nordling to explain why their teaching process is so useful:

Luther intended that the Small Catechism would come to constitute the Christians’s internal ‘computer operating system’ (for example, DOS, Windows, MacOS), which would become fixed in the immediate stores of memory, and thereby become the foundation for approaching God and all things spiritual.

In other words, “catechisms teach in order that we may confess and believe,” leading to love of God and neighbor. (19)

4) Councils: Diverse Preservers

Every branch of the Church recognizes seven major ecumenical councils. These bodies brought together a diverse group of Christian leaders to preserve the faith by addressing theological disagreement and their practical ramifications.

Holcomb rightly notes a strength of such councils: “the diversity that a council brings—both in origins of the attendees and in their viewpoints—ensures that all the viewpoints are fairly represented.” (21) And guided by the Holy Spirit, these diverse Christians confronted the questions at hand with answers that best reflected the Bible.

He also notes these gatherings were often marked by politics and dissension. And yet, Holcomb argues that even if they didn’t always reflect Christ’s character, councils held the Church together in the face of heresy. He provides a helpful illustration:

Think of it as comparable to the Union and the Confederates in the American Civil War. That war still scars our national memory, but it was necessary to prevent our country from going in an unfortunate direction. In the same way, there is much to be grateful for in the councils. (23)


Holcomb insists for contemporary Christians to ignore the insights and beliefs of early ones "is to attempt to reinvent the wheel, and to risk reinventing it badly." (10)

The deeper presentation of these insights in Know the Creeds and Councils will equip us teachers to help our people understand the creeds, confessions, catechisms, and councils of the faith, so that they—and we!—don’t reinvent and reimagine that faith badly. 


Jb_headshotJeremy Bouma (Th.M.) is a pastor with the Evangelical Covenant Church in West Michigan. He is the founder of THEOKLESIA, a content curator dedicated to helping the 21st century church rediscover the historic Christian faith; holds a Master of Theology in historical theology; and writes about faith and life at

by Jeremy Bouma at April 22, 2014 08:03 PM

The Outlaw Way



1) Clean from Blocks (power position): work to a 3rm (drop each rep) – 1×3@95%, 1×3@90%

2) Behind-the-Neck Jerk (off blocks): work to a 3rm (drop all reps) – 1×3@95%, 1×3@90%


1) Bent Over Rows: work to a 5rm – 1×5@95%, 1×5@90%

2) Push Press – 5×5@90% of Monday’s 5rm


1a) Back Squat – 5×5@90% of Monday’s 5rm
1b) Bench Press – 5×5@90% of Monday’s 5rm

The post 140423 appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by Kipping Bitch at April 22, 2014 07:40 PM

John C. Wright's Journal


Just a note for those of you who do not take me seriously.

Someone whose name I will not bother to repeat had the effrontery to write this question to me:

(quoting me) I am as patient as Job, and so entertain any comment that does not devolve either into swearwords or Holocaust denial.

Mr. Wright, would you have any respect at all for a Protestant blogger who refused to countenance “Spanish Inquisition denial”, let alone, say, a Buddhist blogger adopting the same stance in a show of solidarity with Protestants?

My father in law was a Jew in Germany during the war. He saw the camps. He wounded his hands tearing down the fence of one when it was liberated. He was awarded a Purple Heart.

I am not required by any possible interpretation of the rules of courtesy and goodsportsmanship in debate to listen to lying-ass would-be National Socialist vermin racist filth call my dead father-in-law a liar. Such a creature is an enemy to whom no quarter nor parley need be granted.

Let no one dare to send any message to me on this topic again.

pile-of-shoes_dachauIf the picture is too small to be clear, it is the shoes of the victims gathered at Dachau by the efficiency of the Germans. Count the number and divide by two.


by John C Wright at April 22, 2014 07:37 PM

Front Porch Republic

Localist Roundup: Community Garden

This article bemoans the modern teenager’s inability to engage in conversation.

Meanwhile, this piece describes a community garden effort in Wisconsin.

This article tries to explain why large corporations fail to “do the right thing.”

Lastly, a UK TV personality talks about the importance of  conceptually connecting food and farms.

The post Localist Roundup: Community Garden appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Josiah Duran at April 22, 2014 07:23 PM

The Outlaw Way


It’s like Rudy thinks he’s special or something…

Luckily, I’m not that easy to impress.












Box Shoulder Stretch 4×0:20, work with arms shoulder width apart.

Static Shaping

3×0:30 On/0:30 Off Arch Hold on Stomach

Skills and Drills

3×8 Arch to Hollow Med Ball Throws 16/20# 10′ from Wall


The post 140423 appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by Kaitlin at April 22, 2014 06:26 PM


CF Rise coach, Jason Romero, had a pretty good weekend at camp. That’s a 277kg Total – Jason is a 94kg (I’d say lifter, but he’s actually a full-blown exerciser) – good enough to qualify for the AO. Shame we didn’t have any little flags with us.

WOD 140423:


1) Clean from Blocks (power position): work to a 3rm (drop each rep) – 1×3@95%, 1×3@90%

2) Behind-the-Neck Jerk (off blocks): work to a 3rm (drop all reps) – 1×3@95%, 1×3@90%


1a) Bent Over Rows: 5X5 – heaviest possible, rest 60-90 sec.
1b) Push Press: 5×4@90% of Monday’s 4rm – rest 60-90 sec.


3 rounds for time of:

Row 500m
50 Double-Unders
25 Thrusters 45/35#

The post 140423 appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by at April 22, 2014 06:17 PM

Blog & Mablog

The Same Nervous System

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #150

And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (1 Cor. 12:26–27).

Not only do we adjust for one another, so that the more presentable parts of the body are presented, and the less presentable parts are covered, but we also share the same spiritual nervous system. If one member of the body is in pain, then the entire body experiences the pain. If one part is glorified, then the entire body rejoices.

So Paul then gathers up all the illustrations from the body he has been using, and says that the Corinthians together are the body of Christ, and he says that each one of them is a particular member. They are therefore interconnected, and should function with that interconnectedness in the way he has been describing.

by Douglas Wilson at April 22, 2014 06:04 PM

The Tech Report - News

Micron's M500DC server SSD mates Marvell controller with 20-nm flash

Add another SSD to Micron's stable of enterprise-grade products. The M500DC combines a 6Gbps Marvell controller with Micron's own 20-nm MLC NAND. A handful of server-friendly features are layered on top, including die-level redundancy to compensate for physical flash failures, onboard capacitors to provide power-loss protection, and advanced signal processing techniques to extend the life of the NAND.

The M500DC is available in 2.5" and 1.8" form factors with 120, ...


April 22, 2014 05:20 PM

John C. Wright's Journal

A Sneer is Not an Argument

Eoin Moloney writes and asks:

Mr. Wright,

I have read you for some time, and respect your opinion, but I was hoping you could respond in more detail to the claims advanced by the commenter on Strange Notions, the one that is quoted earlier in this thread. I reproduce here a few of the choice points that the commentators seem to be making against you.

This is the second time I have been asked this. It is a complete waste of time. I thought I was clear that there is no point to answering heckling. One cannot reason with a sneer because a sneer is not a rebuttal of anything.

However, out of sheer courtesy and generosity of soul, I will answer what I can. The questions are in bold.

-That you are engaging in empty praise of Catholic writers and empty scorn of atheist writers instead of meaningful criticism.

Irrelevant, ambiguous.

The document in question is not an argument meant to convince skeptics of the existence of God, nor to criticize atheists. It was a report, a historical document, meant to trace my thought at the time. When I refer to conclusions, I do not give the arguments leading up to any conclusions, merely report the historical fact that these were my conclusions at such-and-such a time.

I cannot answer this point because there is no point to answer: the words “empty” and “meaningful” are not here defined, and not meaningful, and so, with the best will in the world, no one can tell what passages are being criticized. It is, ironically, an empty criticism.

-That you “had not considered the very real possibility that you were actually hallucinating”, which, according to him “was a standard mystical experience that could be emulated by anyone with a few cents of LSD”.

False, irrelevant.

I had considered that possibility very carefully. Occam’s razor cuts it out. Hallucination would not explain how I came to know a passage in a book that I had not read, nor explain why the heart attack came when it did, why it ceased when it did, nor why it answered certain deep philosophical conundrums otherwise not answered. But assuming for the sake of argument that the statement is true, if there was no LSD nor other hallucinogen present, how is it that the alleged hallucination happened both at that time, and a month later?

Also, the person saying this had probably not looked into ‘standard mystical experiences’ very closely, as I have, because I did indeed read up on such things after my experience, and the signs of hallucination were simply not present in this case.

Not to bore the reader, but I thought I should reproduce an abbreviated list:

Some of the more common possible causes of hallucinations include:

  • High fever – A high fever, especially in children, can evoke hallucinations, consciousness changes, or dream-like states that resemble hallucinogenic states. Requires urgent medical attention.
  • Drug intoxication -LSD intoxication; Marijuana intoxication; Cannabis;
  • Psychotic disorders – these are typified by hallucinations and/or delusions: Schizophrenia; Manic-depressive disorder; Mania ; Drug-induced psychoses
  • Grief – will rarely cause hallucinations in very severe grief: Postpartum psychosis; Korsakoff’s psychosis
  • Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder – causing flashbacks after use of hallucinogen drugs: Alcohol abuse; Alcohol poisoning; Delirium tremens; Alcoholic hallucinosis
  • Physical / medical conditions that may lead to hallucinations include: High fever; Dehydration; Extreme fatigue; Kidney failure.
  • Brain disorders - Dementia; Delirium ; Confusion; Alzheimer’s disease; Stroke; Migraine; Brain tumor; Seizures; Temporal lobe epilepsy.

I am waiting patiently for anyone to make the case first, that one of these causes was present, and, second, that they caused an hallucination in this case. No one has even asked me the names of the persons who saw me during that period of time.

-(not from the same person, but a related comment): “if your entire motivation for ‘studying philosophy all your life’ is a fear of death, you shouldn’t be too surprised to land on an emotionally appealing mysticism that promises you continued existence after a heart attack.”

This is not a criticism at all, merely an unsupported statement that my motives are bad and that I lack intellectual integrity. Where is the evidence?

For that matter, it is  falsehood that this was my primary motive for studying philosophy. I was quoting Socrates, who said, I believe correctly, that philosophy is meant to prepare for death. But the heckler here is merely making the assertion that I (and, by extension, Socrates and every philosopher or intellectual from ancient Athens to the present day) are prone to ‘land on’ an emotionally appealing mysticism due to the fact that (unlike the heckler, and unlike the field mouse of Robert Burns) one is aware that men are mortal.

This is a childish and worthless thing to say.

I might as well accuse him of seeing God and then hallucinating that he did not, in order to fool himself into the comforting believe that he can indulge his sins with impunity.

If my baseless pseudo-psychological accusation does not persuade him immediately to plunge into baptism, why should his baseless pseudo-psychological accusation persuade me immediately to plunge into apostasy?

As for the emotional appeal, pfui. Christianity does not appeal to me. It calls upon me to be humble and lovable and turn the other cheek, and promises an eternity of hellfire if I dare to disobey.

The loon who makes this insulting claim knows nothing of what appeals to me emotionally. Were I to choose my belief by emotional appeal, I would have selected a cross between the manly cult of the Norse Vikings and the bloodthirsty heresy of the Mohammedans, so that I could pillage and loot and split skulls with my savage war-axe, drive my enemies before me and hear the lamentation of their women, and after a glorious death in battle, be serviced by seventy-two round-hipped glancing-eyed houris while feasting and fighting in Valhalla.

But perhaps I should not make jokes, lest the humor-impaired think I am actually a Viking. In reality, if you want to see the philosophy toward which my emotions as well as my passions and reason inclined me, why speculate? I held to the same philosophy ever since childhood. It is called Stoicism. You can read of it here:  and here:

Make of it what you will, but rather than speculate about what I found or find emotionally appealing, just ask me. I will speak the truth.

- “I have had people recount drug-induced experiences in almost exactly the same terms. And of course you can go and find the equivalent testimonies for any religion. Or put your head under a powerful magnet. What’s lacking is that these self proclaimed bodhisattvas never can articulate the rational, compelling insights that were revealed to them.

Irrelevant. Straw man. Ad Hominem. I made no proclamation to be a bodhisattva, self or otherwise. In fact, if one actually reads what I said, I said the opposite: that I have no new truth to proclaim.

And false, I can explain at least one of the rational and compelling insights revealed to me in clear terms, and have done so on many occasions. Specifically, I mean the three year long debate I had with Dr Andreassen concerning determinism.

The comment is doubly irrelevant because putting someone’s head under a magnet does not allow him to know word-for-word what is inside a book he has not read. The magnet hallucination theory also does not explain the timing of the heart attack and the recovery, nor does it explain the content of the visions, nor their coherence, and so on.

Since there was no magnet present at the time, the comment merely asserts that something happened to me for reason he knows not why, and then he assumes there was a material cause; but he gives no evidence, nor even an argument, as to why I should not assume it had a spiritual cause, if my hypothesis explains the facts better and fits the facts better.

-Nothing in his article would preclude the events he describes from being due to chance, placebo and psychosomatic effects, and/or the part of this brain that is so good at creating fantasy getting ahead of the part that usually keeps us from fooling ourselves.

False, and irrelevant.

The placebo effect assumes that my subconscious mind has fantastic powers to make me sick and well again just in such times as to accidentally fit the model of a supernatural effect, but there is no supporting evidence that a placebo effect was present.

Indeed, there is an argument against this. When my wife’s practitioner prayed for me, I was not someone who believed it would work. The placebo effect concerns people who believe the sugar pill is an effective drug, not skeptics who believe a drug is a sugar pill, and are surprised to find themselves mistaken.

I was a skeptic then. I did not believe in the power of prayer before then, I did not believe it during, and I found it hard to believe after, because everything in my philosophy and experience told me such things were simply impossible. It was a miracle, it happened to me, and I saw it, and I did not believe it. So say that it was not a miracle but a  self deception that happened because I believe it simply is contradicted by fact.

This theory of the case also assumes that the placebo effect acted in concert with the hallucinations to give a coherent account of the events, but that would posit that my subconscious mind can turn on and turn off heart attacks at will, that it was motivated to trick me, that it rewrote my memories to suit this conspiracy, and can write detailed dialog for visiting dream figments in a fashion no dream can. In effect, this theory attributes so many godlike powers over my subconscious mind, not one of which has ever been proven to exist in me or any other person, that it is a supernatural theory, merely one that places Descartes’ deceiver inside my brain rather than outside.

The rest of this so-called criticism is merely an assertion that I lack intellectual integrity. But there is no evidence for that assertion. And even it true, it would be ad hominem and ergo irrelevant.

-It is a classic bit of special pleading with extra sentiment and tearjerking self pity to boot. Since I’ve read some of Wright’s other blog posts I can assure you that if someone were to frighten him out of his new found religion and back into his old supposed logical atheism he wouldn’t become a worse person. He never altered his basic attitude towards other human beings which is contempt for them–especially for women who aren’t feminine by his standards. He simply transferred his contempt from believers to atheists. He remains, as he always was, an authoritarian personality in search of a group to oppress, and a stronger group to cling to for protection. C’est tout.

BWAHAHAHAAHAAHAA! Do you honestly expect me to answer this absolutely one hundred percent pure-quill and unadulterated horseshit?

I should answer it with the back of my hand, or with pistols at dawn. Talk to the diseased homosexual witch whom I put up in my own house for months when she was thrown out of her house. I never would have done that when I was an atheist. This hate-filled jackass knows nothing about me. Oppress? I opened my house to her, at considerable hardship to myself.

A group to oppress? Me? A strong group to cling to? ME?? I, who have never once in my life clung to anything by the stark and naked truth, by myself, with no help, and no request for help, no matter the cost, no matter what the world said?

By thunder, I cannot think of person who fits his pretend psychoanalysis less well than I.

I defy anyone to give a single example of my life that even hints at the opposite.

Come now: if I am an oppressor bent on oppression yet also a coward clinging to a strong group, there should be some public example of someone I oppressed and some strong group to which I clung?

Well? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?

And is he describing the Catholic Church as strong? Really? Someone wake me up when we excommunicate Nancy Pelosi, or declare the Fifth Crusade against CAIR.

And, unfortunately, the fool shoots himself here in the foot. If his analysis is that my previous 35 years of existence were someone with an authoritarian personality disorder hunting for a strong group to cling to, well, unfortunately, my previous 35 years of existence were atheist. The group to which I allegedly clung was the atheists, the freethinkers. His group.

So he has defined his own group as strong oppressors attractive to authoritarian personality disorder bullies. What does that say about him?

Self-Pity? Tear-jerking? Do I strike anyone as being the kind of man who asks for sympathy? I cannot even tell what this lunatic is trying to say. What is he referring to?

Ask yourself a simple question: How does he know the secret springs motivating my subconscious mind that even I am unaware of? I do not recall taking any psychological tests or taking to any psychiatrists, or even whispering to him all my hidden sins in a confessional booth. A mere telepath scanning my conscious thoughts would not detect any trace of these buried and sinister motivations, since I do not know them myself. How did he come to know more about me than even a telepath could discover? By reading one short article I wrote once?

It is also irrelevant. Assuming for the sake of argument that I am a bad person and the chief of sinners, that does not mean I did not see what I say I saw, experience what I say I experienced, and it certainly does not mean that my interpretation of the events (which I believe to be accurate rather than an odd stream of thirteen or so unlikely coincidences, placebo-miracles, strange memory tricks, and hallucinations when there is no medical evidence of hallucination) is an inaccurate interpretation. A bad man can still be a good observer. By all historical accounts, Galileo was an ass and Newton was nasty — are their observations and interpretations wrong?

The old ‘authoritarian personality’ schtick comes from Erich Fromme, a communist. It is a one-size fits all argument used to evade and dismiss a real argument. It is intellectual laziness at its worst. For shame.

He does not know what ‘special pleading’ is. It is a term of art among philosophers and logicians. Special Pleading is the informal logical fallacy claiming that a case is an exception to a rule, but the claim is based upon an irrelevant characteristic that does not define an exception. I made no claim here about any general rule, nor claimed my testimony was an exception to it by any characteristic, irrelevant or not.

Amateur internet pundits should not use technical terms (or big words) they do not understand. It makes them look foolish, and the cool kids will laugh at them.

-the distance between “I’m a atheist philosopher and a genius, and all you Christians are yammering fools” and “I’m now a Christian philosopher and a genius, and all you atheists are yammering fools” is a pretty short distance indeed.

Again, this is both false and irreverent. And Ad hominem. Again. Yawn.

If a man wants me not to call him a yammering fool, the least persuasive way to do it is to yammer like a fool rather than give a rational argument.

Do I really need to explain to people why Ad Hominem arguments are irrelevant?

Come now: Suppose the same events in the same order had happened to a humble man, would this critic then believe? St. Paul, by all accounts was arrogant. St. Mary, by all accounts, was humble. So the yammering fool does not prove that St Mary was hallucinating when she heard the Annunciation by pointing out that St. Paul was arrogant.

Not one of these points in the whole list given above — NOT ONE! — actually speaks to the only question at hand, which is whether my testimony can be believed. That is an astonishing statistic: a perfect zero percent score.

In order to show that my testimony cannot be believed, there are only two arguments to be made: one, witnesses who know me and know my past, who have discovered my lying in times past about matters like this, so that I do not have a reputation for honesty among my peers; two, some benefit, financial or otherwise, which accrues to me if I testify falsely, such as an allegation that I have been bribed, or that I have a personal and vested interest in the outcome, and so on.

Both arguments would be difficult to make, but these amateurs have not even attempted to make either. They do not know how to impeach a witness.

The short answer is that the hallucination theory is not supported by the facts. No one has brought forth any medical evidence or credible evidence to show I was hallucinating on the three different occasions mentioned. A merely speculation that an hallucination is remotely possible does not make it automatically the best theory to fit the facts.

Indeed, the speculation does not fit all the facts. Why did the heart attack happen when it did? Coincidence. Why did it stop when it did? Coincidence, or placebo effect. Why did the hallucinations start when they did? Coincidence. Why were the hallucinations present despite that I have no family history of hallucination? Coincidence. Why was there no known physical cause, no drug and no powerful magnet present to cause the hallucination? No reason given. Did the alleged hallucination behave as other hallucinations known to medicine? No. Is there testimony from my physician that I was hallucinating? No. Was I incoherent at the time? No. Was I disoriented as to time and place and person? No. Was I unaware of the moral implications of my actions? No. Do I allege my five senses reported objects in the room not visible to other observers? No. Why where the visions coherent like a narrative rather than incoherent like a dram? No reason given. Why did the visions refer to a Christian mythical background, which I hated, rather than to some mythology much more to my personal taste, like the Norse or Greek? No reason. Why did the visions solve the problem of free will and determinism for me? Coincidence. Why did the visions, if they came from my head and mine alone, contain material I thought at the time was clearly contradicted Christian teaching, but which I, a month or so later, found to be exactly in keeping with Christian teaching? Coincidence. Why, in other words, did the alleged hallucinations contain material from a book I had not yet read? Coincidence. Or perhaps I read the book and forgot the material and then remembered the book later, but did not remember that I remembered. What is the evidence that I can play such memory tricks on myself? None. What is the evidence that, even if I were able to play memory tricks on myself, I did so on this occasion? None.

I am not saying one cannot construct a theory to explain all these facts. I am saying my lazy critics have not done so, nor even attempted to do so. They have called no witnesses, introduced no evidence, made no rational arguments, nor made even one non-irrelevant comment.

(Nor made they any polite comments. Not one of them assumes I am an honest man who makes an honest attempt to explain and understand the bizarre things I witnessed and experienced. Not one.  Their rebuttal is not a rebuttal at all, merely one unsupported accusation after another that I lack intellectual honesty. What does that say about them?)

I am saying that if the juror hearing my testimony posits as an axiom that the supernatural explanation must under all conditions be wrong, and then he speculates that a material cause (like a giant magnet) must have been present in this case despite the lack of evidence for the same, on the grounds that the magnet must have been the cause because the supernatural could not be the cause, then he is reasoning in a circle. He is not following where the evidence leads.

I am saying that the supernatural explanation posits only one entity, God, whose behavior is in accord with many, if not all, other theories and accounts said of Him, and that this explanation therefore makes fewer assumptions, far less far fetched, than the dozen-happy-coincidence placebo-amnesia-convenient-hallucination theory offered in its place.

The critics are merely reasoning in a circle. They assume that any eyewitness report of the supernatural must be false because by definition the supernatural does not exist. That is not the way honest men reason.

Honest men, if I give a report of something that sounds unusual or fantastic, would first find out what my reputation for honesty was among my peers, and then find out if I had any ulterior motive, such as a bribe, for falsifying my testimony.

Merely raising the possibility that I am a proud or fearful is not evidence showing that pride or fear overwhelmed me in this case, and so bent my honesty out of whack that I decided to make a public laughingstock of myself, call myself a fool for having been so wrong for so many decades, and drive away customers, all by proclaiming my loyalty to Christ.

Indeed, there seems to be some evidence that my self interest should have strongly inclined me to silence, not to speak.

Moloney, I cannot believe you actually thought it worth my time to answer this totally foetid and mephitic bullshit. Can you seriously, really, not tell the difference between someone who makes a sound legal, lawyerly argument to support a position, and someone who writes down a list of sneers and personal attacks?

If you really need a random internet science fiction writer to tell you that a sneer is not an argument, or that argumentum ad hominem is an informal logically fallacy, go sue your teachers for malpractice.

by John C Wright at April 22, 2014 04:55 PM

Alexis C. Madrigal : The Atlantic

The 12 Spammiest Countries (We're #1—And It's Not Even Close)

Americans like to associate their spam with other countries. They joke about Chinese spammers or Nigerians or Russians. It's a time-honored nativist tradition. 

But, according to the new quarterly report from the security and spam monitoring company, Sophos, computers inside these United States relay—by far—the most spam. And we have in every quarter of the past year.

To be clear, Sophos doesn't measure the point of origin for the spam, but something more embarrassing and troubling. Spam is relayed by compromised computers strung into vast networks called botnets. So what we really see here is the deeply insecure state of American computing, more than the number of ne'er-do-wells.

According to the 2013 spam trend report by Kaspersky security, nearly 70 percent of email traffic flow is now spam. (It's worth looking at Kaspersky's list of spammy countries by email point of origin: China is number one, but we're number two.)


by Alexis C. Madrigal at April 22, 2014 04:31 PM


Job and the Cross

The opening words of Christopher Ash in his forthcoming commentary on Job:

“The grandest book ever written with pen.” So wrote the Victorian essayist Thomas Carlyle about the Old Testament book of Job.

It is a book I have been grappling with for a decade or so. The more I have walked through it and around it, the more deeply convinced I have become that it makes no sense apart from the cross of Christ. That statement would be strictly true of the entire Old Testament, but somehow in Job it seems more sharply and urgently true, for without Jesus the book of Job will be but “the record of an unanswered agony.” It could almost be a commentary on Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:18–25.

The book of Job hinges around the contrast, conflict, and tension between the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of the cross.

Perhaps this is why commentaries that restrict themselves to interpreting the Old Testament in terms of the Old Testament alone find themselves heading up blind alleys. Scripture is to be interpreted by Scripture, and the book of Job can only be understood as a part of the whole Biblical canon as it is fulfilled in Christ.

Again and again as I have beaten my head against these puzzling and seemingly intractable texts, it has been the cross of Christ that has shone light on the page. This is not to say that the book is not about Job in his ancient context. Of course it is. But Job’s experiences, Job’s debates, Job’s struggles, Job’s sufferings, and Job’s final blessings all come to fruition in the perfect obedience of Jesus Christ in his life and death and then in his resurrection, ascension, and exaltation at God’s right hand. I hope I can persuade you of this as the exposition walks through every verse of the book.

The 400-page exposition delivers on this promise (hence the flood of effusive endorsements on the cover). Ash has written a marvelous commentary for gospel-minded pastors who are looking for help in navigating the waters of Job while keeping Calvary in view. And it’s a wonderfully nourishing and readable book for any Christian who seeks to see the glory of Christ by studying the life of Job.


by Tony Reinke at April 22, 2014 04:27 PM

One Thing Well



[A] quick and simple way to make a note in Evernote.

App Store

April 22, 2014 04:00 PM


Music on My Mind

Chris Schoen, "World". (Sorry! Accidentally pasted in the wrong video! It's now fixed.)

by Brandon ( at April 22, 2014 03:49 PM

The Tech Report - News

Dragon Age: Inquisition trailer shows Frostbite-fueled gameplay

The next chapter in the Dragon Age series is due October 7. Dragon Age: Inquisition is being developed by franchise creator BioWare, and the latest trailer looks rather good. The graphics are slick, the environments are varied, and the characters are especially detailed. See for yourself:



April 22, 2014 03:39 PM

Justin Taylor

Why Book-Length Responses to Other Books Can Be Helpful

Should Christians ever take the time to assemble an entire book in response to another book? It depends on the significance of the book, the impact it could have, and the value of the response.

As someone invested in promoting the health of the church, who values robust interaction, and who is interested in publishing developments, two new books have decided to do exactly that, but through different means.

The first involves a multi-author response in print to Bart Ehrman’s new book, How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of  Jewish Preach from Galilee. RNS explains:

The two books are an unusual publishing experiment, in which HarperCollins subsidiaries arranged to have a team of evangelical scholars write a counterargument to the hot-selling superstar writer. [The arrangement was actually proposed by Michael Bird.] Ehrman and the evangelical team exchanged manuscripts and signed nondisclosure agreements so as not to pre-empt each other, but otherwise worked independently for their own HarperCollins imprints, HarperOne and Zondervan.

The books were released simultaneously. Anything Ehrman writes attracts mainstream attention, so it is helpful to have his arguments and fallacies publicly refuted from the get-go by the likes of Michael Bird, Craig Evans, Simon Gathercole, Charles Hill, and Chris Tilling. At the Gospel Coalition, Andreas Köstenberger has reviewed both books: How Jesus Became God (by Ehrman) and How God Became Jesus (by Bird and company).

The second example is a new book, releasing today, authored by Matthew Vines, God and the Gay Christian: God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex RelationshipsThe book is a popularization of standard revisionist scholarship, but it is done by someone young, winsome, and purporting to believe in the full inspiration of Scripture.

In response, the folks at Southern Seminary have simultaneously published a free eBook response to the book, edited by Albert Mohler. The book consists of five short but substantive essays:

  • Albert Mohler, “God, the Gospel and the Gay Challenge: A Response to Matthew Vines”
  • James Hamilton, “How to Condone What the Bible Condemns: Matthew Vines Takes on the Old Testament”
  • Denny Burk, “Suppressing the Truth in Unrighteousness: Matthew Vines Takes on the New Testament”
  • Owen Strachan, “What Has the Church Believed and Taught?”
  • Heath Lambert, “Is a ‘Gay Christian’ Consistent with the Gospel of Christ?”

Dr. Mohler writes, “The church has often failed people with same-sex attractions, and failed them horribly. We must not fail them now by forfeiting the only message that leads to salvation, holiness, and faithfulness.”

There are often two sorts of reactions to book-length responses like this.

On the one hand, some celebrate that this ends the discussion (the book has been decisively refuted).

Others lament that this only provides free publicity (the book is being made into a bigger deal than it is).

Both responses could be true, depending on the book, the author, the critics, and the cultural moment.

But let me suggest a third alternative: responses like this can help to sway those who are uncomfortable with the revisionist proposal but do not know how to answer them adequately and carefully. This is not merely preaching to the choir, but the strengthening and equipping of the choir, as well as a timely word to those outside the choir who may be listening and unsure of what to think or how to respond. We should thank God for those who have the time, energy, gifts, and skills to assemble such learned and thoughtful interaction with proposals that undermine the teaching of God’s holy word.

So hats off to these brothers who have labored to give us careful, thoughtful, and timely responses to critics of the faith once delivered. I am happy to commend these responses as helpful tools for the church.

by Justin Taylor at April 22, 2014 03:33 PM

The Urbanophile

Want to Empower Cities? Reform Binding Arbitration by Stephen Eide

[ Many urbanists such as myself have argued cities should be given more power. Today Steve Eide, who runs the Manhattan Institute's Public Sector, Inc. site devoted to local government finance, talks about one such element of empowerment: eliminating unfunded mandates in the form of binding arbitration rules - Aaron. ]

Local governments dominated domestic policymaking in 19th century America. In general, government was quite small, but most of the services that were provided, such as public education and road-building, were the responsibility of city and town officials.

The Brookings Institution and the political theorist Benjamin Barber have recently advocated for a return to something like the 19th century arrangement. They believe that, at a time when DC and many statehouses seem so corrupt, petty and ineffectual, if we want better policymaking, we should want it to be more locally-directed.

The American people on the whole seem sympathetic: According to a poll published in April, 63% of the American public has a “favorable” opinion of local government, putting it almost 40 percentage points ahead of the federal government (28% “favorable”).

To empower cities and expand their policymaking role, they must first be liberated them from harmful mandates. That should mean binding arbitration reform. Recent events in Scranton, PA and Boston, MA make clear what a nuisance this policy is.

Many blue states grant public safety unions the right to seek an independent arbitration process when negotiations with management hit an impasse. Officially, as the unions are apt to emphasize, this process must exist in order to prevent police or fire from going on strike.

But as the Empire Center pointed out in an analysis of binding arbitration in New York, strikes by public employee unions are illegal anyway and even unions without access to binding arbitration almost never strike.

Binding arbitration laws increase unions’ leverage because the settlements are consistently pro-labor. As Boston mayor Tom Menino put it, “Public safety unions have no reason to negotiate with us in good faith and settle contracts voluntarily because arbitrators have proven that they will always give them more.” Late Detroit Mayor Coleman Young said: ”Slowly, inexorably, compulsory arbitration destroys sensible fiscal management.”

Arbitrators base their settlements on what unions have received in past contracts, or what other unions in nearby communities have received, much more than what a city can afford. The Empire Center found that from 1974-2012, for unions outside of New York City, unions with access to binding arbitration saw their salaries increase almost three times faster than unions without it.

Scranton, PA’s internationally-notorious labor woes began in October 2011, when the PA Supreme Court ruled that the city honor the terms of an arbitrator’s $17 million award to public safety unions, a substantial sum for a community of 76,000 with a $100 million operating budget. The following summer, struggling to find a way to pay for the settlement, Scranton’s mayor reduced all employees’ salaries to minimum wage.

The city eventually secured a bank loan to keep it temporarily afloat, but fiscal chaos reemerged last week when a judge demanded the city come up with the now $21 million+ still owed to the unions, threatening even to allow unions to seize city assets if other revenues can’t be found.

Scranton is poor and broke, having been in Pennsylvania’s Act 47 program for distressed cities for over two decades. Last summer, the city’s parking authority defaulted on bond payments. Scranton demonstrates the insanity of allowing arbitrators to award settlements based exclusively on their definition of what’s fair while giving, at most, token consideration to what’s affordable.

Boston’s experience with binding arbitration demonstrates how flagrantly undemocratic the process is. Last week, a Boston arbitrator awarded the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association a 25% raise over six years, a value of $80 million.

The patrolmen’s award follows an even more outrageous 21.5%, five-year raise to the Boston firefighters union forced on the city in 2010 by the arbitration process. The origins of that $100 million plus increase lay in the Boston Firefighter Union’s resistance to random drug testing. Since drug testing affects conditions of employment, the firefighters demanded a pay boost to agree to it. Anything less would have been leaving money on the table.

AAA-rated, and in possession of $68 million in collective bargaining reserves, Boston, unlike Scranton, will be able to pay for the police settlement, if at great inconvenience. The larger question for Boston is, can one imagine a less democratic process to shape fiscal policy? In this extremely liberal, pro-labor city, everyone seems to be against this settlement-the City Council Speaker, the mayor (“unreal“), both mayoral candidates, and both newspapers-and yet it or something close to it will likely go into effect.

Binding arbitration is supposed to be “binding” in the sense that the parties must accept the settlement, but it’s really cities that wind up being bound. Wages, normally thought of as operational expenses, turn into legacy costs. Unions drag out negotiations for years, as the old contract with its guaranteed pay bumps stays in effect, and once employers settle up, it’s to pay employees for work they performed years ago.

Legally, cities will always be the creations of state government, never “nation states” of their own, and we’ll probably never see a full return to 19th century conditions. But small victories matter. Urbanists genuinely interested in giving cities’ more autonomy should target for reform those mandates now held in special contempt by local officials. This could be done either by revoking public safety unions’ right to pursue binding arbitration, or imposing, as New Jersey did, a firm cap on awards to ensure their affordability.

This post originally appeared in Public Sector, Inc. on October 2, 2013.

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

by Aaron M. Renn at April 22, 2014 03:29 PM

Alexis C. Madrigal : The Atlantic

The Inevitable Connection Between Artificial Intelligence and Surveillance

1. Surveillance by artificial intelligence... how else did we think law enforcement would process all that video footage?

"Artificial intelligence is already in use across surveillance networks around the world. At high security sites like prisons, nuclear facilities or government agencies, it's commonplace for security systems to set up a number of rules-based alerts for their video analytics. So if an object on the screen (a person, or a car, for instance) crosses a designated part of the scene, an alert is passed on to the human operator. The operator surveys the footage, and works out if further action needs to be taken... BRS Labs' AISight is different because it doesn't rely on a human programmer to tell it what behaviour is suspicious. It learns that all by itself."

2. Lytro light-field photography is finally going professional with the Illum

"A few tweaks here and there and this black brick will be Lytro’s Illum, a brand-new $1,599 camera designed to show professional photographers, and the world, the power of light-field photography. It’s the company’s second camera, the follow-up to its eponymous point-and-shoot that could refocus a photo after it was shot. The Illum does that better, and takes much better and more versatile pictures in general. But for Lytro, the real plan is only beginning to unfold. The company’s job, its mission, is to fundamentally change the way we think about images. To not just provide better, faster cameras that take beautiful pictures, but to reimagine what a picture is in the first place. That part hasn’t changed since the dawn of photography nearly two centuries ago, and Lytro believes it holds the keys to the next phase."


3. The greatest college course: MYO guitar.

"'The Electric Guitar in American Culture.' It doesn’t sounds like your typical history course and for 23 students taking it this semester, it’s been more than a run of the mill history lesson on the iconic instrument. Not only are they learning about the history of the guitar, they are each learning to build one. Taught by Professor Todd Gernes, the class explores the electric guitar as an instrument, symbol and artifact of modern culture. The American Studies course uses an interdisciplinary approach as students study the impact of the electric guitar on music, from blues to heavy metal, and they dig into the lives of the musicians and manufacturers who gave the electric guitar its cultural status."

+ Dave Chappelle explains the electric guitar in American culture


4. Even if you've seen the project before, Rachel Sussman's work documenting the oldest living things in the world remains awesome.

"I approach my subjects as individuals of whom I’m making portraits in order to facilitate an anthropomorphic connection to a deep timescale otherwise too physiologically challenging for our brain to internalize. It’s difficult to stay in Deep Time – we are constantly drawn back to the surface. This vast timescale is held in tension with the shallow time inherent to photography. What does it mean to capture a multi-millennial lifespan in 1/60th of a second? Or for that matter, to be an organism in my 30s bearing witness to organisms that precede human history and will hopefully survive us well into future generations? "

+ And she has a new book out.


5. The rise and fall of "dadventures," a beloved 1990s genre.

"The trend is more obvious in Hollywood, where the dadventure—don’t look for that term elsewhere; I’m making it up right here—found greater traction than ever in the nineties. You’ll recognize the dadventure if you give it some thought; it’s a subgenre in which the protagonist is a capital-F Father, one whose fatherhood defines both his relationship to the film’s other characters and supplies the film’s central drama. In a dadventure, the stability of the family is threatened—whether by violence or drama, it’s almost always because of some negligence around the dadly duties—and only dad can save the family by coming face to face with his fatherly responsibilities. In the end, he learns just how much fun being a dad can be."


Today's 1957 American English Usage Tip

beat. The old p.p. beat, still the only form in dead beat, lingers colloquially also in the sense worsted, baffled (I won't be beat; has never been beat), but now suggests ignorance rather than archaism. To beat about (US aroundthe bush, i.e. approach a subject in a roundabout manner, is not modern slang, but has a history back to the 16th c.


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A Deep Timescale Otherwise

by Alexis C. Madrigal at April 22, 2014 02:52 PM

Virtuous Code

Rake Part 2: File Lists

If you're a Ruby programmer, you've almost certainly used Rake, the build utility created by the late Jim Weirich. But you might not realize just how powerful and flexible a tool it can be. I certainly didn't, until I decided to use it as the basis for Quarto, my e-book production toolchain.

This post is part of a series on Rake, starting with the basics and then moving on to advanced usage. It originated as a series of RubyTapas videos published to subscribers in August-September 2013. Each post begins with a video, followed by the script for those who prefer reading to viewing.

My hope in publishing these episodes for free is that more people will come to know and love the full power of this ubiquitous but under-appreciated tool. If you are grateful for Rake, please consider donating to the Weirich Fund in Jim's memory.

In the last episode, we wrote this Rakefile. It automates building three Markdown files into HTML files.

task :default => :html
task :html => %W[ch1.html ch2.html ch3.html]

rule ".html" => ".md" do |t|
  sh "pandoc -o #{} #{t.source}"

We really don’t want to have to edit this file every time we add a new file to process though. Instead, we’d like to have the Rakefile automatically find files to be built.

To give us something to experiment with, I’ve set up a sample project directory. It contains four Markdown chapter files and one appendix file in a subdirectory, all of which should be built into HTML files. It also has some other stuff which we don’t want to build. There’s a file which is some kind of temporary file left behind by an editor. And there’s a scratch directory, the contents of which should be ignored.

$ tree
├── ch4.markdown
├── scratch
│   └──
├── subdir
│   └──

This project is under Git revision control. If we tell Git to list the files it knows about, we see a subset of the files from before. Notably missing is a file called, which has not been registered with Git and probably never will. It too should be left out of the list of files to build.

$ git ls-files

In order to automatically discover just the files which should be built, we turn to Rake file lists. Let’s explore what file lists are, and what they are capable of.

To create a file list, we use the subscript operator on the Rake::FileList class, passing in a list of strings representing files.

require 'rake'
files = Rake::FileList["", "", ""]
files # => ["", "", ""]

So far this isn’t very exciting. But we’re just getting started. Instead of listing files individually, with a FileList we can instead pass in a shell glob pattern. Let’s give it the pattern *.md

require 'rake'
Dir.chdir "project"
files = Rake::FileList["*.md"]
files # => ["", "", "", "", ""]

Now we start to see the power of a FileList. But this isn’t quite the list of files we want. It contains some files we don’t care about, and it’s missing some files we do want.

We’ll address the missing files first. We add a *.markdown pattern to find files which use the long-form extension.

require 'rake'
Dir.chdir "project"
files = Rake::FileList["*.md", "*.markdown"]
files # => ["", "", "", "", "", "ch4.markdown"]

But we’re still missing the appendix file. To fix this, we change the glob patterns to match any level in the project directory tree.

require 'rake'
Dir.chdir "project"
files = Rake::FileList["**/*.md", "**/*.markdown"]
puts files 

# >>
# >>
# >>
# >>
# >> scratch/
# >>
# >> subdir/
# >> ch4.markdown

Now we’ve found all four chapters and the appendix, but we’ve picked up a lot of junk along the way. Let’s start winnowing down the list of files. For this, we’ll use exclusion patterns.

We start by ignoring files that begin with a ~ character.

require 'rake'
Dir.chdir "project"
files = Rake::FileList["**/*.md", "**/*.markdown"]
puts files 

# >>
# >>
# >>
# >>
# >> scratch/
# >> subdir/
# >> ch4.markdown

Next we’ll ignore files in the scratch directory. Just to demonstrate that it’s possible, we’ll use a regular expression for this exclusion instead of a shell glob.

require 'rake'
Dir.chdir "project"
files = Rake::FileList["**/*.md", "**/*.markdown"]
puts files 

# >>
# >>
# >>
# >>
# >> subdir/
# >> ch4.markdown

We’ve still got the file hanging around. As we saw before, this file isn’t registered with Git. We’d like to make an exclusion rule that says to ignore any non-Git-controlled file. To do this, we pass a block to .exclude. Inside, we put an incantation which will determine if Git is aware of the file.

require 'rake'
Dir.chdir "project"
files = Rake::FileList["**/*.md", "**/*.markdown"]
files.exclude do |f|
  `git ls-files #{f}`.empty?
puts files 

# >>
# >>
# >>
# >> subdir/
# >> ch4.markdown

This filters out the temp file, and finally we are left with the list of just the files we care about.

Next we update the code to make the FileList definition a little more self-contained. We change from the subscript shorthand to, and pass a block to the constructor. The FileList will yield itself to this block, which means we can set up all of our exclusions inside the block.

require 'rake'
Dir.chdir "project"
files ="**/*.md", "**/*.markdown") do |fl|
  fl.exclude do |f|
    `git ls-files #{f}`.empty?
puts files 

# >>
# >>
# >>
# >> subdir/
# >> ch4.markdown

We need to make one more change to our list of files before we can return to our Rakefile. In the Rakefile what we needed was a list of the files to be built, not the source files that correspond to them. To convert our list of input files to a list of output files, we use the #ext method. We give it a .html file extension, and it returns a new list of files with all of the original Markdown extensions replaced with .html.

require 'rake'
Dir.chdir "project"
files ="**/*.md", "**/*.markdown") do |fl|
  fl.exclude do |f|
    `git ls-files #{f}`.empty?
puts files.ext(".html")

# >> ch1.html
# >> ch3.html
# >> ch2.html
# >> subdir/appendix.html
# >> ch4.html

Now we’re ready to come back to our Rakefile. We replace our hardcoded list of target files with the FileList we just built.

Since we are now supporting Markdown files with either a .md or .markdown extension, we have to make one more change to tell Rake it can build an HTML file for either one. For now, we’ll do this by simply duplicating the rule. In the future we’ll look at a way to avoid this duplication.

source_files ="**/*.md", "**/*.markdown") do |fl|
  fl.exclude do |f|
    `git ls-files #{f}`.empty?

task :default => :html
task :html => source_files.ext(".html")

rule ".html" => ".md" do |t|
  sh "pandoc -o #{} #{t.source}"

rule ".html" => ".markdown" do |t|
  sh "pandoc -o #{} #{t.source}"

When we run rake, we can see that it builds all the right HTML files:

$ rake
pandoc -o ch1.html
pandoc -o ch2.html
pandoc -o ch3.html
pandoc -o subdir/appendix.html subdir/
pandoc -o ch4.html ch4.markdown

I think that’s enough Rake for today. Happy hacking!

I hope you've enjoyed this episode/article on Rake. If you've learned something today, please consider "paying it forward" by donating to the Weirich Fund, to help carry on Jim's legacy of educating programmers. If you want to see more videos like this one, check out RubyTapas. I'll be publishing these more or less daily until the series is complete, so check back soon!

by Avdi Grimm at April 22, 2014 02:46 PM

Caelum Et Terra


As the heirs of Holy Rus are again killing one another, take this little test to see if you can tell the difference between Russia and Ukraine:

Churches: Russian or Ukrainian?






Iconostases: Russian or Ukrainian?




Icons: Russian or Ukrainian?




Pysanky (Easter eggs): Russian or Ukrainian?





Embroidery: Russian or Ukrainian?




Food: Russian or Ukrainian?





Babushkas: Russian or Ukrainian?






Monks: Russian or Ukrainian?




Alphabets: Russian or Ukrainian?






by Daniel Nichols at April 22, 2014 02:22 PM

512 Pixels

1Password 4.5 released →

David Chartier:

One could say we’ve been busy these last couple of months, but that would only be the half of it. We have two great releases today that are packed with so much stuff, we had to cut down on our What’s New text just to fit it within the App Store requirements.

1Password 4.5 for iOS beings lots of features, including an overhauled — and flattened — UI, AirDrop support, the ability to create multiple vaults and more.

I've enjoyed using the beta, and I think the new UI really does the app a lot of good. This update is out much later than most iOS 7 overhauls, but the wait is worth it. Beyond new pixels, the app is faster, on-boarding has been made easier and the in-app browser feels much better.

1Password has been a critical part of my workflows for years, and I consider it to be the best password manager out there. Over on The Sweet Setup, Robert Mcginley Myers agrees:

In short, 1Password is the best app for managing your passwords because it does the best job of taking hold of our slippery digital identity, all the myriad digital bits of ourselves we use to prove who we are, and helps ease the friction of our travels through the digital world.

You can pick up 1Password on the Mac App Store, and for iOS. Both apps are currently 50% off.


by Stephen Hackett at April 22, 2014 02:21 PM

The Tech Report - News

New, 'more authentic' Grid game coming June 27

The next Grid game is on the way—and it's closer to release than you might think. Codemasters has announced that Grid Autosport will be out on June 27 for the PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. The game, Codemaster says, "aims to move the series back in line as a more authentic racing game." Here's what it looks like:



April 22, 2014 02:13 PM

One Thing Well



GitBook is a command line tool (and Node.js library) for building beautiful programming books and exercises using GitHub/Git and Markdown.

April 22, 2014 02:00 PM

Crossway Blog

An Interview with Vern Poythress

Blog Header - Interview

In this interview, we talk with Vern Poythress, professor of New Testament interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary. His newest book is Chance and the Sovereignty of God: A God-Centered Approach to Probability and Random Events.

Why write a book about probability and chance?

I had several reasons. First, everyone has to face unpredictable events in life. We talk about “chance” events. These include both happy events and disasters. Where is God in such things? I wrote the book partly to respond to this practical question, and to give people a biblical basis for dealing with what they find inexplicable. God does not give human beings all the answers. Much remains mysterious. But the Bible does provide a path that deeply ministers to people who have to deal with disasters.

In writing the book I had in mind other questions as well. In an earlier book, Redeeming Science, I focused on the area of scientific law, which concerns the regularities in God’s providential government of the world. I realized in looking back at that book that I had not addressed at any length what we are to think about the unpredictable aspects of the world. I believe we need to think through a distinctively Christian approach to what is not predictable or “irregular.”

Additionally, the idea of chance plays a key role in mainstream thinking about Darwinian evolution. In many people’s thinking, chance becomes a substitute for God. So the issue of what chance is needs addressing. The issue of chance also has broader relevance to science as a whole. Experimental science relies on repeated experiments. But when an experiment is repeated, the results are never exactly the same. Experiments contain what are called “statistical variations,” variations in the details of the data. In analyzing these variations, scientists rely on the theory of probability. So assumptions about chance and probability underly all of science, not just the mainstream account of Darwinism.

Finally, a lot of wonderful insights can be found in the scientific and mathematical treatment of probability. These insights reveal God’s glory, and we can learn to praise God for what he has given us in this area.

How should Christians talk about seemingly “chance” events in light of God’s sovereignty?

The Bible indicates that God is in charge not merely of general patterns in history, but all the details. Jesus says that “even the hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matt. 10:30). When we study the Bible carefully, we find that God controls all things, including what seems to be “chance” or “random” events.

However, we must humbly acknowledge that we often do not know God’s purposes. Even at the end of the Book of Job, Job did not receive a detailed explanation about why all the disasters had happened to him. God calls us to trust in him: he can bring good out of evil, just as he did in Joseph’s life (Gen. 50:20) and in the crucifixion of Christ (Acts 2:23; 4:25-28).

In the introduction to your book, you recount a story in which your family was nearly involved in a serious car accident during a road trip. This leads you to pose a challenging question: “If I am ready to acknowledge God’s control when my family escapes an accident, should I also acknowledge that God is in control when someone else suffers from an unpredictable tragedy?” How would you answer?

On the basis of the Bible, we should say that God is in control of all things, even disasters. This is a hard truth for many people. Certainly we should acknowledge the depth of human suffering. The suffering is real and the human struggles are real. We should “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). Jesus wept when he came to Mary at the time of Lazarus’s death (John 11:35).

A time of tragedy is typically a time to grieve and sympathize with the grieving (Eccles. 3:4), not offer a doctrinal lesson that may sound unfeeling or detached. At the same time, God’s control gives us hope that he can bring good out of evil. In his faithfulness, God sustains people who cannot see ahead.

You maintain that evolutionary naturalism is a philosophy because “it is a speculation that goes far beyond normal science and scientific evidence.” Can you elaborate on this point?

Evolutionary naturalism is the view that all forms of life came about through merely material processes, with no guiding purpose at any point. But the narrow study of material causes can never legitimately make a pronouncement about God’s involvement or God’s purposes in the processes. And scientific study ought not say that there can be no exceptions, that is, events in which God acts in surprising ways.

Many pronouncements made these days in the name of science use the successes of science and the prestige of science as a platform from which to advocate the principle that there are no purposes and that God is absent. But such pronouncements represent a form of philosophy; the advocates of materialistic philosophy are importing their own assumptions into their interpretation of the scientific data.

I’ve heard that you’re a fan of American football. How should the doctrine of God’s sovereignty impact the way Christians watch football (or any sport)?

Sports and individual games take place according to the sovereign will and plan of God. Because of this, I believe that our enjoyment of them should also take the form of thanksgiving to God. We should also thank him for the details of particular games. We can admire the particular athletic gifts and dedication that God has given to individual athletes and teams.

As in many other areas of life, God’s control does not undermine human activity or the excitement of a game whose outcome we do not know and whose outcome depends on many individual events that we cannot predict. Additionally, God’s sovereignty does not imply that he morally approves everything that happens (e.g., bad sportsmanship or cheating).

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently writing a book entitled, The Miracles of Jesus: Signs of Redemption, and shepherding through to publication A Handbook for Biblical Interpretation.

Vern S. Poythress (PhD, Harvard University; ThD, Stellenbosch University) is professor of New Testament interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary, where he has taught for over 30 years. In addition to earning six academic degrees, he has written numerous books on biblical interpretation, language, and science, including Redeeming Science, Redeeming Sociology, Logic, and Chance and the Sovereignty of God (excerpt).


by Matt Tully at April 22, 2014 01:30 PM

John C. Wright's Journal

Teoria Unificată a Cîmpului Scrîntelii

My grand unified field theory of madness has been translated and published in Romanian at the conservative website It is just in time to help the Romanian public understand the insane viciousness of the pro-Putin newspapers attacking them, and to understand why the center-right caved.

For those of you who speak the language, here is the link:

This is the first part (sections 1-4); the second part will be published in the next weeks.

For those of you curious to read the original in English, it is here:

My thanks go out to Mr. Liviu Utiu who honored me with this opportunity to address readers on the battlefront of the Long War for Civilization.

by John C Wright at April 22, 2014 01:03 PM


Paying to get rid of pagination on Really?

Yesterday I wrote about how the design of the illustrates the negative influence of advertisers on the site: the experience is degraded almost to the point of ridiculousness. Pages regularly have more than half of their real estate dedicated to linking to terrible, shallow content meant only to get clicks.

Another, similar situation. Slate Magazine, one of the first online-only magazines to make it big, is now charging for a more usable experience, dubbed Slate+. They’re doing some really interesting things like better access to writers and VIP treatment at events. That’s really cool! But they also are charging for a more usable site experience:

“We know how much some of you dislike pagination: Slate Plus members will automatically get single-page articles throughout the site. Members will also be able to read and post comments directly on article pages, rather in a pop-up window, and we’ll highlight member comments.”

If someone was starting a company from scratch would they do something like this? Would they consciously make a worse user experience for those people who don’t pay by paginating articles and making the comment system worse? Of course not! This is only the state of things because of the terrible effect of advertising and the page-view mentality that has dominated online experience for so long. Now, while transitioning to a better model, sites figure they’ll just keep the shitty advertising-based experience for the people who don’t pay and the new, improved user experience for those who pay. What a mess.

Here’s the thing: if Slate were to make their existing experience better for people who don’t pay…by removing pagination and making the commenting system better, they would grow their audience faster and garner more readers. Easier access = more use. The more easy something is to do the more it will be done.

My guess is the reason why they don’t do this is because they’re scared of showing a dip in revenue from those pagination-based page views…they’re scared to rock the boat. Or maybe they truly think it’s a worthy upgrade feature. But the problem with this approach is that it actively puts the interests of advertisers above the interests of readers, plain and simple. It’s the same problem that has and many sites have had for years.

I suppose it would be nice to have a spreadsheet that shows the value of an improved user experience. It would be so useful in so many contexts, from building news sites to weather sites to software. In the meantime the best strategy is to simply work with people who get it and who challenge the status quo of yesterday. Sometimes you have to point your ship in the right direction without seeing the further shore.

FYI: I’m writing a new book on how to communicate your product or service called Make them Care!. If you would like to be reminded when it comes out, sign up here. For an excerpt, check out Designing for the Next Step

The post Paying to get rid of pagination on Really? appeared first on Bokardo.

by Josh at April 22, 2014 12:55 PM

Schneier on Security

Dan Geer on Heartbleed and Software Monocultures

Good essay:

To repeat, Heartbleed is a common mode failure. We would not know about it were it not open source (Good). That it is open source has been shown to be no talisman against error (Sad). Because errors are statistical while exploitation is not, either errors must be stamped out (which can only result in dampening the rate of innovation and rewarding corporate bigness) or that which is relied upon must be field upgradable (Real Politik). If the device is field upgradable, then it pays to regularly exercise that upgradability both to keep in fighting trim and to make the opponent suffer from the rapidity with which you change his target.

The whole thing is worth reading.

by schneier at April 22, 2014 12:52 PM

The Endeavour

New Twitter account: UnitFact

I’ve started a new Twitter account @UnitFact for tweets about units of measurement, constants, dimensional analysis, etc.

by John at April 22, 2014 12:20 PM


ses: emacs strikes again

I’ve mentioned a couple of console-driven spreadsheet applications in the past — I’m thinking of sc and oleo there — but somehow ses, the integrated spreadsheet function in emacs, managed to elude me.


There’s no trick to getting it started, you just open a file with the .ses extension and emacs leaps into action.

Navigation is via arrow keys; hit enter to change the contents. As your spreadsheet grows, you’ll need to open rows with CTRL+O but columns can be added just by moving right and entering data.

ses is functional, but would probably take me a while to learn. I glanced through the documentation and it seems most of the fundamentals are in place, with the necessary changes in syntax or structure.

I’m not so averse to emacs that I wouldn’t consider using it for some simple spreadsheets or to fiddle with numbers for fun.

And I admit it is interesting to see how emacs handles the idea of a spreadsheet. What’s next, an onboard mp3 player? (I joke, but it’s probably been done.)

Of course, if you’re already an emacs fan then ses is probably no surprise. I eagerly await the distro that comes armed only with emacs as an entire software suite. :P

I think I will stick with sc for a while longer though. I have some long, rather complex spreadsheets that are tangled up with calculations, and I’m not quite ready to shift. ;)

Tagged: calculator, data, spreadsheet

by K.Mandla at April 22, 2014 12:15 PM

sentaku: More menu-like options for the cli

I thought I was being clever a year ago because I strung together slmenu and a few other random gimmicks, and came up with something like dmenu for text-only environments.

sentaku has that beat by a mile.

2014-04-21-6m47421-sentaku-01 2014-04-21-6m47421-sentaku-02

pipe text into sentaku, and it makes a full-screen pick-and-choose application from it. It’s complete with highlighted selection, vi-like or arrow-key navigation, help cues on-screen and best of all, a speedy response time.

The selected text is passed out of sentaku as-is, which makes it ideal for spawning applications or sending selections through to scripts. In other words:

eval $( echo "mc htop alsamixer elinks" | sentaku )

Does more or less the same thing as what I was doing with slmenu. Of course, mine had one-key popup menu access, and snazzy animated gifs. :roll: But the same could be done with sentaku, with a little effort.

In case you’re thinking this must take a masterful command of assembly language to accomplish, it turns out that sentaku is just a bash script (or zsh, if you prefer).

And of course sentaku can be used for other things too. It’s not tied to menu selection, although that was what came to mind first.

I really like sentaku and I’d like to see it appear in AUR, if not in Debian as well. Perhaps I shall look into that … :|

Tagged: menu, prompt, text

by K.Mandla at April 22, 2014 12:00 PM

One Thing Well

Music File Organizer

Music File Organizer:

Command-line audio file organizer that reads tags and renames files.

April 22, 2014 12:00 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

How I use Google Chrome custom search engines for quick access

I move as much as I can of what I know to the Web so that other people can use what I share. Added benefit: I can find things quickly! I use custom search engine shortcuts to help me quickly look up stuff. For example, I frequently refer to blog posts. I can type “b search terms” into my Chrome address bar to search my blog. Neat, huh? Here are the search engines I’ve defined.

Blog b
Blog category bc
Blog tag bt
Flickr – mine f
Flickr tag ft ~
Google Drive d
Google Calendar c
GMail m
Google Contacts p
Trello t

Here’s how you can define your own search engines:

  1. Click on the menu button.
  2. Choose Settings > Manage Search Engines.
  3. Scroll to the bottom of the Other search engines list.
  4. Add your own, one at a time.

%s will be replaced by the search terms from the command line.

Super handy!

Try setting up search engines for yourself. It takes a few minutes to set up one, and it makes searching so much easier.

The post How I use Google Chrome custom search engines for quick access appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at April 22, 2014 12:00 PM


Meb’s Boston 2014 Post-Race Interview

I’m almost 39, I just ran a personal best, and just won the Boston Marathon.” – Meb Keflezighi

As a fellow 39 year old runner all I can say is, Meb, you are an inspiration.

via Runner’s World (note: video may not work on some mobile devices)

And another from Universal Sports

by Peter Larson at April 22, 2014 11:42 AM

Alexis C. Madrigal : The Atlantic

The Best (and Worst) NBA Teams at Facebook

The NBA playoffs have begun. The emotions of millions are at stake every night.

But NBA franchises are also businesses, and those businesses depend on fans buying into the team, both literally and figuratively. And now, Facebook is the dominant place where those fans perform their identities online. The franchise Facebook page has become a key indicator of business health. 

So, Spanish researchers at the University of Extremadura decided to create a tool that would let them at least quasi-objectively rank teams' Facebook presences. 

"Social media provide a unique and strategic means for sport teams to enhance brand management, encourage social interactions among fans, promote ticket sales, and cultivate a more favorable online experience," writes the research team, led by Francisco Javier Miranda in the International Journal of Sports Communication.

The list Miranda's team compiled is interesting, too, because of how it intersects with the performance of the teams on the court.

The champion Miami Heat are also the champion of the Facebook playoffs here. But this may be a case of correlation more than causation.  Perhaps the second-best team in basketball over the last few years—the Oklahoma City Thunder—are near the bottom of the list.

And the team with the best record this year, the San Antonio Spurs, is middling. Meanwhile, the Detroit Pistons, who didn't make the playoffs are ranked second, and the Washington Wizards, who just scraped in, are number four. 

How'd the researchers come up with this list? They used a team of experts to come up with what they call the Facebook Assessment Index, a combination of popularity, content, and interactivity metrics selected by a group of social media experts. 

Popularity was simple: it was largely determined by the number of fans a page has.

Interactivity is a complex measure fed by five metrics: "number of wall posts made by the organization in the last 7 days; average number of likes per post, calculated from the last 10 posts; average number of comments per post, calculated from the last 10 posts; average number of shared posts, calculated from the last 10 posts; and average number of user posts answered by the company in less than 24 hours, calculated from the last 10 posts that need an answer." (One weakness of the study is that researchers did not specify exactly what the sample period was.)

A team's content score was determined by a checklist of types of content (polls, downloads, contests, events, photos, etc), though the researchers admit this might not be a perfect measure. 

These three components were combined into the single Facebook Assessment Index score with these weights: interactivity, 40 percent; content, 35 percent; and popularity 25 percent.

Run all those numbers are you get the following list, which is represented in the map above. 

If we decompose the Facebook Assessment Index into its parts and extract the most interesting—popularity—we have a list that more accurately reflects my sense of the real-world engagement that people have with teams/brands.

No matter what teams do on Facebook, the most successful teams from the biggest cities are the most popular. The Lakers, for example, are nearly twice as popular as the next most popular team.

It's an intuitive finding, if purely from a population standpoint. The bigger the team's home city, the more potential fans it has. And the more often a team wins, the more likely it is to be on national television, developing loyalists from outside its home region.


Here's the full list:


If you're curious about how our NBA teams stacked up with international competition from two of Europe's premiere soccer leagues—La Liga and the British Premier League—only the Miami Heat made the Facebook Assessment Index top 5. 

As for popularity, only the Lakers made the top five, at number four, behind FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Manchester United. The next three teams were also football clubs: Chelsea, Arsenal, and Liverpool. Then we find the Bulls, Heat, and Celtics.

by Alexis C. Madrigal at April 22, 2014 11:00 AM

The Tech Report - News

Report predicts September return for Start menu

When Microsoft announced the return of the Start menu earlier this month, the company was pretty coy about its schedule. All we were told is that the Start menu would return as part of a future update to Windows 8.1—eventually.

We're still awaiting official details, but as WinBeta reports , rumor site has landed the unofficial ...


April 22, 2014 11:00 AM

Kevin DeYoung

Building a Better Earth Day

Today is Earth Day, the 44th anniversary of the original Earth Day 1970, which “capitalized on the emerging consciousness [in the wake of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring], channeling the energy of the anti-war protest movement and putting environmental concerns front and center.” Today we will hear about Earth Day in the news, online, and in our public schools.

It’s hard for me to be excited.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s possible for Christians to celebrate Earth Day in the right way. I’m sure many do. We can thank God for the physical world, enjoy the beauty of creation, and think through ways to steward the earth God has put under our dominion.

But the official Earth Day movement is full of stock phrases about “the ravages of climate change,” “well-funded oil lobbyists,” and “climate change deniers.”  More to the point, there are deep assumptions–usually unspoken assumptions–that provide a wobbly foundation for thinking realistically and humanely about the environment. Not to mention biblically.

I’m going to assume that Christians reading this blog understand the Creator-creation distinction, that they aren’t worshiping the earth or divinizing the creation. I imagine most Christians celebrating Earth Day do so because they believe God gave us the world as a gift and we should take good care of it. I don’t think any Christian would disagree with this motivation.

But there are a few other bricks to lay in the foundation of wise environmental stewardship. Let me mention three.

Brick #1: We must distinguish between theological principles and prudential judgments.

Consider this wise counsel from Jay Richards in the Introduction to Environmental Stewardship in the Judeo-Christian Tradition:

With respect to the environment, the theological principles are easily stated and uncontroversial. The biblical picture is that human beings, as image bearers of God, are placed as stewards over the created order. We bear a responsibility for how we treat and use it. We are part of the creation, as well as its crowning achievement. God intends for us to use and transform the natural world around us for good purposes. Proper use is not misuse. But as fallen creatures, we can mess things up. No serious thinker in the Judeo-Christian tradition questions these basic principles.

Prudential judgments are another thing entirely. They require careful analysis of the relevant scientific, economic, and political aspects of an issue. They require us to weigh costs and benefits, and to discern where facts leave off and fashion begins. (3)

Richards goes on to use global warming (er, climate change) as an example. Before we make definitive pronouncement about the “Christian position” on global warming we should consider a number of questions: 1) Is the planet warming? 2) If so, are humans causing it? 3) If we are, is this warming bad? 4) If it is bad, what are costs and benefits of the proposed solutions? There is legitimate debate about all four questions. But if often feels like to be taken seriously as a person who wants to steward God’s creation you must quickly answer yes, yes, yes to the first three questions and then be in favor of cap and trade, Kyoto, or some other government initiative. Earth Day is steeped in politics, advocacy, and a host of assumed solutions so that it becomes difficult for Christians of a different ideological bent to appreciate what may be good about the modern environmental movement.

Brick #2: People matter most.

I know it’s not the point of the Legion story in the gospels, but I think it is a reasonable conclusion: the life of one man is worth more than 2,000 pigs. Does this mean every desire of men and women should be put before every consideration of the plant and animal world? Of course not. The Bible wants us to care for animals too (Exod. 20:10; Jon. 4:11; Deut. 22:4, 10; 25:4). But human life is more valuable than animal or plant life (see, for example, the priestly sacrificial system). Christians should not be intimidated by the charges of speciesism. The Bible plainly teaches that man is the crown of God’s creation with dominion over it  (Gen. 1:26-28; 9:3).

Similarly, we in the West who, after centuries of increasing affluence, have the time, energy, and resources to pursue new environmental goals should not impose those same sensibilities on people in the developing world still struggling to survive. As Environmental Stewardship puts it:

[F]urther advances in human welfare for the poor are not often threatened by a belief in the West that human enterprise and development are fundamentally incompatible with environmental protection…This false choice not only threatens to prolong widespread poverty, disease, and early death in the developing world, but also undermines the very conditions essential to achieving genuine environmental stewardship. (68)

Brick #3: People are producers, not just polluters.

If there is one biblical insight missing from the modern environmental movement, it is this one. Too often a model is assumed where the earth is a healthy organism and humans are cancerous cells. All we do is pillage, pollute, and destroy. The world would be better off without us. Our goal then is to minimize our “footprint” at all costs. All we do, it is implied, is consume the planet’s valuable resources. The nightmares of the Malthusians still haunt us.

But the Bible also teaches that we are (sub)creators. We are capable of spilling 11 millions of gallons of oil off the coast of Alaska. But we are also capable of turning virtually worthless sand into silicon chips. We can create beauty as well as despoil it. We can actually make a harsh planet more inhabitable, more conducive for human flourishing. Would anyone but the most ardent environmentalists rather live on Earth now or 4000 years ago? By God’s grace, humans have learned to feed more people and help those people live longer, healthier, easier lives.

The Noah movie notwithstanding, we must resist the temptation to think of humans as intruders from another world wrecking carnage in a pristine environment. Instead we must see ourselves as stewards, called to subdue, enjoy, protect, use, develop, and make more humane God’s fallen creation. I would argue that Christians should not be seeking a romantic ideal where the earth is untouched by human hands. Rather, we want to think carefully about how we can use our hands to make the earth more hospitable for more people, so that we might enjoy the beauty, grandeur, creativity, and productivity of our Father’s world.

by Kevin DeYoung at April 22, 2014 10:06 AM

Cool Tools

Dark Sky

As a co-worker and I were leaving a cafe, we looked and saw it was threatening to rain. “Should we walk?” I asked. He smiled and showed me this app: Dark Sky.

Dark Sky is a weather app that focuses on letting you know how long until it starts raining or snowing where you are, based on your exact GPS coordinates. Or, if it is already raining, it tells you how long it will rain and how hard. Very handy if you are about to run out, but could also give it a few more minutes to let the weather move past.

Of course, it gives you all of the other relevant weather info as well in a very understandable way: current temperature, the hourly forecast for the day, and the weekly forecast.

What makes this my go to weather app is that it anticipates my needs: the first screen tells me what is the weather near me right now and gives me all the details I need to react right away, the next screen is what the rest of the day will be like, and the next screen is what the rest of the week is like. All done in a clean and easy to understand way.

You could say what I like about this is what it doesn’t include:

- You don’t enter in location, because by default it tells me the weather where I am. (You can search for other locations or indulge your sense of schadenfreude and be shown info for interesting storms!)

- The interface is mostly grey scale and simple icons, so it is easy to read.

- Also, the app isn’t free, so that means there aren’t ads.

It’s a small thing, but as I travel, I’ve also liked how it tells me the address it thinks I am near. Convenient when you call for a cab.

These are the same people who do – while you get most of the same information with the same simple design, you don’t get the precipitation information. If you use an iPhone, they made their site into a web app: visit the site on your phone, and follow the instructions on the bottom banner. It’s sort of like getting a “lite” version of Dark Sky.

-- Mark Krawczuk

Dark Sky for iOS

by mark at April 22, 2014 09:00 AM

Matt Gemmell

You can make an app

Future Publishing’s “You can make an app” bookazine (160+ pages) is out now, on paper and in digital format. Paper copies are in UK and US newsagents, supermarkets, airports and so forth (and very likely in other countries too). For a digital copy, grab the MacFormat iOS app, from the App Store. It’s also on Zinio.

(Yes, I know how you feel about the term “bookazine”. Me too. An alternate term is “magbook”, which is almost as migraine-inducing. If you prefer, just call it a really big mag.)

I wrote the “Principles of app design” 5-page intro spread, where I talk about refining your idea, choosing features, designing the interface and interaction, and focusing on the user. I’m pretty pleased with it.

It features writing from well-known and variously beloved dev/tech industry luminaries like Martin Pilkington, Dave Verwer, Jaimee Newberry, Craig Grannell, Keith Martin, Gary Riches, Lou Hattersley and more. As well as me, the hanger-on in the group.

It looks like this – only bigger, and noticeably three-dimensional.

You can make an app - front cover

Long-time readers who enjoyed my Dev Zone columns in the now-sadly-defunct Tap! magazine (still hard to believe I wrote for every single one of the 32 issues – a round number, if you’re a developer) can consider this new piece to be a celebration, synthesis, spiritual successor, and send-off to Dev Zone.

If you happen to pick up a copy, I hope you’ll enjoy it.

My writing is supported by readers like you. Any contribution helps enormously.

If you’re a business interested in reaching my readers, I also offer sponsorship opportunities.

April 22, 2014 09:00 AM

The Gospel Coalition Blog

Themelios 39.1

Them39.1The Gospel Coalition just released the latest issue of Themelios, which has 212 pages of articles and book reviews. It is freely available in three different formats:

  1. PDF (ideal for printing)
  2. Logos edition (ideal for research and mobile access)
  3. web version (ideal for interacting and sharing)

It contains the following contributions:

  1. D. A. Carson | EDITORIAL: Do the Work of an Evangelist
  2. Michael J. Ovey | OFF THE RECORD: The Covert Thrill of Violence? Reading the Bible in Disbelief
  3. Brian J. Tabb | Editor's Note
  4. Thomas R. Schreiner | A Biblical Theologian Reviews Gerald Bray's Systematic Theology (with a response from Gerald Bray)
  5. Gerald Bray | A Systematician Reviews Tom Schreiner's Biblical Theology (with a response from Thomas R. Schreiner)
  6. Collin Hansen | Revival Defined and Defended: How the New Lights Tried and Failed to Use America's First Religious Periodical to Quiet Critics and Quell Radicals
  7. Robert W. Yarbrough | Should Evangelicals Embrace Historical Criticism? The Hays-Ansberry Proposal
  8. Ray Van Neste | PASTORAL PENSÉES: The Care of Souls: The Heart of the Reformation
  9. 76 Book Reviews
    1. Old Testament | 7 reviews
    2. New Testament | 19 reviews
    3. History and Historical Theology | 8 reviews
    4. Systematic Theology and Bioethics | 25 reviews
    5. Ethics and Pastoralia | 10 reviews
    6. Mission and Culture | 7 reviews

by Andy Naselli at April 22, 2014 06:27 AM

an athlete's body

Win. Or Don’t. Life lessons learned from losing at individual sports.

Screen Shot 2014-04-21 at 11.37.03 PMMy kids are the best. They are awesome. They are perfect! Let me tell them how wonderful they are 24/7!

If you are a parent, there is no doubt how you FEEL.

But, now we are hearing different messages from psychologists that all this praise isn’t really best for our kids. We are hearing a new message: praise the work, not the kid.

Experts tell how this plays out. When you tell your kid “you are an awesome bagpipe player!” twenty times a day, your child begins to believe it. They begin to link “awesome” with themselves. But they don’t build a framework of why they are awesome, or what it takes to achieve awesome. Anyone ever heard of Justin Bieber? My 2-yr old makes better life decisions than this guy. While he’s been swooned by millions of adolescent girls, he’s completely lost the ability to discriminate feedback between from fans, and who he really is.  Perhaps this is an extreme example, or maybe its not. Experts tell us too much praise breeds a sense of false sense of security. Kids begin to believe what they are told, but they don’t associate the praise with the action required to achieve this praise.

Apparently, what we should be saying is “I’m so proud of all the hard work you put into playing bagpipes.” While some people may view this as trivial, kids appear to get a different message. They hear that you are proud of the WORK they put each day. They associate hard work with  success. And since everyone likes praise, they focus their efforts on the work to earn more praise.

The world of sport is pretty cool: we can learn complex life lessons while doing fun things that we actually enjoy. But team sports and individual sports give us uniquely different experiences.

Think about it. Its the finals. Your team scores the winning touchdown, 3-pointer, or homerun. The crowd rallies. Fans on on their feet. Cheers. Coach gets doused with the water cooler. In fact a lot of people confuse the vibe that these Norman Rockwell images convey with the actual   achievement of winning.

I love team sports (if you are an LSU fan and have seen a home game at Tiger Stadium, its a whole different state of mind) but they can be confusing for young minds. If you win, great. Why did your team win? Did every player on the team carry out each play perfectly? Did you win because 3 starting players are so incredible they made up for deficiencies on the rest of the team?  Or did you win because the other team made error after error, or had 2 of their best players hurt?

Because each of the three scenarios would convey a completely different sense of accomplishment. If YOU or your kid nailed the game – awesome! “I’m so proud of that key penalty kick you blocked” you may say. But maybe your kid didn’t play their best. In fact, maybe they screwed up big time, but the team still won. What kind of lesson does that convey to an 8 yr old? Is everyone on the team still a winner even if some of the kids blew their position that day? Or maybe the opposing team just couldn’t get their act together. does that make your kid a winner? Does being a “winner” really breed positive feedback for individual skill and inner drive?

I’m a firm believer that team sports can teach you a major lesson: sometimes things happen that are beyond your control (other players, other teams, bad calls from the ref). Team sports offer an immersive environment to build relationships and develop trust with others to help work around unique problems you encounter.

But kids can be overwhelmed with the desire to WIN, and lose focus of the process it takes to have a great performance. Individual sports offer the ability to look uniquely at yourself.  And from a developmental standpoint, this is big. The legendary coach Joe Vigil often says “there are few sports more nobel than track and field. Its you a fixed course and a watch. And there is no hiding.”

Let’s think about this. I’m twelve, swimming the 100 meter butterfly at the state meet. I’ve put in tons of work, and show up prepared. The gun fires, and I’m soaring off the block, stroking as hard as I can, only to show up at the finish one tenth of a second out of first. Next up is the 200 fly. Again, I showed up a few hundredths, or maybe a few tenths of a second off the big win. I have no idea how many times I didn’t win, but it was a LOT!

And in these individual events, the hard truth was obvious. The only reason I didn’t win was because I didn’t perform. Maybe I blew my start. Maybe I blew my race strategy. Maybe I showed up less fit than I needed to be. I was 12, and certainly didn’t have a lot of life experience to make sense of all this. But my coaches over the years were beyond incredible. Each and everytime I didn’t win, they helped me reflect on my limits, which motivated me to overcome these limits, and praised me for what I had done to perform. I learned specific lessons – and won – through losing. But each time, they were things I had control over. And when you have control over the situation, you can improve.

The take home from all this? All these “life lessons” obviously didn’t turn me into Michael Phelps. But they helped me grow as a person. I begin to understand what I was good at, and what areas of my training / life I need to work on. As a 12-yr old, I needed direction, and individual sports gave this to me. I learned to look at myself objectively. Oddly, things still happen to me now, that I can compare to experiences and challenges I learned from competing as a young athlete. And guess what? I still screw up in life, and I’m still trying to be a better person.

We all love our kids unconditionally, and win, lose, or tie, they need to know that. But as for lessons learned from the world of sport, Its up to us to help channel these wins and losses within our kids to help them grow.

Because there was another time I dove into the pool. And that time, things clicked. And a state record fell. And so did a spot on the national rankings. And I understood all the work I put in to make that moment come true. I was pretty pumped. Not only did I win, I grew. And I want my kids to know this feeling too.

by an athlete's body at April 22, 2014 06:21 AM


When We’re At Our Worst (My Good Friday Sermon)

This last Friday I had the honor of preaching a brief meditation (13 minutes) on the Good Friday services at Trinity. Below you can listen to the audio (we couldn’t get video), and I’ve also posted the rough transcript below it. I pray it blesses you. 

And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept. (Mark 14:66-72)

Intro - I’ve always been captured and, quite frankly, terrified by this story, ever since I was a kid. Maybe it’s not something that’s ever grabbed you, but growing up in Church, you wonder at the idea of denying Jesus. I mean, how, does that happen? I always figured that after 3 years walking around, seeing Jesus’ goodness, watching him feed thousands, raise the dead, walk on water, hearing his words, seeing his almighty power, and just, being with Jesus, that would be impossible. I just thought it was obvious. It was an incomprehensible enigma.

peter deniesI Don’t Know The Man - Of course, as I grew older, I began to see different layers to the story. For one thing, I started to get the danger of the situation. At this point in time, Jesus has been arrested, right. It’s Passover week and political tensions fills the air. Sensing trouble the Jewish leadership acts to get this rebellious upstart teacher out of the way, lest he disrupt their power or set off the judgment of Rome. So, they pay off the disciple Judas and find Jesus in the Garden, arrest him, and take him away. They set up a couple of Kangaroo Courts organized by the Sanhedrin being held in the courtyard and home of one of its chief members.

Now, at this point, all the disciples have fled. All of them, it seems, except for Peter. Peter follows at a distance, but he follows to see what happens. He goes further than all of the others.  Peter had some courage—courage and strength that none of the rest have. And yet, when push comes to shove Peter denies Christ. 3 times.

You have to see that this isn’t a momentary lapse. When you read the story, you see each time, his denial gets even more vehement. At first the servant girl notices him, and then later, noticing his distinct Galilean accent, they start connect the dots and think, “Well, of course this guy is with Jesus. Jesus is from Galilee. This guy is from Galilee. Why else would a Galilean be hanging out here?”

And so here we see fear at work in Peter’s heart. The fear that the council might rule to round up all of Jesus’ followers, or especially Peter himself, because just a few hours earlier it was he who had raised up a sword to defend Jesus. This fear, then, grips him with great force and so he denies. Actually, at this point he gets so frustrated to distance himself from Jesus that he can’t even say his name. Did you catch that? He calls him “this man”, and he even invokes a curse on himself to prove how serious he is.

And here, right here where I used to be most tempted to think, “How do you say that?” But now, now, I start to ask myself, “How different am I really?”

There’s a song lyric, by a band named My Epic that goes like this:

I always thought that I would have fought had I been alive
I would have stayed to the end, wept at Your feet, and died by Your side
yet again they beat You down and tear You
Limb from limb
but I keep my peace and my distance


See, I’m not sure I’ve ever denied Jesus publicly when pressed like that, but the older I get, the more I realize how completely and totally I’ve denied him. Because, you know there’s more than one way to deny Jesus, right? You don’t have to say “I don’t know this man” with your words to do it. With every careless unloving action to my wife I say, “I don’t know this man.” Every day I get up and live my day without reference to him I say “I don’t know this man.” Every time cultivate anger, pride, socio-economic disdain, or lust in my heart I say “I don’t know this man.” Every time I chase money instead of generosity I say “I don’t know this man.” Every time I keep silent about him out of fear of rejection by our culture, or neighbors, for being one of those “Christians” I say “I don’t know this man.”  In a million different ways, my life, and if we’re honest with ourselves, all of our lives have screamed “I don’t know this man!”

He Already Knows - And yet, and yet, that’s still not what grabs me about this text. The verse that grabs me are Jesus’ words. Peter hears the rooster crowing in the morning and he remembers’ Jesus words.

“Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.”

Jesus predicted this. Like so many of us, Peter was so sure of his own righteousness. Peter had even boasted earlier of his faithfulness and that even if everyone else abandoned him, he wouldn’t. And at that moment Jesus looked him in his eyes told him “Peter, here’s how you’re going to fail down to the last detail.” And at that moment, Peter’s failure hits him with crushing force of grief, shame, and sorrow.

I think many of us know that grief.  Many of us are kept from following Jesus because there is a dark well of shame for past failures thinking “God can never accept me after that. God couldn’t want a person like me.” Or, for those of us who follow Jesus, our inevitable failure, sin, and betrayal can crowd in on us with an accusing weight that torments the soul. When we think of our sin, we feel unworthy and unfit for service to Jesus, or we get weighed down with a pressure to make up for it with frantic good works.

Here’s the thought that doesn’t strike Peter that shocked me one day as I listened to the text: Jesus knew what he was going to do and loved him anyways. Jesus had a perfect knowledge of who Peter was, all of his fears, all of his failures, and how he would betray him at his greatest hour of need, and yet he still called him. Jesus knew Peter at his most sinful, his most rebellious, his most pitiful, and see all of that darkness loved HIM! Not the imaginary Peter that Peter thought Jesus did, but real one that he would even face himself, and he still came for him.

This truth is the beating heart of the Gospel. Paul, in Romans 5 says this:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

At the heart of the good news is a God comes to save us when we’re still sinners, before we do anything right. See, you and I constantly think we need to clean ourselves up before we come to Jesus, or we live in constant fear that this sin, this denial, this season is the one where God’s finally going to throw his hands up in frustration and disgust and say, “I’m done with you.”

On the Cross Paul says we see the ultimate proof God isn’t like that. How? How is Jesus’ death on the Cross proof of God’s great love for us at our worst?

So That We Might Be Known

In the Bible, the heart of life, of goodness, of salvation itself is to know and be known by God—to be in a true, whole, relationship with him. That’s what Jesus says in John 17:3 “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” This is why the most terrifying words of Jesus was his warning to those who were fooling themselves into thinking they were believers and telling them that at the end, if they didn’t repent, they would come to him and he would say “Depart from me I never knew you.”

With this in mind, we can finally start to understand the crushing reality of Peter words when he curses by God’s name and says, “I don’t know the man”–he was showing us what our sin leads to. See, sin is a rejection of knowing God and all that goes with that. So, God’s righteous judgment, his wrath and the punishment we deserve is to give us what we ask for: a life without God, separated from all goodness, all love, all joy, all truth and beauty. That’s what sin asks for and that’s what sin gets.

On the Cross, we are told that Jesus suffers the judgment of God in our place. We deserve death and he receives it. We deserve spiritual separation from God, but he, as the only perfect one who ever lived, experiences it in our place so that we don’t have to. It is only when you see this that you understand that, while Peter is cursing his name, bringing the curse down on himself, Jesus is preparing to go bear the curse for him on the Cross so that Peter would be able to know the God that he’s denying.

And this is the heart of the Good News: we have a God who sees you at your worst, sees ME at my worst, and yet still loved us, and was willing to come, in some mysterious way, in the person of Jesus to suffer on our behalf, that we might know him. You have to understand, God doesn’t look down with shock. He knows it all. He saw it all with his eternal gaze–every sin, past, present, and future that you and I will ever commit and he went.

That same band has another song where they put it so perfectly:

See, Jesus never fell in love.
With open eyes He walked directly to the cross,
He knew exactly what I cost,
and He still went.


In fact, he knew exactly who I WAS and he still went.

And this is  why we call this Good Friday. On this day we see the love of God revealed in Jesus’ suffering. We find a God who truly knows us and loved us to the full measure.

The promise is that if you put your trust in Jesus, and what he’s done for you on the Cross, you can know and be in relationship with this God. So the question is, “Do I trust him?” For some of you, you’ve never placed your faith, or accepted Jesus. If that’s you and you’d like to, you can find me or one of the pastors or staff after service and we’d love to talk to you.

If you have, but you’re still wallowing in sin, maybe you’ve been far, maybe you’ve been cold, maybe you’ve been wandering–the invitation is to trust and believe that even that is covered and you can trust him

The invitation is to believe today that we have a God who saw us at our worst and he still came.

Prayer – Father, let us understand the height and truly, the depth, of your love displayed in the Cross. Give us over to trust and faith in your good promise. Let us worship you with whole hearts for so great a sacrifice. Amen

Soli Deo Gloria

P.S. Due to the shortened time frame, I couldn’t expand on certain subjects. Here are some clarifying articles related to the issue of atonement, judgment, wrath, and love.

1. Tim Keller, Passive Wrath, and Understand the Fearful Symmetry of Judgment
2. 5 Thoughts on the Logic of Exile
3. Can a God of Love Have Wrath?

by Derek Rishmawy at April 22, 2014 05:53 AM

The Gospel Coalition Blog

I Love My Black Letter Bible

With the way some Christians talk, you might be forgiven for wondering why the canon includes more than four books. Sure, the Old Testament is useful in tracing the development of human reflection on the divine, and the New Testament in conveying the thoughts of some of Jesus' earliest followers. But if you really want to know what God thinks about something, you hear today, you'll need consult the recorded thoughts of Jesus. And if you want to do that, you'll need to stick to the "red letters." In other words, flip to Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John (or that less traversed terrain, Revelation 2-3) and stay put.

To be sure, I understand the impulse. It makes some sense in light of the differences between the sinless Son of God (on display in the Gospels) and the bona fide sinners who penned most of the rest of New Testament (unbelieving James and Jude, denying Peter, blaspheming Paul, and so on). Dubious résumés, to say the least.

Nevertheless, Christians have always recognized the God-breathed character of their words. The miracle of inspiration means the whole Bible is the voice of God. While central and foundational, the fourfold Gospel witness is no more true or reliable or relevant or binding than the black letters that precede and follow. Indeed, when we treat the red letters more seriously than the black ones, we muzzle the Son who speaks in all of them.

The Pages in Black Fulfill the Promise in Red

It's foolish to downplay the Bible's black-lettered pages if for no other reason than they're fulfilling a red-lettered promise. Consider Jesus' words to his apostles:


I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:12-15, emphasis added)

Now ponder the words of Paul:

For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man's gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. (Gal. 1:11-12, emphasis added)

Did you catch the parallel? Christ's promise finds fulfillment in Paul's teaching. The ministry of the Savior marches on in the ministry of the apostle. Jesus said that he had more to say. He promised further revelation of truth to his apostles through his Spirit. Paul is just Exhibit A.

As John Murray put it:

Prior to his ascension, Christ's teaching was directly by word of mouth. But afterward he taught by a different mode . . . by the ministry of appointed witnesses and inspired writers. The New Testament, all of which was written after Jesus' ascension, is not one whit less the teaching of our Lord than that delivered verbally during the days of his flesh. How utterly false it is to set up a contrast between the authority of Jesus' spoken words and the authority of the New Testament as Scripture. The latter is the teaching of Christ given in his own appointed way after his ascension. . . . The guiding of the Holy Spirit into all truth does not suspend Jesus' own speaking. (Collected Writings, Vol. 1, 40)

The apostle Peter goes so far as to say the prophetic word of Scripture is a revelation "more sure" than even Christ himself in transfigured glory (2 Pet. 1:19). That's a stunning claim! He then exhorts us to recall the "commandment of our Lord and Savior through [the] apostles" (2 Pet. 3:2; cf. Acts 2:42). No wonder Paul enjoins his protégé to heed the "sound words you have heard from me" (2 Tim. 1:13) with no less urgency than the "sound words of our Lord Jesus" (1 Tim. 6:3). Or elsewhere claim his instructions are "the Lord's command" (1 Cor. 14:37; cf. 1 Thess. 2:13; 4:15) imbued with heaven's authority (2 Thess. 3:14).

When I write, the result is a tweet or a blog post. When Paul wrote, the result was holy Scripture (2 Pet. 3:16).

Is the church's authorized foundation, then, Jesus (1 Cor. 3:11) or the Bible (Eph. 2:20)? Yes.

The Word of God: Jesus or Scripture?

Another related mistake is the popular tendency to imply that since Jesus is the Word of God, Scripture must be something else. But once again this is a false dilemma. The Bible tells us that Jesus is God's Word (e.g., John 1:1-2; Heb. 1:1-2; Rev. 19:13) and  that it is God's Word (e.g., John 10:35; Acts 17:11; Heb. 4:12; 13:7). The urge to wrest an "either/or" out of a "both/and" smells more of Enlightenment rationalism than biblical Christianity. What God has joined together, let no man separate.

As Kevin DeYoung observes:

God's gracious self-disclosure comes to us through the Word made flesh and by the inscripurated Word of God. These two modes of revelation reveal to us one God, one truth, one way, and one coherent set of promises, threats, and commands to live by. We must not seek to know the Word who is divine apart from the divine words of the Bible, and we ought not read the words of the Bible without an eye to the Word incarnate. When it comes to seeing God and his truth in Christ and in holy Scripture, one is not more reliable, more trustworthy, or more relevant than the other. Scripture, because it is the breathed-out Word of God, possesses the same authority as the God-man Jesus Christ.

Diminishing the integrity of the Word inscripturate in the name of upholding the integrity of the Word incarnate is, ironically enough, the quickest way to domesticate and diminish him.

Jesus Blinders

I recently heard a remark that only in Jesus do we see God "as he is." While this statement may sound profound and even have a ring of truth—Christ is the "image of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15; cf. Heb. 1:3) and the point of the biblical story (Luke 24:27, 44)—it is finally misleading since it does not reveal the whole picture. The Lord's self-disclosure was not exhausted by the Son's earthly life. Jesus' appearing neither nullified the revelation that came before (Matt. 5:17-18) nor rendered redundant the revelation that followed after (John 16:12-15).

On the surface, "Jesus shows us what God is really like" language appears pious and even Jesus-exalting. In reality, it betrays a tragically truncated view of the Jesus of the Bible. We see God "as he is" by gazing with the eyes of faith on the pages of his Word—all of them.

One day, our faith will vanish into sight, and we will at last behold the king in his beauty. Until then, however, we live and move and have our being in the age of the ear. "For now," Augustine taught 1,500 years ago, "treat the Scripture of God as the face of God. Melt in its presence."

If you love Jesus, you'll love his voice wherever it appears—even in the black letters.

by Matt Smethurst at April 22, 2014 05:02 AM

The American Conservative » Articles

Not a Munich Moment

As a lifelong student of history, as well as one who is old enough to have heard from some who witnessed the Second World War first hand, most vividly from my father who served in the U.S. Army Air Corps in North Africa and Italy, and my French mother who was liberated during its course, I don’t take it lightly when casual assertions about the war are hurled about. And in some quarters, skeptics of U.S. involvement in the Ukrainian crisis are being compared to Neville Chamberlain.

The image of Chamberlain holding that flimsy piece of paper in the air as he stepped off the flight from Munich back home to London is seared in our collective memory. The British people, the world, and history learned within a year’s time that Herr Hitler would betray every word he had pledged his name to in that hopeful document.

It’s easy to forget that it was seen at the time as a hopeful document. When a day later the Prime Minister read the document and announced “Peace in Our Time” to the assembled Commons and Lords in Parliament he was cheered to the rafters. The event is described by those who were there as the most tumultuous reception ever seen in its precincts. Their enthusiasm and relief were justifiable and understandable.

Less than 20 years before they had witnessed the untimely deaths of millions of their countrymen on the bloody battlefields of World War I. They knew the horror and tragedy of war and wanted dearly to avoid its repetition. It may be correct and facile to scoff at Neville Chamberlain today, after the fact. But in the moment he had nearly the entire British people with him. There were skeptics; Winston Churchill most notably. Churchill knew Hitler could not be trusted and correctly intuited his cold-hearted plans for territorial conquest.

I recommend three books on the subject, among many others worthy of one’s time: Munich 1938 by David Faber; The Coming of the Third Reich by Richard J. Evans; Those Angry Days by Lynne Olson. The third title follows events in the USA, recounting the searing debate gripping the American people prior to Pearl Harbor.

We understand the dangers of appeasement. But one size doesn’t fit all. Not in shoes, not in politics, not in history.

When looking at the current crisis in the Ukraine, it’s a bit too easy to just default to the Munich/Neville Chamberlain appeasement analysis. As most historians now agree, the seeds of the Second World War were sown at Versailles, at the end of the First. The diplomatic drawing of arbitrary national boundaries right across pre-existing ethnic homelands is a recipe for lingering hostility and political instability.

These alterations of the map were done all across the Middle East and all across Europe. By the time the Versailles draftsmen were done, German, Polish, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Latvian, Estonian, Czech, Slovakian, Hungarian, Serbian, Croatian, Romanian, Finnish, Austrian, and Russian populations were geographically hacked up and subdivided, placed willy-nilly into this or that new national entity, regardless of their age-old affiliations or ties to the land.

Perhaps things might have gone differently. But history cannot be undone. These conditions, imposed by the victors on the vanquished at the end of World War I, sowed the ground for the rise of revanchist, ethnic re-assertiveness all across Europe, with, as we have seen, dire consequences. The reunification of ethnic Germans was an aspiration shared by many Germans living in places as far flung as Alsace-Lorraine in the west to the Baltic coast of Prussia in the east. Conditions were ripe for exploitation by ethnocentric zealots, nationalists, and extremists of various political stripe.

Ethnic solidarity, linguistic affinity, and religious fervor are powerful human forces. They can be harnessed for good or for ill. Today we see these forces unleashed with a murderous intensity all across the Middle East. From the 1930s through the 1940s these forces ravaged Central Europe, abetted by the maniacal policies of both the Nazi and Soviet regimes.

Some of us see a repeat of what happened at Versailles in 1919 in the political boundaries that were arbitrarily drawn by the victors in 1945. From that May until the end of the decade, millions upon millions of displaced persons were compelled to move East or West or North or South as a result of the redrawn national borders. Some were simply trapped where they were when the war ended. Like the losers in a great game of musical chairs, when the music stopped they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Families and whole communities awoke one morning to find themselves living on opposite sides of new national borders.

These borders, which included the partition of Germany, were enforced by the exigencies of the Cold War and persisted, however artificial, until the collapse of the Soviet Union. From the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 to the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1993, many ethnic groups with immemorial ties to the land were left scattered across Central and Eastern Europe within political entities for which they held little allegiance. Czechoslovakia is a case in point.

Czechoslovakia was an invented political construct of the post World War I settlement—comprised of dismembered units of the former Hapsburg Empire. Decades later, after the collapse of Communism, the Czechs and Slovaks decided to do what was in their common interest. They agreed to an amicable divorce and split one artificial country into two real ones: the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The borders were redrawn and lo and behold the world did not come to an end! On the contrary—both countries are thriving and getting along with each other and with their neighbors.

Similarly, within the current, arbitrarily arranged borders of Ukraine reside multiple ethnic societies, principally Ukrainians in the western two-thirds or so, and Russians in the eastern third.

National borders in this region have changed hundreds of times in the last thousand years. An account of the shifting borders within just the two decades of the 1930s and 1940s is rendered in lurid detail in Timothy Snyder’s monumental historical work Bloodlands.

It’s easy to start wars and difficult to end them. In a sense they never end. When the fighting ends and millions are left with smoldering grievances and a sense of injustice done, hostilities and thinly repressed hatreds resurface at the slightest provocation. It’s with this sense of reality that I see the events in Ukraine.

Civil Wars are brutal affairs. We as Americans should think twice before we say or do anything to provoke one side or the other towards civil war. When I hear John McCain and others loudly calling for our government to send arms to Ukraine, to my ears it sounds like advice from Hell.

This may be seen by some as an echo of Neville. But this is not 1938. Putin, for all his brash bellicosity is not Hitler and Russia is not Nazi Germany. If we allow ourselves to be persuaded by the skewered logic that excites us to war, it’s not only the people of the immediate region who will suffer the consequences, but potentially our own sons and daughters.

Every diplomatic effort should be geared to what is in the interest of the people living in the region today. These people are the inheritors of the land, of their traditions, customs, and history. Perhaps the Czech-Slovak model is the solution; an amicable partition may serve the interest of ethnic Ukrainians and ethnic Russians alike. Perhaps preserving the current borders in a multi-ethnic state is the answer. But of one thing I am certain. It is not our decision to make for these people. We should take no sides and we should certainly be encouraging no faction to arm, fight, or kill. Dear Mr. McCain. Please stand down.

Ron Maxwell is an independent filmmaker residing in Virginia. He is perhaps best known for writing and directing the Civil War-era motion-pictures “Gettysburg,” “Gods & Generals,” and “Copperhead.”

by Ron Maxwell at April 22, 2014 04:05 AM

CrossFit Naptown

This Saturday Events:

Today’s Workout:

Beginner/Intermediate: Kipping Pull Up technique (all can learn this, but you should still learn to do 5 strict pull ups before kipping in a WOD)
Advanced: 7 pull ups 10min EMOM

10 min AMRAP
Partner WOD
25 Power Snatch (95/65)
25 Back Squat (95/65)
25 Power Cleans (95/65)
25 Front Squats (95/65)

This Saturday has A LOT going on!

There are two competitions this weekend for the ladies. We have athletes at each event. I know they would all love your support. They basically run from 8am-3pm. Also, Sterling will be attempting his World Record Firemen carry at the IUPUI track.

  1. Project GLOC: Gorgeious ladies of CrossFit @CrossFit Carmel
  2. FLOC: Fierce Ladies of CrossFit @JoCo CrossFit
  3. Sterlings World Record Attempt! @IUPUI Michael A Carroll Track Stadium at 10am

Jared and Peter will be at the track at 8:30am. You do have to pay and park in the garages near by. Come on down and have your own try at the run (more details below). We will be finishing up around 9:30am so Sterling can have the track to warm up. I would recommend parking at the gym and carpooling, but that is up to you.


1 Mile Weighted Run
Various Scales for the Event Include:
(Use a Partner of similar weight- scale will be on site.)
(Use a weighted vests – vests will be available on site.)
(Use a weighted slam ball- available on site.)
(Use nothing and just run 1 mile and support everyone.)

Who: Sterling White (The guy who is always at CFNT… all times of day).

What: I plan to break the Guinness World Record for “Fastest Mile Fireman’s Carry” of 11:29.13

Where: The event takes place at Carroll Stadium/IUPUI track. Parking is available at the IUPUI stadium, and I recommend car pooling.

Why: I chose to do this to inspire others to follow their dreams and passions for worthy causes. In this instance, I plan to raise money and awareness for the Little Red Door Cancer Society.

When: The actual event occurs on April 26, 2014 at 10:00 am



How Can You Take Part?

Join us Saturday, April 26th.

Put the date on your calendar and come support… but better yet…


We will be running heats starting at 8:30am. We will have scaled versions of the WOD.

WOD – 1 Mile Weighted Run
Various Scales for the Event Include:
(Use a Partner of similar weight- scale will be on site.)
(Use a weighted vests – vests will be available on site.)
(Use a weighted slam ball- available on site.)
(Use nothing and just run 1 mile and support everyone.)


(Sterling’s Event has been published on a well known Blog)

Indianapolis Man to Attempt World Record for Fastest Fireman’s Carry

(INDIANAPOLIS)—At age 23, former University of Indianapolis student Sterling White plans to break a Guinness World Record. On April 26 2014 at 10am at Carroll Stadium, White will attempt to set a new record for the World’s Fastest Fireman’s Carry For A Mile.

The current record is 11 minutes and 30 seconds. White believes he can break that record, and has been training since February 2013 to prepare for the attempt. The record calls for White carrying another person of an equivalent weight for one mile.

“I wanted to show the kids in my community that if you set your mind to it, you can do anything you want to do,” said White. “When I was growing up, my mom worked a lot of jobs to take care of us, and she always told us we could do whatever we wanted if we worked at it.”

White currently trains at Crossfit Naptown, which helps him with running, weight lifting, strength training, and technique. White’s attempt involves more than most athletic endeavors. Not only does he have to have the cardiovascular stamina to make the run, but he needs the leg strength and back strength to be able to last for a mile.

“Training takes a toll on my body, so there are days I really have to work to get out of bed in the morning,” said White. “But every day, I remind myself this is for a world record, and I’m back at the gym or on the road.”

White will make his attempt in April 2014, while the FDIC Firefighter’s Conference is in Indianapolis. He said he will also use his world record attempt to raise donations for Little Red Door, a nonprofit that works to help reduce the physical, emotional, and financial burdens of cancer for the medically underserved people of central Indiana.
For those interested a group of us will be at the track at 8:30am attempting our own versions of his record attempt. Then we will be clear of the track by 9:10am so we can cheer him on.

by Peter at April 22, 2014 04:04 AM

assertTrue( )

How Antisense Genes Are Discovered

In the past ten years or so, a great deal of research has focused on antisense transcription of genes. Normally, RNA gets transcribed from one strand of DNA only. But it turns out, in many cases RNA also gets transcribed off the opposite strand of DNA (an antisense copy), either at the original gene (so-called cis transcription) or at a copy of the gene some distance away (trans transcription). The latter can be a pseudogene, or a normal copy of the gene.

Antisense transcripts occur very widely not only in human DNA but in bacteria, yeast, and (in fact) every place where scientists have looked, and places where they haven't looked. Some of the most interesting discoveries have happened when researchers weren't specifically looking for antisense transcripts but found them by accident. How does that happen? It happens in experiments involving IVET (in vivo expression technology), an important experimental technique for uncovering new genes.

IVET is a powerful gene manipulation strategy for discovering which genes in an organism (a pathogen, usually) are up-regulated or turned on during host infection. Let's say you're studying a new pathogen and you want to get an idea of which genes, in the pathogen, are turned on during the infection process. First, you need a strain of the organism that's disabled by virtue of lacking a working copy of a particular metabolic enzyme, say an enzyme needed for purine metabolism, e.g. purA. Secondly, you need a vector for inserting a promoterless copy of the working gene into the bacterium. What this usually means is, you need a plasmid (a small extra chromosome; many bacteria have them, and they can often be manipulated in the lab) on which to place a functional purA gene. The gene won't be expressed, however, if it lacks a suitable promoter region on the DNA upstream of the gene. That's good; that's what you want. You want to put a promoterless copy of the good gene on the plasmid, along with (this is crucial) a random chunk of DNA from the pathogen, inserted ahead of purA on the plasmid. In practice, it's easy to create a bunch of plasmids with this arrangement: a working copy of purA, and ahead of it, a random chunk of pathogen DNA. The idea is that you now attempt to infect a lab animal with the bacterium containing the plasmid. If the bacterium establishes infection in the animal, presumably it's because a random chunk of DNA happened to contain a promoter region (and associated downstream genes) that gets turned on during infection. If you now isolate the bacterium from the sick animal, you can look to see what kind(s) of genes got transduced into the bacterium.

IVET is a promoter trap technology for selecting bacterial genes that are specifically induced when bacteria infect a host organism. A plasmid vetor contains a random fragment of the chromosome of the pathogen (red) and a promoterless gene (selective marker, burgundy) that encodes an enzyme required for survival. Pooled plasmid-containing clones are inoculated into the mouse (B). Only those bacteria that contain the selective marker fused to a random gene that is transcriptionally active in the host are able to survive. After a suitable infection period, bacteria that express the marker are isolated from the spleen or other organs. The inclusion of a lacZY mutant gene (blue) allows post-selection screening for promoters that are active only in vivo. What you want are bacteria that are lac-positive only in the host environment, not "constitutive" (always-on).
Exactly this sort of technique was used by Silby, Rainey, and Levy to determine which genes were activated in Pseudomonas during colonization of soil. (The IVET technique can be adapted to any scenario in which an organism differentially expresses genes in its adaptation to a "host" environment, even if the environment is, in fact, a plant, or soil in this case, rather than a mouse.) They were looking to see which genes in Pseudomonas play an essential role in that organism's ability to thrive in soil, and they successfully identified more than 50 promoters (and associated fusions) that come alive during soil colonization. When they looked at 22 "soil genes" that got turned on, they found ten previously undescribed genes that were transcribed in the antisense direction from regions overlapping known genes. They called these ten genes "cryptic fusions" because of their un-annotated existence on the supposedly silent, antisense side of known genes.

Cryptic fusions discovered by Silby et al. are shown in grey, in their antisense orientation to known genes (darker grey).

It's not unusual to find that antisense transcripts are playing a regulatory role. When a gene gets transcribed in both directions, the resulting sense and antisense RNAs can combine (by Watson-Crick pairing) to form a double-stranded RNA product, preventing translation of the RNA into protein. But incredibly, sometimes an antisense RNA transcript encodes a legitimate protein (a protein that gets made off the antisense copy). Silby and Levy documented this for the previously unknown cosA gene in Pseudomonas. It seems likely additional antisense proteins await discovery. (Most studies stop at the level of identifying RNA products.)

The finding of antisense transcripts in IVET experiments is common. One of the authors of the Pseudomonas study (Rainey) had previously published a study of rhizosphere-induced genes in Pseudomonas but had not published the fact that 20% of genes found this way were in an antisense orientation to normal genes. Likewise, a 1996 study of Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection in the mouse (Pseudomonas is an opportunistic pathogen) found antisense activity. In fact, the first-ever paper on IVET (by Mahan et al., 1993) described finding antiscript products.

IVET has uncovered a previously unknown "antitranscriptome" world hidden inside living cells. Until we explore this world fully, we won't know how much undiscovered biology we've left on the table.

by Kas Thomas ( at April 22, 2014 04:00 AM


Newton Motion III Review: Five Lugs Are Better Than Four

2014-01-22 15.42.12One of the most frequent complaints that I’ve heard over the years about Newton shoes is that the forefoot lugs compromise mediolateral stability, particularly when turning. This issue arises due to the fact that until recently, Newton shoes had only 4 lugs under the forefoot, and these lugs did not extend to the edges of the sole. With the lug row being narrower than the sole base, there was a tendency to rock back and forth over the lugs, leading to a sensation of instability.

I’d asked Newton about this in the past, and apparently there were some manufacturing associated with building a 5 lug shoe. I’m not sure what the difficulty was, but Newton seem to have solved the problem and their shoes are now all migrating to a 5-lug design. This is a positive step, and the 5-lug Newton Energy was one of my favorite shoes from last year (the Energy was an entirely new shoe for the brand and was designed from the ground up on a 5-lug platform).

In the past few months Newton sent me pairs of the Motion III and Distance III to try out (Disclosure: both shoes were media samples provided free of charge for review purposes). I’ve now run about 40 miles in the Motion III, which Newton describes as a “supportive” trainer. Have not yet run in the Distance III. I should also note that I have not run in previous versions of the Motion, so I cannot compare to those – this is a new shoe to me.

2014-01-22 15.38.49

Overall I’ve really enjoyed running in the Motions. I’ve done several easy runs, a hill workout, and yesterday I did a 10 miler in them. They have done the job on all occasions, and I’d put them in that hallowed class of shoes that disappear on my feet.

2014-01-22 15.39.53In typical Newton fashion, the Motions fit me really well. Snug through heel and midfoot, with a nice, roomy, high-volume forefoot – they fit true to size on me. No points of abrasion, no blisters, just comfort. The upper is well made and seems to be of high quality. The mesh is of a type that doesn’t seem like it will tear easily. The forefoot is breathable, the midfoot less so due to extensive overlays, but my feet have not felt excessively warm while running in the shoes. Enough about the upper though, the sole is really the part we need to focus on.

In my opinion, Newton was wise to move to the 5-lug design. These shoes feel plenty stable, and I have not experienced any of the cornering issues I occasionally felt in my old pair of Distance Racers. The heel is moderately soft, and the forefoot lugs compress nicely. I can’t say that I feel any extra pop from them, but they provide good cushion under the front of the foot. At a reported 3mm drop (25mm heel, 22mm forefoot) they are in my sweet spot, and they just work really well with my stride. And at 9.4oz in my size 10 they are also reasonably light for a shoe with a lot of rubber underfoot.

Speaking of rubber, my wear pattern on the outsole of the Motions is typical of what I have seen in other Newton shoes. I tend to contact and scuff on the heel but load mainly through the midfoot and forefoot, and I see abrasion on the outer/lateral heel, and the front of the second and third lugs under the forefoot are a bit worn – nothing more than what I would expect after 40 miles (compare upper and lower images below):

2014-01-22 15.39.29

2014-04-21 14.40.26

My overall impression is that the Motion III is a shoe that I’d be perfectly content to use for eating up miles. It’s not a shoe I’d choose for speed, but it’s a shoe I’d be more than happy to use for running long. It just works.

Now the big question – is this shoe worth the MSRP of $175? Here’s where things get tricky. Personally, I would say no. There are plenty of shoes that sell for under $100 that I would be just as content to use for eating up miles. The Newton Energy at $115 costs $60 less and works just as well, if not better. Newton would argue that their shoes cost more to make, and that they are more durable than most other shoes. I still find the durability argument debatable – sure some people can get 1000 miles out of a pair, but others may wear the lugs or heel outsole down in far less. And there are people that can get 1000 miles out of a much cheaper shoe. So for me, this is not a shoe I would buy for myself (and I will be donating my pair as is my practice with most media samples after a review is complete). But if you are a fan of previous versions of the Motion and are intrigued by the 5 lug design, I can highly recommend it. Great shoe.

See also Thomas Neuberger’s review of the Newton Motion III.

The Newton Motion III is available for purchase at Running Warehouse, Zappos, and Outside of the US they are available at Purchases made from these sites support the work done here on Runblogger and help keep reviews like this coming – thank you for you support!

by Peter Larson at April 22, 2014 12:23 AM

April 21, 2014

Blog & Mablog

Davenant Presents . . .

Future Prot

A number of you regulars at this blog are located in Southern California, which means this is an event you should mark on your calendars. For those of you living elsewhere, you can get information about live-streaming at this location — so I guess you all should mark your calendars. Okay, everybody mark your calendars. It promises to be a hummer.

Here is the back story on how this all came together. The event was made possible by the Davenant Trust, the same group that provided New St. Andrews with a generous gift to kick start our translation project of Reformation theology. Make sure to check them out.

by Douglas Wilson at April 21, 2014 11:42 PM

512 Pixels

On Apple and Nike →

Ben Thompson:

What kind of company is Apple, anyway?

They certainly have great technology, but to call them a technology company doesn’t seem quite right. They have great marketing, but to call them a marketing company isn’t true either. They have an incredible retail chain, but to call them a retailer is clearly off base as well.

You could ask a similar question about Nike.

With lots of hubbub around Nike and its Fuelband this weekend, Ben's article is well worth the read.


by Stephen Hackett at April 21, 2014 10:21 PM

The Outlaw Way


Rules for Outlaw Power

1) Use steel for Deadlifts. If you do not have steel, do not execute reps as touch-n-go.

2) It’s all fun and games on the worldwide interwebs, but never EVER call Coach John, Jesus to his face.

3) Don’t be a bitch

4) To be continued…

WOD 140422:


1) Power Snatch Work to a 5rm (non-T&G, reset quickly after drop)

2) Strict Press: 1X5@65%, 1X5@75%, 1xMax Effort@85%, rest as needed


1A) 3XME Strict HSPU – rest 90 sec.
1B) 3X15 Toes to Bar – rest 90 sec.


3 rounds of:

1:00 ME Muscle-Ups
1:00 ME Shuttle Run (for distance) 50′
1:00 ME KBS 32/24kg
1:00 Rest

*Shuttle Run is for max accumulated distance in 1:00. The 50′ denotes the length to run before turning around. For example: run down 50′, turn around, run back 50′ – distance is total feet in 1:00.

The post 140422 appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by John Dill at April 21, 2014 10:18 PM



3×0:30 Seated Pike

3×0:30 Toe-Touch

3×0:30 Handstand Hamstring Hold with Box

Static Shaping

0:40 Hollow Hold on Back, break early if your lumbar spine lifts from the floor.

0:40 Arch Hold

Active Shaping

3×30′ Arch Hollow Roll Across Floor

Begin in a hollow shape on your back, remember that your lumbar spine is in contact with the floor, your arms are stretching backward towards the wall behind you, and head is neutral.  Roll your entire body at once into an arch hold.  With your legs together the entire time and your head in line, keep your feet and arms off of the floor as you roll.  Pause briefly in each hollow and arch.  If you start to go crooked it’s probably because your entire body is not rolling at the same time.  Fix it.

I’m a woman of my word.  Rachel- pick a time and place and lunch is on me.


The post 140422 appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by Kaitlin at April 21, 2014 09:41 PM

Virtuous Code

Rake Part 1: Files and Rules

If you're a Ruby programmer, you've almost certainly used Rake, the build utility created by the late Jim Weirich. But you might not realize just how powerful and flexible a tool it can be. I certainly didn't, until I decided to use it as the basis for Quarto, my e-book production toolchain.

This post is part of a series on Rake, starting with the basics and then moving on to advanced usage. It originated as a series of RubyTapas videos published to subscribers in August-September 2013. Each post begins with a video, followed by the script for those who prefer reading to viewing.

My hope in publishing these episodes for free is that more people will come to know and love the full power of this ubiquitous but under-appreciated tool. If you are grateful for Rake, please consider donating to the Weirich Fund in Jim's memory.

We’re going to spend some time looking at Rake over the next few episodes. I hope you don’t mind.

Chances are you’ve used Rake at some point. If nothing else, you’ve probably run various Rake tasks associated with Rails projects. Perhaps you’ve written some Rakefiles of your own.

Chances are, though, that you’ve barely scratched the surface of Rake’s capabilities. That was certainly true of me until a few weeks ago. I’d written my share of Rakefiles and task files, sure, but I’d never really dug deeply into all that Rake can do. Now that I’ve spent some time really learning Rake, I’ve realized that it’s a tool of extraordinary power. I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned with you.

We’re going to start, though, with a review of Rake basics.

Let’s say we have a directory full of Markdown files we want to convert to HTML using the Pandoc tool. We could write a simple script to iterate over the files and convert them one by one.

%W[].each do |md_file|
  html_file = File.basename(md_file, ".md") + ".html"
  system("pandoc -o #{html_file} #{md_file}")

But this script is going to remake every single one of the HTML files every time we run it, even if the source files haven’t changed. If the markdown files are very large, this could mean a long wait.

Instead, let’s make a Rakefile and write a Rake task to generate the HTML. It starts similarly, by iterating over a list of input files, and determining the corresponding HTML file. But then it starts to differ. We use Rake’s file method to declare that the html_file has a dependency on the markdown file. Then, inside the block, we tell Rake how to get an HTML file from a markdown file, using a shell command.

What we’ve written here is a rule, or actually three rules, each one telling Rake how to build a particular HTML file from a Markdown source file.

%W[].each do |md_file|
  html_file = File.basename(md_file, ".md") + ".html"
  file html_file => md_file do
    sh "pandoc -o #{html_file} #{md_file}"

This by itself is already a usable Rakefile. On the command line, we can tell rake to build one of the HTML files and it will oblige us. We can already see an advantage over our script: Rake shows us the command that it is executing.

$ rake ch1.html
pandoc -o ch1.html

If we tell Rake to build the same file again, nothing happens. This is because Rake checks file modification times to see if the Markdown file has changed since the HTML file was created. Since it hasn’t, Rake knows that the HTML file doesn’t need to be rebuilt.

$ rake ch1.html

If we then modify the file and run Rake again, it once again builds the HTML file.

$ rake ch1.html

It’s nice that Rake is tracking when files need to be rebuilt. But specifying which file we want to be built is tedious. We’d prefer to simply have Rake rebuild any HTML files that are out of date.

To make that happen, we add a task to our Rakefile. We name it “html”, and give it a dependency on our three HTML files.

task :html => %W[ch1.html ch2.html ch3.html]

%W[].each do |md_file|
  html_file = File.basename(md_file, ".md") + ".html"
  file html_file => md_file do
    sh "pandoc -o #{html_file} #{md_file}"

This task has no code of its own. But when we tell Rake to build the “html” task, it follows the dependency to the HTML files. It knows how to build those files because of the rules we already wrote, so it proceeds to build them.

$ rake html
pandoc -o ch1.html
pandoc -o ch2.html
pandoc -o ch3.html

If we then edit one of the Markdown files and re-run the Rake task, we can see that Rake only rebuilds the one that was updated.

$ rake html
pandoc -o ch2.html

If we’re going to be running this command a lot we can make it even more convenient by declaring a :default task with a dependency on our html task.

task :default => :html
task :html => %W[ch1.html ch2.html ch3.html]

%W[].each do |md_file|
  html_file = File.basename(md_file, ".md") + ".html"
  file html_file => md_file do
    sh "pandoc -o #{html_file} #{md_file}"

This allows us to rebuild our files by simply running rake with no arguments.

$ rm *.html
$ rake
pandoc -o ch1.html
pandoc -o ch2.html
pandoc -o ch3.html

So far we’ve seen how to declare file rules and tasks. Now let’s learn how to write generic rules.

Our three file rules have all have a common pattern, of converting from a “.md” file to a “.html” file. In fact, this pattern is so repetitive that we automated the generation of the rules using an each loop. Instead of writing an explicit loop, let’s instead teach Rake how to convert “.md” files to “.html” files, and let it work the rest out for itself.

We do this by declaring a rule whose name is the file extension .html. This rule’s dependency is on the file extension .md. We then open a block. This block will accept a block argument we’ll call t. We call it t because it will be bound to a Rake Task object.

Inside the block, we use the sh command to run a shell command. It starts out with the pandoc command as before. But for the output filename, we interpolate in the task’s name attribute. And for the input file, we use the task’s source attribute.

task :default => :html
task :html => %W[ch1.html ch2.html ch3.html]

rule ".html" => ".md" do |t|
  sh "pandoc -o #{} #{t.source}"

That’s it. When we remove our HTML files and run Rake again, we can see that it regenerates them as before.

$ rm *.html
$ rake
pandoc -o ch1.html
pandoc -o ch2.html
pandoc -o ch3.html

So what just happened here? Since we specified no arguments, Rake executed the :default task, which has a dependency on the :html task. The :html task, in turn, depends on three .html files. Rake started with the first one, ch1.html, and looked to see if it existed. It found that it didn’t. So Rake then tried to find a way to build the file.

First it looked for any rules explicitly named ch1.html, but we removed all of those.

What it did find was our new rule. It saw that using the rule it could generate a .html file from a corresponding .md file. Applying the rule to ch1.html, it found that the corresponding file,, existed. This meant that rule was a match, so it went ahead and executed it. It then repeated the whole process for the remaining missing .html files.

There is so much more I want to show you about Rake, but RubyTapas is all about one idea at a time, so I’ll save it for future episodes. Stay tuned, and happy hacking!

I hope you've enjoyed this episode/article on Rake. If you've learned something today, please consider "paying it forward" by donating to the Weirich Fund, to help carry on Jim's legacy of educating programmers. If you want to see more videos like this one, check out RubyTapas. I'll be publishing these more or less daily until the series is complete, so check back soon!

by Avdi Grimm at April 21, 2014 09:26 PM

Blog & Mablog

Why Grace Makes Everybody Nervous

“But those who insist that apple trees must always produce apples will make the friends of free grace nervous, not because they have anything against apples, but rather because they know the human propensity for manufacturing shiny plastic apples, with the little hooks that make it easy to hang them, like so many Christmas tree ornaments, on our doctrinal and liturgical bramble bushes. But on the other hand, those who insist that true grace always messes up the categories of the ecclesiastical fussers make the friends of true moral order nervous — because there are, after all, numerous warnings (from people like Jesus and Paul, who should have a place in these particular discussions, after all) about those who ‘live this way’ not inheriting the kingdom. Kind of cold, according to some people, but the wedding banquet is the kind of event you can get thrown out of” (Against the Church, pp. 84-85).

by Douglas Wilson at April 21, 2014 09:07 PM

The Tech Report - News

Catalyst 14.4 Release Candidate driver brings CrossFire, Mantle tweaks

AMD has released a new graphics driver for Radeon owners. The Catalyst 14.4 Release Candidate driver is based on the 14.4 beta we used in our recent Radeon R9 295 X2 review. It supports the dual-chip Hawaii card, of course, and it also comes with a handful of CrossFire-specific fixes and enhancements. Cue bulleted list:

There are a couple of ...


April 21, 2014 09:05 PM

The Outlaw Way


Outlaw Barbell, Connectivity, and Power all have their own separate tabs on the header menu at the top of the page. These will soon be tucked neatly under the “Outlaw Blog” tab, but for now this should make navigation much easier.

Believe it or not, we may end up having two more additions to complete our “any possible need” template.


TEASER ALERT!!! (No one tell Syn I did this, please…)

WOD 140422:


1) Mid-hang Snatch: work to a 3rm – 1X3@95%, 1X3@90% – rest as needed.

2) Snatch Balance: work to a 3rm – 1X3@95%, 1X3@90% – rest as needed.


1) Back Squat: 1X8@65%, 1X8@70%, 1X6@80%, 1X6@85% – rest as needed

2) Front Squat: 1X5@60%, 1X5@70%, 1X5@75%, 1X5@80% – rest as needed


3 rounds of:

1:00 ME Muscle-Ups
1:00 ME Shuttle Run (for distance) 50′
1:00 ME KBS 32/24kg
1:00 Rest

*Shuttle Run is for max accumulated distance in 1:00. The 50′ denotes the length to run before turning around. For example: run down 50′, turn around, run back 50′ – distance is total feet in 1:00.

The post 140422 appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by at April 21, 2014 08:17 PM

The GitHub Blog

Results of the GitHub Investigation

Last month, a number of allegations were made against GitHub and some of its employees, including one of its co-founders, Tom Preston-Werner. We took these claims seriously and launched a full, independent, third-party investigation.

The investigation found no evidence to support the claims against Tom and his wife of sexual or gender-based harassment or retaliation, or of a sexist or hostile work environment. However, while there may have been no legal wrongdoing, the investigator did find evidence of mistakes and errors of judgment. In light of these findings, Tom has submitted his resignation, which the company has accepted. Tom has been a huge part of this company from the very beginning and we appreciate all that he has done for GitHub. We wish him the best in his next endeavour.

As to the remaining allegations, the investigation found no evidence of gender-based discrimination, harassment, retaliation, or abuse.

We want to create a great place to work for all our employees and we can’t do that without acknowledging the challenges that exist in providing an inclusive work environment. We are implementing a number of new HR and employee-led initiatives as well as training opportunities to make sure employee concerns and conflicts are taken seriously and dealt with appropriately. We know we still have work to do.

Chris Wanstrath
CEO & Co-Founder

by defunkt at April 21, 2014 07:46 PM

The Outlaw Way



1) Tall Snatch: work to a 3rm – 1X3@95%, 1X3@90%

2) Mid-hang Snatch: work to a 3rm – 1X3@95%, 1X3@90%


1) 3-Stop Snatch Pull (2 count pause at each position): work to a 3rm (with PERFECT technique) – 1X3@95%, 1X3@90%

2) Snatch Balance: work to a 3rm – 1X3@95%, 1X3@90%

The post 140422 appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by Kipping Bitch at April 21, 2014 07:35 PM

Courage Performance - The Blog

Finding Our Way In The Woods

This Easter Sunday Lindsey and I drove out (after she made some wonderful pancakes for us!) to spend some time in the woods.

We drove out to skyline where some of the way trails in the area are to check out an 1800 year old redwood. The Methusela. Pretty damn cool.

We then took a random road down, finding a fallen tree across a creek to journey across. In the forrest was an endless carpet of massive clovers, and for the next hour and half we searched for a four-leaf one. It was perfect.

We drove into Pescadero for a snack, then back home before joining friends for a feast dinner.

It was a great day.

Never Stop, GET FIT.

Josh Courage

April 21, 2014 07:12 PM

The Tech Report - News

Rumor: HTC-built Nexus 8 to arrive next quarter

The latest rumors about Google's upcoming eight-inch tablet are in. This time, the folks at DigiTimes say they've been told the Nexus 8 will be manufactured not by Asus, as previous Nexus slates were, but by HTC.

DigiTimes' "sources from the upstream supply chain" also claim the device will launch some time next quarter—quite a bit later than ...


April 21, 2014 06:13 PM


This Is It. This Is How It Happens.

This Is It.  This Is How It Happens.

“And also your batman pajamas.”

Comments/Wisecracks here.

by DOGHOUSE DIARIES at April 21, 2014 06:03 PM


Go Meb!!!!!!

This needs no introduction. Go Meb!

by Peter Larson at April 21, 2014 05:48 PM

Alexis C. Madrigal : The Atlantic

A Majority of Americans Still Aren't Sure About the Big Bang

A majority of Americans don't believe in even the most fundamental discovery of 20th century physics, which 99.9 percent of members of the National Academies of Sciences do: that our universe began with an enormous explosion, the Big Bang.

51 percent of people in a new AP/GFK poll said they were "not too confident" or "not at all confident" that the statement "the universe began 13.8 billion years ago with a big bang" was correct. 

In fact, fewer Americans were confident in that statement that any other on the list, which covered topics like vaccines, evolution, and the Earth’s age.


It is worth noting, however, that the way the question was framed gathers at least two possible different groups into the "not confident" bin: A) people who hold a different belief about the beginning of the universe and B) people who just don't know, and might have been scared off from saying they were "confident" in an answer. 

No matter, the Big Bang question data was enough to "depress and upset some of America's top scientists," the AP said

If so, they haven't been paying attention to the data about the scientific knowledge that Americans possess. The National Science Board (a part of the National Science Foundation) has produced an annual survey of American beliefs about science called the Science and Engineering Indicators since the 1980s. 

Up until 2010, they asked the following question: True or false, the universe began with a huge explosion.

Since 1990, the number of people answering true to that question has bounced between 32 and 38 percent. (The number was anomalously higher in 1988, a discrepancy that they do not explain.)

Americans both seem to find the Big Bang confusing—I mean, it's not intuitive science—and to have faith-based conflicts with the scientific conclusions of cosmology. 

On questions of evolution and the Big Bang, Americans respond scientifically at "significantly lower [rates] than those in almost all other countries where the questions have been asked," according to the 2008 version of the report.  

In 2012, the National Science Board tried to parse out why Americans were different by adding 'according to astronomers' into the Big Bang question for half the survey respondents. Like this:

According to astronomers, the universe began with a big explosion.

60 percent of Americans said this statement was true, versus 39 percent who said so when the "according to astronomers" was not present. This would suggest that 40 percent of people know the science, 40 percent of people don't, and 20 percent have heard the science, but believe otherwise. 

Before you lament the fall of the republic, consider that very little has changed in the public awareness of scientific knowledge over the past 20 years. The 2014 report put it bluntly: "The public’s level of factual knowledge about science has not changed much over the past two decades."

But here's the good news. On a general level, Americans' understanding of science is comparable to people in other countries. For example, the NSB notes that in a 22-question 2011 survey of 10 European countries and the US, the American mean was 14.3 correct answers, ranking behind Denmark (15.6), the Netherlands (15.3), Germany (14.8), and the Czech Republic (14.6) but ahead of Austria (14.2), the UK (14.1), and France (13.8). 

Not so bad, though probably not too heartening to our Nobel Prize winners. 

by Alexis C. Madrigal at April 21, 2014 05:39 PM

One Big Fluke

Alembic worked well for my MySQL migration. How does it compare to Percona Toolkit? What's better?

by Brett Slatkin ( at April 21, 2014 05:34 PM

The Tech Report - News

Tactile touchscreen buttons coming this year

At CES last year, a company called Tactus demoed a novel twist on touchscreen buttons. The approach pipes fluid into elastic bubbles that rise up from the surface of the screen, providing a measure of tactile feedback that should make touchscreen typing feel more natural. When the buttons aren't required, the fluid is pumped out, and the bubbles sink back into the screen.

The technology sounds straight out of science fiction, but you'll be able to get your fingers on it soon. Technology Review reports reports that Tactus buttons are coming ...


April 21, 2014 05:31 PM

Timstafford's Blog

Some good news

It didn’t get a lot of attention, but I found this news story profoundly encouraging. The University of California for the first time admitted more Hispanic students than whites–29% of admissions vs. 27%. (Asians were at 36%.)

For those of you unfamiliar with the University of California system: while UCLA, Berkeley and UC San Diego are seen as the elite programs, it’s hard to get into any of the nine undergraduate programs. And there are no preferences given–not for race, income, or background of any sort. Not even to children of alumni. (Okay, yes, athletes do get special treatment.)

It’s not so much of a deal that Hispanics bested whites. Among younger Californians, they are almost half the population–so they are still underrepresented. (Whites are too, but only by a couple of percentage points.) What’s striking to me is that Hispanic students in such sizeable numbers are performing at an elite level.

Historically Hispanic immigrants haven’t done well academically. There’s been substantial effort to improve their education, and this number suggests it is paying off. Or maybe it’s just the assimilation effect. Immigrant populations tend to change as they become second and third-generation Americans.

Whatever the reason, it’s encouraging news. Immigration and assimilation have always been a big part of the American success story, and that seems to be continuing.

by timstafford at April 21, 2014 05:24 PM


A Tale of Two 5K’s: How a Change in Race Approach Led to a Near PR

Sometime last year I decided that it was time to step away from the marathon for awhile and focus on shorter, faster races. I love marathons, but the training cycles had become a grind, and I was tired of focusing all of my effort on only one or two races per year. I have also come to realize that my body seems better built for shorter distances – I’m not a huge guy, but I have a large frame, and running fast for 26.2 miles typically knocks me out for quite a long time. I needed a break.

About a month ago I started training hard again under the guidance of my coach, Caleb Masland. I wanted an early-season test of my fitness, so I started looking for a local 5K. It was an interesting experience. I hopped on Cool Running to look at the local race schedule, and as I scanned the list of options my blood pressure started to rise. My heart was pounding and I had butterflies in my stomach. I was a little bit afraid, and I’m not ashamed to admit that. It had been a long time since I’d raced a 5K – well over a year since my last 5K road race. My primary recollection was that racing a 5K hurts. Really bad.

5K races hurt in a very different way than marathons hurt. You can run a marathon at what feels like a relatively moderate pace for most of the race. Pain doesn’t set in until around mile 18, and the pain is not like that experienced in a 5K.

In a 5K I tend to go out fast and focus all of my efforts on hanging on. It’s about managing the hurt and resisting the urge to slow down. It lasts only about 20 minutes if all goes well, but it’s 20 minutes of struggle. I was afraid of the pain because it had been so long since I’d last experienced it.

I lined up at the starting line of the SEA 5K two weeks ago without a strong sense of what I was capable of. I’d run through the winter, but not big miles and mostly at a pretty leisurely pace. I told myself I’d be happy with sub-20:00, so that’s what I aimed for. True to form I went out really fast. Well under 6:00/mile pace for the first half mile or so. I felt good, but it was just the adrenaline carrying me along. I slowed down a bit as the hurt started, and finished the first mile in 6:05.

Since I had set a “happy” goal of sub-20:00, I knew the average pace I needed, so I let myself succumb to the pain and slowed down in mile two – 6:34. As long as I came in below 20:00 I wasn’t going to be upset. I managed my pace accordingly

Pain intensified in mile 3, but I held on and sped up just a bit for a 6:21. At that point I knew I had my goal in hand, and I finished strong for a finish time of 19:43.

Overall I was happy with the race result, but I was 50 seconds off my PR, and I knew I had hard work ahead of me to chip almost a minute off my time.

I had tentatively planned to run another 5K two weeks later, but was wavering since it was an evening race and it would have left my wife home alone for diner with the kids two nights in a row. I had even told Caleb that I wasn’t going to race. But, my Taekwondo studio was a race sponsor and Master Jung wanted me to run as part of the studio team. Being an obedient student, I agreed.

The morning of the race I got an email from Lynn Jennings asking for some info for the Craftsbury Running Camps this summer. I mentioned that I was running a 5K later in the day, and she shot back an email with the the following line of advice: “Run strong and don’t ‘save’ anything for the last mile – it comes up too quick!” I figured advice from an Olympic medalist is worth listening to, and that line became my mantra heading into the race.

The course was similar, mostly flat with a lot of turns, but it had a big overpass that needed to be crossed twice. I thought the little hill might make things a bit slower, but I didn’t really have a goal time. I actually wasn’t feeling great before the race, almost fell asleep on the couch at home beforehand.

Once I got to the race location things perked up a bit. Saw a bunch of local running friends, including a number of people I’ve gotten to know via working with them in the clinic. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt a connection to my local running community, and it feels great to be getting into the local race scene again.

The gun went off, and just like the previous race I went out fast. This time I held on for a 5:58 first mile, and I kept thinking about what Lynn had said. I wasn’t going to back off to the extent that I did in the previous race – my goal was to hold a comfortably painful pace for as long as possible and hammer at the end if I had anything left. I ran miles 2 and 3 at right around 6:14 min/mile pace, and I think the overpass actually helped to mix up muscle usage in my legs.

Toward the end of mile three I was pretty sure sub-19:00 was going to be possible, and I was rather shocked. I hammered the final 0.1 at 5:26 min/mile pace, so I may have even had a bit left in the tank. Crossed the finish in 18:53, which is two seconds off my PR. Second in my age group for the second consecutive race, and I was thrilled with the result.

So the big question was how the heck did I shave 50 seconds off my 5K time in two weeks. I don’t think it was the course, as both are flat, measured courses and the races are both well-attended annual events and are part of a local race series. I don’t think I had gained 50 seconds worth of fitness in two weeks (maybe a little, but not that much). I don’t think the Saucony A6’s on my feet were that much faster than the Pearl Izumi N0’s that I wore two weeks prior. I think the biggest change was mental.

My approach to the first race was “Run under 20:00 and you’ll be happy.” So I moderated my effort to make sure that I came in under 20:00, but I didn’t strain. In the second race I kept thinking about what Lynn had said. My approach was more “Go out hard and hang on as long as you can.” Didn’t really have a goal time, just wanted to not ease off as much in mile two. And it worked. I broke the race up a bit more into segments, and once I got through mile two and realized that I was hurting but doing ok, I kept plugging along and finished strong.

I think what I’ve learned here is that setting race goals in the form of a set time can lead you to ease off so that you just beat the goal you choose. Your brain moderates your effort to meet the goal and doesn’t allow you to run your best. You’ll be happy, but you may not be satisfied.

However, much like I ran my breakthrough marathon at Disney in 2010 in a race that I entered with no goal but to have fun, the 5K on Friday was one that I entered with a sole goal of running hard and holding on. That approach gained me 50 seconds, and hopefully will lead to a PR in the coming months. It’s a PR that has existed since 2008, and it’s time for it to go down.

by Peter Larson at April 21, 2014 05:02 PM


Ransom and Redemption (Heb 9:15) — Mondays with Mounce 225


Steve asked me about the NIV’s use of “ransom” in Heb 9:15. He wrote, “I've always been confused by the ransom concept, because it leads to thinking God paid a ransom to Satan or some such craziness, which is obviously wrong.”

As far as the ransom of Satan theory, it is obviously wrong; check out Wayne Grudem’s discussion in his theology. The price paid was paid to God. But here is the NIV: “For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom (θανάτου γενομένου εἰς πολτρωσιν) to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”

I was not on the committee at this time, so I have to respond as an outsider. The textbook definition of πολτρωσις is “price paid for freedom secured.” The price was Jesus’ life; the freedom was freedom from sin. The trick in translation is to see whether the focus of the verse is on the price paid or the freedom secured. My guess is that in Heb 9:15, since the emphasis is so clearly on the price paid (θανάτου), the word “ransom” best fits the context.

πολτρωσις occurs ten times in the New Testament. The NIV uses “redemption” in 8, “ransom” in our verse, at “released” in Heb 11:35 (which emphasizes the second half of the meaning). In other words, the NIV’s default translation is “redemption,” but you can’t really say in English “died as a redemption.”

The ESV, which greatly values concordance, likewise uses “redemption” as the default translation. In our verse they write, “since a death has occurred that redeems.” But this makes their translation of Eph 1:14 strange. “who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession (εἰς πολτρωσιν τῆς περιποιήσεως) of it, to the praise of his glory.” Where is the “redemption” metaphor? It is in the footnote to “guarantee,” “Or, until God redeems his possession.

I remember hearing sermons when I was little that said redemption was “twice purchased.” God made us, and the bought us back at the cross. Perhaps a powerful preaching example but not true. The “twice” idea is not part of the word’s meaning. Sorry.


William D. [Bill] Mounce posts about the Greek language, exegesis, and related topics at Koinonia. He is the author of numerous works including the recent Basics of Biblical Greek Video Lectures and the bestselling Basics of Biblical Greek. He is the general editor of Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words. He served as the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version Bible translation, and is currently on the Committee for Bible Translation for the NIV.

Learn more about Bill's Greek resources at and visit his blog on spiritual growth at

by Jeremy Bouma at April 21, 2014 04:31 PM

John G. Stackhouse, Jr.

Resurrection…to More of the Same?

So it’s the day after Easter Sunday. Let’s suppose that you had died and been raised from the dead. Yesterday was the big celebration of the astonishing gift of “another life,” as they say in video games. How will you spend … Continued

by John at April 21, 2014 04:16 PM

John C. Wright's Journal

Total Conversion

Vox Day looked up somewheres online and found my conversion story. Here it is:

For those of you who are interested in hearing the same story told impromptu, without notes, and curious about what my voice sounds like, here is a podcast of a radio program where I was interviewed on my conversion experience:

For those of you who read my words in this space, and somehow imagine a ranting, driving, bellowing voice of startling anger and grinding seriousness, rest assured that is not what I sound like. Frankly, to me, I sound pompous and ridiculous and ridiculously amused at myself. I am not laughing with me, I am laughing at me. I cannot possibly take myself seriously, and I am always shocked and confused when others do so. So if you do listen, pay no attention to me. Pay attention to Him of whom I speak.

ADDED LATER: Whoa. There was one topic I had forgotten: I should have remembered that there was a moment when I spoke of the doctor who wanted to murder my son. Yes, friend, there I am angry, and deeply angry, and still angry. A man who is not angry when someone tries to kill his children is not a man.

by John C Wright at April 21, 2014 04:07 PM

The Outlaw Way


Ok, before we get into the specifics of this first strength cycle on Outlaw Power, let’s talk about who should be following Outlaw Power.

Ask yourself these questions:

- Is top end/absolute strength a glaring weakness in your competitive exercise career?
- Did you find that ANY of the Open workouts were “too heavy” for you?
- Do you want to take the next three months to primarily focus on getting stronger without letting the bottom fall out of your conditioning?

There are a few more questions we could ask, but the basics are this: If you have good conditioning, good lifts, and lack pure top-end strength – then this program/cycle is probably a good choice for you. Think about your numbers in comparison to those at the top of the sport. Let’s say the top men Deadlift somewhere in the low to mid 500s. They also Snatch in the upper 200s. If your Snatch is way closer to those numbers than your Deadlift, Outlaw Power is probably a good choice. If your Fran time is within 10 seconds of Froning and Khalipa, but you couldn’t have even started “Cinco 1″, Outlaw Power is probably a good choice. It’s not a different program than the traditional Outlaw Way template. It is, however, more of a basic brute-strength acquisition program. One that would be well suited for those with a high level of technical proficiency, but a low level of basic meathead strength.

Now that we’ve established who should be following, let’s get into the details of the 12 Week Cycle we’re starting today.

We will be utilizing a Wendler 5,3,1 format for the 4 major Power Lifts (Deadlift, Strict Press, Squat, and Bench Press). There are other great Powerlifting formats out there but we feel that the Max Effort sets incorporated into the Wendler Program provide a much higher degree of carry over into the sport of competitive exercise by allowing athletes to become more proficient at moving weights for multiple reps at high percentages of their 1RM’s.

For the four Main Lifts of this cycle (Deadlift, Strict Press, Squat, Bench Press), you will be basing all of your percentages off of a TRAINING MAX. I don’t care if you remember shit else from this post, but make sure you remember this: your TRAINING MAX is found by taking 90% of your actual 1RM. You will then use that Training Max as the basis for ALL of your percentages for the cycle. For example, if your current 1RM is 500# then you will be utilizing the figure of 450# to calculate your percentages for the Deadlift work each week.

Finally, let’s talk for a second about the Max Effort sets. The Max Effort sets are meant to be just that, MAXIMUM effort. However, that does not mean that this represents the time to loose your fucking mind and throw all your technique and movement integrity out the door. The Max Effort sets provide the opportunity for you to consume the strongest black coffee you can find (preferably with multiple shots of espresso), turn up load abrasive music, and unleash hell on the bar while maintaining as perfect technique as humanly possible.

WOD 140421:


1) Power Clean: Work to a 5rm (non-T&G, reset quickly after drop)

2) Deadlift: 1X5@65%, 1X5@75%, 1xMax Effort@85%, rest as needed



1A) 3X10 Bent Row – heaviest possible, rest 60 sec.
1B) 3X20 Reverse Hypers – heaviest possible, rest 60 sec.


100′ Shuttle Run (50′ down/50′ back)
30 GHD Sit-ups
50′ HS Walk
5 Rope Climbs 15′
100′ Shuttle Run (50′ down/50′ back)
5 Rope Climbs 15′
50′ HS Walk
30 GHD Sit-ups
100′ Shuttle Run (50′ down/50′ back)

The post 140421 appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by at April 21, 2014 04:06 PM

One Thing Well



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April 21, 2014 04:00 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Emacs Chat: Jānis Mancēvičs

Chatting with Jānis Mancēvičs about literate programming, Unity game development, and code folding.

Want just the audio? Get it from MP3

Check out Emacs Chat for more interviews like this. Got a story to tell about how you learned about or how you use Emacs? Get in touch!

The post Emacs Chat: Jānis Mancēvičs appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at April 21, 2014 03:55 PM

The Gospel Coalition - Themelios Issues

512 Pixels

Better →

Apple's new environmental page is pretty cool, and I like Tim Cook as narrator.


by Stephen Hackett at April 21, 2014 03:40 PM

The Tech Report - News

Report: Next Thunderbolt chip to double bandwidth, add device charging

Intel's Thunderbolt interconnect is apparently scheduled for another upgrade. According to an official-looking slide published by VR-Zone's Chinese alter-ego, a new controller dubbed Alpine Ridge is in the works. This chip promises 40Gbps of bandwidth—double what's available in the current generation of Falcon Ridge hardware.

The faster interface will enable Alpine Ridge to power dual 4K displays over a single cable, the slide says. PCI Express devices should perform faster, as well. The interconnect's PCIe link has reportedly been ...


April 21, 2014 03:32 PM

The Gospel Coalition Blog

China on Course to Become 'World's Most Christian Nation'

The Story:  The number of Christians in Communist China is growing so steadily that by 2030 it could have more churchgoers than America, reports The Telegraph.

chinesechurchThe Background: The People's Republic of China remains, at least officially, an atheist country. But the number of Protestant Christians in China has grown from one million in 1949 to more than 49 million in 2010. Experts believe that number could more than triple over the next generation:

Prof Yang, a leading expert on religion in China, believes that number will swell to around 160 million by 2025. That would likely put China ahead even of the United States, which had around 159 million Protestants in 2010 but whose congregations are in decline.

By 2030, China's total Christian population, including Catholics, would exceed 247 million, placing it above Mexico, Brazil and the United States as the largest Christian congregation in the world, he predicted.

"Mao thought he could eliminate religion. He thought he had accomplished this," Prof Yang said. "It's ironic - they didn't. They actually failed completely."

Why It Matters:  In his book The Rise of Christianity, sociologist Rodney Stark estimates that during the first 350 years of Christianity, the religion grew at a rate of 40 percent per decade. During the 61 year period from 1949 to 2010, Christianity grew at a rate of 4,800 percent in 61 years, a rate of 89% per decade.

Part of the reason for the exponential growth is attributable to the sheer size of the population of China. With 1.351 billion people in the country, Christians comprise only 5 percent of the country. If current trends hold, in 2030 Christians in China will make up almost 9 percent of the total population. While the ratio of Christians to population would still be small, the total numbers are astounding. By mid-century, China may have more citizens who identify as Christians than the United States has citizens.

Christians in America often find reasons to be pessimistic about our religion's waning influence on our country. But we should remember that our land is not the last bastion of hope for the faith. The remarkable growth in global Christianity -- particularly in Asia and Africa -- should give us reason to be optimistic. The Holy Spirit is changing hearts and minds around the globe in a way that has not been seen since the first century after Christ's Ascension. For this we should be eternally grateful.

Those of us in the West should continue to support our Chinese brothers and sisters with finances, missionaries, theological resources, and -- most importantly -- prayer. In the latter half of this century, assuming the Lord tarries, we may need them to do the same for the American church.

by Joe Carter at April 21, 2014 03:28 PM

Justin Taylor

Livestream: ERLC Leadership Summit on “The Gospel and Human Sexuality”

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is hosting a summit on the gospel and sexuality, beginning today and going through Wednesday. You can stream the main sessions and panels here. The schedule is below. All times are central.

Monday, April 21, 2014

1:00-2:15 PM: Heath Lambert, “Finally Free: The Gospel and Pornography”

2:45-4:15 PM Brief Reflection: Jason Dees

Panel: “The Gospel and the Pastor’s Purity,” Moderator: Phillip Bethancourt, J. Kie Bowman, Denny Burk, Heath Lambert

7:00-9:30 PM J.D. Greear, “Mending Fences: The Gospel and Pastoral Care for Sexual Sin”

Panel: “The Gospel and Homosexuality,” Moderator: Andrew Walker, Greg Belser, Jimmy Scroggins, J.D. Greear, Mark Regnerus

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

8:30-10:00 AM Keynote: Mark Regnerus, “Sex in America: Sociological Trends in American Sexuality”

Brief Reflection: Paul Jimenez, “Biblical Reflection on Sexuality”

10:00-11:30 AM Russell D. Moore, “Q&A on Ethics, Culture and the Public Square”

1:00-2:30 PM: David Prince, “The Birds and the Bees: The Gospel and Your Childrens’ Sexuality”

Brief Reflection: Bart Barber, “Religious Liberty and Sexuality”

3:00-4:15 PM Brief Reflection: Matt Carter, “Biblical Reflection on Sexuality”

Panel 3: “The Gospel and Biblical Manhood,” Moderator: Phillip Bethancourt , Russell D. Moore, David Prince, Clint Pressley, Matt Carter

7:00-9:30 PM: Russell D. Moore “Walking the Line: The Gospel and Moral Purity”

Panel: “Ministering in a Sex-saturated Society,” Moderator: Phillip Bethancourt, Russell D. Moore, Tony Merida, Dean Inserra, Nathan Lino, Kelly Rosati

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

10:00-11:30 AM Brief Reflection: Trillia Newbell, “Women and Sexuality”

Keynote: Kevin Smith, “Keeping the Marriage Bed Pure: The Gospel and Marital Sexuality”

by Justin Taylor at April 21, 2014 03:27 PM

Keeping Busy

I’m Switzerland!

Switzerland is famous for beautiful Alpine resorts, luxurious watches, delicious fondue, even-more-delicious chocolate, and the tale of Heidi. And of course Geneva, Switzerland is the home of the second-largest office of the United Nations.  That is no coincidence; the Swiss have a … Continue reading

by Mark Mitchell at April 21, 2014 03:00 PM

Blog & Mablog

The Nature of Nature

Unbelievers live in the world, and this is why we must continue to insist on the authority of nature. They also live in the world defined by Scripture, but they are more inclined to deny this than to deny they live in the world. Not only so, but whenever they deny that they live in the world defined by the enscripturated Word, Christians are more inclined to let them get away with it. This is because Christians accept the Bible, and non-Christians don’t. Everybody lives in the world, like it or not.

Right, and this is why we must continue to insist that the world has a nature, and that this nature is teleologically structured. There is an entelechy to all things, and this purpose, this telos, this intention, this embodiment, was determined by the God who made the world. The world has a nature. Whenever we speak of Nature, we are simply expressing this truth in a shorthand way.

But we are currently living in the midst of a large-scale revolt against nature and nature’s God, and this revolt wants to say that “nature” is a blank, that it has no nature, and that man can therefore impose whatever he wants on it. The godly man wants his dominion to be the result of an obedient conforming to the way things are, while the ungodly man wants his dominion to be the result of whatever he wills, and what he wills is almost always wired up to his lusts somehow.

According to the theorists of this revolt, the world is a lump of dough, to be shaped into whatever forms the masters of the universe in question desire for it. Sarte’s phrase for this was that “existence precedes essence,” and he touted the idea that human beings do not possess any inherent nature or value, and that everything we become is therefore a function of the will. Just as Nixon surrendered economic sanity by allegedly saying “we are all Keynesians now,” so also fickle Christians seem to be readying themselves for the time when they can say “we are all existentialists now.” It turns out the Cities of the Plain have a theological society, and we have a bunch of guys who are desperate not to get kicked out of it.

But the world has a nature. The world is not a colorless, odorless lump of stuff for which humans can volunteer to be the demiurge. Nature has a grain, and that grain must be honored, respected, and obeyed. Without an assumption of this fixed given-ness of nature, justice becomes an impossibility. Suppose you were to set the family dog to fold the laundry, and then punished him severely if he did a poor job. This would be a gross injustice because you failed to take into account what a dog is.

In the same way, if you do not know what a man is, and if you do not know what a woman is, you are setting the stage for grotesque sexual injustice. If you do not know what a prepubescent child is, then you cannot know what sexual molestation is. If the nature of things does not have a nature, then everything is lost. If our deep thinkers want to kick against the authority of nature, I would simply cut to the chase and ask them to formulate why a sex change operation would be a travesty and abomination. If they cannot or will not do it, then this is because they have already surrendered to the central tenet of sexual existentialism. I do not want to know whether they are for or against same-sex mirage — I want to hear their case against it. If that case does not involve the nature of nature, then at worst they have already gone over to the other side, and at best they have been taken prisoner.

I should also add that once sexuality has become a matter of the will, we have set the theoretical stage for every form of coercion — from the strong-arming of evangelical wedding photographers to the construction of rape rooms.

In saying all this, I continue to insist that I am a classical Protestant, and a Van Tilian. I prefer to speak of natural revelation, in distinction from natural law. I am suspicious whenever people want to leave the Bible out of our discussions of what should go on in the public square. I want the authority of the Lord Jesus to be confessed by the House and Senate, and I want the president to sign it. So I trust my bona fides are in order.

But I give these qualifications because I continue to be dismayed that the homo revolt is being opposed more effectively and consistently and rigorously by Thomistic natural law theorists than it is by the erstwhile heirs of Bahnsen and Rushdoony. I believe that this is the result of some form of dryrot that has gotten into our floor joists, and which makes our people willing to retreat to a biblicism that wants to posture inside a faith community — but because we want to come off like conservatives, we don’t use the phrase faith community. This “retreat to commitment” wants to pretend that the God who gave us a Bible with set characteristics did not do the same thing when He gave us us a world with set characteristics — with the set characteristics of the Word and the world being fully consistent with one another. By that, I mean a woman in the Bible has the same nature as a woman in the world. The world described in the Bible is the very same world in which the sexual existentialists are conducting their bizarre and perverse experiments. This is why the end of their revolt against nature will be that nature will revolt against them.

Luther once called Aristotle “that Greek buffoon,” and as a biblical absolutist, I do understand the point. But everything hinges on what you are comparing him to. We do have to recognize that when it comes to this question of nature’s nature, Aristotle was closer to the kingdom than some of our modern theologian squishes — conservatives intent on conserving nothing.

by Douglas Wilson at April 21, 2014 02:56 PM


The Millian Collapse

One of the interesting features of recent modern (post-WWII) society is the collapse of classical liberalism. Classical liberalism is characterized by a number of features, the most famous of which is Mill's harm principle:

The object of this Essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.

Note that the harm principle applies to 'compulsion and control' generally; Mill does not restrict it to government action. It would include acts like voluntary public shaming and shunning. In modern Western societies there are currently no major political groups that accept this principle. Conservatives have historically either not accepted it or only accepted it with major qualifications. It is inconsistent with typical Socialist or Green-style progressivist politics. Liberals do not generally seem to accept it. Even Libertarians, who do affirm a harm principle, only do so for government. It is really remarkable, actually, that Mill's harm principle keeps popping up in more abstract discussions of politics and in political philosophy given that everybody these days seems to think it obviously wrong.

I was put in mind of this by this recent xkcd comic:

This is one possible account of the right to free speech (one historically associated with libertarians in particular); it would not be a Millian or classical liberal account. This is somewhat interesting because there's an argument to be made that historically the right to free speech was often understood in broadly Millian terms: the arguments that guided how one understood the right to free speech in the government case were in reality more general principles about freedom of speech that did not exclude 'moral coercion' like bans, and so forth. What's more, it's not difficult to find people still understanding the right to free speech in this way, even if they are not consistent: the political self-expression movement, for instance, tends not to make sharp distinctions between what the government is doing and what society as a whole is doing to interfere with political self-expression, and it's not difficult in the United States to find people who will claim that such coercive measures are contrary at least to the spirit and principle of the First Amendment even if not strictly contrary to the letter of that law. One way one could interpret this is as the fading residue and remnant of the earlier understanding. If this is in fact the case, it would be interesting to look at the history of the collapse of the Millian approach to free speech and what factors were involved.

Of course, as I noted in the previous post, Mill's liberalism was itself an innovation, so perhaps we're really getting the dominance of an idea that was always there, and that it's really more a story of this idea slowly pushing classical liberalism even out of the honorary position of receiving lip service that it had through the influence of Mill. Any number of other things could be going on, too, of course.

by Brandon ( at April 21, 2014 02:49 PM

The Urbanophile

The Urbanophile Interview: Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley

I was able to sit down this month with new Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley to spend an hour on such topics as Cincinnati’s incredible historic assets, its history of social conservatism, streetcars and bike lanes, the repopulation of the urban core, and more.

If the audio player below doesn’t display, click here for the MP3 file.

Mayor John Cranely. Image via Wikipedia.

Here are some edited highlights of our discussion. For those who prefer reading to listening, a complete transcript is available.

By far the most provocative thing the mayor talked about to me was his direct challenge to the idea of metropolitan government. Cincinnati hasn’t annexed territory since 1925, leaving it as a smallish, hemmed in city that is only 14% of a very fragmented region. Meanwhile cities like Indianapolis and Nashville had city-county consolidation, Columbus annexed, etc. He thinks that in a new urban era, this model of government is running out of gas and the pendulum is going to swing back the other way:

There’s a real cultural shift and renewed pride in Cincinnati. More specifically though, there are some unique advantages that we have. Think of it this way: if you took our Downtown and Uptown and the corporate base, let’s say it’s 70% of all of our major jobs and income taxpayers. If you take the same exact area and map it in Columbus, they’re going to have 70% of their companies Nationwide, et cetera, all within the same geographic area. The difference is that they have to spread that money among all of Franklin County. We have to provide for 300,000 people. And very quality 19th century historic neighborhoods that already have a sense of place and culture. And we get the benefit of, on a per capita basis, being able to invest way more in these urban neighborhoods than any of our peers because we didn’t annex.

Now, historically, the attitude of urbanists had been, like myself, the we’ve got to have metro government. In essence, the attitude has been, “We poor city.” We need you guys have to play Robin Hood for us. I think the shift is already underway. Now, we have more work to do but the shift is already underway that we’re going to be a better choice for the dollar value because of our historic infrastructure, our density, our diverse economies of scale. The home owner to apartment mix which looks bad at a distance but, candidly, makes it more dense in which it makes labor pools a lot easier to transport inside the city.

What we haven’t done, in my opinion, is be insistent enough on value for the dollar, because we’re spreading our dollar over a much smaller population than cities of size. So why isn’t the quality of customer service of all services of city government superior? You still get complaints today of people who say, “I live in a nice suburb and my snow is picked up immediately and it’s cleaner and my roads paved faster and less litter. Coming to a city, I can immediately tell it’s a city.” There’s no excuse for that. And I believe that we can provide a better customer service because we have more money over less people than our competitors do. Which if you think about the fact that we lost population to cities this way, people kept moving one suburb out — and I think most of us agree we’re going to repopulate from the inside out — we have more resources to invest in economic growth policies than our competitors do, and we intend to use that advantage to become the most exciting urban city in the country.

We’ll have to see how this plays out, but I think there’s something to this. When places like Indy, Columbus, and Nashville annexed all those suburban areas, they were able to capture that tax base to support the central city. Now though they are saddled supporting miles and miles of aging and decaying suburban type development that may ultimately represent a drain on the resurgent urban core tax base. To the extent that the urban core does come back, places like Cincinnati, from a municipal point of view, will get a bigger lift from it because it gets spread over a smaller area. It’s easier to turn around a small ship than a big one.

We also talked about the geography and architecture of neighborhoods like Mt. Adams, which is like a Midwestern San Francisco. Mayor Cranley likes that analogy:

As I always say, if Chicago is the New York of the Midwest, we’re the San Francisco — in fact, that’s exactly my mind is to say Chicago is the New York of the Midwest. We’re the San Francisco. Because we have the hills, the architecture, the arts, the culture, the big league teams, all the advantages of a major city with the livability of a small town. And everyone has an opportunity to be a big fish if you got that kind of ambition. And it really is. Again, we’ve proven that’s true because we’ve been able to maintain such a concentration of Fortune 500 companies which then, of course, leads to all kinds of spin-off businesses and a huge privately held company, group of businesses, that have really been family traditions that have lasted a hundred years and have really continued to come. As I like to point out, what city our size has an entire company dedicated to Shakespeare? We have a theater that does all Shakespeare. And it has full on season.

I pointed out one important difference vs. San Francisco: Cincinnati’s history of extreme social conservatism. A number of wealthy conservatives like billionaire Carl Lindner and Charles Keating (yes, the Keating Five Charles Keating) poured tons of money into anti-pornography campaigns. Hustler publisher Larry Flynt was convicted as recently as the late 90s of obscenity charges. In 1990 locals tried to ban an exhibition of explicit photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe and even put the museum director on trial for obscenity (he was acquitted). An anti-gay rights amendment was added to the city charter by citizen initiative in the early 90s. There was a race riot in Over the Rhine in 2001.

This is clearly a sore point for the mayor, as he answered at length. He acknowledges the history of these things, but says things have changed radically and wants to be able to get the word out on the new attitude in the city:

I think that’s changed. You take one rather prominent issue with gay rights. In 1993 an anti-gay law was passed in the city charter which was awful, and would stain our reputation for ten years. When I was on council we had a transvestite who was murdered, and even the very conservative chief of police said that this was a hate crime. And I led the effort to add sexual orientation to our hate crime law. And that was sort of — this was 2002, I believe, 2002 or ’03, it might have been 2003. And this had only been ten years since the charter thing had been passed. Remember, the charter thing was passed in the aftermath of Bill Clinton being elected and gays in the military, that first debate. And several cities, including Denver, Colorado, passed virtually identical [language] ran by a right wing group around the country.

Here, we went on a major effort and we progressively, in 2004, in the midst of Bush getting reelected in Hamilton County 54 to 46, got the thing repealed by a substantial margin, which showed a real shift in our culture and our attitudes. And then we immediately passed — reinstated — the human rights ordinance. We immediately reinstated the non-discrimination. We passed benefits for domestic partners and many, many other things. So candidly, and this is why I think it’s so important that you’re here, we need to get the message out. I believe that we have moved many, many miles since then.

In addition, we have been incredibly progressive as it comes to civil rights and to police-community relations. We had, in 2001, a very difficult time with police and the community, the black community in particular. And we voted to invite the Justice Department in the Cincinnati to mediate rather than litigate allegations of police misconduct. And we led to the 2002 collaborative agreement — which I’m proud to say I helped negotiate — which is now held up as a role model for how to improve police community relations around the country. In fact, the judge in New York who struck down the “stop and frisk” law in New York City specifically cited Cincinnati’s collaborative agreement as the right way for the police and the community to work together.

And so I respectfully say that I understand that we have some baggage in terms of what happened in 1993 on gay rights, and we’ve had on the 80’s and 70’s…Larry Flynt… So I’m not denying that there isn’t some reason for that reputation, but it’s no longer fair.

In addition to a Harvard Law degree, Mayor Cranley also has a Masters of Theology from Harvard Divinity School as describes himself as a man of deep faith. I asked him how that informs him in his role as mayor:

I think that all of this has to be done in the context of the common good and building a society that expands opportunity. And I think at the end of our lives we’re fundamentally going to be asked did we make the world a better place for those who didn’t have as many advantages as we had and did we leave it better than we found it. A sense of stewardship. And all that comes, I think, deeply from my faith, schooling and family, values, traditions, et cetera.

And so we spend an enormous amount of time thinking about how are we going to reduce the poverty rate. One of my major planks in my campaign was reducing the poverty by at least 5% over the next four years. We are engaged at every level, re-examining the dollars that are — federal dollars that come in to the city budget that are earmarks for low income individuals and must be spent to the benefit of low income individuals — are we really getting the most bang for the buck out of these dollars?

Right now we have a cohort coming out of the Great Recession of folks who have never had high school or college degree, with kids, who have got very bleak prospects, and that is not surprisingly where those folks live tend to be some of our toughest neighborhoods. If we can, I think, rise to the moral challenge of figuring out how to not write off this entire generation but invest in job training and skill set to get them at least ready to work at low skill, low paying jobs and bring the dignity back of having a breadwinner in the family, the social dividends of that are enormous in terms of turning those neighborhoods around, those families around, the city around.

But in addition, if we can do it on a systematic basis, we can then market Cincinnati as a place for companies who want to locate with a large, ready to work population. Now, obviously, 20-30 years from now I’d love for us to have a higher education rate. I’m not saying it’s good and we just want to leave the education rates where they are, but given what we have today, how do we turn all that into an advantage and, at the same time, tackle the moral issues of poverty?

And while it’s not the same thing — a very sensitive issue, this is not the same thing — but building a more inclusive and welcoming society for immigrants and for African-American, Hispanics is also, I think, part of my faith tradition of — it does come from a history of prejudice that Cincinnati has been part of. And so we do have a moral obligation to tackle those issues but I do think from a political standpoint, it’s better — and true, not just better political argument, which it is, but it’s also true — that it’s better for all of us to have a more inclusive and welcoming city.

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

by Aaron M. Renn at April 21, 2014 02:45 PM


UI Analysis: Screen real estate on homepage

One of my motivators for creating the What to Wear daily report was the poor experiences I have had with existing weather sites. I do not enjoy using weather sites to do even the simplest of tasks, like finding out what the weather is right now. It seems as though weather sites don’t care about giving you a great weather report…and instead are in the business of selling advertisements.

Take, for example, It’s a perfect example of poor design resulting from intrusive advertising. To see how bad it is, just check out the real estate on the homepage. The vast majority of it is dedicated to content that has nothing at all to do with the weather! In fact, less than 10% of the screen real estate is displaying valuable information. I’ve marked up the areas in the screenshot below:


Note the following:

  • The site recognizes me and knows that Boston and Newburyport are important to me. Why not just show me the forecast for those two places straightaway instead of having me click-through?
  • Less than 10% of the real estate of the homepage is dedicated to the primary purpose most people have when visiting (to find out the weather). That’s the first litmus test of effective screen design…do the elements on the page support the primary use case? In this case they don’t.
  • The content on the site is silly and meant for shock value. People may click on it because it seems interesting but it does nothing at all to further the interests of the users of the site and the task they’re trying to do. This is a short-term gain (in the form of page views) at the very real long term expense (providing real value). A losing formula.

The homepage is a great example of design gone wrong…over the years the website has put its advertiser’s needs above the needs of its users and is seeing lower engagement than if they provided easy, immediate access to weather reports. This becomes a vicious cycle…when engagement is down the focus becomes on spiking engagement, so they invest in secondary concerns like content and advertising that generates clicks but ultimately distracts from providing real value. Over time, things just get worse and worse until the site provides almost no real value at all.

FYI: I’m writing a new book on how to communicate your product or service called Make them Care!. If you would like to be reminded when it comes out, sign up here. For an excerpt, check out Designing for the Next Step

The post UI Analysis: Screen real estate on homepage appeared first on Bokardo.

by Josh at April 21, 2014 02:24 PM


Caelum Et Terra

Slavic Fratricide and McCain’s Strange Love… of War


Icon of All Saints of Holy Rus

It is heartbreaking; Slavic Christianity has created among the most beautiful expressions of Christian faith in history: musically, iconographically, architecturally, and not least, in the lives of its saints. Yet two Slavic Christian peoples, heirs of Rus one and all, indistinguishable to any but themselves, speaking mutually intelligible ‘languages’ (in truth dialects), worshipping in the same rite, eating the same foods, more or less, drinking the same vodka, are again killing one another. A thousand years of Christianity, and this is what we get?

We may grant intrigue from the West, the conniving of Putin and the marks of history, but this is just sad.

And meanwhile, belligerent  Americans of a familiar type are chomping at the bit.

By my calculations, if John McCain had been elected in 2008, we would be on World War V by now.

No fan of Obama’s, but let us thank God that John McCain is not our president:


And, dear God, that Sarah Palin is not a heartbeat away from being president:

by Daniel Nichols at April 21, 2014 02:21 PM

Alexis C. Madrigal : The Atlantic

Our Diminished Utopianism

1. Astra Taylor's new book on what happened to the Internet, The People's Platform, looks really good.

"I was struck by how ours is a diminished utopianism. It wasn’t that we would use these machines to free us from labor; it was that now in our stolen minutes after work we can go online and be on social media. How did it come to this, that’s that all we can hope for? And the answer is in how the economy has been reshaped by neoliberalism or whatever you want to call it over the last few decades.

+ The book itself.


2. The Wall Street Journal says Square keeps losing more money—and their path to profitability is not clear.

"Square's square-shaped credit-card readers are used by nearly one million merchants, who attach them to their smartphones or tablets, allowing them to accept credit or debit-card payments anywhere. Last year, the startup processed more than $20 billion in transactions, yielding revenue of about $550 million, according to three people familiar with the company's performance. But Square's business yields razor-thin profit margins, if any. Square typically charges merchants 2.75% to swipe credit cards through its reader, according to the company's website. About four-fifths of that money is spent on fees to payment networks like Visa and MasterCard, other financial intermediaries and fraud costs."


3. A most excellent premise for a novel.

"In Parasite, Mira Grant imagines a near future in which genetically modified tapeworms are a universal health-care solution. Once implanted, the worm provides immune-system support, making its human host healthy for the duration of its life — though like any good piece of commodified progress, the worms have planned obsolescence and need to be replaced regularly."

+ The non-fiction version.


4. The history of randomized control trials.

"'Let us take out of the Hospitals, out of the Camps, or from elsewhere, 200 or 500 poor People, that have Fevers, Pleurisies, etc. Let us divide them in halfes, let us cast lots, that one half of them may fall to my share, and the other to yours; I will cure them without bloodletting… we shall see how many Funerals both of us shall have.'"


5. Taking urban ecological habitats seriously. For example:

"The chain-link fence is one of the more specialized habitats of the urban environment. They provide plants — especially vines — with a convenient trellis to spread out on and a measure of protection from the predation of maintenance crews. Chain-link fences also provide 'safe sites' for the germination of seeds, a manifestation of which are the straight lines of spontaneous urban trees that one commonly finds in cities, long after the fence that protected the trees is gone. Root suckering species such as Ailanthus grow particularly well along chain-link fence lines."


Today's 1957 American English Usage Tip

bear (market), bearish, with reference to the stock market, came into use in the 18th c.: a bearskin jobber, presumably suggested by the saying, 'to sell the bearskin before one has caught the bear.'


Subscribe to 5 Intriguing Things

Cure Them Without Bloodletting

by Alexis C. Madrigal at April 21, 2014 02:16 PM

Lambda the Ultimate - Programming Languages Weblog

How I Came to Write D

Walter Bright recounts how he came to write D

The path that led Walter Bright to write a language, now among the top 20 most used, began with curiosity — and an insult.

April 21, 2014 02:12 PM

512 Pixels

Sponsor: MnmlRdr - A lightweight & minimal RSS feed reader you'll want to use everyday →

MnmlRdr is a lightweight & minimal RSS feed reading service, and, this week only, there is a special deal for readers to get 50% off the normal price.

MnmlRdr’s primary goal is to minimize clutter and make content easy for you to read. By hiding distracting elements and turning advanced features off by default, MnmlRdr helps you focus on what matters most: the content.

But, MnmlRdr doesn’t stop there…it has everything you need in an RSS feed reader neatly tucked away, like search, tagging, real-time updates, full-text extracts, and intuitive gestures on mobile. Best of all is that MnmlRdr is private, ad-free, and supported through you don't have to worry about the service suddenly disappearing one day.

There's an exclusive offer this week for readers: you can get 6-months of MnmlRdr for free when you sign-up for a yearly plan. You shouldn't pass up this deal.


by Stephen Hackett at April 21, 2014 02:06 PM

The Tech Report - News

AMD: Seattle is sampling, on track for fourth-quarter release

In the conference call that followed its earnings release last week, AMD provided an update on its upcoming Seattle chip, a server-bound processor with ARM cores. The firm says Seattle is on track for a release in the last quarter of the year. Here's the transcript of AMD CEO Rory Read's statement, courtesy of the helpful folks at SeekingAlpha:

When AMD first announced Seattle last June, it said the chip would sample in the first half of this ...


April 21, 2014 02:03 PM

One Thing Well



xctool is a replacement for Apple’s xcodebuild that makes it easier to build and test iOS and Mac products. It’s especially helpful for continuous integration.

April 21, 2014 02:00 PM

Crossway Blog

Taking God At His Word Giveaway


The Book

Can we trust the Bible completely? Is it sufficient for our complicated lives?

These are important questions that we all wrestle with at some point in our walk with Christ. That’s why Kevin DeYoung wrote Taking God At His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me.

After reading DeYoung’s new book, David Platt had this to say: “My trust in God’s Word is greater, my submission to God’s Word is deeper, and my love for God’s Word is sweeter as a result of reading this book. I cannot recommend it highly enough.”

Learn more about the book, read an excerpt, and download the free study guide!

The Prizes

As we launch this important new book, we’re giving away some great prizes to encourage you in your reading of God’s Word.

We’ll pick 17 random winners who will each receive one of the following three prize packages:

1. A Kindle Fire HD + 5 Kevin DeYoung e-books: Taking God At His WordCrazy BusyThe Hole in Our HolinessWhy Our Church Switched to the ESV, and What Is the Mission of the Church? (2 winners)

2. A premium goatskin ESV Heirloom Thinline Bible (brown or black) + a print copy of Taking God At His Word (5 winners)

3. The Gospel Transformation Bible Web App (10 winners)

How to Enter

To enter the drawing, simply tell us what book of the Bible has meant the most to you over the past 6 months in this brief survey by May 4th.

That’s it!

IMPORTANT DETAILS: Only one entry per person. Entry must be received by midnight on May 4, 2014. Must have a valid U. S. mailing address to win.

by Matt Tully at April 21, 2014 01:45 PM

Christ in All of Scripture – Isaiah 11:1-5



Isaiah 11:1-5

“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,
and faithfulness the belt of his loins.”

God never abandoned Israel, promising that amid the apparently destitute land there remained “the holy seed” found in a stump (Isa. 6:13). Coming forth from the line of David (Isa. 11:1), this “root of Jesse” would signal to the nations a new reality (Isa. 11:10).

At Jesus’ baptism, as he rose out of the water, the Spirit descended upon him like a dove, and the Gospel writers appear to connect this event with the messianic expectations of Isaiah (see Matt. 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; cf. Isa. 11:2, 61:1). Here is the true fulfillment of this expectation, as the one conceived by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35) grows in wisdom, understanding, and counsel, so that “his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord” (Isa. 11:3; cf. Heb. 5:7–9). These words provide one of the most profound definitions of “the fear of the Lord” in the Old Testament. We hardly have a modern word equivalent to this Hebrew word for “fear.” The word cannot simply mean “terror,” because God’s people are called to love their Lord—impossible if they only live in terror of him. Many theologians, therefore, substitute words such as “awe” or “reverence” for this Old Testament use of “fear.” Such words help our understanding, but this passage (Isa. 11:2–3) reminds us that Christ will “delight” in the fear of the Lord. So, we are made to understand that the loving regard that the eternal Son has for his Father is the fear of the Lord. This is not merely reverence for divine power but is proper regard for all that God is: just, holy, powerful, wise, loving, compassionate, and merciful.

Contributing to this “proper regard” are Isaiah’s prophecies of the new world order. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, all who believe in him become a part of this promised new creation. With the coming of this “stump of Jesse” a radical shift in the way of the world is expected: chaos will turn to harmony, fear to laughter, death to life (Isa. 11:6–9). We who are new creatures in Christ joyfully participate in the work of the kingdom that we anticipate (Isa. 11:4–10), seeking reconciliation in Jesus’ name by pursuing peace, justice, creation care, and life-promoting goodness (cf. Deut. 26:13). In part we do this by putting on the full armor of God, first truly worn by Christ (cf. Isa. 11:5) but now given to us by his Spirit. In so doing we wage the battle not against foreign political powers but against “the schemes of the devil” (Eph. 6:11). Echoing the words of Isaiah, we are encouraged to stand, to put on the “belt of truth, and . . . the breastplate of righteousness,” being ready “by the gospel of peace” to hold up “the shield of faith” and the “helmet of salvation,” fighting back with the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:13–17).

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


by Lizzy Jeffers at April 21, 2014 01:36 PM

Weekly Specials – 4/21/14

Crossway’s weekly specials are available to members of Crossway Impact. You can also find this week’s featured resources with participating online retailers such as AmazonBarnes & NobleBookshoutChristianbook.comeChristianiBooks (Apple)Vyrso (at each individual retailer’s discretion). Discounted prices available through 4/27/14.

Baptism and the Lord’s Supper

Thabiti M. Anyabwile, J. Ligon Duncan

E-book: $2.99 $0.99

Pastors Thabiti Anyabwile and J. Ligon Duncan have teamed up to outline the Bible’s basic teaching about baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Speaking from different traditions, they bring perspective to the discussion while both observing that baptism and the Lord’s Supper should be fundamentally understood as pointing to something greater.

This new booklet from the Gospel Coalition will bring clarity for those wanting to understand the importance of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Buy: E-book


Thinking. Loving. Doing.: A Call to Glorify God with Heart and Mind

Edited by John Piper, David Mathis; Contributions by Thabiti M. Anyabwile, Francis Chan, R. Albert Mohler Jr., R. C. Sproul, Rick Warren

E-book: $12.99 $2.99

This volume, built on the 2010 Desiring God National Conference, argues that thinking and the affections of the heart are inseparable. Our emotions fuel our thoughts for God. Likewise, hard thinking about God leads to deeper joy in our relationship with him. And both, in turn, help us focus outward as we express a greater love for others.

“I found this book to be a fascinating, challenging, insightful, practical, and surprisingly personal discussion of how Christians can grow in both knowledge and love.”
Wayne Grudem, Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies, Phoenix Seminary

Buy: E-book


On the Old Testament

Mark Driscoll

E-book: $7.99 $0.99

Who wrote the Old Testament? How were the Old Testament books chosen as Scripture? Find answers to these questions and more in this concise book. Part of the Re:Lit: A Book You’ll Actually Read series.

“Mark has a gift of taking weighty ideas and expressing them in clear and lively language.”
Bruce A. Ware, Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Buy: E-book


On the New Testament

Mark Driscoll

E-book: $7.99 $0.99

Who wrote the New Testament? Is it reliable? Why so many translations? Find answers to these questions and more in this concise book. Part of the Re:Lit: A Book You’ll Actually Read series.

“These books are well worth an hour of your time.”
Craig Groeschel, Senior Pastor,; author, WEIRD: Because Normal Isn’t Working

Buy: E-book


by Matt Tully at April 21, 2014 01:30 PM

CrossFit Naptown

Regional Bus Saturday only: Details inside

Today’s Workout:

Split Jerk 5×3
12 minutes to complete HATA (heavy as technique allows)

WOD*: (22min cap)

200m run
40 Wall balls
40 Burpees
200m run
30 Wall Balls
30 Burpees
200m run
20 Wall Balls
20 Burpees

*you can split up the wall balls and burpees how ever you want in each round, but you must complete those reps before going to the next run.

Event and Bus Details:

Central East Regional

May 16-18th Fifth Third Arena. Cincinnati, OH

You will need to buy tickets to the event on your own:

So it looks like Saturday is a 70% sure thing. I will email those that have signed up on the board today and we will confirm this week. If we get more people for Sunday we can still make that happen too. 

We have a lead on a bus that can hold up to 32 people each day. It will cost approximately $1500 per day (10hrs a day). We have a list of people who are wanting to go. If we get all 33 people signed up it will be: $45 per person. If only 20 people sign up it will be about $75 a person. This is a bus that allows you to bring food and drinks on at your own discretion. Their is a list at the gym for people to sign up. We must know by Wednesday (4/23) if you are interested. I am okay with you bringing friends or family to help fill the numbers. If anyone has any other bus ideas please let me know ASAP!

This will be first come first serve. For more information please email me:


What are the CrossFit Regionals?

Over the course of three days, athletes will perform brutal events to test the range and depth of their capabilities. For the fourth year in a row, the events will be the same across all regions. Everyone around the world will be able to compare their favorite newcomers with Games vets, workout for workout, second for second, pound for pound. For fans of the sport, this is another opportunity to speculate what the future holds at the Games.

Besides the stiff competition, Regionals are a lively spectator experience. Each year, fans come in droves and cross borders to support their favorite athletes, family members and friends. The same crowds, who settled into the dirt hillside of the Ranch with a beer and a love for CrossFit, enjoy the Aromas-like competition at Regionals.

With the tremendous growth of CrossFit around the world, the competition gets tougher each year, with phenomenal athletes coming out of the woodwork and veteran competitors honing their skills one step further. The regional competitions have become as tough as the way the Games used to be in the early days in Aromas.

The athletes and fans know it’s no small feat to make it anywhere close to the regional podium. The fans come to see their athletes, “marred by dust and sweat and blood,” striving valiantly for their best. The athletes come to prove their fitness on a higher level of competition, with the dream of qualifying for the Games in the back of everyone’s mind.

In 2014, the Regionals will be held over four weekends from May 9th to June 1st.

Weekend 1: May 9-11, 2014
North Central (Chicago, Ill.)
Canada West (Vancouver, B.C.)
South East (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Latin America (Santiago, Chile)

Weekend 2: May 16-18, 2014
Central East (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Canada East (Toronto, Ontario)
North West (Kent, Wash.)
Europe (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Australia (Wollongong, Australia)

Weekend 3: May 23-25, 2014
Mid Atlantic (Washington D.C.)
SoCal (Del Mar, Calif.)
South Central (San Antonio, Texas)
Asia (Seoul, South Korea)

Weekend 4: May 30-June 1, 2014
North East (Canton, Mass.)
NorCal (San Jose, Calif.)
South West (Salt Lake City, Utah)
Africa (Johannesburg, South Africa)

Tickets to the regionals went on sale April 5, 2014. Any remaining tickets can be purchased through the Get Tickets block on the righthand side of the home page.

Three-day passes go for US$50, and single-day passes are just $20.

Three international regions will have reduced rates. In Asia and Africa, the three-day passes will go for $20, and the single day passes will cost $8. Tickets in Latin America will cost $20 for three days, and $10 for one day.

If tickets do not sell out in advance, they will be sold at the door only, and may be subject to the venue’s processing fees.

by Peter at April 21, 2014 01:19 PM

LLVM Project Blog

LLVM Weekly - #16, Apr 21st 2014

Welcome to the 16th issue of LLVM Weekly, a weekly newsletter (published every Monday) covering developments in LLVM, Clang, and related projects. LLVM Weekly is brought to you by Alex Bradbury. Subscribe to future issues at and pass it on to anyone else you think may be interested. Please send any tips or feedback to, or @llvmweekly or @asbradbury on Twitter.

Apologies that last week's LLVM Weekly went out twice via email. Mailgun have the useful ability to schedule an email for the future, but when this is done incorrectly have no ability to cancel it via the API. Possibly there is no way for them to cancel it either, I have no way to know as my support ticket on the issue was never answered.

Seeing as it's Easter, does anybody know why GCC has a GNU breaking out of an egg as a logo?

The canonical home for this issue can be found here at

News and articles from around the web

The new backend to Emscripten which is implemented as an LLVM backend has now been merged to Emscripten's master branch. This should result in a noticeable speedup in compile times.

Phoronix have published a small set of benchmarks comparing GCC 4.9RC1 and Clang 3.5 HEAD.

Diego Novillo has announced AutoFDO, a tool which will convert profile data generated with Linux Perf to a format compatible with LLVM's sample-based profiler.

The Polly project have minutes from another phone call, this time focusing on delinearization.

On the mailing lists

LLVM commits

  • LLVM's internal BumpPtrAllocator has been switched to using a vector of pointers to slabs rather than a single linked list and the underlying allocator is now a template parameter. r206147, r206149. The allocator can now also pass the size to the deallocation function, which improves performance with some libraries (e.g. tcmalloc). r206265.

  • Support for building persistent strongly connected components has been added to the LazyCallGraph. There are detailed comments on the reasoning of this approach and some details on implementation in the commit message. r206581.

  • Constant hoisting has been enabled on PowerPC. r206141.

  • PseudoSourceValue is no longer a subclass of Value. r206255.

  • A DebugInfoVerifier has been implemented. r206300.

  • MIPS gained initial support for the IEEE 754-2008 NaN encoding. r206396.

  • OnDiskHashTable has been moved from Clang to LLVM. r206438.

  • ARM's IR-based atomics pass has been moved from Target to CodeGen, which allows it to be used by ARM64. r206485, r206490.

  • Module verification is now off by default in release builds for the JIT, but this can be overridden. r206561.

  • The Cortex-A53 machine model description has been ported from AArch64 to ARM64. r206652.

Clang commits

  • There is now a new hash algorithm for calculating the function hash for instruction profiling, rewritten to help ensure the hash changes when control flow does. r206397.

  • The thread safety analysis SSA pass has been rewritten. r206338.

  • Support for big endian ARM64 was added to Targets.cpp. r206390. It is also now possible to disable NEON and crypto support for ARM64. r206394.

Other project commits

  • LLD now supports --defsym=<symbol>=<symbol>, as supported by GNU LD. r206417.

by Alex Bradbury ( at April 21, 2014 12:46 PM


sendip: Packets and their contents

You’d think for all the esoteric network tools I have blundered through over the past year or so, I would have a better grasp of some fundamentals.

I don’t. :roll:


That’s sendip, which I like for being easy to figure out, giving plenty of information, and looking good in a screenshot. :oops:

It does look good though. It spills the contents of the packet to the screen, including whatever piggybacked data you specified, and gives you a report of the transaction. Clean, neat and talkative.

What you do with that … I really don’t know for sure. It must be a science thing. :shock:

Of course, without the flag for verbosity, sendip is meek as a kitten. So you have the option, if you prefer the strong, silent type.

sendip is in AUR and Debian, and strikes me as a useful tool to keep around. Even if I don’t know what it does. But when has that ever stopped me?! :D

Tagged: information, management, packet

by K.Mandla at April 21, 2014 12:15 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Emacs ABCs: A is for Apropos

Sometimes one gets the strangest ideas. I’ve had this kicking around in my brain for a few weeks. Since you read and re-read books to kids endless times anyway, why not learn more yourself along the way? For example, Emacs is something that is worth repeated learning. You forget commands, you rediscover them, you dig into them more. I think it might be interesting to have kid’s books with technical subtext. While you’re saying the letters and helping kids learn to read, you can silently (or not-so-silently!) read the notes, and pick one command to try later. In this case: M-x apropos?

A is for apropos

A is for apropos

Here’s a list of interesting possibilities:

  • apropos
  • browse-kill-ring
  • customize / compile / calc
  • dired, debug-on-entry
  • edebug-defun, eshell
  • fastnav, ffap, fixup-whitespace
  • grep-find, gnus
  • help-with-help, helm
  • ielm
  • just-one-space
  • keyboard macros, kmacro-start-macro, kbd-macro-query
  • load-library, locate-library, list-packages
  • magit, make-indirect-buffer
  • name-last-kbd-macro
  • occur (and occur-edit-mode); org
  • package-list-packages, picture-mode
  • quick-url, query-replace-regexp-eval
  • regexp-builder, recursive-edit, recover-this-file,
  • savehist-mode, server-start, smartparens
  • tags-search, term, thumbs, tmm-menubar, type-break
  • undo-tree-visualize
  • vc-next-action, view-lossage, visual-line-mode
  • where-is, winner-mode, windmove, window-configuration-to-register
  • M-x (execute-extended-command)
  • yank-pop
  • zap-to-char

Crazy? Neat? =) What do you think?

The post Emacs ABCs: A is for Apropos appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at April 21, 2014 12:00 PM


sed: I wouldn’t dream of explaining it

If you’ve never used sed, it’s only because you didn’t know you were using it. sed is used everywhere, by everything, for everything, and the only reason we don’t give it more credit is that it works so fast, clean and quiet that nobody realizes it’s there.


sed is one of those things that’s so quick and powerful that it looks very plain and boring — and then turns out being a wicked sharp tool. It takes almost no effort to get started, but once you start, tinkering with patterns and sequences can get addictive.

The fun thing, to me, about sed is that it occasionally can take the place of a trip through a text editor. Rather than wrangle with vim or emacs and their respective psychoses, sed can do a lot of simple text manipulation right there in front of your face.

I wouldn’t dream of trying to explain all its intricacies here, so I’ll point you in the direction of Bruce Barnett’s tutorial, which is where I cut my teeth on sed, oh-so-long-ago.

Now go forth and sedify. :???:

Tagged: editor, file, stream, text

by K.Mandla at April 21, 2014 12:00 PM

One Thing Well



git-crypt enables transparent encryption and decryption of files in a git repository. Files which you choose to protect are encrypted when committed, and decrypted when checked out.

git-crypt lets you freely share a repository containing a mix of public and private content. git-crypt gracefully degrades, so developers without the secret key can still clone and commit to a repository with encrypted files. This lets you store your secret material (such as keys or passwords) in the same repository as your code, without requiring you to lock down your entire repository.

April 21, 2014 12:00 PM

The Tech Report - News

After briefly settling, AMD decides to Never Settle Forever yet again

Although its Never Settle game bundling promo helped move a lot of Radeons in the past couple of years, AMD quietly let the program lapse before the launch of its R9 290 series graphics cards—and really didn't need any sales help once its GPUs became the sweethearts of the cryptocurrency mining world. Happily, the tight supply-and-demand situation for Radeon cards appears to have eased lately, and AMD has decided to re-institute its game bundling program, mostly in the same form as the Never Settle Forever promo from last summer.

Starting today, folks who purchase Radeon graphics cards "at select retailers" will get to take their choice from a pool of games. If you buy ...


April 21, 2014 12:00 PM

The Finance Buff

Elfcu HSA Still The Best Despite New Wire Transfer Fee

In previous articles I said Eli Lilly Federal Credit Union (Elfcu) offered the best HSA for investing HSA money. I moved my HSA there. I documented the setup process in details in Setting Up HSA at Eli Lilly Federal Credit Union.

New Wire Transfer Fee

Reader John brought to my attention that Elfcu started a new wire transfer fee for transfers from the savings account to TD Ameritrade for investing. I logged into my account and lo-and-behold I see a fee change notice in the message center, which reads:

Effective April 15th [2014], Elfcu will be assessing a $24.00 wire transfer fee for all OUTGOING Wires being debited from HSA Accounts. Wire transfers are generally requested to transfer HSA funds for investment with TD Ameritrade. To correctly fund the wire, you must leave enough funds in the HSA account to cover the $24.00 wire fee. If funds are insufficient to cover the fee, the wire will be rejected and returned by the Special Accounts Department.

This certainly increases the cost of using Elfcu for HSA. On the other hand, $24 for a wire transfer isn’t that out of line. For instance Ally Bank charges $20 for a domestic outgoing wire transfer. So does PenFed. Alliant Credit Union, where I have my primary checking account, charges $25.

Why Wire?

I don’t understand why the transfer from the credit union to TD Ameritrade has to go by wire. A push by ACH delays the transfer by one day but it costs nearly nothing. I contacted Elfcu customer service and asked them to consider doing the transfers by ACH, or (gasp!) by paper check.

Of course they won’t just change their business process just because I said so. Does this $24 transfer fee make Elfcu not the best HSA provider any more?

Fund and Transfer Once A Year

For the way I use the HSA, and I imagine the same way many of you use it, I think Elfcu is still the best.

I make my HSA contributions by payroll deduction to the HSA provider chosen by my employer. Once every rolling 12 months I ask for a distribution from my employer’s HSA provider. Then I make a rollover contribution to my own provider, in this case Elfcu. Once the money is credited, I transfer it to TD Ameritrade for investing. See previous article How To Rollover an HSA On Your Own and Avoid Trustee Transfer Fee.

If you don’t go through an employer, you can still fund the account once a year and transfer to TD Ameritrade once a year. You would pay the $24 fee once a year. It’s not a big deal.

If you don’t like the fee increase, you have some alternatives.

HSA Bank

At HSA Bank you can pay $66 in fees per year or leave $5,000 behind earning 0.25%. This is more expensive than Elfcu if you fund and transfer once a year. It’s less expensive than Elfcu if you transfer 3 or more times a year.

Saturna Brokerage Services

Saturna Capital offers HSA in a brokerage account operated by Pershing. You can buy ETFs or index funds at $14.95 a trade. It’s slightly less expensive than Elfcu if you do one trade per year. It’s more expensive if you trade more often.

Stay or Move?

I’m staying with Elfcu. By the time I need to do the rollover and transfer again next year, I hope they will have figured out how to do the transfers by ACH or paper check. If not, $24 once a year is still not that bad. Most people fund their IRA once a year as opposed to monthly. You just add HSA to the list. That’s why you keep a cash reserve/emergency fund. You dip into it when you need money. Then you fill it back up.

See All Your Accounts In One Place

Track your net worth, asset allocation, and portfolio performance with FREE financial tools from Personal Capital.

Elfcu HSA Still The Best Despite New Wire Transfer Fee is copyrighted material from The Finance Buff. All rights reserved. ( b87e8215d24496480249d6aaf20c77ea )

by Harry Sit at April 21, 2014 11:50 AM

The Endeavour

Elementary vs Foundational

Euclid’s proof that there are infinitely many primes is simple and ancient. This proof is given early in any course on number theory, and even then most students would have seen it before taking such a course.

There are also many other proofs of the infinitude of primes that use more sophisticated arguments. For example, here is such a proof by Paul Erdős. Another proof shows that there must be infinitely many primes because the sum of the reciprocals of the primes diverges. There’s even a proof that uses topology.

When I first saw one of these proofs, I wondered whether they were circular. When you use advanced math to prove something elementary, there’s a chance you could use a result that depends on the very thing you’re trying to prove. The proofs are not circular as far as I know, and this is curious: the fact that there are infinitely many primes is elementary but not foundational. It’s elementary in that it is presented early on and it builds on very little. But it is not foundational. You don’t continue to use it to prove more things, at least not right away. You can develop a great deal of number theory without using the fact that there are infinitely many primes.

The Fundamental Theorem of Algebra is an example in the other direction, something that is foundational but not elementary. It’s stated and used in high school algebra texts but the usual proof depends on Liouville’s theorem from complex analysis.

It’s helpful to distinguish which things are elementary and which are foundational when you’re learning something new so you can emphasize the most important things. But without some guidance, you can’t know what will be foundational until later.

The notion of what is foundational, however, is conventional. It has to do with the order in which things are presented and proved, and sometimes this changes. Sometimes in hindsight we realize that the development could be simplified by changing the order, considering something foundational that wasn’t before. One example is Cauchy’s theorem. It’s now foundational in complex analysis: textbooks prove it as soon as possible then use it to prove things for the rest of course. But historically, Cauchy’s theorem came after many of the results it is now used to prove.

Related: Advanced or just obscure?

by John at April 21, 2014 11:00 AM

Schneier on Security

Info on Russian Bulk Surveillance

Good information:

Russian law gives Russia’s security service, the FSB, the authority to use SORM (“System for Operative Investigative Activities”) to collect, analyze and store all data that transmitted or received on Russian networks, including calls, email, website visits and credit card transactions. SORM has been in use since 1990 and collects both metadata and content. SORM-1 collects mobile and landline telephone calls. SORM-2 collects internet traffic. SORM-3 collects from all media (including Wi-Fi and social networks) and stores data for three years. Russian law requires all internet service providers to install an FSB monitoring device (called “Punkt Upravlenia”) on their networks that allows the direct collection of traffic without the knowledge or cooperation of the service provider. The providers must pay for the device and the cost of installation.

Collection requires a court order, but these are secret and not shown to the service provider. According to the data published by Russia’s Supreme Court, almost 540,000 intercepts of phone and internet traffic were authorized in 2012. While the FSB is the principle agency responsible for communications surveillance, seven other Russian security agencies can have access to SORM data on demand. SORM is routinely used against political opponents and human rights activists to monitor them and to collect information to use against them in “dirty tricks” campaigns. Russian courts have upheld the FSB’s authority to surveil political opponents even if they have committed no crime. Russia used SORM during the Olympics to monitor athletes, coaches, journalists, spectators, and the Olympic Committee, publicly explaining this was necessary to protect against terrorism. The system was an improved version of SORM that can combine video surveillance with communications intercepts.

by schneier at April 21, 2014 10:55 AM

Kevin DeYoung

Cool Tools

Gripster Nut Starter

If you’ve ever tried to apply rotational force to a small part held with tweezers, then you’ve probably also spent time on the floor looking for that part. Get off the floor and buy the Gripster Nut Starter. It does a fine job of holding small nuts so they can be threaded on to parts and into hard-to-reach spots. Pushing a plunger on the back end causes four spring steel fingers at the front end to extend and spread. When pressure on the plunger is released, an internal spring causes the fingers to pull in and close, allowing you to hold small objects. I’ve found it’s also great for starting wood and machines screws, as well as for threading tiny washers. It’s particularly useful for fishing through containers of small assorted parts and grabbing just the right one. Congratulations, your fingers just got smaller.

-- Dug North

Gripster Nut Starter

Available from Micro-Mark

by mark at April 21, 2014 09:00 AM

Matt Gemmell

Sponsor: Dash

My sincere thanks to Dash for sponsoring my writing this week. It’s a particular pleasure for my first sponsor to be an app that I’ve personally used for years. Accordingly, these are all my own words.

Dash is a documentation browser for more than 130 API documentation sets, naturally including the iOS and OS X SDKs, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, JQuery, Ruby, Python and dozens more. It covers web frameworks, templating and scripting languages, and everything from SASS to LaTeX. All the documentation sets are stored locally, for instant access no matter whether you’re online or not, or how fast your internet connection is.

There are two main reasons I began using Dash over Xcode’s built-in documentation viewer (and I still do, for my web work on this blog, shell scripting, and as a Markdown and regular expressions reference).

  1. It has excellent support for keyboard-navigation (I hate clicking around).

    Dash provides instant fuzzy search of all your docsets (and yes, “nsas” will find “NSAttributedString”), and find-in-page is a simple matter of hitting space and continuing typing. You’ll never have to press the Tab key.

    You can move between results, switch which docsets you’re searching on the fly, and independently scroll the results list and current documentation page – all without taking your hands from the keyboard, or ever taking the focus from the search field. For me, that was the killer feature. Dash also supports global hotkeys for triggering a search, with or without the selected text.

  2. It integrates with every conceivable utility, editor and IDE: Alfred, Quicksilver, LaunchBar, Xcode, Eclipse, AppCode, BBEdit, TextMate, Coda… the list goes on – and includes the shell, Vim and Emacs.

    It also provides a System Service and URL scheme, letting you initiate queries from pretty much anywhere.

Dash even pulls in Stack Overflow and Google results for your query, if you wish. In the event that your preferred documentation isn’t already available (pretty unlikely – there are over 130 docsets), you can make your own too, from AppleDoc, Doxygen, RDoc, Javadoc, Python and several other documentation formats.

Lastly, a feature I regularly appreciate are Dash’s “cheat sheets”, which are searchable and easy-to-read summaries of various languages and technologies. I currently keep them handy for Git commands, regular expressions syntax, and HTML entities – but plenty more are available.

It’s a pleasure to recommend Dash to you, as an actual user of the app. I’m grateful for the sponsorship, and the free rein in writing about the product here.

Find out more about Dash at, and you can also contact Kapeli on Twitter.

If you’re interested in sponsoring my writing for a week, and reaching my audience of tech-savvy, curious, creative thinkers, you can find more information here.

April 21, 2014 09:00 AM daily

Quieter Mac Workspace

A few things I’ve been doing to create a more usable work environment on OS X.

Remove Notification Center From Menubar

I find notification center to not provide value to me and I’d rather not ever see it cluttering my menubar. To remove it -

$ launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchAgents/

In case you ever want to restart it:

$ launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchAgents/

Kill Dashboard

Also removable.

$ defaults write mcx-disabled -boolean true $ killall Dock

Run A Tiling Window Manager

I’ve started to use (sometimes) a tiling window manager. This can take a little bit of ramp-up time and getting used to, and may feel a bit claustrophobic at first but overall I’m liking it for task-centric computing work.

I’ve been using Amethyst. (See also xnomad and xmonad)

Remove Drop Shadows

If you’re using a tiling window manager things generally look better without drop shadows. I’ve been using toggle-osx-shadows to turn them off.

April 21, 2014 08:00 AM

Wilfred Hughes::Blog

Introducing Trifle

I’ve started developing a programming language, called Trifle. My day job is writing Python, but I find it doesn’t quite meet my needs in a scripting language. Trifle was born out of this desire for a scripting language that made me happy.

I’d love to share it with you. Here’s the feature set we’re working towards.


Suppose you are writing a program that would benefit from a do-while or until loop. In Python, you’re out of luck. You could write a PEP, but it may not be accepted if this language feature isn’t useful in the general case. If your PEP is accepted, you still need to wait until a new version of Python is released with this feature, and all your users have upgraded to that version.

Macros solve this. They give the user more freedom to find what works best for the problem at hand. Trifle will offer macros.

Optional Verification

Sometimes, you want to just mutate some lists and you don’t want to worry about types. For prototyping, that’s great. As your program grows and matures, you’ll want more confidence in the code.

You may want to make your datatypes immutable, use a linter or to use a type checker. Trifle will offer both mutable and immutable containers, plus optional static verification tools.

Mathematically Sound

We want maths operations to default to well-behaved datatypes. We want arbitrarily sized integers and exact fractions. When dealing with inexact numbers, we want decimals rather than floats. This fixes many mathematical gotchas that programmers have to learn.

Whilst this can be slower, we believe fixed-size integers and floats should be used an optimisation, not the default.


Writing a program with a good REPL is great for learning the language, incrementally writing code and testing it. You can send functions to the interpreter individually, you can call them with test data, or inspect their results.

Python doesn’t have this. It’s awkward to impossible to reload code that you’ve imported. It’s also awkward to mock functions as it depends on how the original code imported it!

The better solution is allowing the user to change their current namespace. Trifle will have this feature, enabling us to build a great REPL on top.

Fast Enough

Trifle is being written in RPython, which means we get a JIT for free.


Finally, Trifle lisp design decisions will be made by comparing different languages. We’ll produce a document (per language feature) listing the different possible approaches with their pros and cons. We can’t guarantee that every user will like every decision, but there will be a justification for every design choice.

Current Status

There’s a crude interpreter available, the most exciting programs being fizzbuzz and quicksort. You can follow Trifle’s progress on GitHub, or I’d love to have any feedback.

by Wilfred Hughes ( at April 21, 2014 07:00 AM


Abraham Kuyper Was a Heretic Too

kuyperOver the last few years I’ve been saddened to see a number of teachers and preachers of the word of God, along with friends in the pews, begin a sad doctrinal decline, wandering into either questionable teaching, or even outright heresy. (And believe me, though I’ve given the issue a bit of thought, I’m not one to quickly throw out the ‘h-word.’)  The narratives are diverse, and the motivations multifarious, but in all, there is a tragic departure that brings me to distress for their spiritual lives and sometimes, for the churches they serve.

What do we do in these cases? What should we think when someone we know departs from the truth of the faith “once for all delivered” and veers into what we believe to be serious, and dangerous, error? While I don’t have an exhaustive answer, I think one course of action we ought to rule out categorically is completely writing them off as lost and beyond hope.

G.C. Berkouwer tells this story of theological giant, Abraham Kuyper:

When Kuyper referred to Modernism as “bewitchingly beautiful,” he doubtlessly recalled the fascination which the modernism of Scholten had exerted on him as a student. He acknowledges in 1871 that he too had once dreamed the dream of Modernism. And when at the age of eighty he addressed the students of the Free University, he harked back to the “unspiritual presumption” which had caused him to slip. “At Leiden I joined, with great enthusiasm, in the applause given Professor Rauwenhoff when he, in his public lectures, broke with all belief in the Resurrection of Jesus.” “Now when I look back,” he writes, “my soul still shudders at times over the opprobrium I then loaded on my Savior.” Kuyper concludes his lecture with a reference to the Incarnation of the Word and points out the unfathomable cleavage between the church of Christ and Modernism. Now that endorsement of Rauwenhoff’s negation and criticism has given way to adoration of the Son of Man, Kuyper recognizes in Arianism the image of the Modernism of his own day. “One merely has to write other names and other dates into the history of the Arian heresy, and, provided one takes it in broad outline, the course of Modernism is repeated.” –The Person of Christ, pp. 9-10

Early in his theological career Kuyper flirted with Modernism of the worst sort, and could even applaud the rejection of that most central, pivotal of gospel truths: the Resurrection of Christ. Let’s remember what the apostle Paul tells us:

For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Cor. 15:16-19)

This is no ancillary, disputed, or adiaphora truth that Kuyper was fussing about with, then. This is the definition of denying the truth of the Gospel in the most pernicious way possible–much in the way some false teachers had in Corinth. And yet, in later years, we find this man at the center of one of the most powerful revivals of orthodox Reformed thought in Europe.

What this little story demonstrates, is that, while heresies need to be forcefully rejected, by the grace of God, even heretics can repent. To believe otherwise is to neglect two pertinent realities:

  1. Narrative – Persons are not static realities. We have storied identities full of development, regression, and plot turns galore. That’s what we see on display is the story of Kuyper. For all intents and purposes, Kuyper was a heretic. He ended a stalwart defender of the faith. Doubtless, countless others could be added to this list.
  2. Grace - No matter how grave the error, it seems that God can work in the lives of those who currently are turned against his gospel. Isn’t that what he did for you when you were in your unbelief?

Don’t get me wrong here. I think false doctrine needs to be confronted, rejected, and exposed. I also think that pastors who go off the rails and start preaching things contrary to the scriptures, especially central gospel issues, ought go through the proper disciplinary procedures instituted within their denominations or bylaws. The health of the flock and the truth of the gospel is too precious to be trifled with. What’s more, this isn’t even only for the good of the broader flock–it’s supremely unloving to allow the teacher who is in error to continue to propagate a false Gospel.

Still, what I would argue, is that beyond being confronted, in the economy of God, heretics, or those wandering into error ought also be forcefully prayed for. Let’s not forget that, “prayer enlists the help of him who can move heaven and earth” (Ryle) I don’t know what human means finally brought about Kuyper’s theological and spiritual renewal, but I do know that whatever it was, it came about through the grace of God who is sovereign over human hearts and minds. Who knows which of those walking in error today are being prepared for a mighty work for the Gospel tomorrow?

Soli Deo Gloria

by Derek Rishmawy at April 21, 2014 06:44 AM

Front Porch Republic

How Equality Makes Us Better (and Stupid)

declaration of independence

Hidden Springs Lane…. The concept of equality lies at the heart of the American system. School children learn by heart (or used to) those memorable lines from the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truth self-evident that all men

Read Full Article...

The post How Equality Makes Us Better (and Stupid) appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Mark T. Mitchell at April 21, 2014 05:44 AM

The Gospel Coalition Blog

Explaining Hard Things to Our Children

My heart was saddened the day I had to explain to my children that their aunt and uncle were getting a divorce. I struggled as I searched for words that would make sense to them. They were young and not yet acquainted with brokenness in marriage. Since then, I've had to whittle away at my children's naiveté about the world as more and more hard situations require explanation.

difficult-conversations-with-kidsWhen our children are young, they are often isolated from the painful truths of life. Their needs are provided for and their greatest struggles are in sharing their toys. But as they grow, they become more aware of the world around them. They begin to hear about violence, wars, death, disease, and brokenness.

One day, my 7-year-old overheard talk about same-sex marriage on the news. On another occasion, I had to explain abortion and euthanasia. Then there was the time I had to break the news about a dear friend waging a battle against cancer.

For many of these talks, I was unprepared. They came before I thought my children were ready. I wish we lived in a world where I didn't have to explain death, divorce, or abortion. But post fall, this is the reality of life. And I want my children to hear the truth about life, including its heartaches and sorrows, in the context of our biblical world-and-life view.

Explaining the World's Heartache Through God's Story

As we've worked through these issues as a family, there is one story we always come back to: creation, fall, and redemption.

This is the story of the Bible. It is the story that explains what once was at the beginning, how we got to where we are, and how things will one day be. It is the story that brings hope in the darkness of this fallen world. And it is the big story into which all our individual stories fit.

  1. Creation: In a recent talk with our children, we began by returning to the story of creation. We explained God's perfect design for the world, for people, for relationships, for marriages, and for families.
  2. Fall: We then reviewed the facts of the fall, how by the sin of one man, we are all sinful. Each and every person is a sinner; no one does what is right. Sin has also affected the natural world, bringing about disease and death. After Adam's sin, God promised a rescuer in Genesis 3:15. He promised to one day redeem and restore what was broken by the fall.
  3. Redemption: Jesus is the fulfillment of that promise. He came as that Rescuer, living the life we couldn't live and dying the death we deserve. Through faith in his finished work on our behalf, we have been set free from slavery to sin. We are now free to live for him. He is making all things new, beginning with us. As we share the gospel of grace with others, we participate in the mission of his kingdom. One day, Jesus will return for the last time and make all things right. Death and sin will be no more. The redeemed will live forever in his presence.

Teaching Our Kids to Love Like Jesus Loves

Recently, as we talked through and explained a hard situation with our children, we discussed how the redemption Jesus purchased for us affects how we treat the sin in others' lives and how we respond to the brokenness in this world. We talked about the gospel of grace and how we are to love others in light of the love and grace Jesus gave us. We share the gospel with them and pray for them, that they too would know the grace of God through Jesus Christ.

As believers, the story of creation, fall, and redemption is the lens through which we view all of life. It's also the lens we need to teach our children to use as well. As we help our children process life's experiences through this lens, it models for them how they are to view the many trials they will encounter in life. Ultimately, this lens points them to their hope found in Christ alone.

I know many more situations and hard discussions will come up in my life as a parent. As much as I'd like to avoid it, I can't. And I can't sugar coat the realities of life. But I can give my children hope. By recounting the story of creation, fall, and redemption, I can help them understand what happened to God's perfect world, how Jesus came to save us, and how one day, all the hard and painful stories of life will end. And then we'll begin a new chapter, one that will never end.

All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at least they were beginning Chapter One of the Great story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before. — C. S. Lewis in The Last Battle

by Christina Fox at April 21, 2014 05:01 AM

To Experience God's Love

Many Christians live at a great distance from a felt experience of the love of God. So much Christianity in the West is shallow and satisfied. It affirms a creed, but it so often lacks spiritual life. Across the country there are millions of people who have a faith, who've been brought up in the church to believe Jesus died and rose, but they have no living experience of God's love.

We need this prayer from 2 Thessalonians 3:5: "May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's patience."

st-augustine-of-hippoThis is a prayer for Christians. Paul is writing to the church. It's a prayer that God will do something in us who believe but do not always feel that God loves us.

I don't want to be there! And neither do you. People who are not Christians endure great pain and carry great sorrows. They do it by gritting their teeth. They do it in Britain with a stiff upper lip. Paul is saying to these believers in this verse, "I want something better for you. I want your soul to be filled with the love of God."

Testimonies of Experiencing God's Love

Let me give you some real-life examples of the love of God flooding a person's soul, so that you will be encouraged to pray for more of this love yourself.

John Wesley

Wesley was a pastor. He had preached on two continents—in England and in Georgia. Something happened to him on Aldersgate Street in London on May 24, 1738, while he was listening to a man read the preface to Luther's work on Romans. Here is Wesley's description of what happened:

About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given to me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.

Amazingly, Wesley had been preaching in church for years, but now he tasted the love of God. He had a new sense of its sweetness. His life and ministry were transformed.

Jonathan Edwards

In 1737 Edwards rode out into the woods for a time of prayer and wrote of his extraordinary experience: "I had a view, that was for me extraordinary, of the glory of the Son of God . . . and his wonderful, great, full, pure and sweet grace and love."

He went out into the woods, tied up his horse, and saw the love of Christ in a way that he had not seen it before. He had a "view" of it. He got a glimpse of it. Its sweetness came home to his soul.

Blaise Pascal

One of the most intense descriptions of this kind of experience comes from Blaise Pascal. Pascal is especially interesting because he was a mathematician and a scientist. It would be easy for some of us to dismiss this loving call by saying that there are certain more emotional types of people who have these experiences.

Pascal had an extraordinary experience of the love of God that lasted for about two hours. He scribbled some notes of what happened to him, and then he sewed them into the inside of his coat, where they were found after his death:

This day of grace 1654
From about half past ten at night, to about half after midnight Fire!
God of Abraham, God of Isaac God of Jacob
Not of the philosophers and scholars.
Security, feeling, joy, peace
God of Jesus Christ . . .
Greatness of the human soul . . .
Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy . . .
Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ
May I never be separated from him.

What happened to Pascal? His heart was "directed into the love of God and the patience of Christ."

These testimonies show an amazing work of God in the hearts of men, causing them to experience God's love and Christ's patience in a new way.

Power to Know God's Love

Recently, a seminary professor asked 120 of her students this question: "Do you believe that God loves you?" Out of 120 Christian students preparing for ministry, how many do you think said, "yes"?


The rest gave answers like this: "I know I'm supposed to say, 'Yes' . . . "I know the Bible says he loves me . . . but I don't feel it," or "I'm not sure I can really say I believe it."

How can this be? Jonathan Edwards used a simple analogy to get to the heart of this problem: "There is a difference between having a rational judgment that honey is sweet, and having a sense of its sweetness."

You can know honey is sweet, because someone tells you, but you don't really know its sweetness until you've tasted it. You can know God loves you because your Sunday school teacher told you, but you don't really know God's love until you've tasted his love.

Here are concrete steps to experience more of God's love.

Become dissatisfied with your present spiritual experience.

Cultivate a holy discontent. The person who prays this prayer is looking for something more than he or she already has: "Lord, direct my heart into your love."

We live in a "been there, done that" culture, and the great danger is in developing a "been there, done that" form of Christianity: "I know God loves me, that Jesus died for me and that my sins are forgiven. So, what's next?" Then one day someone says, "Do you really believe that God loves you?" And your shallowness is exposed.

A. W. Tozer says in The Pursuit of God,

We have been snared in the coils of a spurious logic which insists that if we have found him, we need no more seek him. . . . In the midst of this great chill there are some who will not be content with shallow logic. They want to taste, to touch with their hearts the wonder that is God. I want deliberately to encourage this mighty longing after God.

Some of you think God is cold and aloof and harsh and demanding, and these thoughts are deeply rooted in your mind. You need this prayer: "Father, direct my heart into your love!" Ask God, and go on asking, until like the snow that melted in the warmth this week, your heart begins to thaw in the warmth of the love of God.

Gaze into the love of God in Jesus Christ.

Psalm 27:4 says, "One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple."

People who don't like each other will glance at one another. People who like each other will look at one another. People who are desperately in love will gaze at each other.

Isaac Watts used another word to say the same thing in his famous hymn "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross." Survey, gaze, ponder and meditate on the love of God. May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's patience.

Two Responses

Something in this article may awaken in you—deep calls to deep. Maybe you're thinking, I want more of what he's talking about.

Settle it today, in your heart and in your mind, that you will pursue a sweeter taste, a deeper experience, a clearer glimpse of the love of God and the patience of Christ. Go after it. And don't ever stop.

For others, this message does not so much sound like a church bell drawing you in as an alarm clock waking you up.

If you have no response to the love of God, shouldn't you be concerned about the condition of your soul? I hope you'll ask, "What is wrong with me? I have no interest in the love of God. Why am I so satisfied, when others are hungry and thirsty for God?"

Perhaps God will use this article to awaken you from the deadness of spirit in which you have been sleeping for far too long.

by Colin Smith at April 21, 2014 05:01 AM

512 Pixels

The American Conservative » Articles

What Ever Happened to the Rule of Law?

President Obama signed Ted Cruz’s bill barring visas for ambassadors suspected of terror ties—aimed squarely at Iran—into law Friday. He then made clear he will not enforce it.

In a signing statement, Obama said he would treat the new law as “advisory in circumstances in which it would interfere with the exercise” of his constitutional discretion to receive or reject ambassadors.

Candidate Obama was critical of George W. Bush’s presidential signing statements. “[W]hat George Bush has been trying to do, as part of his effort to accumulate more power in the presidency,” Obama said during a 2008 campaign appearance, “he’s been saying I can basically change what Congress passed by attaching a letter saying I don’t agree with this part or I don’t agree with that part, I’m going to choose to interpret it this way or that way.”

“That’s not part of his power, but this is part of the whole theory of George Bush that he can make laws as he goes along,” Obama added. “I disagree with that. I taught the Constitution for 10 years. I believe in the Constitution and I will obey the Constitution of the United States. We’re not going to use signing statements as a way of doing an end-run around Congress.”

Republicans have been critical of Obama’s assertions of executive power, ranging from his unilateral delays of key Obamacare provisions to his contested use of recess appointments. On issues like immigration and the Justice Department going to bat for the Defense of Marriage Act, they have argued that the president should be following the rule of law.

Yet few of these Republicans were similarly fastidious about executive power during GOP administrations. Thus we are treated to the spectacle of former Bush legal adviser John Yoo, who memorably performed some verbal gymnastics about whether the president has the power to order a child’s testicles crushed, fretting about Obama’s “serious violation of the separation of powers” over a National Labor Relations Board recess appointment.

Some of the same people who remind Americans that this is a nation of laws when the subject is illegal immigration applaud Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy in his standoff with the federal Bureau of Land Management. Others, perhaps in a somewhat more tongue-in-cheek fashion, urge young people to burn their Obamacare cards and defy the individual mandate to purchase health insurance.

From high school civics to national political debates, we repeat the phrase “government of laws, not men.” Is this still true or have we in fact become a government of men and women rather than laws?

Many exercises in situational constitutionalism can be explained by partisanship or political opportunism. In this writer’s opinion, Yoo is wrong on testicles and right about the Senate’s power to determine when it is in recess. Sometimes the rule of law is more complicated, however.

President Obama is right that Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution gives him the power to “receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers.” Candidate Obama was right that Article I, Section 7 gives the president only two options in dealing with bills passed by Congress: “sign it” or “return it.”

Moreover, a country is a nation of laws not simply because the people comply with the dictates of the government. The rule of law depends on the government obeying the law—including the Constitution. Simply allowing government to decide for itself what the law is isn’t likely to keep government power limited.

If checks and balances, federalism, and the Supreme Court all fail, doesn’t that mean the people must have some recourse? Thus the veneration of “Dreamers” by some and Bundy’s grazing fees rebellion by others. They invariably point out that the republic was born of revolution.

The columnist George Will irritated many Ron Paul supporters when he wrote that Paul “believes, with more stubbornness than evidence, that the federal government is a government of strictly enumerated powers.” Will continued, “Even before the Founders’ generation passed from the scene, the government was slipping off the leash that Madison said and Paul says the Constitution puts on it.”

If meant as an objective observation about the growth of government and not a value judgment in favor of virtually unlimited federal power, is Will really that far off? As another more constitutionally-minded columnist once put it, “The U.S. Constitution poses no serious threat to our form of government.”

W. James Antle III is editor of the Daily Caller News Foundation and author of Devouring Freedom: Can Big Government Ever Be Stopped?

by W. James Antle III at April 21, 2014 04:02 AM

J.D. Bentley and His Indecipherable Scribblings | Journal

The Aesthetic Pleasure of Meleagris Gallopavo

I firmly grasped the bottle’s neck as I pulled it from the shelf and as long as it was necessary to keep it in the air I gripped it as tightly as I could, resting its bottom on my other hand whenever possible. No way in hell was I going to lose it to the unforgiving solidity of a supermarket floor.

Even when I got it in the shopping cart, I did not want to risk it tipping over and flooding the cork with that priceless honey-red nectar or cracking the fragile glass that had kept it from Kentucky to here. That would be six years and $30 dollars wasted. I packed it into a corner surrounded by no less than six one-liter bottles of water and kept a close eye on it for the duration of our errand. I had been trying to procure a bottle of bourbon so long that I was wholly convinced that now that I had found it—no easy task in Rio de Janeiro—it was conspiring to make itself unavailable to me yet again.

Even though it was never in any real danger, I had waited such a time to acquire it that I felt that getting it back home would be nothing short of a miracle. And yet, not an hour after I had tucked it in the back corner of the cart, it set completely unscathed on the kitchen table, ready for consumption, ready to be enjoyed.

It often happens that on a journey to faraway lands, one runs into fellow tourists who hail from the same region or the same state or the next county over, people that ought to have been run into back at home. In the same way, traveling to Brazil led me to this very personal encounter with some Meleagris Gallopavo, the great Wild Turkey, 81 proof, aged six years in charred oak barrels and transported straight from Lawrenceburg to a Mundial in Tijuca.

In the weeks preceding this moment, I had sought the advice of my father. I hadn’t the faintest idea what constituted good alcohol, even less an idea about what constituted good bourbon. Back home, I had taken a sip of cheap beer. Not much different than a fizzy rotten nail polish. I once bought some Walmart brand Merlot that boasted “hints of tobacco and cherry”, and damn it if it didn’t taste just like someone had spit chewing tobacco into an unsweetened Mountain Dew Code Red. Absolutely disgusting.

As it turned out, my dad, along with his friend Kevin, had recently gotten back into bourbon drinking (no doubt a decent pastime to pick up in the exceptionally snowy winter of early 2014). Shortly before I traded in the backbeat chop of a mandolin for the incessant beating of samba drums, I had visited him in his garage. He offered a sip of Wild Turkey, but I could not have been less interested. And now I had been dreaming of doing so for months. How foolish I had been.

Until this year, my dad had been a Wild Turkey man as far as good bourbons go. Wild Turkey 101. That was before he got his hands on a bottle of Bulleit. As much as I love the Wild Turkey label, choosing on bottle alone I’d have reached for a Bulleit. But it’s not just the bottling or branding that makes Bulleit superior. He extols its ineffable flavor, falling short of any accurate description, only saying that its something like butterscotch. The best bourbon he’s ever had.

As far as I know, there is no Bulleit to be found in Rio de Janeiro. Earlier this year, a Jim Beam teased me from the shelves of an international market, but that market was staged in a sort of civic center in Barra (a notoriously rich neighborhood). Even if I had thought to buy it, I couldn’t have. Other than that I had only ever seen Jack Daniels. Plenty of Jack Daniels here and plenty of Brazilians who like to wear its black label on their t-shirts. While Jack Daniels is made in a very similar way to bourbon, and while it’s produced by a Louisville, KY company, Jack Daniels is decidedly not bourbon and thus has no appeal for me whatsoever.

Literally my only option, then, was this quite affordable bottle of Wild Turkey 81, a variety specifically suited to cocktails, but which I intended to drink neat.

I set the bottle on a wood plank surface to snap a picture for my father, something to email him later announcing that I’d joined the club, that despite this temporary absence I was still a Kentuckian through and through. Now more than ever.

I twisted the cap and broke the seal then pulled the cork out. I leaned down, put my nose over the opening, and breathed in. It was unlike any alcohol I had ever smelled. First, I coughed as my nostrils and throat filled with a stinging heat, but after it settled I was left with only the faintest sense of the alcohol itself. On top of it were very distinct odors. Now, I’m certainly no connoisseur of bourbon and I have no idea how I ought to be describing what I smelled, so forgive me, but it impressed upon me these characteristics: a subtle fruitiness; a much more apparent spiciness that I would say is comparable to hot cinnamon candy; and above all, the scent of charred oak, of fire and wood infused right into that heavenly elixir.

Given my record with alcohol, I didn’t have high hopes for my experiment. I fully expected that the most I would have accomplished that day would be to have utterly wasted $30. I had never liked any alcohol, why would this be any different? I vocalized my doubts only to be interrupted by Carla.

“You’ll like it,” she said.

“What makes you so sure?” I ask.

“Because you’ll make yourself like it.”

I wasn’t so convinced of that outcome as she was, but I could see her point. I had obsessed about bourbon for months as a mild therapy to treat my very severe homesickness. It wasn’t the bourbon itself, which I had never tasted, that I wanted so badly. It was to be reconnected with the traditions of my people, with the life I used to have and will have again some day. I had and have no interest in getting drunk and it’s certainly no display of status to sit alone and sip Kentucky whiskey. I was only in it for the sacrament, for the aesthetic pleasure of sipping a bit of home. Even if I would absolutely hate it otherwise, it was impossible to hate it now. I might not like it, but I would never disrespect it.

I poured it, room temperature, into a squat glass tumbler, one which I thought most resembled a glass from which better men than I would drink bourbon. I filled it a third of the way full and held it to my nose again. Out of the narrow bottle, the odor was even more intense. I was eager to give it a try.

I held it up and let the first drops slide past my lips. My tongue sizzled, my mouth filled with a hot air and its vapors singed my nostrils as I exhaled. The taste was unlike anything I had ever had before. It was smoother and softer than either the beer or the wine I had tasted previously. The scents I had taken in on opening the bottle were now dancing across my tastebuds: the wood, the cinnamon, the smoke. Not only did I find the flavor tolerable, I found it outright enjoyable.

Add on top of that all the sentimental and spiritual expectations I had already affixed to that first glass and you can imagine the exact sort of joy I was experiencing. This wasn’t just alcohol. This wasn’t just some liquid swishing around in a cup. This was a religious experience and a way of life, at once representative of everything I hope for.

Of rowdy fall nights by a bonfire and quiet sunsets from the front porch swing; of writing books and racing horses; of comfortable routine and desperate adventure; of hiking the trails of Appalachia and staring up from the foot of the Sugarloaf Mountain.

Of the ordinary, of the extraordinary, and, most importantly, of the sacred, the bond that ties me to my Creator and to the hills of old Kentucky.

April 21, 2014 04:00 AM

Embedded in Academia

Find the Integer Bug

Not all of the functions below are correct. The first person to leave a comment containing a minimal fix to a legitimate bug will get a small prize. I’m posting this not because the bug is particularly subtle or interesting but rather because I wrote this code for a piece about integer overflow and thought — wrongly, as usual — that I could get this stuff right the first time.

By “legitimate bug” I mean a bug that would cause the function to execute undefined behavior or return an incorrect result using GCC or Clang on Linux on x86 or x64 — I’m not interested in unexpected implementation-defined integer truncation behaviors, patches for failures under K&R C on a VAX-11, or style problems. For convenience, here are GCC’s implementation-defined behaviors for integers. I don’t know that Clang has a section in the manual about this but in general we expect its integers to behave like GCC’s.

#include <limits.h>
#include <stdint.h>

 * specification:
 * perform 32-bit two's complement addition on arguments a and b
 * store the result into *rp
 * return 1 if overflow occurred, 0 otherwise

int32_t checked_add_1(int32_t a, int32_t b, int32_t *rp) {
  int64_t lr = (int64_t)a + (int64_t)b;
  *rp = lr;
  return lr > INT32_MAX || lr < INT32_MIN;

int32_t checked_add_2(int32_t a, int32_t b, int32_t *rp) {
  int32_t r = (uint32_t)a + (uint32_t)b;
  *rp = r;
    (a < 0 && b < 0 && r > 0) ||
    (a > 0 && b > 0 && r < 0);

int32_t checked_add_3(int32_t a, int32_t b, int32_t *rp) {
  if (b > 0 && a > INT32_MAX - b) {
    *rp =  (a + INT32_MIN) + (b + INT32_MIN);
    return 1;
  if (b < 0 && a < INT32_MIN - b) {
    *rp =  (a - INT32_MIN) + (b - INT32_MIN);
    return 1;
  *rp = a + b;
  return 0;

UPDATE: The prize has been awarded, see comment 5. The prize is an Amazon gift certificate for $27.49 — the cost of the kindle edition of Hacker’s Delight.

by regehr at April 21, 2014 03:42 AM


William James and James Fitzjames Stephen

William James's essay, "The Will to Believe", is widely read by philosophers, but one thing that I have never seen anyone remark upon is the relation of the essay to the work of James Fitzjames Stephen. Nonetheless, there is good reason to explore the relation, not least because James opens the essay with an anecdote about Fitzjames Stephen and closes with a quotation from Stephen's Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity, which is an attack on Mill's On Liberty.

Like Mill, Stephen was a utilitarian. Like Mill, he was a liberal. Unlike Mill, he was what would have been at the time a more typical representative of both. It can be difficult for modern philosophers to put themselves back into that frame of reference, but it really is quite important for understanding both. Mill's On Liberty may be a standard text of what we call classical liberalism, but many liberals in his day considered it to be a dubious contribution to liberalism. And the reverse is also true; James Stephen often gets branded as a conservative, but he was a reformer and liberal through and through -- he just thought that Mill's version of liberalism was incoherent and that it cut off too many of the means by which genuine reforms could be furthered. This is precisely what Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity is: an argument that a coherent liberalism involves the use of means that Mill's ideas ruled out of court. In particular, he argues that genuine reform requires the use of government force in the interests of morality and religion, and that it is not only undesirable but impossible to regulate a nation and maintain it on a path of progress entirely by free discussion, with coercion only being used to stop or remedy definite cases of harm.

One of the things that Stephen considers problematic about Mill's account is that his restriction of coercion (not just government coercion but also the coercion of public opinion) amounts to an insistence that certain kinds of passions -- like fears -- should not be part of one's system of governance. This would have been very high on Stephen's list of concerns; when he wrote Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity, he was traveling back from India, where he had been on the Colonial Council and had been working on drafting laws to reduce the power of the caste system -- for instance, he was responsible for new rules of evidence according to which there was only one standard of evidence for everyone, regardless of caste or religion. While Mill very carefully formulates his harm principle so that it does not directly interfere with colonial policies (a fact usually overlooked in discussions of On Liberty), people like Stephen did not see themselves as doing in India anything other than the same kind of thing that utilitarian and liberal reformers were doing in Britain itself -- they were just at a different stage of progress. Stephen considers Mill's restriction of compulsion to be both detrimental to progress and inconsistent with human nature. Human beings, when deeply interested, as in cases of morality or religion, are drawn to the insistence that everybody should be on board with whatever moral or religious principle they are deeply interested in; it is not possible, in the statistical main, to have a society in which this has no effect whatsoever. This is not purely restricted to moral and religious matters, although those are the ones with which Stephen is primarily concerned; Stephen notes the acrimony that builds up in fairly abstract disputes and takes it to be the sign of an obvious fact, that we are not, and are not capable of being, purely neutral, however much we might try to hide it. Feelings occupy a great deal of our decisions and reasoning.

It is when considering this aspect in the context of religion that Stephen makes the remarks James quotes:

What do you think of yourself? What do you think of the world?...These are questions with which all must deal as it seems good to them. They are riddles of the Sphinx, and in some way or other we must deal with them. . . . In all important transactions of life we have to take a leap in the dark....If we decide to leave the riddles unanswered, that is a choice; if we waver in our answer, that, too, is a choice: but whatever choice we make, we make it at our peril. If a man chooses to turn his back altogether on God and the future, no one can prevent him; no one can show beyond reasonable doubt that he is mistaken. If a man thinks otherwise and acts as he thinks, I do not see that any one can prove that he is mistaken. Each must act as he thinks best; and if he is wrong, so much the worse for him. We stand on a mountain pass in the midst of whirling snow and blinding mist through which we get glimpses now and then of paths which may be deceptive. If we stand still we shall be frozen to death. If we take the wrong road we shall be dashed to pieces. We do not certainly know whether there is any right one. What must we do? ' Be strong and of a good courage.' Act for the best, hope for the best, and take what comes....If death ends all, we cannot meet death better.

James, of course, is not committed to Stephen's broader ethical and political views, just as Stephen is not committed to James's own ideas. There are certainly aspects of thought that James shares more with Mill than Stephen. But it's impossible not to recognize that Stephen's attack on Millian liberalism has broad resemblances to James's attack on Cliffordian ethics of belief. They both deny that the matters in question -- politics in the case of Stephen, inquiry in the case of James -- can be purely abstract; they both insist that the passions play an important and ineliminable role in guidance of their respective fields of discussion, and in some ways the important role; they are both insisting on what today would be called naturalizing the fields in question -- they are taking some normative principle held by their respective proponents on purely abstract principles and insisting on subordinating it to psychological facts; they both insist on the importance of action to our beliefs.

by Brandon ( at April 21, 2014 03:06 AM

The Frailest Thing

An Update

I occasionally feel inexplicably compelled to give you, dear reader, an update of sorts on the progress of my studies and, also, a state-of-the-blog as it were. You may, understandably, find such posts tedious and uninteresting, in which case stop reading now and move on to whatever serendipity places before you next.

For the rest of you, I’ll keep this brief. As I mentioned a few months ago, after a year away from my studies, I was finally getting around to my candidacy exams. Happily, I’ve now completed those successfully. This was, as you might guess, a great relief. Hopefully, it means that I’ve now, well into my fourth decade, finally taken my last formal exam.

A dissertation will, I trust, be forthcoming over the course of the next year … or two, hopefully no longer than that. If you’ve been reading for awhile, you know that I’ve suggested more than one possible path for my research. In fact, reading through the posts on this blog may give you a good sense of how my interests have drifted here and there over the past three to four years. That said, my plan is still fuzzy, but I’m taking Hannah Arendt’s injunction as my starting point: “What I propose, therefore, is very simple: it is nothing more than to think what we are doing.” I’m asking how we might answer that call in our present technological milieu, considering, specifically, the speed at which thought must unfold and the complexity of that with which it must grapple. I’ll be working to solidify my research plan this summer. If you’ve got any sources that you think might apply, feel free to send them my way. 

Here on the blog, posts will come more or less as they have been for the past two months or so. And while I don’t usually plan my posts very far in advance, I have had three posts in various stages of composition that you can look for over the next few weeks.

One of these considers how stories shape our understanding of technology. Another will explore a curious pattern of user responses to Google Glass. Finally, 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. The war deeply impacted attitudes toward technology in the west, and I’m working on an essay that explores the nature and extent of that impact. Hope you’ll enjoy those as they appear.



by Michael Sacasas at April 21, 2014 12:49 AM

One Big Fluke

April 20, 2014

don't code today what you can't debug tomorrow

JavaScript Unit Tests and Code Coverage Tracking using Venus.js

These days, having enough unit tests for a JavaScript-based web application/library is the bare minimum. Ideally, the code coverage of those tests is also monitored in a day-to-day development situation. Fortunately, this is easy to do with a modern test runner such as Venus.js.

Named after the famous Venus flytrap, Venus.js was originated at LinkedIn Engineering group to facilitate its JavaScript testing activities. Venus.js is pretty comprehensive, it supports unit tests written for a number of test libraries: Mocha (default), Jasmine, and QUnit. Venus.js is easy to install and to use, I recommend reading its excellent Getting Started tutorial.

For the demonstration of code coverage, I prepare a Git repository If you want to follow along, just clone it and check its contents.

First, let’s take a look at the code we want to test. This is just a DIY implementation of the square root function, it can’t be simpler than:

var My = {
    sqrt: function(x) {
        if (x < 0) throw new Error("sqrt can't work on negative number");
        return Math.exp(Math.log(x)/2);

In order to maximize the test coverage, the unit tests for the above My.sqrt() function needs to check for normal square root operation and also when it is supposed to throw an exception. This is available in the test/test.sqrt.js file (based on Mocha) which looks like the following:

 * @venus-library mocha
 * @venus-code ../sqrt.js
describe("sqrt", function() {
  it("should compute the square root of 4 as 2", function() {

One notable feature of Venus.js is its zero-configuration design. In the above example, we don’t need to write any HTML to serve the code and the test. Venus.js uses an annotation approach. You can see the use of @venus-code to specify the file containing the code we want to test (i.e. the implementation of My.sqrt) and @venus-library to choose the testing library (i.e. Mocha). Everything else will be taken care of automatically.

If Venus.js is properly installed, executing the test is a matter of running:

venus test/test.sqrt.js -e ghost

which gives the following result:


In the test invocation, the option -e ghost indicates that the tests are to be executed headlessly using PhantomJS (again, another nice built-in feature of Venus.js). Of course, Venus.js supports other testing environments and it can run the tests on real web browsers or even via Selenium Grid or Sauce Labs.

How to show the code coverage of the tests? It is a matter of adding another option:

venus test/test.sqrt.js -e ghost --coverage

Behind the scene, Venus.js uses Istanbul, an excellent JavaScript instrumentation and code coverage tool. Running the test with coverage tracking will add a few more lines of report. Thanks to Istanbul, all three types of code coverage (statements, functions, branches) will be tracked accordingly.


Another very useful feature of Venus.js is the ability to mix-and-match tests written using a different library. This is illustrated in the example repo. Instead of only test/test.sqrt.js, you also spot two additional files with their own set of unit tests: test/test.extensive.js and test/test.error.js. The former adds more checks on the square root functionality (probably excessive, but you got the point) while the latter detects some more corner cases. What is interesting here is that test.extensive.js relies on Jasmine while test.error.js is written using QUnit.

If you check the package manifest, what npm test actually runs is:

venus test --coverage -e ghost

In other words, Venus.js will locate all the test files in the test/ directory and execute them. In this case, we have three (3) test files using different test libraries and Venus.js will handle them just fine. Isn’t it nice?

In the past, I have explained the use of Karma and Istanbul to track code coverage of JavaScript unit tests written using Jasmine, QUnit, and Mocha. However, if Karma is not your cup of tea or if your different subteams would like to use different test libraries, then perhaps Venus.js can be the solution for you.

Have fun trapping those bugs!

by Ariya Hidayat at April 20, 2014 11:52 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Weekly review: Week ending April 18, 2014

More coding, yay! Next week, I’m going to focus on writing more tutorials for Emacs. Also, lots of Emacs conversations. Emacs Emacs Emacs Emacs… =)

Blog posts


  1. 2014.04.13 Lion cut
  2. 2014.04.16 Book – Mastery – Robert Greene

Link round-up

Focus areas and time review

  • Business (24.6h – 14%)
    • Earn (14.7h – 59% of Business)
      • [ ] Earn: E1: 2.5-3.5 days of consulting
      • [X] E1: Rename groups
      • [X] Earn: E1: 2.5-3.5 days of consulting
      • [X] Earn – M: Revise sketch
    • Build (5.9h – 24% of Business)
      • [X] Make sure all of my blogs are updated to WordPress 3.9
      • [X] Upgrade Linode
      • Drawing (3.5h)
        • [X] Sketchnote a book – Mastery – Robert Greene
      • Delegation (0.6h)
        • [ ] Brainstorm more tasks
      • Packaging (0.1h)
      • Paperwork (0.6h)
      • Emacs
        • [ ] Add more sections to Emacs Lisp tutorial
        • [ ] Invite bbatsov for an Emacs Chat
        • [ ] Record session on learning keyboard shortcuts
        • [X] Emacs: Get beeminder code to support time-today
        • [X] Emacs: Figure out why todo list does not filter by statu
        • [X] Talk to JJW about Emacs and Org
        • [X] Set up project view
        • [X] List TODOs by project
        • [X] Hook Beeminder into Gnus to track sent messages
        • [X] Figure out Org publishing
        • [X] Figure out why column view is hard to read
        • [X] Fix keymap in beeminder.el
        • [X] Get beeminder code to prompt for value
        • [X] Emacs: Track the number of tasks I have and what states they’re in
        • [X] Chat with splintercdo (Janis) about literate programming
        • [X] Add colour coding to 2048 game for Emacs
    • Connect (4.0h – 16% of Business)
  • Relationships (6.1h – 3%)
    • [X] Go to RJ White’s semi-retirement party
    • [ ] Raspberry Pi: Extract blob pixels and try to classify cats
    • [ ] Raspberry Pi: Use bounding rectangle to guess litterbox use
  • Discretionary – Productive (27.6h – 16%)
    • [X] Ask neighbours if anyone wants to split a bulk order of compost with us
    • [X] Update my unscheduled tasks and add time estimates
    • [ ] Prepare litter box analysis presentation
    • Writing (11.7h)
  • Discretionary – Play (7.3h – 4%)
  • Personal routines (26.0h – 15%)
  • Unpaid work (12.8h – 7%)
  • Sleep (64.0h – 38% – average of 9.1 per day)

The post Weekly review: Week ending April 18, 2014 appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at April 20, 2014 11:12 PM

Embedded in Academia

Research Advice from Alan Adler

Although I am a happy French press user, I enjoyed reading an article about Alan Adler and the AeroPress that showed up recently on Hacker News. In particular, I love Adler’s advice to inventors:

  1. Learn all you can about the science behind your invention.
  2. Scrupulously study the existing state of your idea by looking at current products and patents.
  3. Be willing to try things even if you aren’t too confident they’ll work. Sometimes you’ll get lucky.
  4. Try to be objective about the value of your invention. People get carried away with the thrill of inventing and waste good money pursuing something that doesn’t work any better than what’s already out there.
  5. You don’t need a patent in order to sell an invention. A patent is not a business license; it’s a permission to be the sole maker of product (even this is limited to 20 years).

Now notice that (disregarding the last suggestion) we can simply replace “invention” with “research project” and Adler’s suggestions become a great set of principles for doing research. I think #4 is particularly important: lacking the feedback that people in the private sector get from product sales (or not), us academics are particularly susceptible to falling in love with pretty ideas that don’t improve anything.

by regehr at April 20, 2014 11:10 PM

Greg Mankiw's Blog

Transitory Income and the One Percent

From today's NY Times:
Thomas A. Hirschl of Cornell and I [Mark Rank of Wash U] looked at 44 years of longitudinal data regarding individuals from ages 25 to 60 to see what percentage of the American population would experience these different levels of affluence during their lives. The results were striking. 
It turns out that 12 percent of the population will find themselves in the top 1 percent of the income distribution for at least one year. What’s more, 39 percent of Americans will spend a year in the top 5 percent of the income distribution, 56 percent will find themselves in the top 10 percent, and a whopping 73 percent will spend a year in the top 20 percent of the income distribution.... 
It is clear that the image of a static 1 and 99 percent is largely incorrect. The majority of Americans will experience at least one year of affluence at some point during their working careers. (This is just as true at the bottom of the income distribution scale, where 54 percent of Americans will experience poverty or near poverty at least once between the ages of 25 and 60).... 
Rather than talking about the 1 percent and the 99 percent as if they were forever fixed, it would make much more sense to talk about the fact that Americans are likely to be exposed to both prosperity and poverty during their lives, and to shape our policies accordingly. As such, we have much more in common with one another than we dare to realize.

by Greg Mankiw ( at April 20, 2014 11:03 PM