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August 05, 2014

One Big Fluke

My last deploy of Quilla was 528 days, 0:39:22 ago. I have done zero maintenance in that time. This is the dream of PaaS.

by Brett Slatkin (noreply@blogger.com) at August 05, 2014 06:21 AM

From plastic 3D print to milled aluminum — Making a bicycle gear shifter

Earlier this year I spent 30 days designing and 3D-printing a bicycle gear shifter for the Shimano 8 speed internal hub. The goal was to make one for my Mission Bicycle. I wrote about the experience here. After posting that story I worked with the team to revise the design. Here's the result as a plastic prototype. I've been pedaling around with this for the past few months.



My next goal was to find a machinist to turn this part into 6061 aluminum for strength and durability. I searched around the SF Bay Area and found a few machine shops. A couple folks I contacted never responded. One replied but declined because they couldn't open my 3D design files. Another met me in person, but wasn't excited about the project (his primary business is building things that go into space!).

Finally, a friend of mine connected me to someone whose day job is running a machine shop. For the sake of privacy I'll refer to him as "the machinist". It's important to note that there's no way any of what follows would have happened without their work. I'm grateful for all of their effort on the project. I've just been along for the ride.


Design for manufacturing

The machinist also had problems opening my CAD files (from 123D Design — $10/month). The issue is the DWG files exported by one company's software can't always be imported by another company's software. There are tools out there for format conversions (like Teigha) but they aren't good enough. Professionals seem to use Solidworks (MSRP: $5000) over Autodesk. It's the Cadillac of CAD. I can't afford it.

Luckily, I found a free tool by the makers of Solidworks called Draftsight that can be used to open and annotate the DWG files from Autodesk products. As long as it could be opened in Draftsight it could also be opened in Solidworks. When it didn't work I knew something in my model was funky and needed to be fixed.

Once the machinist could open my files we went through another cycle of design tweaking. There were a lot of things I thought were simple to mill out of aluminum that turned out to be impossible. Machining is really an art form like blacksmithing. It's full of arcane knowledge. The only way to learn is to actually use the tools and gain experience from your mistakes. Here's the final design for manufacturing, which looks better than the original.




Milling the part

With the final design in hand I bought all of the parts to build and assemble a prototype. I got the screws, washers, and ball springs from McMaster-Carr. I bought aluminum from TCI Aluminum. Machinists call raw uncut aluminum blocks "blanks". A blank is the starting material that is cut down to the final part by the CNC machine. Here's what my blanks looked like.



You normally buy 12 foot long bars of aluminum that best fit the profile of your part. Then you cut it yourself to size. Here's what that process looks like. It's quite a saw.



Here is the inside of the Haas VF-2SSYT 3-axis mill (MSRP: $72,000 — as configured $100,000+) that we used.



The control panel on the right lets you modify the program before or while it runs. What you see in the middle on a spindle is the business end of the machine. Here's a picture of the 3 inch diameter facing endmill. It's hardened steel and extremely heavy. It has carbide inserts so it doesn't wear down too quickly.



While the mill is doing its work it needs to change tools for particular cuts. To do this it has an enormous cache of end mills that can be changed automatically by the machine. This lets the machine cut, drill, face, and tap without human intervention. The machine uses a robot arm and compressed air fittings to swap the bits. It takes less than a second to swap (insane!). Here's a picture of the revolving cache, about 10 feet off the ground.



The mill is a dumb machine like a computer. It runs programs in G-Code, which describe where to move the cutting bits in XYZ coordinates. The mill does little to ensure the G-Code is valid. If the G-Code said to bash the bit into the vise the machine would do it. It's similar to how a bad set of instructions can crash a computer program.

The G-Code comes from CAD software that's the machinist's equivalent of a compiler (Mastercam and HSMWorks are popular tools). The CAD lets you build a set of "operations". An operation is all of the various cuts you need to make in one side of an aluminum blank. This can include multiple passes by many different types of cutting tools. The software doesn't automatically convert your 3D model into operations. You need to manually look at the outlines of the part and come up with a series of "tool paths" for the cutting blades to follow. The hope is the cuts will result in your design by subtracting from the aluminum blank. Machinists call this conversion process "programming".

One of the coolest things the design software can do is simulate the mill in action. It's like a highly sophisticated interactive debugger. Here's what it looks like.



Once you have the G-Code you put it on a USB stick and upload it to the mill. Then you put the blank in the machine and clamp it down with a vise. You bang it with a dead blow hammer to make sure it's seated properly. Then you use the mill control panel and it's 1000 buttons to tell the machine to measure the XYZ coordinate of one of the blank's corners. This tells the mill where to start cutting so you get exactly the physical object that you expect. Here's one blank in the vise.



You can see aluminum shavings all over the inside of the mill. Those are the "chips" from the end mill. There's also this weird fluid on everything. That's lubricating coolant to ensure the end mills don't overheat while they're spinning at 8000+ RPM and cutting. When the machine's actually going you can't see anything because coolant is everywhere. But the cutting sound is extremely loud. Here's a video of the machine making a cut.



The bike shifter ended up being 7 operations in all. 3 were for the base that goes over the steering tube. 4 were for the knob that pulls the shifter cable. The design also required 3 different pairs of "soft jaws", which are essentially jigs that hold the aluminum blanks in place to handle mating surfaces that aren't square.

I was surprised by how important it is to hold the aluminum blank properly in the mill. It significantly affects how you choose the order of your operations. Each operation must leave on enough "fixture stock" to let you grip the part from the opposing side until everything is square or fits in a soft jaw. Here you can see each step in cutting the shifter's base piece and the various fixtures.







The shifter knob provided an additional challenge because it was important that all of the cuts for the center hole and ball springs were concentric. Here's what the blank looked like after each operation for the knob.








Built and biking

At last! It's all done. Here's the shifter actually mounted on my bicycle.





And here's what it looks like from the top when you're riding it.



For the next month we'll try these prototypes and see how they feel. We'll probably make some design revisions and update the G-Code programs accordingly. We'll get some anodized in black. Once that's done I'm hoping we'll do a manufacturing run at a local machine shop. I'd like to start putting these on Mission Bikes and selling them to anyone who likes the Nexus 8 hub. Let me know if you're interested in getting one!

by Brett Slatkin (noreply@blogger.com) at August 05, 2014 04:18 AM

512 Pixels

The Outlaw Way

140805

WL

1) 3 Position Clean (Floor, Hang, Power Position – do not drop bar) + 1 Jerk (after Clean complex): Max for the complex + Jerk – 1X1@95%, 1X1@90%

2) Jerk from blocks: 3RM – 3X1@95%, 3X1@90%

Accessories

Paused Clean Pull (3 count pause at knee): 5X3 – heaviest possible

Strength

1a) 3X8 Bench Press – heavier than last week w/ no pause or loss of speed

1b) 3X8 Jumping Good Mornings – heavier than last week DEMO VIDEO

The post 140805 appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by rudy.coach at August 05, 2014 02:50 AM

Power

1) 3 Position Clean (Floor, Hang, Power Position – do not drop bar): Max for the complex

Accessories

1) 3XME UB Strict Muscle-Ups + ME UB Kipping Muscle-Ups (drop down after ME Strict set, and reset for Kipping set with no more than :10 break) – rest 90 sec.

Conditioning

For time:

Run 400m
20 TTB
30 Thrusters 65/45#
Run 800m
30 Thrusters 65/45#
20 TTB
run 400m

Do Work…

The post appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by John Dill at August 05, 2014 01:44 AM

140805

Static Shaping
2×1:00 Hollow Hold on Back
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2×1:00 Arch Hold on Stomach
photo 2-3

Active Shaping
3×12 Arch to Hollow Swing DEMO

Skills and Drills
3×8 Pull-Up Levers to Horizontal DEMO

The post 140805 appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by Kaitlin at August 05, 2014 01:28 AM

CrossFit Naptown

A Fond Farewell

Tuesday’s Workout:

Strength:
Back Squat Every 3 Minutes
3-3-3-3-3

Skill WOD:
15 Heavy Swings
7 Ring Dips
Alternating On the Minute 16:00

**A note on the strength cycle: Welcome to the next portion of the CFNT strength cycle. Today marks the start of the 3 rep portion of the cycle. The goal should be to begin your sets of 3 reps where you finished your 5 rep sets during the five by fives (which all of you will know because you wrote down your scores). That is the base to work off of and you can build from there for the rest of the sets. More on the strength cycle will be coming your way when we get further along:)

Tuesday Fundamentals Class 7:00pm:

Wall Balls
Hand Stand Push Ups

 

Farewell from Coach Cantrell

As some of you may or may not already know, today will be coach Jared Cantrell’s last day with CrossFit NapTown. He has been a part of this community from the very beginning and has helped it to grow in many ways. He has been a coach, friend, teammate, and many more to people in this gym and his bearded presence will be sorely missed. It is with a heavy heart that we send him off on the next chapter of his CrossFit career and wish him well in his endeavors. Here is a letter from the man himself as he says goodbye to CrossFit NapTown.

 

“Dear CFNT community. I want to say thank you for all you have been over the past three years. You have been friends, confidants, encouragers, accountability partners, and team mates. I walked into this box before the first class ever took place and have made it my second home since. It is definitely pleasure mingled with pain knowing that I will now be taking a different direction as I open up my own gym. I want to sincerely thank each one of you. You may not know it, but everyone I have come in contact with while there has had a positive influence in my life whether from a smile or furrowed brow, I have enjoyed watching you reach for your own goals. Jared and Peter have been a great support to me during good times and bad and have proven to be great friends. I am proud to have trained and coached with you, and I will always have the life-long memory of representing my home state and city as well as this box in The CrossFit Games. This is not farewell since I am not moving far, but it is the start of a new chapter. “

 

 

 

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by Anna at August 05, 2014 01:01 AM

August 04, 2014

The Outlaw Way

140805

5 Observations from the 2014 CrossFit Games:

3) The programming this year was not only the best we’ve seen to date IMO, but – almost more importantly – it was also the most complementary to the Regionals and the process by which the Games athletes were selected.

Case in point: According to their worldwide ranking after Regionals – 8 of the top 10 men, and 7 of the top 10 women – ended up in the top 10 at that 2014 Games. NOT TO MENTION, the Regional rankings predicted BOTH the male and female winner, and two of the top three finishers on both the men’s and women’s side.

So what does this mean?

It means that the Games were not a wildly separate event from the qualifiers. In the past there have been multiple Regional standouts who got to the Games, and because of the deviation from the styles of tests that were used at Regionals, were not so standout. For instance; in 2012 Team Outlaw qualified an entire group of 220# monsters who could Snatch anything and were good enough at HSPU, and muscle-ups to get through the Regional with ease. Then our group of human tanks got hit with Pendleton, Broad Jumps, 115# Split Snatches, and nothing heavier than 205# power cleans for twenty reps. They had qualified by one-arm snatching the dreaded 100# dumbbell 50 times, maxing their collectively massive snatches, hang cleaning 225# thirty times, and finished by deadlifting 345# for twenty-one reps in between some Muscle-ups. Needless to say, it was not a fun Games for the group of horses we brought (except “The Mayor” Chad MacKay, who runs like the wind and swims like a dolphin).

Now don’t start with a bunch of “Rudy says the Games programming wasn’t good before this year” bullshit… That’s not at all what I’m saying. Our big boys weren’t up to the challenge of the Games in 2012. Frankly I’d rather have had them tested out at Regionals, than showing up in Carson with a group of knives at an all out gunfight. 2014 simply did the best job to date of picking the right group of athletes, for the task at hand.

From a spectator standpoint every event this year was easy to follow, and had some sort of built in drama. Yes, “The Beach” wasn’t great, but no one watches the Wednesday workouts anyway, and the whole notion of swimming around that pier added some drama for me – mostly because I hate swimming, and I would have surely died. The use of the soccer stadium was perfect, and the gigantic monolithic rig that Rogue put in the middle of the field was the first exercise wonder of the world. The sled and sprint carry races were fun to watch and short enough to keep the viewers attention, and the “Muscle-Up Biathlon” was easily one of my five favorite events ever. The tennis stadium events were obviously great as well, letting Camille show off on the “21-15-9 Complex”, Elisabeth show off on the “Clean Speed Ladder”, and Rich show off on, well…everything. That’s all eyeball test, and fluff reaction though. What’s most important is how did the workouts build on the test from Regionals, and show that the correct group was in Carson?

Let me remind everyone of something: CrossFit is a sport that was started, built, is governed by, and is under the control of CrossFit HQ. It has become what it is because they had the balls to say they were testing for the fittest human on earth, and because no one else had even come close to defining such a thing. My point? They say what the test is – you can either bitch and do something else, or try to hit their ever-moving target (and probably still bitch). That target left a lot of really good competitive exercisers sitting at home this year. Is that a bad thing? Does that mean the tests didn’t make sense, or were too biased? Let’s use the ever debated handstand walk from Regionals as an example. They tested a max unbroken HS walk (with a drop and turnaround at 120′), as far as I can tell, for a reason this year. Because it led directly into the “Midline March”, which had three 50′ unbroken sections, after GHD sit-ups. Why is it important to get a group that can HS walk with proficiency from Regionals to the Games? Partially because Coach wrote about the importance of it in 2002. But from a “good for the sport” standpoint, do you remember the legless rope climb event from last year? I remember watching quite a few, if not most of the women standing around, unable to complete a climb at a certain spot. In fact, if you look at the standings for that event, there is a tie for fifth, then a big group tied at eleventh, then sixteenth, and so on down to the bottom. This means large groups got stuck at one section and just stood there.

This year there weren’t really any “stand around” events. I thought “Push/Pull” could become that, but thirty women finished that event, and all but one male finished as well. Odd how that works – you have the athletes do fifty-four strict HSPU at Regionals, and the group you get is fairly well prepared for smaller numbers with a deficit. Yes, the overhead squat may have been overvalued this entire season, but the numbers put up by the athletes at the Games were massive on the 1RM, and most had an easy time with the reps at 245/165# on “Thick and Quick”. Also, if you think the overhead squat was overvalued, perhaps you should have listened back in 2005 when Coach wrote:

The overhead squat is the ultimate core exercise, the heart of the snatch, and peerless in developing effective athletic movement. This functional gem trains for efficient transfer of energy from large to small body parts – the essence of sport movement. For this reason it is an indispensable tool for developing speed and power.

That’s from CFJ issue 36, in August of 2005. The guy that started the whole thing also said, in 2002 that you should be able to handstand walk a football field unbroken. Apparently the Games and Regionals were a test of CrossFit, laid out and blueprinted for us between nine and twelve years ago. This year the smaller test simply did the best job ever of feeding into the bigger test.

If you believe those tests are not without rhyme or reason, and the athletes have actually known what to practice for years – then you probably didn’t have a problem with the final test of the season. That is, if you made it there.


WOD 140805:

BBG

1) 3 Position Clean (Floor, Hang, Power Position – do not drop bar) + 1 Jerk (after Clean complex): Max for the complex + Jerk – 1X1@95%, 1X1@90%

2) Jerk from blocks: 3RM – 3X1@95%, 3X1@90%

Strength/Skill

1a) 3XME UB Strict Muscle-Ups + ME UB Kipping Muscle-Ups (drop down after ME Strict set, and reset for Kipping set with no more than :10 break) – rest 90 sec.

1b) 3X8 Jumping Good Mornings – heavier than last week, rest 90 sec. DEMO VIDEO

Conditioning

For time:

Run 400m
20 TTB
30 Thrusters 65/45#
Run 800m
30 Thrusters 65/45#
20 TTB
run 400m

The post 140805 appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by rudy.coach at August 04, 2014 09:40 PM

Cal Newport » Blog

Stop Looking for the “Right” Career and Start Looking for a Job

A Reality Check from Mike Rowe

Mike Rowe and I agree that “follow your passion,” as a piece of advice, tends to make people more unhappy about their working life.

A reader named Steve recently pointed me toward a hilarious and yet profoundly relevant example of Rowe articulating this position.

Allow me to set the scene…

Rowe  receives a piece of fan mail that opens as follows: “I’ve spent this last year trying to figure out the right career for myself and I still can’t figure out what to do.

Rowe then responds. In his response, he explains, without apology, exactly why this complaint is dumb.

I won’t spoil the whole thing (you can read the original letter and Rowe’s full reply here), but I do want to point your attention to my favorite paragraph:

Stop looking for the “right” career, and start looking for a job. Any job. Forget about what you like. Focus on what’s available. Get yourself hired. Show up early. Stay late. Volunteer for the scut work. Become indispensable. You can always quit later, and be no worse off than you are today. But don’t waste another year looking for a career that doesn’t exist. And most of all, stop worrying about your happiness. Happiness does not come from a job. It comes from knowing what you truly value, and behaving in a way that’s consistent with those beliefs.

In my opinion, you could substitute the above suggestions for just about any commencement address that was given this past spring, and the students would have ended up much better prepared for the real world.

Well said, Mike.

by Study Hacks at August 04, 2014 06:42 PM

Justin Taylor

The Folly and Hubris of Richard Dawkins

richard dawkinsEleanor Robertson, writing at The Guardian:

Dawkins’ narrowmindedness, his unshakeable belief that the entire history of human intellectual achievement was just a prelude to the codification of scientific inquiry, leads him to dismiss the insights offered not only by theology, but philosophy, history and art as well.

To him, the humanities are expendable window-dressing, and the consciousness and emotions of his fellow human beings are byproducts of natural selection that frequently hobble his pursuit and dissemination of cold, hard facts. His orientation toward the world is the product of a classic category mistake, but because he’s nestled inside it so snugly he perceives complex concepts outside of his understanding as meaningless dribble. If he can’t see it, then it doesn’t exist, and anyone trying to describe it to him is delusional and possibly dangerous.

You can read the whole thing here.

by Justin Taylor at August 04, 2014 04:18 PM

Bible Reading Project

Equipping the Saints (August 2014 Newsletter)

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers. For the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ – Ephesians 4:11-12
As a full time missionary I strive to be faithful and diligent to devote myself to the ministry of the word and prayer, and to the preaching of the Gospel. When recording the lifestyle of the early church leaders, Luke writes “And daily in the temple and in every house they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” – Acts 5:42. I make it my daily discipline to declare the gospel to those who are far from God, following in Christ’s footsteps to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). However, God designed ministry and the ministry gifts for the Church. He commanded every believer to “Go and make disciples of all nations . . .” but He also gave us the task of the equipping and helping each other accomplish this great mission.
I devote about half or more of my ministry time to equipping the saints to make disciples, to hear the voice of God, and to minister in the power of the Spirit. In the great commission Jesus commanded us to teach disciples to obey everything that He had commanded us. This does not mean that we teach a list of rules or commands, but that we teach every disciple to have an obedient heart to the Word and the Spirit and we pass on His Word and mission. God desires every generation of disciples to equip the next generation for the work of the ministry. In 2 Timothy 2:2 Paul writes, “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Paul was describing and instructing Timothy to pass on God’s word and to equip believers. And he had at least four generations in mind:
Paul>Timothy>Faithful Men> Others
One of my greatest joys is seeing others equipped and launched into making disciples.
This month I was blessed to be able to see my friend Sean, who I have been training and laboring with in the harvest, baptize two believers and start his own disciplemaking group. This is the fifth “second generation” group that has been started out of God’s work here in Detroit, which means the disciples who I have trained have gone on to start five groups in order to train more disciples and labor in the harvest. One of these groups started because when Sean was trained to pray for the sick, he went to the hospital to pray for a Muslim coworker who was suffering from an undiagnosed disease which, among other things, prevented him from eating for over a week. This man was instantly healed, and now Sean is studying the Bible with him and a number of friends. I am overjoyed at what God is doing through others and that the seed that He has planted in my life is reproducing. This is what only Jesus can do, and I am honored to be a part of His work. I am eagerly looking forward to even greater advancement of the kingdom and many generations of disciples and groups.
Image10
Read the rest of Augst 2014 Newsletter.
Read previous Newsletters.

by Jonathan Ammon (noreply@blogger.com) at August 04, 2014 03:55 PM

Keeping Busy

What Have You Got to Lose?

In Silicon Valley, we celebrate entrepreneurship. It seems like almost everyone is starting a start-up, or, at least, is starting an incubator for start-ups. The founders of tech companies are household names. There are start-ups aimed at helping people create … Continue reading

by Mark Mitchell at August 04, 2014 03:00 PM

Jon Udell

The ebb and flow of curbside free stuff

We’re selling our house and unloading a ton of stuff. After many yard sales and many Craigslist postings, there’s still plenty to get rid of. In our town there’s a strong tradition of curbside giveaway. You just put stuff out on the treelawn and it vanishes. This animated GIF documents that process over a period of three days. (You can click it to enlarge the view.)

The kickboxing bag only lasted a few minutes. The kitty litter bins took a few days but eventually they went too. Fun!


by Jon Udell at August 04, 2014 02:59 PM

512 Pixels

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by Stephen Hackett at August 04, 2014 02:44 PM

Front Porch Republic

Riverboat Pilots and Economists

life of the miss

In “Life on the Mississippi,” Mark Twain recounts his earnest desire to become a Mississippi steamboat pilot, and his struggles to master the pilot’s craft—a craft that demanded technical knowledge of steamboat operation and detailed recall of the constantly changing…

Read Full Article...

The post Riverboat Pilots and Economists appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Andrew Yuengert at August 04, 2014 02:26 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

The Confirm Button Never Disappoints

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File under: awesome travel advice.

On any given week I spend at least several hours in making travel plans. I constantly go back and forth over the various options, sometimes becoming plagued by indecision.

I talked about this recently with my friend and fellow wanderer Stephanie Zito, when we were riding around in a taxi and discussing a few upcoming trips. She has the same problem I do… but she also has a solution:

“I waste a lot of time on minor decisions,” she said, “because I want the best thing. But the truth is that there isn’t always a best thing—or perhaps there are several best things. At the end of the day it probably doesn’t matter which hotel I stay at or how I arrive from the airport.

When you make a decision, you can move on with the rest of the planning. But until you make the decision, you can’t move on.”

There are a million different combinations and options on how to plan a particular trip. Sometimes the best advice is: just pick one.

You know how there’s that final confirmation button after making an initial selection online? It feels really good to get past that. The “confirm” button never disappoints.

###

Image: WLodi

by Chris Guillebeau at August 04, 2014 02:22 PM

Reformedish

Stealth Calvinist Ninjas (Or, Throw Me a Bone Here)

The title of this blog is ‘Reformedish’, and while I’ve traveled deeper into the Reformed tradition since its inception, I’ve tried to remain something of a “friendly Calvinist”, as my buddy Morgan put it. I know that the Christian tradition is broad and extends widely beyond the Reformed world. What’s more, there are a great number of non-Reformed theologians–Wesleyans like Fred Sanders, Thomas Oden, and my own prof Donald Thorsen–whose work I profit from greatly and would commend to anyone.  In other words, I try not to be “unreasonably Calvinist” about things. I don’t think I’ve written a post in the two years I’ve been blogging picking on, or even arguing with Arminians. I’ve even been the guy pleading with my Reformed compatriots to extend grace, be humble, and so forth.

Calvinist ninjas trained by John Piper come take over your church.

Calvinist ninjas trained by John Piper come take over your church.

I say all that to caveat my comments on Roger Olson’s recent foray out from scholarship (some of which I honestly have found very helpful, insightful, and even-handed) into conspiracy-theory: “Beware of Stealth Calvinism!” (Subtle title, I know.) In the post he outlines a scenario in which Calvinists are sneakily trying to take over and convert innocent Arminian churches under the guise of combating Open theism (the view that God does not have an exhaustive foreknowledge of the future). What apparently is happening is that Calvinist pastors are drafting belief statements that are putatively designed to rule out an open theist view of foreknowledge (or lack thereof), and in the process are sneaking in statements that actually rule out Arminianism as well:

Under the guise of attempting to exclude open theists the denomination has asked its member churches to affirm the following:

We believe God’s knowledge is exhaustive; that He fully knows the past, present, and future independent of human decisions and actions. The Father does everything in accordance with His perfect will, though His sovereignty neither eliminates nor minimizes our personal responsibility.

…my main objection is that no Arminian should sign such a statement and any church that adopts it is automatically affirming Calvinism—whether they know it or not. Only a Calvinist (or someone who believes in the Calvinist view of God’s sovereignty) can say that God’s knowledge is independent of human decisions and actions. Even a Molinist cannot say that and mean it.

Now this, Olson takes it, can only be an act of incompetence, or is evidence of a nefarious intent to convert unsuspecting Arminians to Calvinism. He continues:

This appears to me to be another case, on a grander scale, of stealth Calvinism.
…This statement (above in italics) is probably being promoted as a guard against open theism, but it’s much, much more than that. If adopted by my church I would have to give up my membership—not because I’m an open theist (I’m not) but because whether intentionally or not it excludes classical Arminianism. It makes any church that adopts it automatically, de facto, Calvinist.

Arminians—beware! This tactic is continuing among evangelicals. Privileging Calvinism is already the case in many evangelical organizations that have always included both Calvinists and Arminians.

Olson’s a competent theologian, so I won’t argue with his contention that he’d have to give up his membership at the church should they adopt the statement. I suspect some theologians might dispute his judgment and say that an Arminian could affirm it, but I’ll let that alone for more qualified hands than my own.

What I want to point out in the middle of this is the bald-faced cynicism of the post. Here we don’t simply have a theological correction, dispute, or caution about inadvertent theological drift. No, here we have a warning about Calvinist tactics in general, about their alleged strategic maneuvering to crowd out and stamp out divergent thought by “stealthily” taking advantage of people’s ignorance.

I know I’m a lot younger, but if we’re dealing in anecdotes, I suppose part of the reason I find the whole thing silly is that three out of the four Christian colleges nearby me, including my own seminary, are explicitly non-Reformed, and the fourth is definitely blended. Fuller has, maybe a few Reformed theologians, certainly not of the militant sort. They’re not cranking out Calvinists ready to take over churches there. But maybe that’s just a Southern California thing.

In any case, like I said, I’ve been the guy who’s written the “Hey Reformed guys, stop being jerks so people will pay attention” post. I’ll be honest, I don’t regret writing it for a moment. I stand by it and would continue to issue a plea for helpful humility in conversation with our brothers and sisters in “other rooms of the house” as Lewis put it. What I will say is that posts like these give the lie to the idea that Calvinists are the only ones running around making accusations, imputing false motives and so forth, about their fellow believers. I don’t doubt there’s some churches here and there where something like this has happened. I mean, just about everything has happened in church before. But Olson is here taking about some widespread conspiracy to take over churches by subterfuge and deceit. Honestly, it’d be silly if it weren’t so shameful–especially for a scholar of his stature. At best it’s uncharitable, and at worst it’s cheap slander.

I’m reminded of a post by Todd Pruitt a while back writing on the ‘mean Calvinist’ trope:

But I don’t buy the hype. I suppose we could trade anecdotes. For example I could write posts about the fact that the meanest and most self-righteous people I have ever encountered are Arminians. But what would that accomplish? Honestly, some of these posts sound a bit like, “I thank you Lord that I am not like this mean Calvinist.” What is more, until prominent Arminian theologians stop publicly comparing “the god of Calvinism” with Satan, then the reports of mean Calvinists are going to ring a bit hollow.

(By the way, Olson’s one who keeps going on about the God of Calvinism as “the devil”, or a “moral monster.” For an alternative approach to arguing with Calvinists, see this essay by Fred Sanders.)

Where am I going with all of this? Well, I guess what I’m saying is, if you want Calvinists or Reformed types to cool it, be charitable, and so forth, maybe don’t give credence to, or traffic in this sort of thing. Calling for a unified line of attack on the other side usually doesn’t do much for the two linking arms for the sake of the gospel.

In other words, I’ll do my part, but throw me a bone here?

Soli Deo Gloria


by Derek Rishmawy at August 04, 2014 02:21 PM

Crossway Blog

What Is Divine Inspiration (and Why Does It Matter)?

guest post

This is a guest post by Gerald Bray. He is the author of God Is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology.


Inspiration and Its Fruit

A great deal has been written about the inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy of Holy Scripture, though only the first of these terms is found in the Bible itself. Infallibility and inerrancy are best viewed as logical deductions from the principle of divine inspiration. The former term became current in the nineteenth century, when Protestants applied it to the Bible and Roman Catholics to the papacy, but “inerrancy” is of more recent origin.

The general line of argument is that if the Bible is divinely inspired, it must also be infallible because God would not lead his people astray. To be truly infallible, however, it must not contain any errors, because even the smallest mistake might mislead people and cause them to err or (if they discovered the mistake) to doubt the truth of God’s Word. Arguments of this kind make logical sense, but they come up against the obvious objections that we do not possess the original manuscripts and that all the copies we have contain errors of various kinds. This means that no truly “inerrant” text exists, but that does not necessarily imply that the copies we have are misleading and says nothing at all about whether they are inspired by God.

Modern Controversy

A great deal of controversy surrounds these terms, and it is fair to say that in the modern church, belief in what they represent is the hallmark of conservative, and usually evangelical, believers. But it is also fair to say that traditionally orthodox Christians have always believed that the Bible is divinely inspired, and the unique place occupied by its text in Christian worship bears witness to that fact.

In ancient times it was commonly believed that poets were inspired by a muse or other genius, who gave them the superhuman talent they possessed. Inspiration applied primarily to the people who composed literary works, and not to the works themselves. In the New Testament, we find both—holy men were moved by the Spirit of God, but the texts they produced were also breathed out by him. This quality was the mark of their holiness and the guarantee of their supreme authority in the life of the church.

“Infallibility” emerged as a way of saying that the Scriptures do not teach error, and “inerrancy” makes it more precise by insisting that they do not contain it either. Both terms have suffered from the excessive zeal of some of their proponents, who have made extravagant claims that go beyond what can be proved from the texts themselves. For example, some have said that Job must have been a historical person, since he is described in that way in the book that bears his name, but it is just as likely that he is a fictional character whom the anonymous author created in order to make a series of important theological points. To use “inerrancy” as an excuse for insisting on the historicity of Job is going too far, and the term loses its credibility when such claims are made on the basis of it.

Juridical Terms

The best way to look at these words is to see them as essentially juridical terms. The Bible is the written constitution of the church and must be interpreted as such. Its authority is absolute, and therefore it is both infallible and inerrant as far as the life of the church is concerned. No Christian preacher or teacher has any right to distort or minimize its teaching, and every word in it must be carefully weighed and its meaning considered. We do not have to worry if some parts of it (such as the Old Testament food laws) are no longer immediately applicable today, because that is often true of human laws as well. A state constitution almost certainly contains provisions that are now obsolete, but they retain the authority of the document as a whole, and if the circumstances for which they were designed should recur, they would come back into force.

The Bible is very much like that, except that it also contains a spiritual message that can be applied in spiritual ways long after the material circumstances in which it was originally revealed have disappeared. If we view matters in that way, then the Bible will not lead us astray, nor will it teach us anything that is false to the Spirit who inspired it.

What About Mistakes?

We do not need to worry too much about the mistakes scribes made in copying, since many of these can be corrected and few have any real significance as far as the meaning of the original is concerned. Some areas of doubt remain, but as long as we do not put too much weight on words or passages that are unclear, this should not affect our understanding of the overall message of the text.

More serious are the allegations that the Bible contains errors of fact or of judgment that are not accidental. For example, archaeologists have raised questions about the Israelite invasion of Palestine under Joshua because evidence for the collapse of the walls at Jericho or the destruction of Ai is either missing or does not support the claims made in Scripture. Historians have found no evidence for the existence of Esther or Daniel, and many scholars believe that they were made up in later times for what were essentially political reasons.

The New Testament is less open to this kind of objection because the time period it covers is much shorter and better known, but there are still many details about the life of Jesus and the career of the apostle Paul which are hard to piece together from the texts. Did Jesus cleanse the temple at the beginning of his ministry or at the end, or did he do it twice, as some scholars have tried to argue? More radical scholars might ask whether the event ever happened at all, and suggest that it was concocted by the disciples to make a theological point.

These are hard and perhaps impossible questions to answer, partly because the evidence is insufficient for us to decide either way and partly because the intention of the original author(s) is unclear. Scholars do their best to resolve these difficulties, on the reasonable assumption that the problems were not apparent to those who first wrote or read the texts and so there must be some explanation for them. The explanation may not always be what we would expect, and certain questions remain unanswerable in our present state of knowledge, but it would be most unwise to accuse the text of lying or misrepresenting the facts simply because we do not know what they are. The true researcher, like a good detective, will persevere until he has found a solution and refuse to comment on facile theories which discount the witness of the texts. They, after all, are a major part of the evidence we have, and must be treated with due caution and respect.

Inspiration the Key

From the standpoint of the ordinary believer, arguments about the “historicity” of the biblical text are important because our faith is based on truth, but such arguments are not the heart of the matter. The Bible is not the source of our doctrine and spiritual life merely because it contains no errors, since the same might be said of a dictionary or computer manual. Infallibility and inerrancy have their place, but divine inspiration remains the key to interpreting the text because that is what makes it the Word of God. The apostle Paul spoke to us all when he wrote to Timothy,

The sacred writings . . . are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:15-17)

In other words, the Bible is our textbook for learning and growing in our faith, so that we may be able to live as we should and bear witness to the truth of the gospel we have received in Christ Jesus.

This post was adapted from God Is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology by Gerald Bray.

by Matt Tully at August 04, 2014 02:00 PM

Justin Taylor

If All You Know about the Scopes Trial Is from “Inherit the Wind,” You Don’t Know the True Story

If all you know about the so-called “Scopes Monkey Trial”—decided 89 years ago this summer in July 1925—is from the play or movie Inherit the Wind, then you have substituted a fanciful fictional account for the historical reality. (The play was never intended to be historical.)

Here is a convenient summary of the differences.

You can also read Joe Carter’s 9 Things post on the trial, outlined here:

  1. Inherit the Wind was an anti-anti-communist play.
  2. The trial was a publicity stunt.
  3. Scopes wasn’t a martyr—he was a co-conspirator.
  4. Darrow wasn’t the first choice.
  5. Bryan wasn’t the lead prosecutor—and he knew the defendant.
  6. The prosecution’s “Bible expert” believed in the day-age theory.
  7. Teaching evolution . . . and eugenics.
  8. The defense wanted to lose the case. 
  9. The ruling was reversed, but no one wanted to retry the case.

The book to read is Edward J. Larson’s 1997 Pulitzer Prize winning history, Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate over Science and Religion.

The PBS American Experience documentary (below) is helpful and fairly balanced. It has the added bonus of being able to hear from a woman who was a Dayton resident, whose brother had Scopes for a football coach, and who had a front-row seat to the court proceedings and the town and church meetings.

by Justin Taylor at August 04, 2014 01:37 PM

We Are All Vulnerable to This Toxic Drug

Robert P. George, in his Advice to Young Scholars:

Although it is natural and, in itself, good to desire and even seek affirmation, do not fall in love with applause. It is a drug. When you get some of it, you crave more. It can easily deflect you from your mission and vocation. In the end, what matters is not winning approval or gaining celebrity. Your mission and vocation is to seek the truth and to speak the truth as God gives you to grasp it.

There is a particular danger for those who dissent from the reigning orthodoxies of a prevailing intellectual culture. You may be tempted to suppose that your willingness to defy the career-making (and potential career-breaking) mandarins of elite opinion immunizes you from addiction to affirmation and applause and guarantees your personal authenticity and intellectual integrity. It doesn’t. We are all vulnerable to the drug. The vulnerability never completely disappears. And the drug is toxic to the activity of thinking (and thus to the cause of truth-seeking).

Similarly, D. A. Carson warns that Christian conservatives are not immune to the drug of approval and applause:

[S]eductive applause may come [from] the conservative constituency of your friends, a narrower peer group but one that, for some people, is equally ensnaring. Scholarship is then for sale: you constantly work on things to bolster the self-identity of your group, to show they are right, to answer all who disagree with them. Some scholars who are very indignant with colleagues who, in their estimation, are far too attracted by the applause of unbelieving academic peers, remain blissfully unaware of how much they have become addicted to the applause of conservative bastions that egg them on.

by Justin Taylor at August 04, 2014 01:18 PM

Inconsolation

head and tail: Flip a coin

I should have mentioned one or both of these by this point in time. I use both head and tail on an almost-daily basis, and leaving those two out until now was an egregious oversight. :oops:

Both head and tail are easy enough to figure out: By default, they show the first and last 10 lines of a file, respectively. Nothing fancy there.

2014-08-04-6m47421-head-tail

There are a few flags that are worth mentioning, and since both head and tail are owned by coreutils, some of those options are shared between the two.

  • -cN: Shows N characters (technically bytes) instead of lines. This can be a godsend if you just want to pluck a certain number of characters out of /dev/urandom.
  • -n: Sets the number of lines to show, so you’re not limited to just 10. You can use bytes here as well, and specify a specific data quantity with conventional suffixes for multipliers. So for example, head --bytes=1b sample.txt would show the first 512 bytes of sample.txt.
  • If you add a minus sign to the --bytes data quantity in head, or a plus sign to the --bytes data quantity in tail, both tools will omit the last or first block of that size. That might be a little confusing; think of head --bytes=-12 sample.txt as “show me all but the last 12 characters of sample.txt” and tail --bytes=+12 sample.txt as “show me all but the first 12 characters of sample.txt.” It might take a little getting used to, but it works, and can be handy.

tail has another flag that deserves attention, mostly because I get the feeling most people don’t know about it. We’ve looked over a lot of log display utilities in the past, and most of them operate by hovering over a log file and echoing it to the screen when it changes. If you pick the right tool, it might also colorize the text. :)

Perhaps you knew this and perhaps you didn’t, but tail has a built-in log display mode, as the --follow flag.

2014-08-04-6m47421-tail-follow

As you can see there, with no more than just the -F option, you’ll get a by-the-second update of what appears in a log file, each line added to your display as it is added to the original file. No muss, no fuss.

Like I said, you get both of these tools as part of coreutils, and I have yet to meet a distro that didn’t include that by default. So they’re probably on your machine, and I hope you make good use of them. ;)


Tagged: data, display, file, log, text

by K.Mandla at August 04, 2014 01:00 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Sharing cooking adventures

I told W- about the Ethiopian cabbage dish that Eric and I made at Tuesday’s open house at Hacklab, to go with the injera that we bought from a store a few doors down from Hacklab. We had decided to go with cooking Ethiopian food because it was a cool day (so, a warm meal), we hadn’t cooked anything Ethiopian before, and Eric had mentioned the injera previously; so we looked online for vegan Ethiopian recipes and picked a simple one to start with. A typical Ethiopian meal includes several kinds of stews served on top of the flatbread, but we figured it was fine to start with just one recipe and let people decide how they want to eat it. It worked out pretty well, although there were a few moments when we weren’t quite sure how to fit all that shredded cabbage in. (Eric picked the biggest head of cabbage, I think!) $16 of groceries fed lots of people, and there were still leftovers by the time I left.

W- asked, “How come you’re not as experimental when cooking at home?” Come to think of it, I tend to test recipes at Hacklab before trying them at home: gazpacho, Thai curry, Japanese curry… Cooking at Hacklab is fun because other people help (getting that second chef’s knife for Hacklab was totally worth it!) and the meals disappear pretty quickly.

But we’re even better set up to experiment at home. Proper chopping boards, all the pots and pans I need, no worries about extra ingredients or leftovers, and backup plans in case things go wrong… Slightly pickier eaters, but if I mess up, I can always pack it in the freezer for later, or even toss it out if I really have to. (I tend to have more tolerance for cooking than I should, although even I have had to give up on some attempts before. Ah well!)

W- is much more experienced at cooking than I am, so I’m catching up by exploring different recipes. Cooking has become a hobby for me – something I enjoy for its own sake, even if I’m still working on getting better at it. It’s even more fun when you’re cooking with someone, since you can laugh at stuff and swap stories. Sometimes W- and I cook together, although I guess lately I’ve been trying to do most of the household prep so that he can focus on work. Choosing the recipe is part of the fun, and making something often results in funny stories even if there are hiccups along the way (especially if there are!). Maybe we’ll just make a habit of trying one new recipe a week. Between that and Hacklab, I’ll be learning tons of recipes, yay!

Mmm… What do I want to try? Different kinds of pasta, for J-. Curries of the world! Salads for summer, both cold and warm! Mmm…

The post Sharing cooking adventures appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at August 04, 2014 12:00 PM

The Finance Buff

Stop Using Vanguard Money Market Fund

Stop

The SEC released news rules on money market funds last week. Money market funds for retail investors will still keep the $1 fixed NAV. They can impose fees and restrictions when they face liquidity problems.

I don’t think Vanguard’s money market funds will face those problems. I still say stop using Vanguard money market funds, at least in accounts with only Vanguard mutual funds. I haven’t used one myself for a long time.

I say this not because of the new SEC rules, but because it’s really unnecessary to use a Vanguard money market fund for buying and selling Vanguard mutual funds. Vanguard brokerage accounts (for ETFs, for example) are a different story. You still need a money market fund there.

When you want to buy a Vanguard mutual fund online, you just click on buy. You get that same day‘s closing price if you place your order before 4:00 pm Eastern Time. Vanguard will debit your linked bank account afterwards. How long it takes for them to get the money is Vanguard’s problem. It’s not necessary to move money into a money market fund first.

Same for selling. If you are selling one fund to buy another, you do an exchange. Money then goes between the two funds. It doesn’t have to pass through an intermediary money market fund. If you are selling for cash in a taxable account, Vanguard will send the proceeds directly to your linked bank account. You don’t have to put the money in a money market fund first and then transfer yourself.

Apparently many people are still parking a lot of money in a money market fund when the money market fund only pays 0.01%. Vanguard Prime Money Market Fund alone has $129 billion in it as of June 30, 2014. That’s more money than the popular Wellington and Wellesley funds combined. Parking the money in a linked bank account will get both federal deposit insurance and a higher yield (for example 0.65% in Alliant Credit Union checking account). Collectively these Vanguard investors gave up hundreds of million dollars by keeping $129 billion in just this one money market fund.

Vanguard is somewhat unique in letting you buy without money on hand. Other brokerage firms such as Fidelity and Schwab don’t let you do that unless you have a margin account. Maybe many people don’t know it and thought that Vanguard works the same way.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Thomas Hawk]

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Stop Using Vanguard Money Market Fund is copyrighted material from The Finance Buff. All rights reserved. ( b87e8215d24496480249d6aaf20c77ea )

by Harry Sit at August 04, 2014 11:55 AM

Doc Searls WeblogDoc Searls Weblog »

Radio and the Web, 2001

Since my old blog (still running, amazingly, on an old server somewhere within Verisign) will some day be Snow on the Water, and conversation about radio has commenced below that post, I decided to re-post March 21, 2001. Here goes…


Blast from the past

Tune in here right now to catch Larry Lujack on KNEW, the Top forty station in Spokane, Washington, in the summer of 1963. Lujack later became a legend on Chicago radio.

Such memories. I’ve been grooving back over my first visit to The West when I was a teenage radio freak with a Zenith Royal 400 transistor radio glued to my ear as my family spent the summer driving all over the country. I was a city & suburban boy from New Jersey. (Seen The Sopranos on HBO? Crank the locality back forty years and that was pretty much the environment.)

The Real Don Steele
The Real Don Steele on KHJ/930

I had never been West before, and it was a mind-blower. I remember driving through Santa Barbara, where I’ve been living now for less than a week, and looking up in amazement at the buff-colored mountains, with its layers of rock shaped like fish scales or the plates on the spine of a stegasaurus, lined in dark green chapparal.

But while I loved the geography and the geology, I couldn’t get away from the radio. The land would always be here, but the golden age of Top 40 would not. In fact, it would begin to end with the assasination of JFK only three months later, then the Beatles, then FM and everything else that made The Sixties what they were. Great Top 40 was a Fifties Phenom, even though it didn’t really end until WABC went talk in the mid-Seventies.

The Summer of ’63 was the peak.

The songs: Surf City, by Jan & Dean. More, by Kai Winding. Wipe Out, by the Surfaris. Candy Girl, by The Four Seasons. Sally Go Round the Roses, by the Jaynettes. Memphis, by Lonnie Mack. Please Mr. Postman by the Marvelettes. Just One Look, by Doris Troy. One Fine Day, by the Chiffons. What a hook that song had:

Doobie doobie doobie do wop wop…

And all the great stations! In my head I can still hear KAAY/1090 out of Little Rock, which covered the midwest like a blanket every night. KIMN/950 out of Denver, which I picked up somewhere in Kansas, and listened to all the way to Colorado Springs, never closer than a hundred miles to the station itself. The signal was weak, but the ground out there was so conductive that a signal that wouldn’t go forty miles in Massachusetts carried hundreds of miles. (Check out all the higher numbers on this map here and you get the idea… there’s nothing in the East like it.) Others: KMEN/1260 in San Bernardino. KFWB/980 and KRLA/1110 in Los Angeles. KEWB/910 out of San Francisco.

I loved hearing Dick Biondi on KRLA when we got to Los Angeles in late July. This was after Dick was famously fired by WLS/890 in Chicago, a station you could hear over half the country every night (my cousins listened to him, along with everybody’s Cousin Brucie on WABC/770 from New York, every night). Right now this stream is playing the Real Don Steele, who later became huge in Los Angeles radio on KHJ/930. (Steele died not long ago and is remembered beautifully here.)

I got to looking into all this because I still cant get Dave Dudley’s Six Days on the Road — another hit from the Summer of ’63 — out of my head.

God, I love the Web.

Back to work, accompanied by Wolfman Jack on XERB/1090 (“… studios in Los Angeles” even though the transmitter was down in Rosarita, south of Tijuana in Mexico… it still booms into Santa Barbara, where it was THE Top 40 station for decades).

All your Net are belong to us

Thanks to Ev for clueing us in on the most telling paragraph in the Microsoft Hailstorm White Paper:

Microsoft will operate the HailStorm services as a business. The HailStorm services will have real operational costs, and rather than risk compromising the user-centric model by having someone such as advertisers pay for these services, the people receiving the value – the end users – will be the primary source of revenue to Microsoft. HailStorm will help move the Internet to end-user subscriptions, where users pay for value received.

Key phrase: move the Internet.

I was finally able to get to Jacob Levy’s post at the MS-Hailstorm list at YahooGroups. In case it’s as hard for you to get in there as it was for me, here are Jacob’s summary paragraphs:

The most telling part of this is that none of the protocols are currently open. Of course they’ve sprinkled some magic fairy dust on the whole business by repeatedly saying the XML and SOAP buzzwords. I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for Microsoft to publish the protocol they’re implementing between the PassPort server and the American Express payment clearance server, for example. Doesn’t matter what its written in, XML and SOAP or ancient greek on papyrus, it’s not going to be open.

Methinks its time to move on beyond this venting and think what we’re going to do about this. As I said in the start of this thread today, we don’t need Microsoft to implement any of this.

Okay, so here’s an idea: let’s talk with IBM, which is busy declaring its love for Linux and its development community. They’re spending a $billion this year on Linux (not clear exactly how, but never mind). Why not plug into the larger surrounding community that embraces the Net as something that’s ours, and doesn’t need to be “moved” anywhere — least of all to a place where only one company can intermediate services (that can only be fee-based) between users who happen to be enabled exclusively by that company’s software?


Postscript: Larry Lujack died last year. Microsoft Hailstorm failed not long after I wrote this post. Dick Biondi, now 81, is still on the air in Chicago. Cousin Brucie still holds forth on SiriusXM’s Sixties on 6. KAAY fell in to disrepair and is barely on the air as a religious station. Every other mentioned station has gone through numerous format changes. Wolfman Jack died in ’95, though I didn’t make clear above that I was listening to him on the Spokane station’s stream.

by Doc Searls at August 04, 2014 11:52 AM

Koinonia

Mounce Archive 4 — μυριάς (myriad): The Greek Word for "Gajillion"

Mondays_mounce

Everyone needs a sabbatical once in a while, and Bill Mounce is taking one from Koinonia blog until September. Meanwhile, we’ve hand-picked some of our favorite and most popular posts for your summer reading and Greek-studying pleasure.

A year ago Bill Mounce asked an intriguing question: What's a "myriad"?

Myriad is a rough translation for μυριάς. As in, "Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering...μυριάδες, μυριάδων." (Rev. 9:16)

In other words, a "gajillion!"

Continue reading Mounce's thoughts on this intriguing word that appears eight times in the New Testament and then come back and tell us how you'd translate μυριάς in your own words.

This is one of the more interesting words in Greek, partly because it is so hard to translate.

BDAG says μυριάς can mean, "a group/collective of 10,000, myriad," but it can also mean, "a very large number, not precisely defined, pl. myriads."

It is this second meaning that is most interesting. Basically, it means a "gajillion." Or perhaps a "bajillion." What slang do you use? A gajillion means lots and lots and lots, with no specific number in view.

(Continue reading the full post, here.)

_____________________

Mouncew

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 Teknia.com and visit his blog on spiritual growth at BiblicalTraining.org/blog/life-journey.

by Jeremy Bouma at August 04, 2014 11:37 AM

trenchant.org daily

Like A Magic Spell

Cake flavors, place card designs, hors d’oeuvre options, playlists, and a million other small choices but it’s the decisions between words that feels qualitatively different.

August 04, 2014 08:00 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

The Delusion Trilogy

Richard Dawkins. The God Delusion. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006. $27.00

David Bentley Hart. Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies. New Haven: Yale, 2009. $18.00.

David Berlinski. The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions. New York: Basic Books, 2009. $16.99.

Richard Dawkins’s bestseller The God Delusion (2006) is a storybook for atheists. It’s not a science book—the little science in the book serving merely as the protagonist of the story, the hero who stands up to the evil villain, keeping him from destroying minds and undermining cultures. It’s not a philosophy book—the weak philosophical arguments serving merely as the framework to make the story sound more plausible. It’s not a history book, either—the selectively inaccurate history serving simply as the story’s setting, the place where the hero performs his daring deeds. And it’s certainly not a theology book—the terrible theology within serving merely to cast God as the antagonist in the story, the evil villain of Dawkins’s fable. In this storybook, God has captured the minds and hearts of gullible people around the world—blinding them to the beauties of the physical world, trapping them in superstitious ignorance, and forcing them to perform destructive acts of devotion—until science, reason, and truth show up to free humanity from his clutches, empowering people everywhere to reach the dizzying heights of personhood to which natural selection will carry them. 

The God Delusion is not a serious book, and it does not make a serious argument. It’s a difficult book to read only because you have to wade through page after page of plot contrivances,1 inaccurate historical statements,2 bad hermeneutics,3 poor moral reasoning,4 terrible theology,5 pompous declarations,6 and insulting comments.7 To engage with all these would take a review several times too long. Besides, that isn’t my purpose.

My purpose is to introduce you to two other books that engage with Dawkins and his “new atheism” cohorts. In The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions (2009), David Berlinski deals with the philosophical underpinnings of the new atheism by exposing the weaknesses of its philosophical arguments and scientific conclusions. In Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies (2009), David Bentley Hart challenges the historical evidence the new atheism uses to support its attack on God.

The Devil’s Delusion

Berlinski is a philosopher and mathematician with a PhD from Princeton. Here’s how he describes himself and his book:

I am a secular Jew. My religious education did not take. I can barely remember a word of Hebrew. I cannot pray. I have spent more years than I care to remember studying mathematics and writing about the sciences. Yet the book that follows is in some sense a defense of religious thought and sentiment. (xi)

Berlinski’s main focus throughout the book is not specific scientific theories (although he has a problem with many) but the audacity of people like Dawkins who reason from those theories to the conclusion that God doesn’t exist or believers are in some way deluded.

According to Dawkins, “The presence or absence of a creative super-intelligence is unequivocally a scientific question” (58–59). Although he knows he cannot definitively prove God’s nonexistence, Dawkins is confident he can demonstrate God’s existence to be so improbable that atheism is the only rational position. Berlinski attacks this argument from probability by showing that probabilities don’t apply to the question of creation:

Probabilities belong to the world in which things happen because they might, creation to the world in which things happen because they must. We explain creation by appealing to creators, whether deities or the inflexible laws of nature. We explain what is chancy by appealing to chance. We cannot do both. If God did make the world, it is not improbable. If it is improbable, then God did not make it. The best we could say is that God made a world that would be improbable had it been produced by chance. But it wasn’t, and so he didn’t. (143–44)

This is a sample of Berlinski’s method. Sometimes he challenges premises, sometimes he invalidates arguments, and sometimes he questions conclusions, always with the intent to wipe the smug smiles off the faces of the new atheists. He attacks the premise that all knowledge must be scientific to be valid (chapter 2), the premise that only one kind of evidence is valid for any proof (chapter 3), the ways physicists try to avoid the implications of Big Bang cosmology (chapter 4), the evolutionists’ presumption that knowing how things work is the same as—or more important than—knowing why they exist (chapter 5), the theories that attempt to explain how the cosmological constant is statistically likely (chapter 6), and paleontologists’ use of the fossil record (chapter 9). By the end of The Devil’s Delusion you’ve received broad exposure to the issues raised by the new atheists and solid reasons to reject their conclusions.

Atheist Delusions

David Bentley Hart is an Eastern Orthodox theologian focusing on the patristic era. According to him, atheists have two big delusions: (1) that Christianity didn’t introduce a radically different worldview and ethic to the pagan world, and (2) that reason alone, without the revelation provided by Christianity, would have developed to treat people as well as the church does. Hart writes as a scholar and theologian and, while his tone is less confrontational and biting than Berlinski’s, his arguments are equally devastating to the new atheists’ delusions of grandeur. He writes in the Introduction:

I want in part to argue that what many of us are still in the habit of calling the “Age of Reason” was in many significant ways the beginning of the eclipse of reason’s authority as a cultural value . . . that the Enlightenment ideology of modernity as such does not even deserve any particular credit for the advance of modern science . . . and that by comparison to the Christian revolution it succeeded, modernity is little more than . . . a reactionary flight back toward a comfortable, but dehumanizing, mental and moral servitude to elemental nature. (xi–xii)

Dawkins writes about the changing (by which he means “evolving”) moral zeitgeist from the barbarous religious past into the modern enlightened age. He does this, as usual, by ignoring enormous amounts of contradictory data. Hart’s book supplies it—both the data Dawkins misses about the horrors of modern morality and the data he ignores about the massive moral change ushered in by Jesus Christ and the early church. But Hart goes even further by arguing that what modern atheists consider the consensus of the age is really just a weak appropriation of Christian theology that, apart from the teaching of Jesus and the life of his church, no one had ever applied before.8 The historical analysis is excellent and reminds us of exactly how radical the gospel really was to people living in a pagan world. To be baptized as a Christian, Hart reminds us, was to “renounce a very great deal of what one had known and been to that point, in order to be joined to a new reality, the demands of which were absolute; it was to depart from one world, with an irrevocable finality, and to enter another” (111).

At the end of Atheist Delusions, Hart engages directly with the new atheism and illumines how it looks at history:

One labels anything one dislikes—even if it is found in a purely secular setting—“religion” (thus, for example, all the 20th-century totalitarianisms are “political religions” for which secularists need take no responsibility), while simultaneously claiming that everything good, in the arts, morality, or any other sphere—even if it emerges within an entirely religious setting—has only an accidental association with religious belief and is really, in fact, common human property (so, for example, the impulse toward charity will doubtless spring up wherever an “enlightened” society takes root). By the same token, every injustice that seems to follow from a secularist principle is obviously an abuse of that principle, while any evil that comes wrapped in a cassock is unquestionably an undiluted expression of religion’s very essence. (220)

This is precisely the strategy Dawkins uses throughout The God Delusion.

If you are confronting any of the new atheists—whether directly by reading their books or articles or indirectly by talking to church members or coworkers—I highly recommend both these books, neither written by evangelical apologists, only one written by a believer. The Devil’s Delusion and Atheist Delusions will help you see through brash but weak arguments and give you the other side of the story—many of the facts the new atheists love to ignore.

****************

1 Dawkins uses “religion” as a foil around which to make his point. I put “religion” in quotes because it’s a plot contrivance for him. He takes Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and even pagan religious practices, throws all these (and more) into the same pot, mixes them together, and deals only with the resulting stew. This religious stew, existing nowhere and believed by no one, is then attacked as absurd. This plot contrivance allows Dawkins to avoid doing the difficult work of engaging any one of these individual religions on its own terms or doing the tedious task of actually refuting specific claims, while allowing him to mock each one individually by smearing it with the crazy practices of all the others.

2 Hart’s book deals with the broader historical inanities of the new atheists, but Dawkins skews history in smaller, more subtle ways, too. For example, throughout the book he declares that nearly every scientist who has ever lived was really an atheist who only paid lip service to Christianity so he could do his work. In chapter 4, “Arguments for God’s Existence,” he mentions Gregor Mendel, whom Dawkins calls the “founding genius of genetics.” He then writes, “Mendel, of course, was a religious man, an Augustinian monk; but that was in the nineteenth century, when becoming a monk was the easiest way for the young Mendel to pursue his science. For him, it was the equivalent of a research grant” (99). Dawkins presents no actual evidence for this assertion that Mendel was a money-grabbing hypocrite—just take his word for it. Dawkins then refers to a survey of scientists on their personal belief in God writing, “It is completely as I would expect that American scientists are less religious than the American public generally, and that the most distinguished scientists are the least religious of all. What is remarkable is the polar opposition between the religiosity of the American public at large and the atheism of the intellectual elite” (100). It is completely plausible to Dawkins that a scientist would feign faith to pursue science in a predominately religious age, but it never occurs to him that a scientist might feign unbelief to pursue science in an atheistic environment that is hostile to faith.

3 Here’s an example of how Dawkins handles the Bible: “Ever since the nineteenth century, scholarly theologians have made an overwhelming case that the Gospels are not reliable accounts of what happened in the history of the real world. All were written long after the death of Jesus, and also after the epistles of Paul, which mention almost none of the alleged facts of Jesus’ life. All were then copied and recopied, through many different ‘Chinese Whispers generations’ (see chapter 5) by fallible scribes who, in any case, had their own religious agendas” (92–93). Reading this, I get the impression that Dawkins overheard a conversation while eating lunch in the faculty lounge of his university. Never mind that biblical scholars have refuted every one of those theories. Dawkins doesn’t need to investigate the counter-arguments because he already knows there is no God and the theories of “scholarly theologians” support his atheism. Therefore, they must be true.

4 “Individual atheists may do evil things but they don’t do evil things in the name of atheism. Stalin and Hitler did extremely evil things, in the name of, respectively, dogmatic and doctrinaire Marxism, and an insane and unscientific eugenics theory tinged with sub-Wagnerian ravings. Religious wars really are fought in the name of religion, and they have been horribly frequent in history” (278). By Dawkins’s moral reasoning, Stalin was drawn to Marxism because it was beautifully consistent with his atheism, but he didn’t kill millions of people because he was an atheist; he killed for his Marxism. Atheism doesn’t kill people, Marxists kill people. And Hitler was drawn to eugenics because it was an application of his atheism, but he didn’t kill millions of people because he was an atheist; he killed because of an insane and unscientific theory (a theory, by the way, that was considered quite sane and quintessentially scientific in Hitler’s day).

5 “I have described atonement, the central doctrine of Christianity, as vicious, sado-masochistic and repellent. We should also dismiss it as barking mad, but for its ubiquitous familiarity which has dulled our objectivity. If God wanted to forgive our sins, why not just forgive them, without having himself tortured and executed in payment. . . ?” (253).

6 “The obvious ground for opposing the death penalty is respect for human life” (291). A serial killer who has no regard for human life cannot receive a death penalty out of respect for human life. On the other hand, abortion is fine because fetuses don’t suffer: “Early embryos that have no nervous system most certainly do not suffer. And if late-aborted embryos with nervous systems suffer—though all suffering is deplorable—it is not because they are human that they suffer. There is no general reason to suppose that human embryos at any age suffer more than cow or sheep embryos at the same developmental stage” (297). Perhaps, if we could demonstrate that rabbits and squirrels suffer as much as murderers in an electric chair, Dawkins would reconsider his opposition to the death penalty.

7 Did you know that your belief in God grew from your belief in imaginary friends as a child and you just never grew up? Dawkins does: “Did gods, in their role as consolers and counselors, evolve from binkers [A. A. Milne’s imaginary childhood friend], by a sort of psychological ‘pedomorphosis’? Pedomorphosis is the retention into adulthood of childhood characteristics. Pekinese dogs have pedomorphic faces: the adults look like puppies” (350). In a chapter that starts with Dawkins deploring the story of a Catholic priest in the 19th century taking a child from a Jewish couple because the child’s nanny had baptized him, Dawkins approvingly quotes this comment from psychologist Nicholas Humphrey: “In short, children have a right not to have their minds addled by nonsense, and we as a society have a duty to protect them from it. So we should no more allow parents to teach their children to believe, for example, in the literal truth of the Bible or that the planets rule their lives, than we should allow parents to knock their children’s teeth out or lock them in a dungeon” (326).

8 “The ethical presuppositions intrinsic to modernity, for instance, are palliated fragments and haunting echoes of Christian moral theology. Even the most ardent secularists among us generally cling to notions of human rights, economic and social justice, providence for the indigent, legal equality, or basic human dignity that pre-Christian Western culture would have found not so much foolish as unintelligible. It is simply the case that we distant children of the pagans would not be able to believe in any of these things—they would never have occurred to us—had our ancestors not once believed that God is love, that charity is the foundation of all virtues, that all of us are equal before the eyes of God, that to fail to feed the hungry or care for the suffering is to sin against Christ, and that Christ laid down his life for the least of his brethren” (32–33).

by Steve Matteucci at August 04, 2014 05:01 AM

Pursuing Wisdom in an Age of Information

Our access to information is increasing exponentially. By 2016, we won’t be describing bytes as mega and giga, but as exa and zetta. To put this growth in perspective, Cisco Systems illustrates, “If the 11-ounce coffee on your desk equals one gigabyte, a zettabyte would have the same volume as the Great Wall of China.” This glut of information will make us smarter, better decision-makers. Right?

Lack of information is rarely our problem. In fact, in the Digital Age, we usually have too much information, not too little. We often lack the necessary skills to process the information we already have—that is, we lack wisdom. As T. S. Eliot prophetically asked in 1934, “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”

Knowledge becomes wisdom when it recognizes the Creator. This is the message of For the Life of the World: The Economy of Wisdom. As we recognize that by Jesus all things were created and in him all things are held together (Col. 1:16-17), we draw out the fruitfulness of creation through everyday efforts in the material world of engineering, music, business, or wherever else we may be serving. 


 

To watch the full episode, click here. Enter "TGC5" today or tomorrow for a free 72-hour rental. 

*****

Each Monday—from July 7 to August 18—we are highlighting one episode of For the Life of the World and sharing an exclusive code for a free 72-hour rental of the full episode. (Note: You have to redeem the code today or tomorrow, but once you do, the rental is free for 72 hours.) To purchase the full DVD collection with a study guide for a $10 discount, visit Hearts & Minds

by Bethany Jenkins at August 04, 2014 05:01 AM

Curse Reversed

Summer in Alabama is hot and humid, but we have, as a consolation, delicious peaches. As I unpacked the basket of peaches I bought at a fruit stand, I thought to myself that a perfectly ripened peach eaten in season surely testifies to common grace. Then I saw it: the rotten peach at the bottom of the basket. I couldn’t throw the mushy thing into the trash fast enough.

I have experience with bad peaches. I know that if I left the moldy peach in the bowl with the others, it would take over. Even the peaches that were firm when I bought them would be rotten in no time. Fruit mold spreads. In the book Home Comforts (which I consider the highest authority on domestic matters), Cheryl Mendelson writes, Even a spot of mold is a call for action.”

The Levitical law shares this healthy fear of blight. If fabric showed evidence of mold, it was defiled. A house that showed persistent signs of mold had to be torn down. If not eradicated, mold will spread to whatever it contacts. The laws about mold are mixed in with laws about leprosy. As long as a skin disease was deemed persistent, the person with the disease had to remain apart from the community:

The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, "Unclean, unclean." He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp. (Leviticus 13:45-46)

Like mold on peaches, defilement spreads in only one direction. The Israelite who touched someone unclean became defiled because defilement travels from the unclean to the clean.

Jesus, knowing the Scriptures, would have known how to avoid becoming unclean. Yet he repeatedly touched things that should have defiled him. In the first chapter of Mark, when a leper approached Jesus and asked him to make him clean, Jesus touched him. For the first time, the trajectory of defilement was reversed. Rather than becoming defiled by the leper, Jesus made him clean. A few chapters later, Jesus was surreptitiously touched by an unclean woman. Again, the defilement reversed direction, and she became clean. It’s as if water suddenly flowed uphill.

Each time Jesus touched a dead body, he should have been defiled. When he touched the sick, he could have become sick. Instead, the dead became alive and the sick became well. Jesus’ life gave life, his cleanness so deep it was contagious.

Anyone can take what is clean and make it unclean. (I do it all the time accidentally when I dump my cup of coffee into a dishwasher full of clean dishes.) Only Jesus can reverse defilement. He doesn’t do it with bleach or burnt offerings or antibiotics. He does it by the sheer strength of his holiness.

He can make us clean too. At the cross our sins were laid upon him, blighting him with defilement so great that even his Father turned away. And yet cleansing and life flow from that death to all who will receive them. Ultimately, disease and death must retreat in fear before the one who says, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

by Betsy Childs at August 04, 2014 05:01 AM

Behind the Scenes of TGC’s Council

The Gospel Coalition is a fellowship of evangelical churches deeply committed to renewing our faith in the gospel of Christ. And we’re committed to reforming our ministry practices to conform fully to the Scriptures. 

Most people see us live out this vision through our conferences and this website. But The Gospel Coalition was founded about 10 years ago as a small gathering of pastors we call the Council, which spans denominational, ethnic, and generational lines. These leaders are joined by a passionate commitment to the gospel and its transforming power. Council members seek to evangelize, plant, and strengthen churches, and do good in their communities. 

They may disagree on some secondary issues and church practice. But they share a passion to place the gospel back in the center of the church's teaching and preaching. Together they believe that understanding our times leads to penetrating faithfulness, not a diluted message. Our foundation documents—confessional statement and theological vision of ministry—lay out our common convictions and goals. 

Our Council of more than 50 pastors continues to meet every year for three days as we seek God for gospel-centered awakening. We spend our time in prayer, reading Scripture, and discussing the most pressing issues of the day. We aim to understand what must be done to faithfully lead our churches and seminaries in the coming days.

The Council meetings provide an opportunity for these leaders to extend accountability and friendship to each other. We share our personal struggles and joys in family and ministry, and we learn how to best pray for and support one another. Together we can accomplish more for the sake of Jesus Christ than we can separately.

We produced this brief video so you could take a look behind the scenes of our recent Council colloquium, held on the campus of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, May 13 to 15, 2014. We were joined this year by four guests later welcomed into the Council. Additionally, for the next two days in Sydney the new Council for TGC Australia will be gathering with similar plans and purposes. Please join them and us with unabashed hope in the power of the Holy Spirit to transform individuals, communities, and cultures.

TGC Council Colloquium from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

by Ben Peays at August 04, 2014 05:01 AM

One Big Fluke

The Outlaw Way

140804

WL

1) 3 Position Snatch (Floor, Hang, Power Position – do not drop bar): Max for the complex – 1X1@95%, 1X1@90%

Accessories

1) 3 Snatch Grip Push Press (BTN) + 1 Snatch Balance: Max for the complex – 1X1@95%, 1X1@90%

2) Muscle Snatch: 3rm – 3X1@95%, 3X1@90%

Strength

1a) 4XME + 3 Strict HSPU (go to complete failure, then rest and complete 3 more reps each set) – if more than 15 on first set add a deficit, rest 90 seconds

1b) 4X5 Pause Front Squats @ Projected 5RM *see note* (STRICT 3 second pause in the bottom at absolute bottom depth) – rest 90 seconds

*Note: If your highest TRUE Max Effort (if you dropped the bar pre-absolute max because it was “heavy” this is not a true ME) set last week was below 5, work at 60-65% of 1RM. If it was 7 or greater, work at 75%. If it was 10 or greater you probably need to test your 1RM again.

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by rudy.coach at August 04, 2014 04:36 AM

140804

Power

Squat: 6×4@80%
Bench: 6×2@80%

Conditioning

For time:

100′ HS Walk
50 KB Snatches 24/16kg (25L/25R anyhow)
50′ OH Walking Lunges 155/105#
50 KB Swings 24/16kg
100′ HS Walk

Do Work…

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by John Dill at August 04, 2014 04:12 AM

CrossFit Naptown

Fundamentals Are Back!

Monday’s Workout:

Calf and Foot Mobility

WOD:
Run 400
Row 500
4 rounds
25:00 cap

 

Fundamentals Class is Back at CFNT!!!

(Free to all members for the month of August)

Starting tomorrow, August 4th, the fundamentals class will be back at CrossFit NapTown for a free trial month. Every Tuesday at 7:00pm, members will be welcomed to attend this class to cover movements in a very in depth session. The class will be solely devoted to the mastery of one to three movements each week. About 50 minutes of class will be entirely dedicated to teaching and practicing skills and drills and the class will conclude with a short workout to give you a chance to apply what you have learned. Members that have been around since the early days can attest to the helpfulness of these classes. We do our best to teach movements in regular classes, but there are days that just get too jam packed between warm ups, drills, strength, and WODs and movements that require a lot of drilling and extra practice to really master (think muscle up, snatch, pistol, etc.). The fundamentals class gives us the opportunity to really take time to break down these more complex movements and give you plenty of time to ask questions and practice these skills without any rush.

The fundamentals class is right for athletes at any level. Beginners will be able to learn the fundamentals that make up every movement, intermediate folks will learn drills and cues to advance their skills and move on to the next level, and advanced athletes will get a chance to refine their skills and improve efficiency. We are so excited to be bringing this class back into the regular schedule rotation and hope that you take advantage of the wonderful and FREE learning opportunity that it provides!

 

 

 

Congratulations Coach Jared and Caitlin!

In other news….as of Saturday at 4:00pm, Coach Jared and member Caitlin are officially engaged! Wish them both congratulations on their engagement and take a moment to check out the gorgeous rock on future Mrs. Byczko’s finger when you get the chance. The couple met here at CrossFit NapTown, proving yet again that our community is a special place where unforgettable and unbreakable bonds are formed and everlasting memories are created. Thank you all for being a part of that magic!

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by Anna at August 04, 2014 03:31 AM

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

Wright’s Six Word Review of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

Did everything right. Go see it. Loads of Fun.

I realize, technically, that is nine words, but if you slur you speech and say it rapidly, and cannot count, it’s the same as six.

Loved the Raccoon.

rocket_raccoon_by_racoonwolf-d79wdmw

by John C Wright at August 04, 2014 03:17 AM

Caelum Et Terra

Practical Dualism and the Reality of Love

Hans_Memling_018

I do not know any Christians who describe themselves as dualists. They all would insist that they do not believe that Good and Evil are equal forces in the cosmos. They insist on the triumph of Good, on the eventual defeat of Evil.

But I would suggest that in fact even most who claim to follow Jesus are in fact practical dualists.

I mean, look at the iconography. The apocalyptic wars of Scripture appear to nearly even matches. The iconography of the Last Judgement shows nearly even numbers of souls saved or damned. For what it is worth, the Orthodox  icon of the Ladder of Ascent shows far more souls, who appear to be all monks, ascending than falling, but still a large number are lost.

I would suggest that this idea of near symmetry is an illusion born of the human experience.

Also a ‘God’ Who loses half of the souls ‘created in His image’ is an abject failure, both as a Creator and as a Redeemer.

In this sort of practical dualism, the idea good and evil are nearly equivalent powers in the universe is a human illusion, based upon our personal experience as fallen creatures.

And I hasten to add that while we know hardly a thing about the nature of the cosmos in which we find ourselves, to our knowledge we are the only fallen creatures around. The trees and the rocks and the cardinals and the oceans and the snails, electrons, babies and falling rain and tadpoles and galaxies are not conflicted, even if they are bound in some mysterious way to Death. Within the confines of a wounded universe, everything is in harmony.

What I mean is that if you take a walk on the beach or in the woods or in a desert, or wherever the touch of humanity is minimal YOU are the only creature that experiences inner conflict,  the only being estranged from itself .Not the oak trees or the cacti or the seashells.

Hence the cartoon staple of the guy with the devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other.

And the icon of the evenly divided Last Judgement.

We ain’t right.

The rest of the very limited known universe appears to be fine, aside from dogs and lab rats and factory chickens and other creatures closely associated with humans, even if the world has little pockets of inexplicable evil. And those appear to be tiny. Nowhere that I know of, aside from where humans have altered the created world in orclike ways, does the tangible world appear to be evenly divided between the Beautiful and the Ugly, or Good and Evil. The cosmos is overwhelmingly beautiful, even if there are these occasional stinking flaws, the dead dog by the side of the road, the poisonous spider, the stinging nettle, the sociopath.

But nowhere does that dissonance approach equity with harmony and beauty.

We are projecting.

The cosmos is beautiful and intricate and amazing and occasionally confounding.

And no, I do not understand why You Know Who did not create a Perfect Universe. I would have, if I was ‘Him’.

By that measure, the Absolute, the Beauty we call ‘God’ has a lot to answer for.

But if you consider the ignorance of the questioners, well, I will take my chances on the assurance of the friends of God that ‘He’ is good and loves sinners.

 


by Daniel Nichols at August 04, 2014 03:05 AM

The Outlaw Way

140804

Flexibility
Box Shoulder Stretch 4×0:20
photo-4

Static Shaping
ME Freestanding HS Hold without moving your hands. Kick up and attempt to balance using just your fingertips to shift your weight.

Skills and Drills
12×0:10 Descent Straight Body Lever on Floor

The post 140804 appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by Kaitlin at August 04, 2014 02:40 AM

CrossFit 204

Workout: Aug. 5, 2014

No one puts Emily in the corner.

Welcome back to Emily!

Press 3-3-3-3-3

As many reps as possible in 6 minutes of:

Max push-ups

(Do 20 double-unders any time you have to break up the push-ups)

by Mike at August 04, 2014 01:01 AM

Holiday WOD: Aug. 4, 2014

It just got really quite in here.

Yar.

One show only on Aug. 4: 11 a.m.

All other classes are cancelled for the holiday.

Please sign in here as you normally do.

We will upgrade anyone on the waiting list if the class slots fill up.

The workout is scheduled for two hours, but you won’t be working out for two hours.

See you there!

by Mike at August 04, 2014 12:56 AM

Doc Searls WeblogDoc Searls Weblog »

Snow on the Water

floesI’ve been intrigued by Fotopedia  since it showed up in ’09, especially since I do a shitload of travel photography. But I never posted anything there, because I was afraid it would die. And now, says here, it will. In seven days. The reason:

As of August 10, 2014, Fotopedia.com will close and our iOS applications will cease to function. Our community of passionate photographers, curators and storytellers has made this a wonderful journey, and we’d like to thank you for your hard work and your contributions. We truly believe in the concept of storytelling but don’t think there is a suitable business in it yet.

I’m also afraid Flickr will die, and wrote about that in What if Flickr fails? back in 2011. I believe Flickr is more durable now that it was then, and I like what they’ve been doing under new leadership there. But, with more than 50,000 photos up there now, on five different accounts (four are others to which I contribute), I’ve got a lot of exposure to the inevitable, which is that Flickr will die. As will everything, of course, but stuff on the Web has an especially low threshold of death.

In the early days it didn’t look that way. Making the Web was an exercise in long-term property development then, or so it seemed. There were sites we put up, built or constructed at locations in domains, so others could visit them, and search and browse through them, as if they were libraries. Which they were in a way, since we used publishing lingo to talk about what we put there: writing, authoring, editing, postingsyndicating and so on.

But that was what we might call the Static Web, a term I picked up from my son Allen in 2003, when he shared an amazing prophesy that has since proven correct: a new Live Web was starting to branch off the static one.

I’ve written about that a number of times since then. (Here, here and here, for example.) Back then, live was what we had with blogs, and RSS. You wrote something, posted it, and a Live Web search engine, such as Technorati or PubSub would have it indexed within a few minutes. (Amazing: Google Blog Search, which kinda killed the others, still exists.)

Today the Live Web is Twitter and Facebook.

Here are two important differences between the Live Web of 2003 and the Twitter/Facebook one today:

  1. Even if blogs were with services such as Radio Userland, Live Journal, Blogger or TypePad, they expressed, as Dave Winer puts it, the unedited voice of a person. With Twitter and Facebook, your voice echoes inside a big commercial castle.
  2. Blogs were journals. By that I mean they were self-archiving. Their URLs were always yourblog/year/month/day/permalink, or the equivalent. On Twitter and Facebook, they tend to sink away. Same with Tumblr, Pinterest and other services that employ the modern endless-scroll website style. The old stuff seems to sink down out of sight, with little sense that any one thing has its own location on the Web, or that the location belongs fully to the author.

That sinking-away thing is, almost literally, burial. Once it’s gone off the screen, it gets hard to find. Or it’s gone completely.

In its early days, tweeting was called “micro-blogging.” But it was really more like texting, or passing notes in class. While blogging was self-archived, with “permalinks,” every tweet — in spite of having a unique URL ‚ became hard to find, or gone, once it scrolled off the bottom of the screen. Many times I’ve tried searching for old tweets, on Twitter or Google, and found nothing. The best I could do was download an archive. (Or, excuse me, request an archive. I just did that. I’ve heard nothing so far.)

Sorry, but this is not the Web. This is something else: live performance. Kinda like radio.

Many years ago I started writing a book about radio, which had been an obsession of mine ever since I was a little kid. The title was to be Snow on the Water, a line from “Big Ted,” by The Incredible String Band:

Big Ted’s dead, he was a great old pig
He’d eat most anything, never wore a wig
Now he’s gone like snow on the water, good-bye-eeeedocdave

Radio’s goods decay at the speed of short-term memory. The best of it persists in long-term memory, but the rest is gone like snow on the water.

That, to me, is part of radio’s charm. At its best, it’s pure performance, something you have to be there for, in a mode they call “live.” Sure, you can record it, but then it’s not the same. It’s like canned fruit.

Performance is like that: a thing that happens in real time, in real place, between the performer(s) and the audience. Theater. Show biz. No second chances.

I was in radio for awhile, long ago. My nickname, Doc, is a fossil remnant of Doctor Dave, a humorous persona on WDBS in Durham, North Carolina. I also wrote for the station’s “alternative” paper, called The Guide. That graphic on the right is how I looked to readers. It was drawn by the late, great Ray Simone. I look like that in reality today, only with less hair.

Far as I know, the only remnants of Doctor Dave, on tape or in print, are buried in my garage in Santa Barbara. Some day, if I live long enough, and run out of more interesting things to, I’ll dig them up and put them online. Or maybe I’ll leave that up to other people who give more of a shit than I do. As of today, that’s nobody. After I’m dead as Ted, maybe some will show up. Who knows.

According to iTunes, I’ve also accumulated 1300 podcasts — time-shifted radio — that I also haven’t listened to. I do like podcasts, and some day will get around to doing my own on a regular basis instead of the one time I’ve done it, so far. (Find it at http://podcast.searls.com.) If I did it on radio first, it would be easier.

But what’s radio any more? Here’s what I said about it last November:

…now radio is streamed audio. That was already the case when webcasting showed up in the ’90s, and even more so with the rise of Last.fm, SiriusXM, Pandora, rdio, Spotify and every other audio service delivered over the Net.

All of these services can do what they do because they’ve cleared “performance rights” to play the music they play, and to pay the royalty rates required by copyright law. Never mind the rates for now. Instead, focus on the word performance. The Copyright Act of 1909 was the first to characterize a musical composition or recording as a performance. So, if you acquire a piece of music, you only acquire the right to perform it for yourself.

So what I’m saying is that the Web is becoming more of a live performance venue, and less of a digital library where published works are shared and stored in easily found ways.

Look at the advertising on websites today. None of it is constant in the least. Hit the refresh button and new ads will appear. Go away and come back and there will be new content, with new ads. This is nothing like the newspapers and magazines — the journals — of old. This is live performance, often just for you (at least on the advertising side).

In How Facebook Sold You Krill Oil, in today’s New York Times, we learn that you, the Facebook user, are in an “audience” for the advertising there. Enough of the performance works to make the spending worthwhile for the advertiser.

There’s an accounting of it somewhere, for business purposes. But nothing lasting, much less permanent, for the rest of us. It’s all just snow on the water.

Watching that advertising — and even most “content” — scroll to oblivion is hardly tragic.

But losing Fotopedia is tragic to this extreme: art matters. What you see and read today on Fotopedia are works of art. Some are better than others, but all qualify for the noun.

Fortunately, the Internet Archive has indexed Fotopedia. But navigating it isn’t the same. Some internal links go somewhere, but most don’t.

There are many regrets (and one persistent offer to help) in the comments under Fotopedia’s final blog post. Here’s hoping something can be done to save Fotopedia’s art the old Static Web way. And that, eight days from now, all that fine art won’t be gone like Big Ted.

 

 

 

 

by Doc Searls at August 04, 2014 12:31 AM

August 03, 2014

The Ruthless Monk

New Blog…New Name…New URL

Friends, I decided that it was time to start using my actual name. My blog has moved to www.lesliekeeney.com, where I am blogging about women in apologetics and the Christian academy. Join me there!

by Leslie Keeney at August 03, 2014 11:58 PM

Lift Big Eat Big

Building A Thicker & Stronger Upper Back Pt. 2

When your shoulders touch both sides of the doorway, you're doin' it right.
Ah, the good ol' upper back: it can either be the secret weapon of the advanced athlete, or the plague of the mediocre athlete. In this article, I will discuss the importance of upper back strength, and I will discuss some tools I use to build my own upper back up, both for size and strength. After all, if you are going to get strong, you might as well get as big as your weight class allows. In my first upper back article, I outlined some tools you could use to build your own back up, and this article will expand on these exercises, as well as offering some that can be completed in the average gym. Let's get started.

First things first, your upper back is the part of your back that is at the top (knowledge bomb). The upper back muscles consist mostly of the latissimus dorsi (the lats), the rhomboids and the trapezius (traps). If I were to grab the average lifter or the average Crossfitter, there is a pretty good chance that their upper back is weak, relative to the rest of their body. Mobility experts on Youtube and weekend coaches across the country like to endlessly discuss the importance of glute and hip strength for athletes, and rightly so: everything starts in the hips and radiates outwards. However, I place upper back strength right next to hip strength on the importance chart, and as such, I spend a lot of time working my upper back. It is important for all strength programs to have some sort of direct upper back work, whether they are hypertrophic exercises or strength building exercises. Both will benefit you, and this is another instance that supports our claim that "you can't just do bench, squat and deadlift forever."




Upper back strength and size are important for many reasons, some of them are, but aren't limited to: providing a better base for shoulder stability for pressing objects overhead. Increasing thickness of the area where bars rest for squats and yoke walks, thus providing more surface area to support the weight. Providing more strength to increase the ability to pull weight off the floor. And finally, improving posture and diminishing the Quasimodo effect.  Let's check out some exercises I like to use to increase my girth and mantle.


Stone Loading



OK, I know i promised that we would discuss exercises that can be done in a standard gym, but as the Stone Boss of our little training crew, I feel it is my duty to discuss the benefits of stones for upper back strength. Regardless of what anyone might tell you, I cannot be convinced otherwise that stones are the single best test of overall strength for a single lift. Yes, deadlifts are hard, yes cleans, snatches, and squats are hard. However, all of these lifts just named are performed with bars that have nice knurling on them, and the bar's diameter is designed to be picked up and fit in the palm of your hand. The big difference here, of course, is that a stone is perfectly round and smooth, and does not want to be picked up. Time to teach these stones a lesson.


I like using stones for upper back strength, simply because stones are an incredibly skill-based strength movement that often gets overlooked when discussing skill, flexibility, and full body strength. No, I am not talking about taking a ridiculously light stone and throwing it over your shoulder 30 times like a jackass. I am talking about loading monster stones (for you) over bars or onto platforms. You will quickly discover that stones are one of those lifts that you can skate by on, by omitting certain body parts that are weaker than they should be. If your upper back strength is lacking, not only will you not break that stone off the ground, there is no way on this earth you will take it from your lap and load it. Fortunately for you, the best way to get better at stones is to do stones often! There are some exercises that can assist stone loading, but nothing will replace it. So please, don't ask what good substitutes are for stones, find a gym in your area with stones, and use them. If you want to learn how to load stones like a Strongman (AKA the right way), check out our comprehensive article on them.

Straight-Legged Deficit Deadlifts



This are one of my favorite deadlift assistance exercises, shown to me by my coach, Alanna Casey. In the previous article, I discussed block pulls below the knee, which are outstanding for upper back strength, but the special thing I like about these is the extra work that the hamstrings get as well. In fact, many exercises that focus on upper back can be utilized to work on hamstrings, a particular weakness of mine. Some important things to remember on this exercise: Keep your descent SLOW, keeping the bar close to your legs, and keep your ascent FAST. Make sure that you drive your hips back as far as possible, while keeping your legs straight as possible, for as long as possible. You can see that sometimes my toes almost look like they will leave the ground: that is how far I am trying to sit back.
 I stand on the block to create a slight deficit, so I can descend the bar even further, while keeping it from touching the floor. This will allow you to stay under tension, which will help break down muscle fibers in your upper back and hamstrings, which means one thing: bigger muscles. You can use straps like I am above, or you can go with mix grip. Both will offer you benefits, but I find that using straps for this allows me to use more weight and hit more reps. This isn't a grip exercise, so leave your ego at the door when it comes to straps.  I started week one with about 60% of my deadlift, and eventually worked up to about 82% in the following weeks. Aim to hit 3-4 sets of 5-7 reps for this exercise.

Dumbbell Shrugs (high-rep and pause variations)



While I personally don't find that shrugs have direct carryover to any particular lift, they definitely work for hypertrophic purposes. In the video above, you can see LBEB athlete Nick Best banging out a quick of 60 shrugs with 150lb dumbbells. That is a little something I like to call "Man Work". If you aren't feeling up for some man work, lower the weight, but I would still suggest using straps like Nick is, so grip is not a factor and you don't have to put down the weights. Lean forward a little on these, and try to bang out 60 reps in as short of amount of time as possible.

Another variation you can use for dumbbell shrugs are pause shrugs. You can pretty much pause any exercise to make you better at it, and shrugs are no different. What I like to do is use a somewhat lighter weight for sets of about 20 reps. The goal for pause shrugs is to shrug, hold the top for three seconds, drop the weights down and immediately go into the next pause. Treat the top of the shrug as if it is the rest portion of the shrug, don't rest at the bottom. You will be pleasantly surprised the next day after trying these out.

Odd-Object Pressing


Like the LBEB Doc has stated in previous articles, You don't see great pressers who have weak upper backs. There is a reason for this, and the most simple reason is that you need a strong base to put things overhead, it isn't just about delts and triceps for a strong press. The upper back is your foundation for a strong press, and the more difficult an object is to press, the greater benefit your upper back will receive. Putting a barbell overhead is much easier for the average person than a giant dumbbell, log or block, simply because the bar is able to be racked across your front delts without you needing to hyperextend in anyway. Unlike a barbell, however, odd objects do not fit across your front delt rack, and require greater upper back strength to be able to hold the weight in place. Some people say that Strongmen are masters of leverage, and you can watch press medleys at Strongman shows to see why. 

Something I would recommend is look in your area for a gym with kegs, atlas stones, sandbags or logs, and attempt some pressing with them. Not only will you notice a significant amount of hypertrophy occurring in your front delts, but your upper back will also take a proper beating. Thank you sir, may I have another?


An important facet of upper back training that I neglected in the previous article is to not neglect your other forms of training. I spent a lot of time working on my upper back last year, so much time, in fact, that my upper back was starting to overcompensate for weaknesses on my other lifts, like my deadlift. Make sure that all your weaknesses are addressed, but a strong upper back is something everyone should strive for. If it makes you feel any better, your upper back can never be too strong. To see some other exercise methods for upper back training, make sure to check out the previous article, and post all of your questions to our Facebook. Thanks for reading, now go get huge.

by Brandon Morrison (noreply@blogger.com) at August 03, 2014 10:35 PM

command center

Prints

Two long-buried caches of photographs came to light last year. One was a stack of cellulose nitrate negatives made on the Scott Antarctic expedition almost a hundred years ago. Over time, they became stuck together into a moldy brick, but it was possible to tease the negatives apart and see what they revealed. You can view the images at the web site of the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust. The results show ragged edges and mold spots but, even beyond their historical importance, the photographs are evocative and in some cases very beautiful.

The other cache contained images not quite so old and of less general interest but of personal importance. My mother moved from the house she had occupied for decades into a smaller apartment and while preparing to move she found the proverbial shoe box of old pictures in a closet. Some of the images are from my youth, some from hers, and some even from her parents'. One of the photographs, from 1931, shows my paternal great-grandparents. I never met my paternal grandparents, let alone great-grandparents, so this photograph touches something almost primordial for me. And some of the photographs in the box were even older.

Due to the miracle of photography, we are able to see over a hundred years into the past. Of course this is not news; all of us have seen 19th century photographs by the pioneers of the medium. By the turn of the 20th century photography was so common that huge numbers of images, from the historical to the mundane, had been created. And sometimes we are lucky enough to chance upon forgotten images that open a window into a past that would otherwise fade from view.

But such windows are becoming rare. A hundred years from now, there will be far fewer photo caches to find. Although the transition to digital photography has made photos almost unimaginably commonplace—one estimate puts the number of shutter activations at a trillion images worldwide per year—very few of those images become artifacts that can be left in a shoe box.

We live in what has been named a Digital Dark Age. Because digital technology evolves so fast, we are rapidly losing the ability to understand yesterday's media. As file formats change, software becomes obsolete, and hardware becomes outmoded, old digital files become unreadable and unrecoverable.

There are many examples of lost information, but here is an illustrative story of disaster narrowly averted. Early development of the Unix operating system, which became the software foundation for the Internet, was done in the late 1960s and early 1970s on Digital Equipment Corporation computers. Backups were made on a magnetic medium called a DECtape. By the mid 1970s, DECtape was obsolete and by the 1980s there were no remaining DECtape drives that could read the old backups. The scientists in the original Unix lab had kept a box of old backups under the raised floor of the computer room, but the tapes had spontaneously become unreadable because the device to read them no longer existed in the lab or anywhere else as far as anyone knew. And even if it did, no computer that could run the device was still powered on. Fortunately, around 1990 Paul Vixie and Keith Bostic, working for a different company, stumbled across an old junked DECtape drive and managed to get it up and running again by resurrecting an old computer to connect it to. They contacted the Unix research group and offered one last chance to recover the data on the backup tapes before the computer and DECtape drive were finally decommissioned. Time and resources were limited, but some of the key archival pieces of early Unix development were recovered through this combination of charity and a great deal of luck. This story has a happy ending, but not all digital archives survive. Far from it.

The problem is that as technology advances, data needs to be curated. Files need to have their formats converted, and then transferred to new media. A backup disk in a box somewhere might be unreadable a few years from now. Its format may be obsolete, the software to read it might not run on current hardware, or the media might have physically decayed. NASA lost a large part of the data collected by the Viking Mars missions because the iron oxide fell off the tapes storing the data.

Backups are important but they too are temporary, subject to the same problems as the data they attempt to protect. Backup software can become obsolete and media can fail. The same affliction that damaged the Viking tapes also wiped out my personal backup archive; I lost the only copy of my computer work from the 1970s. (It's worth noting my negatives and prints from the period survived.)

It's not just tapes that go bad. Consider CDs and DVDs, media often used for backup. The disks, especially the writable kind use for backups, are very fragile, much more so than the mass-produced read-only kind used to store music and movies. Within a few years, especially in humid environments, the metal film can separate from the backing medium. Even if the backup medium survives, the formats used to store the backups might become obsolete. The software that reads the backups might not run on the next computer one buys. Today, CDs are already becoming relics; many computers today do not even come with a CD or DVD drive. What were once the gold standard for backup are already looking old-fashioned just a few years on. They will be antiquated and obscure a century from now.

To summarize, digital information requires maintenance. It's not sufficient to make backups; the backups also need to be maintained, upgraded, transferred, and curated. Without conscientious care, the data of today will be lost forever in a few years. Even with care, it's possible through software or hardware changes to lose access forever. That shoebox of old backup CDs will be unreadable soon.

Which brings us back to those old photo caches. They held negatives and prints, physical objects that stored images. They needed no attention, no curating, no updating. They sat untended and forgotten for decades, but through all that time faithfully held their information, waiting for a future discoverer. As a result, we can all see what the Scott Antarctic expedition saw, and I can see what my great-grandparents looked like.

It is a sad irony that modern technology makes it unlikely that future generations will see the images made today.

Ask yourself whether your great-grandchildren will be able to see your photographs. If the images exist only as a digital image file, the answer is almost certainly, "No". If, however, there are physical prints, the odds improve. Those digital images need to be made real to endure. Without a print, a digital photograph has no future.

We live in a Digital Dark Age, but as individuals we can shine a little light. If you are one of the uncounted photographers who enjoy digital photography, keep in mind the fragility of data. When you have a digital image you care about, for whatever reason, artistic or sentimental, please make a print and put that print away. It will sit quietly in the dark, holding fast, never forgetting, ready to reveal itself to a grateful future generation.

by rob (noreply@blogger.com) at August 03, 2014 10:08 PM

512 Pixels

The Outlaw Way

140804

The first Outlaw camp in New Zealand is live! We’ll be in Auckland, New Zealand, January 9th-11th at Andfit CrossFit. If this is anything like past camps on the northern side of the Tasman Sea (that’s a reference to Australia for you Americans that have no clue what I mean), it could be sold out by the end of the day.

CLICK HERE to register for the Science & Precision Series in Auckland, New Zealand.

Also, just to sweeten things, I’ve just confirmed that Jared Fleming will be with us as Weightlifting Coach (and, of course, so we can ride motorcycles and have amazing adventures) for this date and a few others on the other side of the world.


Tomorrow we’ll be back to observation #3 from the 2014 Games. I know, you guys thought I wouldn’t finish. Nope, I’m gonna get all five, and I might even talk about Rich again (sans hyperbole, if that’s possible).


Quick update on the rest of the fall/winter Outlaw camps…

The first Outlaw Barbell camp in Nashville (Murfeesboro), Tennessee is sold out, and the second in Northern Virginia, has about five spots remaining.

The first three dates (Birmingham, UK – Newport, KY – Salt Lake City, UT) of the Science and Precision Series are very nearly sold out, with less than ten spots remaining. We will also have announcements about camp staff this week, and think you guys will be very excited.


WOD 140804:

BBG

3 Position Snatch (Floor, Hang, Power Position – do not drop bar): Max for the complex – 1X1@95%, 1X1@90%

Strength/Skill

1a) 4XME + 3 Strict HSPU (go to complete failure, then rest and complete 3 more reps each set) – if more than 15 on first set add a deficit, rest 90 seconds

1b) 4X5 Pause Front Squats @ Projected 5RM *see note* (STRICT 3 second pause in the bottom at absolute bottom depth) – rest 90 seconds

*Note: If your highest TRUE Max Effort (if you dropped the bar pre-absolute max because it was “heavy” this is not a true ME) set last week was below 5, work at 60-65% of 1RM. If it was 7 or greater, work at 75%. If it was 10 or greater you probably need to test your 1RM again.

Conditioning

For time:

100′ HS Walk
50 KB Snatches 24/16kg (25L/25R anyhow)
50′ OH Walking Lunges 155/105#
50 KB Swings 24/16kg
100′ HS Walk

The post 140804 appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by rudy.coach at August 03, 2014 07:57 PM

Zippy Catholic

Subsidiarity and freedom are unrelated

Subsidiarity is messy hierarchical organic authority.  A single efficient and monolithic authority micromanaging everything all the time is the opposite of subsidiarity, whether that monolithic authority is dictatorial, democratic, or carried out through some other formal structure like a patchwork.

Freedom is the capacity to actually choose what we wish to choose. It is maximized for the most people either when a wicked sovereign rules wicked people, or when a good sovereign rules good people.

It is self-contradictory to make freedom a political priority, because politics is essentially the art of resolving controverted cases. By definition all parties in controverted cases cannot be granted the actual capacity to choose what they wish to choose. Attempting to limit political freedom with some other principle doesn’t work: it just represents an attempt to confine the self-contradiction into a little box, from which, like a powerful acid, it will inevitably escape. And within whatever scope it is permitted to operate, it will insist upon equality of rights.

It is possible for a society under subsidiarity to exhibit a great deal of freedom or a tremendous lack of freedom; and as always, who is and is not “free” is relative to what they happen to wish that they could choose in that society.  The same can be said for a monolithic arrangement.

Saying that a society is free, then, is simply to say that in your view that society puts the right people in prison for the right reasons.

Freedom is inherently relative, so it teaches modern people that morality is relative. Again citing the prophet Soul Asylum,

Trying to do the right thing
Play it straight
The right thing changes from state to state

So subsidiarity and political freedom are unrelated concepts. The latter must be rejected utterly in order to escape the mind trap of liberal modernity. In fact the more important freedom to choose the good is to you, the more important it is that you reject freedom as a political priority.


by Zippy at August 03, 2014 06:24 PM

One Big Fluke

How I'm writing a programming book

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

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

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

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


Writing workflow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Traceback (most recent call last):
  File ".../Slicing.md", line 29, in 
    a[99]
IndexError: list index out of range

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


Publishing workflow

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

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

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

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

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

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

data = MissingPropertyDB()
# HIDE
data.foo  # Test the success case
# END
try:
    data.missing
except AttributeError as e:
    pretty(e)
```

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

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

data = MissingPropertyDB()
try:
    data.missing
except AttributeError as e:
    pretty(e)

>>>
AttributeError('That property is missing!',)


Conclusion

If you have any interest in using these tools let me know! Writing a book is already hard enough. Having a good workflow helps a lot. I'd like to save you the trouble. Otherwise, if you have any suggestions on what I should put in the book, please email me here.

by Brett Slatkin (noreply@blogger.com) at August 03, 2014 05:45 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

“I need to learn how to make this life work”

The story of San Francisco’s most unexpected half-marathoner.

 

“I really don’t want too much. I just want to get up and stay healthy and enjoy this moment.”

###

by Chris Guillebeau at August 03, 2014 05:07 PM

Wedgewords

The Communion of the Saints as Practical Ecclesiology

This week we are beginning a study of Paul’s epistle to the Philippians. This series will cover each passage in the book in a continuous exegetical manner. In other words, we are going to walk through the whole book, verse by verse, and try to see what Paul had to say to the 1st century church at Philippi. Along the way we will learn some historical material, we will be able to better understand what the early church looked like, and, in all things, we will be pointed to Christ. The major themes of Philippians are friendship, church unity, like-mindedness, and charitable giving, but all of these themes boil down to the one: “Have this mind in you which was in Christ Jesus.”

Today’s text introduces us to one of the foundational ideas of the letter and indeed of the Christian life. Paul tells the Philippians that they share in the fellowship of the gospel and are partakers with one another in grace. This fellowship also appears in the fact that Paul remembers the believers and this causes him to pray for them and to share in their lives even from abroad. Each of these expressions are aspects of one thing, the communion of the saints. This doctrine is very practical, and it applies to all believers everywhere, especially those in the same congregation. The communion of the saints means that we are partners in one another’s lives. 

Communion

The main theme of this passage is unfortunately somewhat obscured in the English translation. You probably don’t see the term “communion” here at all. But, several of the words Paul uses are variations of that word. For instance, the “fellowship” in vs. 5 is the Greek word koinonia. You’ve probably heard of this word before. It is often translated as “fellowship,” but it means more than a good conversation over a meal. Koinonia is a sort of intimate sharing with one another where lives are knit together. Some translations render it “partnership in the gospel.” It could just as legitimately be translated “communion in the gospel.”

We see this term koinonia again in vs. 7 where Paul says that the Philippians have been “partakers with me in grace.” The term translated “partakers” is synkoinonios, or “those who commune with me.” The Philippians “partake” of Paul’s grace because they have communion with him in the gospel.

To fully understand this term koinonia, we should look to the books of Acts where it is first introduced. Acts 2:42-45 describes the communion of the early church in this way:

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together,and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

The word “fellowship” is, you guessed it, koinonia, but what’s really fascinating is that the word for “common” where it says that they had all things in common is koina, a root word from which koinonia is derived. Simply put, the terms “communion” and “common” are directly related. To be in communion is to have things in common, and in the early church this was more than just an internal spiritual brotherhood. The spiritual communion created an actual community where people shared food, goods, and money. They truly lived together.

This is the type of communion that Paul has in mind in Philippians. He certainly does mean that he has as spiritual bond with the Christians there, but he also means that this spiritual bond brings his life together with theirs in a real way. As we will see when we get to chapter 4, the church at Philippi had given Paul financial support. This was a big way in which they “shared” in his ministry and “partnered” with him. In fact, some liberal commentators say that Paul is really buttering up his audience the whole time in order to ask for them for money. They see the whole thing as a fundraising letter. That’s far too cynical a way to read things, but it would be equally wrong to remove the financial component altogether from the communion which Paul shares with the Philippians. Apart from their charitable giving, he would not have been able to conduct his ministry. And this means that our money is a legitimate aspect of our communion together. We do not give money to the church, to ministers, to missionaries, and to those in need merely out of obedience to some command, but rather we give because we are participating in one another’s lives. We are a gospel family.

Real Presence

This doctrine of communion is so strong that Paul effectively says that wherever he goes, he brings the Philippians with him. They labor in his labors because they share in his life. There is a sort of “real presence” at work in their spiritual unity.

Paul writes:

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:3-8)

To fully appreciate what Paul is saying here, we need to understand the full importance of memory or remembering in the Bible. It’s actually a very important thing. To remember in the Bible usually means to bring something to mind in such a way as to inspire action. Typically it is used in connection with the covenant. When God “remembers” His covenant, He remembers the promise He made to His people and He then acts in such a way as to keep that promise. The most famous example of this is in the case of the rainbow after the flood. God says:

I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth. (Gen. 9:13-16)

You see, the rainbow “reminded” God that He had promised not to destroy the earth again, and so whenever God’s wrath was incited against the earth, He would see His rainbow, remember the covenant, and relent.

And there are many more instances of covenantal memory in the bible. We don’t have time to talk about them all in detail, but we can mention a few. The Sabbath day was a memorial day. There were also memorial sacrifices. The priest had memorial stones on his breastplate. And in the New Testament, we have a covenant memorial in the Lord’s Supper. Jesus told the disciples to eat the bread and drink the wine “in remembrance of me.” That remembrance was not simply remembering that Jesus existed and lived and died, but rather remembering the saving acts which He accomplished and the covenant itself. And we don’t only remember it in the sense of calling it to our minds internally, but we memorialize it, or, in the words of Paul, “show forth the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). Our keeping the Lord’s Supper is an act of covenant memory, and in it, we are calling ourselves to remember the covenant and we are calling on God to remember His covenant in the hopes that He will act.

Now, I gave you that background on remembering in order to point out that when Paul “remembers” the Philippians, he is not just being sentimental. He is actually sharing the mission with them. And more than that, when he calls them to mind, it is as if they are actually there with him. He says, “it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace” (Philippians 1:7). Paul says that it is “right” for him to think of them because they are in his heart. And they are in his heart because they partake with him of grace, because of their communion together. Paul is actually saying that it is right for him to remember the Philippians because they Philippians are there with him. They are present through their communion.

And this all means that wherever Paul goes, he carries the Philippians with him, and the Philippians continue to participate in and through Paul as well. Whatever happens to Paul happens to them. Paul says later on in this chapter that the Philippians have “the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me” (vs. 30). The things that are happening to Paul are happening to the church in Philippi because their lives are shared. They are present with one another. And this teaches us about the nature of the church.

Ecclesiology

The communion of the saints might sound like fancy theology but it is actually practical ecclesiology. That means it teaches us what the church is and how it functions. The communion of the saints means that every member of the church belongs to every other member of the church and that they are truly one body in Christ. In fact, they are even one body with Christ. Do you remember what Jesus said to Saul before his conversion in the book of Acts? “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”( Acts 9:4). But Jesus had already ascended to heaven by that point. Who was Saul actually persecuting? It was the church. He had Stephen killed and was arresting the other Christians. Yet Jesus said that Saul was persecuting him. This is because the communion of the saints is also communion in Christ. We are one body, the body of Christ.

The most famous verse in this passage is undoubtedly vs. 6, “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” This verse gives us assurance of our perseverance in the faith. We don’t have to worry that we will come up short because it is God Himself who is at work within us. But this should not be read only in terms of individual salvation. That isn’t really Paul’s purpose here. He says that God has begun a good work in “you,” but he uses the plural form of the pronoun. Paul actually writes, “He who began a good work in y’all will be faithful to complete it.” And this means that Paul is talking about the church as a group. He is faithful that God will continue the work He has begun in the church, in bringing them together, in growing them into maturity, and in supporting Paul’s ministry and continuing to share in it.

This means that the Philippian church at work is actually God at work. They are the means He has chosen to use to further His mission. When the church supports Paul, it is actually God supporting Paul. This is how God works. He uses means and specifically He uses His people. And this is true of us today. Our mutual partnership in one another’s lives is a major way in which God works in us. And since Paul is confident that God will continue to work in the church at Philippi, knitting them together and using them to support him, we ought to be confident that God will continue to work in our church today and bring us to maturity and fulfillment.

Indeed, we need to begin thinking about our relationship with one another in the church as God’s calling. He has put us here, and as many of us who have faith in Jesus Christ are also one in Jesus Christ. We have the same Spirit, and that Spirit is singular. It is the Holy Spirit. It is God in us. And that means that we are one. Our communion makes us full partners and equal partakers in one another’s lives. Now, of course, this doesn’t mean that we become the Borg from Star Trek. We still have our own individual families and our own specific jobs and functions. We are varying members of the one body. But we are one body. And this means we are in it together. There can be no spiritual libertarians. What happens to your spiritual life happens to mine. What happens to you in the church happens to me in the church. And what God does in and through you, He also does to me in and through you. And what God does in and through me, He also does to you in and through me. We are all of us connected.

This also means that the ministries, the missionaries, the pastors, and the various individuals that our church supports and will support in the future is but an extension of our church in its carrying out God’s mission. We are not outsourcing our ministry when we do this. That is a key form of our ministry. And so we should have a personal investment in our ministries. We should remember them in our prayers and carry them in our hearts. And this cannot be sentimental language. It has to be real communion.

But I have actually gotten ahead of myself there. We shouldn’t only remember our specialized ministries and carry them in our hearts. We should remember one another in our prayers—the members of this church. We should carry each other in our hearts, because we have the most basic gospel partnership, the covenant of the local church and the living and active community of faith. Please, pray for me, and I promise to pray for you. We need to know one another, and we need to love one another. This is true even if it doesn’t come naturally—especially if it doesn’t come naturally. You see, there are always people who “click” and people who don’t. There are people who have an easy and automatic affinity for one another and those who don’t. There are people with shared interests, a similar sense of humor, and who just fit in, and there those who don’t have those things and, subsequently, don’t fit in. But if they are in Christ, they have something in common, and it is something big. They have the Holy Spirit. They have the communion of the saints. They have the same life in Christ. And so it is their duty to love one another, to carry one another in their hearts, and to pray constantly for one another, hoping for them to abound in love, grace, and discernment.

Paul then tells us exactly what he prays for:

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (9-11)

We are going to talk about each of these things in the coming weeks, what they mean and how they are realized. But for today the point is simple. Our love, knowledge, and discernment will not come on a one-on-one basis. No, it comes to us as a people, together. We each grow in love as we love one another. We each grow in knowledge as we know one another and learn from one another. And we grow in discernment as we make mistakes together, as we have conflict, and as we stick with it and resolve things together. We grow up into the fullness of the Body of Christ together.

Let us pray.  


by Steven Wedgeworth at August 03, 2014 03:55 PM

Inconsolation

colorex: I might as well include them all

This randomized revisitation of the C section has been a veritable tapdance through colorization tools. If I had known I had so many, I would have devoted a whole week to them.

I have one more that starts with C, and then I’ll return to the entire alphabet, as determined by shuf and ls. And since I’m on a roll with colorizing tools, I might as well finish up with colorex.

2014-08-01-lv-c5551-colorex

A lot of the “shortcomings” I mentioned in clog are resolved in colorex. For example, it will, as you can see, colorize specific chunks or strings of letters, for as many times as they appear on a line. It can also bounce between colors even when they are exactly adjacent.

And most of colorex’s syntax is at the command line, so you can declare a color as you build the filter command. It also adds a blink code, underlining effects and bolding … only some of which is visible in a virtual console, but you get the idea.

clog had a very straightforward configuration style, but colorex will require you to be a little more adept at the command line. Expect to escape some of your more complex searches and/or regexes to make sure colorex understands what you want.

As an added touch, colorex has a randomization command, which will either surprise you with its results or drive you batty with the spattered color effects.

2014-08-01-lv-c5551-colorex-random

Not since toilet has there been such a commanding use of color on my lowly X41. …

I should mention that the random effects only seem to work on a full line. And out of fairness, I should mention that colorex doesn’t have the same degree of control over color — like red on purple text — that you can get quite easily with clog. Perhaps that will be in future versions.

In spite of those shortcomings, I’m more inclined to adopt colorex than clog, just because it feels like there’s a stronger sense of control with the former than with the latter. It may not offer the same range of controls and it might be a little more challenging to configure, but it definitely picks up what clog stepped over.


Tagged: color, colorize, filter, log, text

by K.Mandla at August 03, 2014 12:00 PM

clog: Custom color for logs

I seem to be awash of colorizing programs as I chip away at the C section. This is clog, which the home page describes as a colorized log tail utility.

2014-08-01-lv-c5551-clog

That’s mostly true. It does colorize text and it does apply more to logs than straight text files. It lacks a feature or two that would make it a peer of tail.

Mostly, it lacks the ability to strain out the last lines of a log. By default, clog dumps everything to STDOUT, and ignores flags like -10 that are native to tail. A bit of a misnomer, then.

You have two options in your .clogrc file: either highlight an entire line, or highlight matching sequences of letters. (You can also suppress lines, which might be useful.) In that way you could use clog as a kind of stylized grep, and add a few more color options.

Some shortcomings: When you highlight a string of letters or a word, you will only see highlighting on the first occurrence. As far as I could tell, there was no way to highlight the same sequence multiple times in the same line. Several different colors on the same line will work, but only the first match for each color.

Furthermore, if you ask for full-line highlighting and the line matches more than one filter, you’ll only see one highlighting. I couldn’t make clog split highlighting. You can, however, highlight letter sequences overtop of line highlighting.

Those are shortcomings, but only if you’re trying to make clog behave like a strict color filter, and not a log colorizer. Think of clog like ccze, not like colout (or highlighter or pygments).

On the plus side, clog’s syntax for screening colors is terrifically simple. Step through the first three or four examples and you’ll have multicolor log displays in no time. And clog supplies date and time functions in case you want to stamp the output with either of those.

clog is a good tool, but not one I plan on adopting. I rarely peek at my logs anyway, and clog doesn’t handle enough grep-like colorizing to take over that role. If its abilities expand, I might consider it.


Tagged: color, colorize, filter, log, text

by K.Mandla at August 03, 2014 12:00 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Weekly review: Week ending August 1, 2014

This was a week of lots of reading and philosophical reflections. =) Lots of work, too, since the clients need a little extra help. It’s a good excuse to learn more about both front-end development and analytics, anyway. I went to a couple of parties and had fun chatting with people. I’m getting better at stepping back and enjoying the conversation without worrying about the quiet bits.

I practiced the Japanese curry recipe again. Mmm. I think this will be one of our go-to recipes. We also harvested the blueberries from the yard – it’s just a handful, but it’s a yummy handful.

W- and I have resolved to be more adventurous in terms of food and activities. Left to our own devices (literally, even), we tend to spend the time at home. Maybe even working. It’s summer! There’s always something happening. So now we’re making ourselves go out and try things, especially if we can find interesting meals that we’d like to replicate at home. (I enjoy cooking more than I enjoy eating out, weirdly.) For example, having Japanese curry at Gyugyuya launched us on this Japanese-curry-from-scratch kick, and I’m becoming more comfortable with making that now. The Caribbean Festival is on this weekend, and the Taste of the Danforth is next weekend. Maybe we’ll try those out.

Next week: Writing, work, and cooking. Life is good!

Blog posts

Link round-up

Focus areas and time review

  • Business (30.6h – 18%)
    • Earn (23.8h – 77% of Business)
      • E1: Finish transition video draft
      • E1: Train TR
      • E1: Work on second video draft
      • Earn: E1: 2.5-3.5 days of consulting
    • Build (0.6h – 1% of Business)
      • Paperwork (0.6h)
    • Connect (6.2h – 20% of Business)
  • Relationships (9.4h – 5%)
    • Attend Nadia’s party
    • Attend Paul’s party
    • Attend potluck
    • Discuss F2
    • Have coffee with Andrew
    • Make cabbage stew at Hacklab
    • Cook at Hacklab?
    • Watch Guardians of the Galaxy, yay!
  • Discretionary – Productive (21.1h – 12%)
    • Record chat with Harry Schwartz
    • [#C] Track cat data – State “DONE” from “STARTED” [2014-06-25 Wed 23:30]
    • Get back into drawing things I’m learning about
    • Get new bike brakes
    • Get some laces and set up a knot-tying practice area
    • Reread Latin textbook chapter now that I’ve picked up more vocabulary
    • [#C] Tracking: Update the number of tasks
    • Writing (8.8h)
  • Discretionary – Play (8.3h – 4%)
  • Personal routines (28.5h – 16%)
  • Unpaid work (9.5h – 5%)
  • Sleep (60.6h – 36% – average of 8.7 per day)

The post Weekly review: Week ending August 1, 2014 appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at August 03, 2014 12:00 PM

Greg Mankiw's Blog

Wisdom from Thomas Sowell

Larry Kotlikoff's comment on Paul Krugman's debating style in my previous post reminded me of an email I received earlier this summer:

Hi Professor Mankiw,
 
I'm an entering graduate student at [withheld] and a long-time reader (reading your blog when I was in high school introduced me to and got me interested in economics). I was reading Thomas Sowell's A Conflict of Visions and stumbled upon a passage that immediately reminded me of you, and your debates with Professor Krugman. I think it accurately describes a lot of disputes I've seen among intellectuals.
 
If you're familiar with the basic premise of the book, you can skip this paragraph. If you aren't (or need a refresher) Sowell creates a spectrum of political visions. At one end, there is the unconstrained vision, which sees a more malleable human nature in which the reason of experts has great efficacy in solving society's problems. At the other end, there is the constrained vision, which sees man's reason as inherently limited to narrow fields, with the best social progress coming through less deliberate and more evolutionary means. Sowell would see you as closer to the perfectly constrained vision, and Professor Krugman as closer to the perfectly unconstrained vision.
 
Here is the passage that reminded me of your debates with him. I think you'll see what I mean:
 
Sincerity is so central to the unconstrained vision that it is not readily conceded to adversaries, who are often depicted as apologists, if not venal. It is not uncommon in this tradition to find references to their adversaries' "real" reasons, which must be "unmasked." Even where sincerity is conceded to adversaries, it is often accompanied by references to those adversaries' "blindness," "prejudice," or narrow inability to transcend the status quo. Within the unconstrained vision, sincerity is a great concession to make, while those with the constrained vision can more readily make that concession, since it means so much less to them. Nor need adversaries be depicted as stupid by those with the constrained vision, for they conceive of the social process as so complex that it is easy, even for wise and moral individuals, to be mistaken -- and dangerously so. They 'may do the worst of things without being the worst of man,' according to Burke. (pg 59-60)
 
You may have already​ seen this and had similar thoughts, but if you hadn't, I thought you would find it interesting.
 
Best,
[name withheld]

by Greg Mankiw (noreply@blogger.com) at August 03, 2014 11:09 AM

Responsive.org

Everything You Wanted to Know About Behavioral Economics

The adoption of just a few principles from behavioural economics into business and government thinking can have a significant effect on human wellbeing and economic progress over the next ten years. The vital thing is that this happens fast. In general the speed of adoption of ideas from the social sciences seems to be measured in decades at best, centuries at worst.

At the very simplest these are:
1) Small changes can have large effects.
2) Psychology is really important.
3) People can’t always explain why they do what they do, or what they want.
4) Preference is relative and social and contextual, not absolute.
5) Trust is never a given; commitment really matters.
6) People satisfice.

Excerpted from a recently published, 130+ page guide to behavioral economics.

by Bud Caddell at August 03, 2014 09:00 AM

pastorbrett.com

Why I Have Come to Prefer the KJV (and perhaps you should too!)

We are living in an era when, as English speakers, we have a multitude of choices when it comes to translations of the Bible. Throughout the history of my Christian journey, I have used many translations for my daily reading, including the New International Version (NIV), New American Standard (NASB), English Standard Version (ESV), and New King James Version (NKJV). However, the older I get and the longer I’ve studied the Bible, the more I have grown to prefer the King James Version (KJV) as my primary daily reading Bible. Here’s why…

THE KING JAMES VERSION IS A COMPLETE BIBLE

This is the main reason I prefer the King James Version: I have come to believe that the King James Version (and, likewise, the New King James Version) is based upon the best collection of ancient manuscripts. I believe that this is the textual tradition that has been preserved and cherished by most Christians for the entire history of the Christian church.

I admit this is not a huge deal, but it does matter to me because when I read the King James (or the NKJV) I like having in my hands what I consider to be a complete Bible.

Modern translations leave me wondering about what they chose to leave out because of supposedly better ancient manuscripts (modern translations are based upon the Alexandrian family of manuscripts, which are old but few in number, while the KJV and NKJV are based upon the Byzantine family of manuscripts which are not as old but many in number).

The most glaring omission in modern translations is the end of the book of Mark. I find it very hard to believe that God, in his Sovereignty, was not able to providentially preserve the ending of the Gospel of Mark. Yet, if you use the NIV (2011), you will find the last 12 verses of the book prefaced by the words:

[The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have verses 9-20]

Then, you will have verses 9 through 20 italicized so as not to confuse it with the Bible above.

Basically, the translators want to inform the reader that they do not think that verses 9 through 20 are legitimately the Word of God. Never mind that for the vast majority of Christian history it was accepted as the authentic Word of God. Never mind that ending the Gospel of Mark with a group of Jesus’s followers trembling, bewildered and afraid seems rather strange.

Another large section of the Gospels that is present in the King James Version but assumed not authentic to modern translations is the story of the woman caught in adultery, as recorded in John 7.53-8.11. Again, the NIV prefaces it with words similar to those above the ending of Mark, and, again, the text is italicized to differentiate it from the Biblical text surrounding it.

These are the only two cases in which an entire section of Scripture is rejected by the modern translations. But there are many cases of words, phrases, and entire verses being omitted from the modern translations (again, the NKJV is the modern exception).

Examples abound, but let’s consider the traditional ending to the Lord’s Prayer as recorded in the 6th chapter of Matthew. The KJV ends with these words: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

This traditional ending is not found in the Alexandrian texts. Therefore, the NIV omits these words and ends simply with: “And lead us not into temptation, [a] but deliver us from the evil one.[b]“

The “[b]” points to a footnote at the bottom of the page that says:

b. Matthew 6:13 Or from evil; some late manuscripts one, / for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen

Here we see a lack of consistency on the part of the translators. For a large section, like the ending of Mark, they don’t put it in the footnotes. They keep it up on the page in the body of the text and then go to great lengths to make sure the reader understands that they do not consider it to be authentic (a preface explanation and the text italicized). But with verses, phrases, and words which are absent from the Alexandrian texts, they relegate them to the footnotes. The only reason I can imagine that they have allowed this inconsistency is because your average Christian won’t even notice the absences of the words, phrases, and even, individual verses. But to remove an entire section would set off alarms.

An example of an entire verse being relegated to the footnotes is Acts 8, verse 37. The King James Version goes like this, starting with verse 36 and going through verse 38:

36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?

37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.

And now, here is what it looks like in the English Standard Version:

36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”[e] 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.

There is no verse 37! It skips from verse 36 to verse 38. But perhaps you noticed the little letter “e” …which is telling you to go down to the bottom of the page and read the footnote:

  1. Acts 8:36 Some manuscripts add all or most of verse 37And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

Are you beginning to see why I consider the KJV a complete Bible when compared to the modern translations (the NKJV being the one modern exception)?

But you might be thinking, “Well, I get your point, but no major doctrine is compromised, right?” True enough. But how about a minor one, like, say, the practice of fasting?

Here is Matthew 17:21 in the King James:

21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.

Look up the same verse in the NIV or ESV. What do you find? That’s right…nothing but a number pointing to a footnote, telling you that this is probably not the authentic Word of God because it is based on supposedly later manuscripts.

But, you might be thinking, there was another place where Jesus emphasized the combination of prayer and fasting, right? Correct, the verse is Mark 9.29. Here it is in the KJV:

29 And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.

Here it is in the ESV:

29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”[e]

The footnote mentions the omission of the emphasis on fasting.

And here it is in the NIV:

29 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.[a]

Again, the footnote mentions the omission of the emphasis on fasting.

And, finally, just to show how any translation that is based primarily on the Alexandrian texts will omit portions of the Bible previous generations considered to be God’s Word, here it is in the NLT:

29 Jesus replied, “This kind can be cast out only by prayer.[g]

Like the NIV and ESV, the NLT points you to a footnote that explains how they chose to omit fasting, while older versions (like the KJV and NKJV) include it.

For a more comprehensive list of what Bible words, phrases, and verses most modern versions omit check out this helpful Wikipedia page.

Because I believe that the Byzantine family of texts are indeed reliable, I believe that Mark 16.9-20 is the Word of God. I also believe the story about the woman caught in adultery really happened, and is Scripture. And I believe Jesus said that certain kinds of demons are only driven out through prayer AND fasting.

For my personal daily reading Bible, I want these words in there, without having to look down into the footnotes.

MANY BENEFITS IN READING THE KING JAMES BIBLE

The second reason I prefer the King James Version is because in 2011 I developed a great love and appreciation for it. 2011 was the 400th Anniversary of the publication of the King James Version. So entering 2011 I decided to read through the entirety of the King James Version during the calendar year. It was a challenging but worthwhile endeavor. Upon completing the ESV, I returned immediately to the ESV. But it wasn’t long before, to my surprise, I was drawn back to the KJV. Something about the unusual cadence and traditional feel keeps me coming back for more.

Here are some benefits I have noticed from using the KJV as my reading Bible:

1. Encourages Reflection. The older English requires me to slow down and concentrate more in order to understand and comprehend what I am reading. I believe this is a good thing because it creates in me a more meditative, reflective approach to reading the text.

The goal of reading the Scriptures is to let them sink in and transform you from the inside out (see Psalm 1). A slower pace enables me to soak more in the words of Scripture.

2. Easier to Memorize. The unusual sticks. You will remember a pink elephant walking by you more than you will remember the green tree behind it. Familiar language is harder to memorize than unfamiliar language, especially when it comes to long-term retention. In other words, familiar wording might be quicker to memorize but will also be quicker to fade and forget.

The unusual words and cadence of the King James sticks in your brain better. For example, I can much more easily retain the KJV’s rendering of James 5.16b, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” rather than the NIV’s rendering: The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

3. Always the Same. I don’t have to worry about updates. There have been three editions of the New International Version (NIV) over the course of it’s almost 40 year history. Pick up a New International Version from today’s store shelf and you will notice major differences from the NIV that was so popular through the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s.

For example, notice the switches from singular pronouns to plural pronouns in John 14.23:

John 14.23, NIV 1984 –  Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”

John 14.23, NIV 2011 –  Jesus replied: “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and will come to them and make our home with them.”

Or consider how much has been changed from the 1984 edition of the NIV to the 2011 edition. As an example, let’s look at a verse from the book of Romans. Imagine if you had committed this verse to memory from the NIV Bible you had been using for many years:

Romans 6.19, NIV 1984: I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.

Now suppose that over time you wore out that old NIV Bible of yours and went to buy another one. You walked into your local Christian bookstore and found the NIV section of Bibles. You picked out a nice leather-bound NIV Bible (paying anywhere from $60 to $100 for genuine, not bonded, leather). You got home and one morning as you were reading  through Romans you came to that verse from Romans 6 that you had memorized years before:

Romans 6.19 NIV 2011: I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.

Talk about significant changes! How would that make you feel? Would it frustrate you that you had memorized Romans 6.19 only to see it so different in your new Bible? To be precise, the new NIV (2011) adds/subtracts a total of 33 words in this verse alone.

As you read your new NIV, if you were to do the math, you would find that only 61% of the verses in your NIV are the same as your old NIV. To put it another way, well over a third of the verses in your new NIV are different than your old NIV. And to top it off, if you wanted to shelf your new NIV and go find a new copy of the old NIV, you would be out of luck. They stopped making and selling it. You’d have to resort to eBay!

But the NIV is not the only modern translation that has undergone numerous revisions.

The English Standard Version was first published in 2001, but was revised in 2007, and again in 2011. (Since the ESV is the “official” teaching Bible at our church, our elders had to make a decision in 2011 if we were going to stick with our 2007 ESV “pew” Bibles or order new ones. Because most people at Harvest bring their own copies, we decided to just keep the older ESVs, even though I teach from the 2011 ESV.)

The New Living Translation, itself a scholarly revision of The Living Bible  of 1975, was first published in 1996 and underwent revisions in 2004 and 2007.

The New American Standard Bible, first published in 1971 underwent minor modifications in 1972, 1973, 1975, and 1977, and then went through one major update in 1995.

I don’t know about you, but I get frustrated with all the updates.

The New King James Version of 1981 is the only popular modern translation that has not gone through an update. I am not aware of any updates for it in the near future, either.

By reading and memorizing from the King James Version, you are using a translation that has not been updated since 1769. It’s fixed. It remains the same. You can count on it.

4. More Precise Personal Pronouns. Some critics of the King James Version will mock the “thees” and “thous” of the KJV without realizing what a benefit there is in these words. For years I did not know that those old pronouns in the King James actually served a positive role for modern readers. The original Hebrew and Greek of the Bible differentiated between the second person singular and plural. In proper modern English we have no differentiation between the two: you/your (singular) and you/your (plural). [In "Southern" English we have differentiation...you and y'all].

When you read the King James Version, thee/thou/thine is singular and ye/you/your is plural. Modern translations have no way for you (thee) to know for sure if the Greek/Hebrew is singular or plural.

5. A Translation in Public Domain. I don’t think many Christians have given much thought to the idea that nearly all the modern translations are owned by companies. Let that sink in… nearly every modern translation is owned by a company. Even if it is a Christian company, it’s purpose for existing is to make money, in spite of any statements otherwise.

The publishing rights to the NIV is owned by Zondervan, which is part of a larger corporation, which is the “News Corporation”  or News Corp, which owns Fox News. News Corp is traded on NASDAQ with the letters NWS. What I’m trying to point out is that ultimately the NIV is a business product of a publicly traded company. As many layers of Christians and good intentions may lie between the stockholders and the translation itself, the reality is that the NIV could potentially be compromised by commercial interests. Case in point, the TNIV (Today’s New International Version) was a disaster commercially, so Zondervan pulled the plug on the TNIV.

If you have not already connected the dots, the danger is that modern translations, because they are owned by companies, are potentially susceptible to commercial interests, which should cause you to ask, “Is there any chance that an update of a translation could have some business-motivated translation decisions?”

Because the KJV is public domain, there is no danger that it is going to be changed for commercial purposes.

6. Buying a KJV Bible: the Most Variety and the Most Affordable. Because it is in the public domain, the King James Version is available by a multitude of publishers, which means you can surely find a copy that you like. I know we are primarily talking aesthetics at this point, but aesthetics impact your reading experience.

Some Bible translations do not have many offerings, especially when it comes to Bibles that will last for a long time. Like many things in life, you get what you pay for when it comes to quality. Today’s disposable mindset has made it’s way into Bible publishing. Your average, cheap Bible available today will only last you a year or two if you use it regularly. Fake leathers and glued bindings simply won’t last very long.

If you want a Bible that will last for a long time it’s essential that you get a genuine leather Bible with a sewn binding. And please note that “genuine bonded leather” is NOT genuine leather.

Although the ESV comes close, I know of no other translation that has excellent, durable Bibles at such an affordable price. My personal reading Bible is a TBS Windsor edition with metrical Psalms. It has calfskin leather and a sewn binding. And it is available for only $50. Leave out the Metrical Psalms and you can get one for only $43!

7. Still popular. The King James Version is still one of the most popular versions of the Bible, selling millions of copies every year worldwide. People appreciate the honored tradition and are emotionally moved by the majestic, rhythmic sound of the King James. Modern versions sound out of place at weddings and funerals, at least to me. I know this is a preference, but the Christmas story from the Bible just doesn’t sound like the Christmas story in the modern translations!

In a setting with Christians from various backgrounds, which version should be used? The King James is always a reasonable choice. While some may be offended by the most colloquial of the modern translations, rarely is anyone ever offended by the use of the King James Version.

It’s tested, it’s true, and… apparently… it’s timeless.

 


by Brett at August 03, 2014 01:59 AM

Responsive.org

Remembering Warren Bennis

Professor Bennis believed in the adage that great leaders are not born but made, insisting that “the process of becoming a leader is similar, if not identical, to becoming a fully integrated human being,” he said in an interview in 2009. Both, he said, were grounded in self-discovery. [..] So, too, are curiosity and daring: “The leader wonders about everything, wants to learn as much as he can, is willing to take risks, experiment, try new things. He does not worry about failure but embraces errors, knowing he will learn from them.” But Professor Bennis said he found such leadership largely missing in the late 20th century in all quarters of society — in business, politics, academia and the military. In “On Becoming a Leader,” he took aim at corporate leadership, finding it particularly ineffectual and tracing its failings in part to corporate corruption, extravagant executive compensation and an undue emphasis on quarterly earnings over long-term benefits, both for the business itself and society at large.

The New York Times remembers Warren Bennis, the father of corporate leadership studies.

Let’s hope, when given the chance, we all live up to his ideals.

by Bud Caddell at August 03, 2014 12:08 AM

Wilfred Hughes::Blog

Recursion, TCO, and You

Recursion is an excellent tool in a developer’s toolbox, yet it is frequently misunderstood. Used correctly, it can give programs that are fast, readable and succinct. Used incorrectly, it can produce some tricky bugs.

Let’s look at an example. Suppose we write a function that calculates x to the power of y for integers. In early programming languages, recursion was a rather controversial feature, so you’d just use a loop:

def to_the_power_of(base, exponent):
    result = 1

    # This is O(n), see
    # http://mitpress.mit.edu/sicp/full-text/sicp/book/node18.html
    # for faster approaches.
    while exponent > 0:
        result = result * base
        exponent -= 1

    return result

By the mid-60s, we had languages that supported recursion. You could write this power function recursively:

def to_the_power_of(base, exponent):
    if exponent == 0:
        return 1
    else:
        return base * to_the_power_of(base, exponent - 1)

However, this innocent looking code can fail us if exponent is greater than the maximum depth of the stack. In Python, this is the stack depth is 1,000, so our function doesn’t support values of exponent greater than 1,000.

This risk of stack overflow makes recursion much less useful. Even though recursion is ideally suited for some class of programs (e.g. depth-first search is much more hassle when written iteratively), we cannot use it for arbitrary data with a fixed size stack.

In the 70s, Scheme popularised tail-call optimisation. The Scheme standard requires implementations to optimise function calls (if they are ‘in the tail position’, i.e. the caller has nothing left to do) such that they use constant stack space. With care, we can now write a recursive power function that works for arbitrary values.

# Scheme's syntax is a little different, but the function
# would be exactly equivalent.
def to_the_power_of(base, exponent, accum=1):
    if exponent == 0:
        return accum
    else:
        return to_the_power_of(base, exponent - 1, accum * base)

This is a big improvement, and enables us to write many more functions recursively. However, the programmer must know exactly what forms of recursion will be optimised. It’s easy to carelessly refactor a function such that it is no longer tail-recursive. This is especially risky when running unit tests, as tests often use small datasets, hiding the stack overflow you’ve accidentally introduced.

However, what if we want to write recursive functions that aren’t strictly tail-recursive? For example, we might want to save the value of our recursive call before returning it.

def to_the_power_of(base, exponent, accum=1):
    if exponent == 0:
        result = accum
    else:
        result = to_the_power_of(base, exponent - 1, accum * base)

    return result

The scheme standard defines tail-calls, but also allows implementations to recognise other equivalent recursive forms (see the note at the end of the section). However, we’re now in an awkward situation where changing Scheme interpreter could break our program if we depend on that behaviour.

In an ideal world, we’d be able to write this function without an accumulator, as in our original recursive version.

def to_the_power_of(base, exponent):
    if exponent == 0:
        return 1
    else:
        return base * to_the_power_of(base, exponent - 1)

We’re in luck – some languages do provide this! For example, Haskell, Oz, and even some C compilers, are smart enough to optimise this without us providing an accumulator.

This is called ‘tail recursion modulo cons’, which is a tail-recursive function that also applies a ‘constructor’ function to the result. A constructor function is a function that is both commutative and associative. Many useful functions, such as * and cons (a lisp function for building a list), meet these criteria.

Where does this leave us? We’ve seen that different programming languages support writing robust recursive functions in various forms, but you need to be aware of which functions will be optimised. To make matters worse, it’s not possible to provide a full stack trace for functions that have been optimised this way. Guido cites this as a reason for not providing TCO in Python.

Can we do better?

In Trifle lisp, we plan to take an explicit approach. We plan to make TCO opt-in, so our power function is labelled as requiring TCO.

(function to-the-power-of (base exponent accum)
  (if (zero? exponent)
    accum
    (to-the-power-of base (dec exponent) (* accum base))
  )
)

; Not yet available in Trifle.
(set-tco! to-the-power-of)

Using set-tco! documents that the programmer expects tail-call optimisation, and acts as an assertion. If the function is refactored to a form that cannot be optimised, set-tco! will throw an error. This allows programmers to depend on this behaviour.

Opting-in also has the nice property that programmers don’t have to use tail-call optimisation. If they’re developing or debugging and want full stack traces, we can provide them. If we add optimisation for tail-call modulo cons, programmers can depend on that optimisation too.

The obvious disadvantage of opting-in is the loss in performance for functions that we could optimise but don’t. gcc compromises by providing tail-call optimisation at its higher optimisation levels. We could do exactly the same – the only loss is the completeness of stack traces.

In conclusion: Recursion is a great tool in your toolbox. If it makes your code clearer, absolutely consider using it. Make sure you are aware of what guarantees your language provides, how big your stack is, and how big your input data will be.

by Wilfred Hughes (me@wilfred.me.uk) at August 03, 2014 12:00 AM

August 02, 2014

Greg Mankiw's Blog

The Brooks Review

The Problem with the Social Web

Tim Carmody on OKCupid fuckery:

You can't on one hand tell us to pay no attention when you change these things on us, and with the other insist that this is what we've really wanted to do all along. I mean, fuck me over, but don't tell me that I really wanted you to fuck me over all along.

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

by Ben Brooks at August 02, 2014 08:47 PM

CrossFit Naptown

Bracket Buster Registration Today at 6:00pm

Sunday Open Gym:

11:00 am and Noon:
Make up a wod or strength from earlier in the week, practice a new skill, or force yourself to do mobility!

6:00pm Yoga

 

Bracket Buster Registration Opens at 6:00pm

Click here at 6:00pm to get your team of 4 signed up for the third annual Bracket Buster at CrossFit NapTown! The event will be taking place the weekend of September 27th and 28th. You will need to select a TEAM CAPTAIN from your team of 2 men and 2 women in order to register as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Here is what the Team Captian will need to have prepared:
- Team Name
- Email Address for each team member
- Age of each team member
- T-Shirt Size for each team member (there will be Women’s & Men’s Shirts to choose from)
- Consent to sign a Waiver on behalf of the entire team
- FULL PAYMENT ($423) for the entire team

There will be both an intermediate and advanced division in this year’s Bracket Buster. You will be able to give input upon registration as to which Bracket you would like to be in, but we may shift people around based on our review of the Qualifier Workout. Here is a basic guideline to consider if you are still unsure of where you fall:

“In terms of Movement Standards for each division, the Bracket Buster Organizers feel that the more advanced athletes know who they are. If you can do a majority of your box’s WODs Rx’ed, then you are considered advanced/elite. The Organizers reserve the right to adjust bracket placementbased on the Online Qualifier and any known competitive performance history.”

Not interested in competing in the event but still want to be involved?? Use the same registration site above to register as a volunteer for the 2014 Bracket Buster.

Don’t have a team yet?? Check out the 2014 BB FaceBook page for other people who may need teammates still and put yourself out there in the NapTown community to get yourself a team to compete with!

This post just about covers all of the information for the event, but more details can be found on the FaceBook page.

 

by Anna at August 02, 2014 08:29 PM

Zippy Catholic

Feeding Cthulu with freedom

Throne and altar conservatives have understood that modernity only moves in one direction for a long time. When I coined the phrase “Hegelian Mambo” at VFR years ago I was just putting a cute little image on what had been common knowledge among Catholic critics of modernity for centuries. In general that something happens to be new to us doesn’t make it new in fact.

Recently some secularists have discovered the fact that Cthulu only swims left, but they haven’t fully grasped what fuels this motion. The usual thinking among the noobs is that Cthulu’s leftward swim is fueled by progressive insistence on equality. This is at best only a half truth.

Equality is not the most basic commitment of liberalism. The most basic commitment of liberalism is right there in its name: political liberty, also known as freedom. Insistence on equal rights is a consequence of making freedom into a political priority.

Freedom is a state of affairs wherein what people wish to choose corresponds to what they are actually able to choose. Freedom as a political priority requires us to subvert all transcendent conceptions of the good – all concepts of the good which transcend what people happen to want – to whatever actual people actually wish to choose. It therefore inherently sets itself against reality.

Because it inherently sets itself against reality, freedom as a political priority creates contradiction and instability. This contradiction and instability inherently demands change without limit in the direction of trying to make reality conform to what people wish was the case rather than what actually is the case.

And the only way back to stability is to put freedom in its place: as a mere side effect of the fact that good people find it pleasing to do good things, and find it pleasing when evil is crushed beneath the boot of Heaven.


by Zippy at August 02, 2014 04:50 PM

Responsive.org

Moneyball for Hiring

Out in San Francisco, a company called Evolv has helped Xerox, AT&T and other big companies screen applicants for front-line sales and customer-service jobs. Evolv has found that, contrary to HR folk wisdom, there is no statistical reason not to hire a convicted felon, or a job hopper, or someone who doesn’t score well on general intelligence. Nor does it matter whether they are unemployed or how long they have been out of work. None of it correlates with turnover and job performance. On the other hand, what may be useful predictors are how far somebody has to commute, whether they use a factory-installed browser or download a better one like Firefox or Chrome, or how many social-networking sites they use. In sales, Evolv has found that creativity rather than persuasiveness is a better predictor of success, while at call centers, rapport with customers is more important than either.

Steven Pearlstein, for the Washing Post, delves into the emerging field of HR analytics.

by Bud Caddell at August 02, 2014 03:12 PM

Koinonia

Extracurricular Activities 8.2.14 — McKnight & Science, Enns & Inerrancy, and James Montgomery Boice

Larry Hurtado Asks, "Was Early Christianity Secretive?"

In an interview with a TV producer a week or so ago, the question came up whether early Christianity (Roman-era) was secretive and operated in a covert manner, seeking to avoid hostile attention.  The origins of this notion I don’t really know (information welcome), but it seems now “out there” (along with a number of other supposed “truths”) in at least some parts of the general populace.  But it seems to have little basis.  A few illustrations will suffice.

Scot McKnight Shares What He Has Learned Most from the Sciences

...What happens when we apply this approach both to the Bible (as I had learned) and to the question of origins? We learn to base what we believe – about the Bible, about origins, about age – on the evidence and the evidence alone. Over the next decade of my life, I came to believe that if I was going to base my faith on the evidence of the Bible, by examining it and challenging as well as affirming the church’s beliefs, then I had to be honest and fair to do the same for questions about the age of the universe, the age of the earth, and the question of origins...

Peter Enns' Full Comments on Inerrancy -- From the Panel at ETS 2013

These are my comments I gave at the Evangelical Theological Society in Baltimore last November as part of the panel discussing the book I contibuted to (along with Al Mohler, John Franke, Michael Bird, and Kevin Vanhoozer), Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy. Each of us had 15 minutes for some remarks before we began engaging each other.

In retrospect I don’t think much was accomplished–nor could it be–in that setting and at that venue. Neither do I think the volume can have the kind of impact some might have hoped for, since–at least I felt–most of our time was spent staking out territory rather than engaging substantive issues.

Tim Challies on Faith-Defender James Montgomery Boice 

Today I am kicking off a brand new series of articles I am titling The Defenders. Through brief sketches of Christian leaders, I hope to draw attention to believers known for defending the church against specific theological challenges or false teachings. I will be focusing on modern times and have chosen to begin with James Montgomery Boice, a long-time defender of the doctrine of inerrancy.

Kevin DeYoung Offers Two Questions to Greatly Improve Your Church's Ministry 

I’m no management consultant, leadership expert, or church growth guru. But if you love your church and want to see it as effective as possible–for the sake of evangelism, education, exaltation, and whatever other E’s you may have in your mission statement–try asking these two questions. One is from the pastor for his leaders, and the other is from the leaders for his pastor.

Question #1 – Pastor to Leaders: “How can I improve my preaching?”

Question #2 – Leaders to Pastor: “How can we better support you and your family?”

________________________

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

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

–The Editors of Koinonia Blog

by Jeremy Bouma at August 02, 2014 02:54 PM

CrossFit 204

Holiday Workout: Aug. 4, 2014

It just got really quite in here.

Raise the Jolly Roger: It’s a holiday.

There will be a holiday workout on Aug. 4 at 11 a.m.

All other classes are cancelled for the holiday.

Please sign in here as you normally do.

We will upgrade anyone on the waiting list if the class slots fill up.

The workout is scheduled for two hours, but you won’t be working out for two hours.

See you there!

by Mike at August 02, 2014 02:24 PM

Feed: stratechery by Ben Thompson

Podcasts: Exponent 011 – Red Pill Blue Pill

On the newest episode of Exponent, the podcast I co-host with James Allworth:

In this episode we discuss this tweet of Ben’s:

We also discuss the news that OKCupid and Facebook are running tests on their users.

Links

  • Fabian Giesen: What I mean when I say “I think VR is bad news” – Github

Listen to the episode here

Podcast Information: Feed | iTunes | Twitter | Feedback

The post Podcasts: Exponent 011 – Red Pill Blue Pill appeared first on stratechery by Ben Thompson.

by Ben Thompson at August 02, 2014 01:56 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Mini City Guides: Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

I love big cities, and always enjoy returning to Hong Kong, New York, and Sydney—among many others. But what about those unknown gems that are off the beaten tourist path… those obscure places that are just waiting to be explored by real travelers?

Our new “Mini City Guides” are here to uncover those gems, and we’re looking to our favorite explorers—AONC readers—to give us the inside scoop.

Tell us if there’s a city you’d like to nominate. This city was nominated by reader Bec Tilley.

Which accessibly obscure city would you like to share?

Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.

What makes it unique?

Hobart is a small city set on a big, beautiful island. It has all of the benefits and creature comforts of city life with deserted beaches, rolling countryside, and gorgeous forested areas just a short drive away.

Hobart_Wharf

What makes it special to you?

Hobart is where I have lived my whole life! As tends to be the case in small towns, many teenagers and young adults get the leaving itch and say things like “I can’t wait to get out of this place.”  

I’m a voracious traveller myself and would love to experience living in Melbourne, or somewhere like the Bay Area in California or NYC; but I know I will always come back here. Nothing compares to the fresh produce, the stars or the Aurora Australis in the night sky just a little way out of town, and the atmosphere of this place.

Hobart_Aurora

I’m a musician and an artist, and there is quite a vibrant music scene here for such a small city. The art scene is vibrant and humming, thanks in no small way to MONA - The Museum of Old and New Art – our world-class, jaw-dropping, oddball museum & art gallery funded by a local millionaire to house his weird and wonderful art collection. MONA also runs two fantastic music & arts festivals, one in summer and one in winter.

MONA Museum - http://mona.net.au/

What’s the best place to grab a bite to eat or drink?

The two key areas for restaurants and cafes are Salamanca and North Hobart.

Salamanca is a typical tourist destination, particularly for the big market there every Saturday, but the locals also hang out there for the great vibes and food. There are a few great cafes and restaurants for all ends of the price spectrum, many of which become nightspots and bars in the evening. There are also plenty of shops and art galleries to check out after your meal.

Hobart_MtWellington

The North Hobart strip has a wide array of restaurants and cafes including Thai, Indonesian, Indian, Japanese, Chinese, seafood, pub meals, and even a couple of fast food places if you’re really on the go. Because Hobart is small, a lot of places will close early unless it’s a Friday or Saturday, a lot of places will close early—generally between 8 and 10—so make sure to get your food early.

My personal tip for lunch or snacks – if you’re in the city and don’t want to go down to Salamanca or up to North Hobart, check out Frankie’s Empire at 129 Elizabeth St.  It’s a gorgeous cafe with unusual and delicious food—most of which is allergy friendly if you’re a gluten-avoider or vegan—drawing on eclectic worldwide inspiration for their recipes, and a very homey atmosphere.

Where can you kick your feet up with a great cup of coffee?

Hobart seems to have been catching on to the Melbourne coffee scene and there are now a number of great little cafes around town serving top notch coffee. In the Central Business District (CBD), notable spots are Pilgrim Coffee (which also does some pretty amazing food), Villino Espresso and their baby Ecru. In Salamanca, try Doctor Coffee.

Hobart Coffee

Are there any festivities that can’t be missed?

Hobart has a lot of great festivals. During New Year’s you can sample a large variety of Tasmanian produce and wine at the Taste of Tasmania. Ten Days on The Island is every 2 years in March and fills Tasmania with arts, theatre, and music events. In winter, the best way to warm up is by the giant bonfire the Festival of Voices builds in the middle of the street in Salamanca – and join in on the extensive singing workshops and concerts!

The absolute best, though, has to be the Museum of Old and New Art’s festivals:  MONA FOMA in January, and Dark Mofo in June. You can find more information and see photos of these unusual festivals here – Faster Louder, Boudist, Sydney Morning Herald, The Mercury.

Hobart_Dark_mofo

For Dark MOFO, there is a nude swim on the winter solstice at the crack of dawn.  Did I mention we’re really close to Antarctica?  Yeah, it is cold. You can check out photos of that event here (warning: nudity!).

What’s the best time to visit?

I despise the cold, so ordinarily I would warn against winter, but the Festival of Voices and Dark MOFO have certainly warmed up the winter for me this year. But really I would say in January-February, when you can catch some great summer weather and the festival season.

Be sure to bring clothes for all conditions at any time of year you visit – Hobart is one of those “four seasons in one day” places. If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes!

Hobart_weather

What’s the best way to get around town?

Because Hobart is pretty small, most of the great city areas can be seen on foot.  We have public buses, but they don’t run frequently, particularly on weekends or public holidays.

Bicycling is always an option, particularly if you want to see art galleries, since they introduced the ArtBike program you can get a bike for a day for free—or even overnight for $22.  But if you’re not an experienced cyclist, wanting to go anywhere other than the one flat bike track from the city to the northern suburbs, beware: Hobart is not a flat city, so you will be facing some hills.

If you want to go anywhere outside of Hobart, hiring a car—or perhaps recruiting a friendly local who feels like going on a road trip—is probably your best bet.

Hobart_ArtBikes

Any other areas around that can’t be missed?

Definitely make the short trip out to the Northern suburbs to see the collection at MONA. It’s weird and extensive and wonderful, and the museum architecture itself is jaw-dropping.

The generic response by locals of what to do in Hobart, before or after MONA, will be “Have you been up the mountain?”  Only about 10 minutes drive out of the city, on a clear day you can get some beautiful views of the city. And there are quite a few hiking tracks around and up the mountain if you’re less of a driver and more of an on-foot explorer!

Hobart_viewMW

Reading this makes me to want to head south to Hobart the next time I’m in beautiful Australia. Thanks again to Bec Tilley for sharing the story of her hometown! More Mini City Guides are on the way.

Images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

###

by Chris Guillebeau at August 02, 2014 01:36 PM

Inconsolation

co: The command organizer

A couple of weeks ago, bm sounded like a good idea. This week, co sounds like a good one too. Where bm allows you to stash bookmarks and cue them quickly, co helps you build a database of particularly obtuse commands, tag them, annotate them, search them, filter them, and then recall them with only a few keypresses.

2014-08-01-lv-c5551-co

If co looks like a re-imagining of bash’s history tool, that’s understandable. A few important distinctions though:

  • co doesn’t stash any commands until you tell it to, and then it only grabs the last thing you entered.
  • When you tell it to save a command, you can add as many tags as you like, and a short “message” to remind you of the keyboard sorcery you performed.
  • Once saved, you can list out the commands you saved, or filter that list by tag.
  • You can perform a command again through co, by using its index number.

So instead of simply keeping a history of commands, co allows you to organize and manage the most useful ones.

As you can see above, it’s particularly helpful for long, complex commands that might otherwise require a lot of re-research to use again. co also has a rudimentary “interactive” mode, which allows you to step through your collection one line at a time, and even edit it on the fly.

One small note: There may come an odd situation where you ask co to save a command while you’re using more than one terminal. It’s possible (and I know it is, because it happened to me) that co will grab a command that was executed in another terminal, and save it instead of the one you just entered locally. Just so you know. :|

co uses sqlite and ruby, and is not in Arch or Debian that I could find. I used gem install co in Arch to add it to my ~/.gems path; I’m sure one of you clever Internet heroes out there can build it properly for either of those distros, if you like it enough.

I really like co because it solves a dilemma for me: I hate programs that keep histories, but I do invent a lot of convoluted commands for esoteric situations.

co allows me to faithfully eradicate bash’s history at regular intervals, but still keep the command I use to generate sample text files filled with random words. :???: Hey, that’s important stuff. :)


Tagged: command, edit, history, manage, organize

by K.Mandla at August 02, 2014 12:15 PM

colour: Something to build on to

I’ll show you a snapshot of colour, and you can decide if you’re willing to build upon it.

2014-07-31-lv-c5551-colour

colour is remarkably similar to colorwrapper, but will probably require a little more effort to bring up to the same level of flexibility. Both programs use profiles to filter program output and insert color.

But while colorwrapper (and rainbow for that matter) seems to have a few more profiles available to it, colour has only two that I see — and both of them are intended for nodetool, which I think is somehow related to Apache Cassandra. That’s waaay beyond my scope.

But colour comes with a couple of example files by default, so what you see in the screenshot is just those examples pumped through their respective profiles. I’m afraid I can’t show much more than that.

And since colour doesn’t seem to have any other configurations, I’m out of ways to use it. I know I should probably start making my own, but I’m short on time and only halfway interested in building up a collection of configurations for colour.

And probably you’ll be in the same boat. If you find colour promising, you’ll likely spend some time drafting your own configurations, for the programs you like and use.

It’s your decision — colorwrapper or rainbow, the more complete utilities … or colour, the underdog with potential. ;)


Tagged: color, colorize, filter, text

by K.Mandla at August 02, 2014 12:00 PM

Messy Matters

Welcome, Job-Destroying Robots

A line of robots doing human jobs

Let me first emphasize that I’m not talking about the deeper question of superintelligence and what happens when robots can do anything a human can do. This is about the (relatively) more immediate question: What happens when robots can perform any unskilled labor much more cheaply than humans?

My answer is that we’ll need a good social safety net for all the people whose labor doesn’t earn them enough to live on, but we’ll necessarily be so rich that that will be easy to pay for.

And now let me pause to tell you how sick I am of politicians talking about creating jobs. It’s as dumb (ok, not as dumb) as saying that what we need is more coins and bills. We don’t want more coins or bills or jobs — we want more awesomeness. Instead of coins and bills, we want more of the things we spend coins and bills on. Instead of jobs, we want more of what people create by working at their jobs. Often we can get that by replacing the humans with robots and programs, thus creating value by destroying jobs. That’s a good thing!

“Labor-saving technology? Great! Job-destroying technology? Even better.”

I’m mostly annoyed by the rhetoric: Labor-saving technology? Great! Job-destroying technology? Horrible. But those are the same thing! We shouldn’t think in terms of jobs but in terms of efficiency. So, yes, idle workers and idle factories are a massive problem. Employing humans for work that robots could do cheaper and better is also a problem, and it’s the same problem: inefficiency.

If our society is so rich — as is gradually becoming the case — that it’s cheaper to use Freaking Robots instead of people then that is an amazingly wonderful and luxurious problem to have.

But wait, you say, if automation (or outsourcing) destroys jobs then it reduces consumer demand which hurts producers and makes everyone (or non-foreigners) poorer. [1] That’s wrong in the same way that it’s wrong to think that breaking windows can help the economy. But otherwise clueful people persist in taking it seriously. For example, Martin Ford’s The Lights in the Tunnel, which argues that more efficiency and robotic awesomeness will hurt the economy.

I’m not just pointing out that automation helps average consumers because they can have personal robots and whatnot. Maybe you can’t actually have one if you don’t have a job and can’t afford it. I’m arguing that the existence of that kind of technology means society in aggregate is much richer and then it’s just a question of redistributing the wealth. Wealth redistribution feels unfair to a lot of people currently but I think they’ll have to get over it (and it can be done in better ways than currently). Because letting people suffer is really not an option. Plus, the richer society gets in aggregate the cheaper it is to provide the basics for the poor. So objecting to redistribution on principle will, by the time society’s so rich as to have created personal robots, seem silly and petty.

Think of it this way. Say robotics causes 90% unemployment. No problem! The 10% who have jobs in that scenario will be so fantastically rich that they can easily afford to pay more than what the 90% is currently getting. [2] Assuming the right redistribution of wealth, building robots that destroy almost all human jobs is necessarily a Pareto improvement over the status quo.

Related Reading

 

Footnotes

[1] This deserves another blog post but let me emphatically say that everything here applies even more so to immigration and outsourced jobs. The urge to protect jobs in one’s community is fundamentally misguided, even if you only care about members of your in-group. Outsourcing from and immigration to America makes Americans better off, not even accounting for the benefits to the foreigners getting those jobs. (Which I think is ridiculously shameful to not account for but we can set that aside if that’s what it takes to win the political debate.)

[2] What if it’s true that idle hands are the devil’s workshop? If that’s a problem (I don’t know if it is) there are much better solutions than trying to suppress automation (or immigration or outsourcing!). For example, people could be hired at public expense to work on infrastructure projects.

 

Illustration by Kelly Savage

by dreeves at August 02, 2014 10:01 AM

The Outlaw Way

140802

Power
Clean and Jerk: up to 80% (Max if feeling well)
Snatch: up to 80% (Max if feeling well)

*If you missed yesterday’s work:
Squat: 6×2@80%
Bench: 6×3@80%

Conditioning

“Amanda”

Compare to 140419.

9-7-5 of:

Muscle-Ups
Snatches (full) 135/95#

For time.

Do Work…

The post 140802 appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by John Dill at August 02, 2014 04:49 AM

Zippy Catholic

Wars of religion by other means

In politics we have no choice but to try to figure out what is good and initiate force to make other people conform to it. Some political philosophies pretend to avoid the question, but they are simply deluded. Every political philosophy is necessarily authoritarian. Every political philosophy necessarily discriminates in favor of its particular conception of the good and restricts freedom based on the discriminations it asserts. Political theories like liberalism and its close cousins, which make pretenses of metaphysical neutrality, do not actually achieve metaphysical neutrality: they simply lack self-awareness and are therefore sociopathic. Political theories which pretend to “leave people alone” do not actually leave people alone: they force their presupposed background assumptions on everyone independent of who does and does not consent.

So it is no use objecting that there is no peer-reviewed scientifically demonstrable objective concept of the good with which everyone must agree by intellectual necessity. It is useless to object that the public manifest facts about the world and ourselves underdetermine theories of the good, because every politics necessarily and prejudicially forces its understanding of the good in particular circumstances on everyone, even when partisans of a particular theory dance around and try to pretend otherwise.

Understanding this might bring advantage to some, it might lead others to despair, and it might lead still others to find priorities in their lives other than politics. It is perhaps what led the Prophet Soul Asylum to sing:

And now I know there are no secret tricks
No correct politics
Just liars and lunatics

But whatever its personal implications, what matters is whether or not it is true. Politics is necessarily about exercising authority and enforcement to make everyone conform to a particular understanding of the good, backed by an initiation of force to which those who are governed did not consent.

Any political theory which denies that it is doing just that is lying lunacy. And that is why when you look around yourself in the modern world, it looks like we are living in an asylum.


by Zippy at August 02, 2014 04:32 AM

The Outlaw Way

140802

WL:

1) 3 attempts to establish a 1RM Snatch.

Meet style. Warmup and choose openers and attempts.

2) 3 attempts to establish a 1RM Clean & Jerk.

Meet style. Warmup and choose openers and attempts.

Strength:

1) 15 minutes to establish a 3RM Front Squat.

2) 15 minutes to establish a 3RM Bench Press.

The post 140802 appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by rudy.coach at August 02, 2014 03:30 AM

Zippy Catholic

This distinction between positive and negative rights, isn’t

Libertarians – and some other folks who are liberal moderns but are under the delusion that they are not – will sometimes make use of a distinction between “positive rights” and “negative rights”, condemning the former while celebrating the latter. Negative rights involve protection of the individual from things others demand of us without our consent, while positive rights involve an imperative to hand over our stuff to others even though we didn’t consent to do so.

This distinction is illusory for the same basic reason that the libertarian ideal of completely consensual contracts is illusory.  It presumes a whole metaphysic of what certain people are entitled to from others – which is precisely what is in contention – and then pretends that it hasn’t made this presumption.

Justice cannot be fabricated whole cloth from consent or contract. Consent and contract do mediate what people are entitled to in justice in particular situations, of course. But the idea that what is just can be fabricated whole cloth from consent is another form or cognate of positivism. An epistemological positivist doesn’t comprehend that in order for words to communicate meaning, almost all of the meaning must already exist in the minds of the people talking. And a consent-positivist doesn’t comprehend that when a given disposition of property is just, almost all of what the parties are entitled to from each other did not arise from the consent of the parties.

None of this is to suggest that people are not entitled to things from each other. A property owner is entitled to walk around on his property; a trespasser isn’t, even though that represents a restriction on the trespasser’s freedom.

But what it means is that the illusion of consent which forms the basis of the positive-negative rights distinction is just that: a question-begging illusion.


by Zippy at August 02, 2014 02:31 AM

The Outlaw Way

140802

Flexibility
Thoracic Spine Barbell Stretch 4×0:20
photo-4 copy 2

Static Shaping
2×1:00 Hands and Feet Hollow Hold, as low as possible

Skills and Drills
10x T-In/T-Out Freestanding Handstand, hold each position for 2 count, arms never leave ears. DEMO

The post 140802 appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by Kaitlin at August 02, 2014 01:57 AM

August 01, 2014

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

Contest!

The United Underworld Evil League of Evil needs to come up with an emblem or heraldry or image to put on tee shirts and mugs to wear or carry (wear the mugs and carry the tee-shirts, I mean, of course) to science fiction conventions to provoke the Pinko Pink SF Social Justice League of  Unamerica so that their heads explode.

I have a fair hand at illustration, but I am not sure what it should look like.

Once we have a proper emblem to go on our standards, we will consider Dr Horrible for membership.

Suggestions will remain open for an arbitrary period of time, and then I will take a vote with myself and pick one. Or not. Then Larry Correia will make money selling it. Or something else will happen. These rules are final, subject to change without notice, and binding in all 48 states, including East Virginia and Reunified Dakota, and Guam.

——————————————————————

I will enter the first candidate myself:

3head

Our heraldic symbol is a three headed vulture displayed propre, chief sable, lightningbolt in left claw, orb topped by cross in right claw, with the eight-pointed arrow of Chaos in the crown, on field sable and or lozengy. The motto is ‘Facias Malum, ut Inde Fiat Malum‘.

by John C Wright at August 01, 2014 11:03 PM

512 Pixels

Sort Squarespace's Category or Tag list alphabetically →

I've been very happy with 512 Pixels running on Squarespace, but the platform's lack of options when it comes to sorting a list of categories has always left me a little annoyed when I see my 404 page. Thanks to jQuery and this script from Ben Morrow, my categories are nice and alphabetical, as God intended.

Permalink

by Stephen Hackett at August 01, 2014 10:53 PM

Responsive.org

The Closer to the Customer, The Higher the Stakes

In fact, while 80 percent of companies believe they deliver superior customer service, only 8 percent of customers agree, according to management consulting firm Bain & Company. And a lot of that comes down to social media engagement, which is increasingly important to consumers. Studying data from 120 large companies such as Samsung, Macy’s, and BMW, SMMU found that 11 percent of brands have lost revenue, 15 percent have lost customers, and 26 percent have tarnished reputations, all because of negative comments on social media.

This research on the impact of customer service in social channels is really just proof that large organizations don’t yet understand how to structure themselves to be responsive to their customers across every channel, every interaction layer, and every moment of a customer lifecycle. Most brands looked at social, saw a marketing channel, built a team that was divorced from their products, and went on with life as if nothing changed. Other brands, like Starbucks and LEGO, saw social as a means to bridge a gap that had long-ago formed and calcified between the organization and its customers. The difference between the two strategies started out small but continues to grow and build upon itself.

by Bud Caddell at August 01, 2014 10:05 PM

Weekend Reading

Purpose

  • Amazon Launches A 3D Printing Store With Customizable Goods: http://bit.ly/1pnXrUI {TechCrunch}
  • It’s Business Time: Airbnb Targets Work Travelers With Concur Partnership: http://bit.ly/1nCLtap {TechCrunch}
  • Panasonic Enters into Supply Agreement with Tesla Motors to Supply Automotive-Grade Battery Cells: http://bit.ly/1nCLPhr {Tesla Motors}
  • Uber Gets Down To Business With New Travel Expense Tools And Concur Integration: http://bit.ly/1oLyCDa {TechCrunch}
  • Ford invites hackers to use Los Angeles city data: http://cnet.co/1nXYcpj {CNET}
  • Facebook’s new mobile app offers ‘free basic’ internet services in Zambia: http://bit.ly/1nXYWL6 {the guardian}
  • Sprint Will Sell a $12 Wireless Plan that Only Connects to Facebook or Twitter: http://on.wsj.com/1oQeyQ0 {WSJ}


Process

People

Product

  • Kash Lets Retailers Offer Starbucks-Like Mobile Payments While Cutting Out Credit Cards: http://bit.ly/1nXY6Op {TechCrunch}
  • Amazon apparently set to launch Square-competitor in August as it develops biometric payment solutions: http://bit.ly/1pnXCiU {9to5Mac}
  • Jawbone exec: here’s why it’s better to buy a fitness tracker without a screen: http://bit.ly/1nCKC9L {VentureBeat}
  • Tesla’s Model 3: Selling SIIIX: http://econ.st/1nCO3xg {The Economist}

Platform

  • Amazon’s Cloud Is Growing So Fast It’s Scaring Shareholders: http://wrd.cm/1nCK7wk {WIRED}
  • Virtru launches killer NSA-grade encryption for enterprise: http://bit.ly/1nCMe3n {VentureBeat}
  • Drone Startups, Like Airware, Seek Profit in Software and the Cloud: http://bit.ly/1nXYRY0 {Xconomy}
  • Introducing Stellar: A nonprofit organization. building a common financial platform, designed to be open and accessible to everyone:  http://bit.ly/1kbgi6i

Venture Capital

Miscellaneous 

by Jason Spinell at August 01, 2014 09:49 PM

The Outlaw Way

140802

5 Observations from the 2014 CrossFit Games:

2) The 2014 crowd was the first to ever treat the Games like an actual sporting event – and it made the entire event seem like… A REAL sporting event.

This was my fifth trip to coach at the former Home Depot Center, and current Stub Hub Center, in Carson California. I remember exactly where I was in 2010 when it was announced that the Games would move from Aromas to Carson. I was eating at Panda Express with the kids, and someone sent me a text with a link to the announcement. This, of course, was early 2010 and I’m pretty sure it took an hour and a half to load the page on my iPhone 1. When it finally finished I remember thinking, “Wait, they play real sports at that place, what are we gonna do there?”

See, the issue with the crowd is that they’ve always just kinda been there seemingly to: 1) drink 2) check out the new gear from WODwhateverthef**k 3) cheer for an athlete from their gym 4) drink more. This year was different. This year the standard cheers for the athlete from the gym that was closest to Carson were still sort of there, but the cheers for veterans and crowd favorites completely drowned them out. That, however, was not the biggest change. The biggest change was that the crowd ACTUALLY FOLLOWED THE EVENTS, and came to their feet for the best moments.

Let me give you a brief history of the crowds at the Games during the Carson era…

2010: Mostly crickets and athletes standing around after workouts. Also, security guards not doing anything because there was no one there. Really. Watch some videos.

2011: Coaches (me and Doug Chapman – two makes a crowd, right), Reebok employees, local SoCal affiliates, and people who were there trying to sell stuff that wandered into the stadium.

2012: Local SoCal affiliates, affiliates who had athletes at the Games, people who thought Rich was hot, Reebok employees, and a whole bunch of people who were there to sell stuff and likely thought Rich was hot.

2013: Everyone listed above, but a few from a new group. I like to call them “spectators”, and they are generally at events to watch the “sport” that’s happening. I believe these people start a trend in 2013 by “cheering” for things that bring them excitement. I first notice this “cheering” when I stand amongst them to watch Elisabeth decimate “Cinco 1″, and realize I’m not the only one screaming when she rolls out of the HS Walk to cross the finish line. Surreal.

And that brings us to 2014. Not only was the crowd insanely loud in the massive soccer stadium, but I saw gigantic lines throughout the weekend of people lining up to get good seats in the tennis stadium. Like get there at 8am, and stand in line until 3pm to get a good seat and maybe high-five Rich as he won 5 of 7 events (really? 5 of 7?). When I walked in the tennis stadium to watch the “Clean Speed Ladder”, I noticed something else crazy – the crowd was ON THEIR FEET. Not because they were trying to let someone in their row – it was the whole crowd, standing the whole time.

There was something else that was even more amazing to me than the sheer volume and intensity of the crowd. When we walked in the athlete area every morning and every night, there were people lined up along the fence to take pictures and get autographs from the athletes. Like Drew Brees or Kevin Durant were about to walk in. I also saw athletes take the time to stop and give each person that asked their undivided attention.

To me, this is a new era, and it’s good for the sport. If this means the athletes can support their training and continue to pursue what they love, then it will continue to be a good thing. Five years ago, in the empty Home Depot Center, I had guarded hopes that this day would come – the day when competitive exercise looked and felt like a real sport. Now that IMO it’s here, I sure hope it stays this way for a long time.

20140801-174500-63900674.jpg

WOD 140802:

BBG

1) 3 attempts to establish a 1RM Snatch.

Meet style. Warmup and choose openers and attempts.

2) 3 attempts to establish a 1RM Clean & Jerk.

Meet style. Warmup and choose openers and attempts.

Strength

15 minutes to establish a 3RM Front Squat.

Conditioning

“Amanda”

Compare to 140419.

9-7-5 of:

Muscle-Ups
Snatches (full) 135/95#

For time.

The post 140802 appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by rudy.coach at August 01, 2014 09:36 PM

CrossFit Naptown

Check Your Ego

Saturday’s Workout:

“Angie”
100 Pull Ups
100 Push Ups
100 Sit Ups
100 Air Squats

 

Take a moment to read the article below if you have a chance before coming in to take on Angie. She is a tough one and deserves respect. We highly recommend that people scale pull ups in this workout to avoid injury and maximize long-term gains over short-term ego-boosts.

 

Check Your Ego at the Door

unclerhabdo

“Uncle Rhabdo”

There are a lot of grumblings out there from CrossFit haters about the relationship between CrossFit and rhabdomyolysis. It is true that there have been instances of athletes getting rhabdo after participating in CrossFit workouts at CrossFit gyms but the ratio of workouts that ended in a case of rhabdo compared to those that did not is incredibly low. Rhabdo is a serious condition and there is certainly a chance that it could happen, just as there is a chance that you could break a bone or tear a muscle or dislocate a joint. This is a part of being human. We are not indestructible creatures. Any time you step into the gym you put yourself at risk of injury. The same is true of every time you ride on a plane, drive in your car, or walk down the street. Accidents and injuries happen. Does that mean that we should seclude ourselves to our bomb shelters and live as hermits? Probably not. First off, that would get boring very quickly. Second, leading an inactive and “safe” life may be even more dangerous than getting out into the world and being active. We are meant to be active and move around. Sitting on the couch all day puts me at risk of getting hurt simply standing up and even more at risk for becoming riddled with disease and sickness.

CrossFit is meant to help us towards the wellness and fitness side of the spectrum and away from sickness. When all parties involved in a workout are respectful of the methods and intentions behind CrossFit, then there is very minimal risk of injury. This means that the coach and all participants understand that technique comes before weight, that form comes before intensity, and that safety always comes before a score. A common theme behind all of these factors is checking one’s ego. We harp on this subject all the time because it truly cannot be stressed enough. At all points in our CrossFit career, we need to be reminded of this lesson. From the very first time we walk into the door and every day after that. 8-year veterans of the program and CrossFit Games athletes still need to hear this (for anyone who isn’t sure, I am referring to myself here). Greater experience, improved fitness, and more refined CrossFit skills does not mean that the ego can be allowed back into the gym. The athlete that is improving the most, in fact, probably needs the loudest reminder of anyone. As you get set to tackle Angie today, take a moment to consider where you are at as an athlete. What form of scaling will give you the most benefit in the long term? Take another moment to listen to your ego and what it wants out of the day’s workout. Now go back and compare these two scenarios. If your ego is telling you that you have to do all 100 pull ups but your honest future self would be more comfortable with 75, then listen. Satisfying your ego’s desires will do nothing to improve your fitness and will likely put you in a prime position to get injured. If you are worried about what people will think of you scaling, remember that everyone else is too busy worrying about what you think of them to pay any attention to you.

 

 

by Anna at August 01, 2014 09:10 PM

Zippy Catholic

Pay no attention to that gun to your head

Contracts are always definitely consensual.  Contracts are never completely consensual. One who has not grasped this essential political fact will remain one of liberalism’s useful idiots, waking up each morning still trapped in a dystopian liberal Groundhog Day. And it is impossible for a positivist, who confuses definiteness with completeness, to grasp this essential fact.

Libertarians and libertarian-sympathetic reactionaries are ultimately just enablers of liberalism, because they have not fully grasped that making freedom a political priority necessarily leads right back around to liberalism. In order to escape the mind trap of liberalism it is not enough to unequivocally reject equality as a political priority. You must also unequivocally reject freedom as a political priority.

If a lot of people happen to be free, it means that a lot of people are actually able to choose what they wish to be able to choose. That is a consequence of either:

  • their wills being conformed to what is good in a good society; or
  • their wills being conformed to wickedness in a wicked society.

Treating freedom or equality as political priorities at all involves a basic misapprehension: it involves deliberately taking our eyes off of what is good and adopting a pose of neutrality. And because political neutrality is actually impossible, this in effect makes wickedness the goal.

So treating freedom and/or equality as a political priority is just political support of wickedness, simpliciter.

No matter how many times it is dealt with, the objection that libertarianism does insist that people face the consequences of their own free choices pops up like a game of whack-a-mole. Libertarianism represents a genuinely consensual politics because, while it is true that contracts are considered binding once freely entered, only consensual contracts are permitted.

But this is just the same old question-begging blindness to metaphysical baggage all over again. Contracts and other choices take place in a context, and the context is not itself a consensually entered contract[1]. As a simple example, who ‘owns’ what, and what ‘ownership’ does and does not entail in specific situations, is the tip of the iceberg of the non-consensual context in which every contract is entered, and in the shadow of which it is bargained.

If you happen to find a given nonconsensual context pleasing for ideological or personal reasons it is more likely to be invisible to you. But even then it isn’t something you created by giving consent.

So libertarianism or even just residual libertarian sympathies in reaction just end up back in the same old circular trap.  We can have whatever politics we want as long as everyone else gets to have whatever politics they want. You can have any political system you want — as long as it is liberalism.

[1] If folks understood how political philosophy has developed it would be obvious why such manifestly question-begging errant nonsense as social contract theory and government by consent of the governed was considered necessary. In order to justify authoritative discrimination in favor of liberal governance on its own terms liberalism has to pretend that authority is ‘consensual contract’ turtles all the way down.


by Zippy at August 01, 2014 08:38 PM

The Brooks Review

The Brooks Review Podcast: Episode Five – Mr. Chambers

This week I am joined by Bradley Chambers as we talk about iPads. In education, in offices, and how the App Store is changing for good and bad.

This week we are sponsored by: Delight is in the Details and Begin app.

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

by Ben Brooks at August 01, 2014 08:17 PM

Responsive.org

Moonshot Thinking

Here’s to not sleeping this weekend, to wrestling with an ambition you’ve been either told to curb or have curbed yourself, and to letting that audacity take hold and win over your heart.

Let this video from Google inspire you, but don’t for a minute think that only Google has license to dream and act big.

by Bud Caddell at August 01, 2014 07:06 PM

Koinonia

My Advice to Students — Scott Rae Says, "Your Academic Work is Discipleship"

(Can't see the video? Watch it here)

9780310513995During seminary orientation seven years ago I remember our president giving us fresh seminarians some important words of encouragement for our new season. Scott Rae, author of Do the Right Thing, has the same advice for you and your own journey, as well:

Consider your academic work as part of your calling from God and part of your discipleship.

Whether you are a student now or will be next month, this season of your life is part of what it means to faithfully follow Jesus. Right now God is calling you to be a student, and follow Him in that way.

I remember my president’s words seven years ago were incredibly freeing as I embarked on my own academic journey. Listen to Rae give the same freeing words to you and then do what he encourages:

You are serving Christ by doing your academic work well. So take it seriously and go for broke.

-Jeremy Bouma, Th.M. (@bouma)

_____________________

"My Advice to Students" videos advise and guide students studying for a future of ministry in the Church, whether in the academy or in congregations. In these specially curated videos, leading scholars of biblical studies share their wisdom to help you navigate this important season of preparation.

by Jeremy Bouma at August 01, 2014 05:25 PM

Caelum Et Terra

Calvin and Bob

I came up with the idea for a comic strip about the adventures of Jean Calvin and his reptilian companion, Bob, in the afterworld, a bleak and lifeless place where they only occasionally encounter other wandering souls. Once I got the characters down the dialogue began to write itself. Here is one early attempt:

bob i1


by Daniel Nichols at August 01, 2014 05:08 PM

When Nonviolence Surprises

mosul

The Leaning Mosque of Mosul

I don’t know if you saw this remarkable story the other day, but it is one of the only hopeful things I have seen in the recent barrage of depressing news:

Residents of Mosul have watched helplessly as extremists ruling the northern Iraqi city blew up some of their most beloved landmarks and shrines to impose a stark vision of Islam. Next up for destruction, they feared: the Crooked Minaret, a more than 840-year-old tower that leans like Italy’s Tower of Pisa.

But over the weekend, residents pushed back. When fighters from the Islamic State group loaded with heavy explosives converged on the site, Mosulis living nearby rushed to the courtyard below the minaret, sat on the ground and linked arms to form a human chain to protect it, two residents who witnessed the event said on Monday.

They told the fighters, if you blow up the minaret, you’ll have to kill us too, the witnesses said.

The militants backed down and left, said the witnesses, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation from the militants.

Read more here:

http://www.thenational.ae/world/middle-east/mosulis-link-arms-to-stop-fall-of-iraqs-tower-of-pisa#ixzz39A1BQpkA

This struck me as very curious. The militants of ISIS, which has rather stupidly declared a worldwide caliphate, have shown little humanity in their quest to impose a totalitarian religious state. Only a day before this incident they murdered over 100 prisoners of war, a heinous crime by any civilized standard.
Yet they backed down from nonviolent protesters.
Apparently it is one thing to murder those who were not so long ago fighting you, and quite another to kill those determined to resist with nonviolence.
Of course there is never any guarantee of this sort of success, and it is likely that the militants left for tactical reasons rather than tenderness of conscience.
But is this not a hopeful story?

by Daniel Nichols at August 01, 2014 05:05 PM

Reformedish

“I Used To Believe X For Reason Y…” And the Failure of Intellectual Imagination

thinking homerWe seem to live in an age that lacks intellectual imagination; at least when it comes to the thought processes of others. One of the most glaring (and personally annoying) examples of this is on display in many modern “intellectual conversion” narratives. It could be about any issue really, whether politics, or religion, or broader ethical issues. It’s very common to find a thread along the lines of:

“I used to believe position X for stupid, hateful Reason Y.  Reason Y must be only reason to believe position X.”

While it’s the kind of argument you can find in just about any type of conversion article, I see it most often with stories about conversion on the issue of same-sex marriage in the church, or just in the culture at large. It’ll be an article by a post-Evangelical, or someone else, that goes something like:

You know, I used to be like the rest of my coreligionists. I used to hate gays, and was taught that they were worse than anthrax. I was very insecure about the issue because I felt that they threatened my whole way of being. If I admitted they were properly human, or whatever, then, my whole world would collapse. But that was because I’d never actually met one. Now I have and I realize that they’re kind, gentle, loving people. Also, I found out there are books with Christians who say that same-sex relationship are okay according to the Bible. I never heard any of these arguments, but now I have. So, I’ve changed my mind.

Now, I don’t bring this up to settle the issue of same-sex marriage here. (Honestly, if you try to argue about it in more than a tangential way in the comments, I’m simply going to ignore it or delete it. That’s not the point.) Nor am I saying there isn’t a case to be made along those lines. What I am saying is that the move that comes next is simply a failure of intellectual imagination. You see, what often follows is something like:

See, that’s where people are. This is the only place they can be. These are the only reasons that someone could hold the position that I used to hold.

Because they used to be hateful and insecure in their former intellectual position, everybody must be. Because their opinion was held on the basis of flawed, prejudiced reasoning, everybody’s must be. What never seems to occurs to them is that you could hold a moral opposition to same-sex marriage all the while having no lack of personal warmth, goodwill, and so forth towards gay people. Or, that you could read some of that same scholarship and simply disagree on other intellectual grounds. And yet that really is the case. It’s like a child who only used to believe the earth revolved round the sun because his mom told him it was spun about by great strings and wires, but upon discovering that there were no strings and wires, thereby came to believe there were no other reasons to believe such a notion.

Again, this happens in other areas too. There’s many an article on Calvinism or Arminianism that covers the same, familiar steps. “I used to be an Arminian because I thought Calvinists were mean and I’d never read Romans 9. But then I read Romans 9 and met a nice Calvinist.” Or, “I used to be a Calvinist, but then Roger Olson told me about free will and John 3:16. If only people would read John 3:16 and read Roger Olson, nobody would be a Calvinist.”  Of course, these are ridiculously simplified, but you get the point.

This, as I said, is a failure of the intellectual imagination, and for reasons I’m not entirely sure of (and I’d love others to weigh in on), it’s one that seems increasingly common. I will say that I’m fairly sure it has something to do with the narcissism of human experience. The story we know best is our own and our human tendency is to shrink the world to fit our experiences. We take our personal stories, and instead of seeing them as one, particular, unique experience, we expand them out and unjustifiably universalize them. Did you have a bad time in a repressive, stale, and abusive Evangelical church? That must be all of Evangelicalism. Did your belief in God’s sovereignty collapse in the face of tragedy? Everybody’s must.

I suppose this is merely another angle on the problem with the absolutizing of personal experience that Alastair Roberts has brought up before, and serves to reinforce his argument that we maybe need to pump the brakes on how much we press the importance of personal narrative in theologizing. Still, I don’t want to entirely rule out the valid place that our own story has to play in the discovery of truth. My friend Preston had a very thoughtful post yesterday on the idea of midrash in exegesis. Ironically enough, though, it highlighted from a different angle the danger that occurs when we place an overemphasis on our own story as the locus of truth and meaning. By assuming everyone’s intellectual experience must be just like ours, we end up invalidating the intellectual and moral experiences of others that don’t fit our paradigm.

This, as I’ve mentioned before, is another reason to prioritize Scripture in our theological reasoning. As Bavinck reminded us, personal confession and experience is inevitably part of our reflections. Still, by focusing our reasoning and reflection on Scripture, we are submitting our own experiences, logics, and so forth, to the only Story or Word, that has any claim to be comprehensive enough to include, correct, and make sense of them all–God’s own.

Well, once again I’ve rambled far longer than I intended. For what it’s worth, don’t be an intellectual narcissist. Before you go extrapolating your own former experiences, thought processes, and prejudices to those who hold positions you used to, stop, have an actual conversation with them. You might be surprised at the results.

Soli Deo Gloria


by Derek Rishmawy at August 01, 2014 04:40 PM

CrossFit 204

Workout: Aug. 3, 2014

You make the call: burpee, wall walk or nap?

You make the call: burpee, wall walk or nap?

5 rounds of:

20 dumbbell or kettlebell goblet squats (70/45 lb.)

10 burpees

Run 200 meters

Skills

Part 1

4 sets of 3 tall cleans

The barbell starts at the hip with the weight on the heels and the hips open. There is no dip before you pull under. Aggressively shrug under the barbell into a full squat. Stand and reset.

These sets should take you no more than 10 minutes.

Perfect mechanics.

Part 2

6 sets of 2 cleans

Drop between each rep.

Catch the bar in full squat and hold the bottom position for a full 3-second count before standing up.

These should be very tough, and you will not be able to match the weight you normally use in cleans.

This is not a 1RM day.

by Mike at August 01, 2014 04:21 PM

Englewood Christian Church: We Blog! » ERB

ERB Weekly Digest – Wendell Berry, Best Books of 2014 so far, MORE

 
 

Kindle Ebook Bargain: 
The Faith of Leap by Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost is only $2.99 right now!
http://amzn.to/FaithOfLeap

 

Don’t miss our lists of:
25 Best Books from the First Half of 2014!    AND
25 Books to Watch For in the Second Half of 2014

 


 

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

  • Distant Neighbors: Letters Of Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder

    A Clear and Highly Developed Vision of a Better World A Feature Review of Distant Neighbors: The Selected Letters Of Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder. Hardback: Counterpoint, 2014 Buy now: [ ] [ ] Reviewed by Michelle E. Wilbert   In the affectionate introduction to this edifying collection of correspondence between novelist, poet, and cultural […]

  •  

  • 25 Books to Watch For in the Second Half of 2014

    As a follow-up to yesterday’s list of the 25 best books from the first half of 2014, here are 25 Books to Watch for in the Second Half of 2014.   Fiction | General Non-Fiction | Poetry | Christian Theology/Praxis Fiction Books:     By Marilynne Robinson     By John Darnielle (Lead singer of […]

  •  

  • Bargain Kindle Ebooks – Recommended Titles for August 2014

    10 Recommended Bargain Kindle ebooks for $3.99 or Less!   Amazon.com Widgets   Prices on these ebooks should not change before August 31, 2014. But to be on the safe side, please refresh the Amazon page before ordering… (NOTE: Prices listed may or may be not be valid outside the United States… Sorry!) If you […]

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  • Pope Francis – Church of Mercy [Feature Review]

    The Abounding of Humility A Feature Review of Church of Mercy: A Vision for the Church Pope Francis Paperback: Loyola Press, 2014 Buy now: [ ] [ ] Reviewed by Tom Tatterfield *** This book was chosen as one of our Best Books of the first half of 2014!   It has become rather commonplace […]

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  • Kaye Park Hinckley – Birds of A Feather [Review]

    The Flutter of Redemption A Review of Birds of a Feather: Stories Kaye Park Hinckley Paperback: Wiseblood Books, 2014 Buy now: [ ] Reviewed by Deborah Rocheleau *** This book was chosen as one of our best books of the first half of 2014!   Not all the stories in Kaye Park Hinckley’s Birds of […]

  •  

  • 25 Best Books from the First Half of 2014!

    After perusing our print magazine and all the online reviews, etc. that we have published this year, here are our picks for the 25 best books from the first half of 2014, divided into four broad categories. NOTE: Some of these books may have been released in late 2013, but weren’t covered by us until […]

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  • New Book Releases – Week of 28 July 2014

    Here are a few new book releases from this week that are worth checking out: (Where possible, we have also tried to include a review/interview related to the book…)  [...]

  •  

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by csmith at August 01, 2014 04:13 PM

CrossFit Naptown

Lurong Paleo Challenge Preparation

Friday’s Workout:

Strength:
Over Head Squat Every 3 Minutes
5-5-5-5-5

WOD:
10 Wall Balls
5 Swings
On The Minute 10:00

 

 Lurong Paleo Challenge Information:

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

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

2) Take your measurements for you as needed based on the calendar submission dates. Here is the 2013 calendar to give you an idea on the timing, 2014 dates will be released in the coming weeks. (https://www.lurongliving.com/challenge2013/calendar)

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

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

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

 

 

Education and Information Before the Challenge Begins!

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

Paleo Information Session, hosted by Leslie and Eric Gardner

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

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

 

 

 

Artie’s Paleo OnTheGo – “Meat and Greet”

August 18th, 5:00-8:00pm at CrossFit NapTown

NapTown Family,
We would like to invite you to a night of food tasting and information sharing with Artie’s Paleo OnTheGo. Artie and his crew will be hosting a “Meat and Greet” (pun intended) on Monday August 18th from 5pm-8pm. They will be here with a bunch of free samples of their amazing food and they will also have some $10 entrees that you can purchase to take home that evening. The goal of the evening is to show their product and to answer questions you may have about their weekly meal service that started right here at CrossFit NapTown.
Artie and his crew are now servicing over 20 gyms in the greater Indianapolis area and surrounding towns. They have a weekly menu that varies from beef, pork, chicken to seafood. They also offer tasty desserts and some Paleo InTheZone meals for those of you counting your macro-nutrients. The menu also has amazing options like soups, sauces, salad dressings and seasonings for those of you who like to cook but have trouble finding these items to be “paleo approved”.
You have probably walked by the counter on Monday and wondered “who is that guy with the food back there?” Well, now is your chance to see what the buzz is all about… Come hungry and ready to “fuel your temple” with Artie’s Paleo OnTheGo!
Screen shot 2014-08-01 at 11.55.40 AM

by Anna at August 01, 2014 04:01 PM

512 Pixels

Beats officially part of Apple →

Apple:

Today we are excited to officially welcome Beats Music and Beats Electronics to the Apple family. Music has always held a special place in our hearts, and we’re thrilled to join forces with a group of people who love it as much as we do. Beats cofounders Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre have created beautiful products that have helped millions of people deepen their connection to music. We’re delighted to be working with the team to elevate that experience even further.

Here's Beats' announcement, which I couldn't paste as it's not actually text on the page.

Permalink

by Stephen Hackett at August 01, 2014 02:31 PM

Daniel Lemire's blog

The insanity of research grant proposals

Most people will never have to write a research grant. That is a good thing.

How do you write a successful grant application?

  • Your work should follow established methodologies. It should follow closely prior work. Departures from either your own work or other people’s work will sink your proposal.

    Your results have to be predictable. Years ahead of time.

  • Also… Your work should lead to major breakthroughs.

It does not compute.

I do not care what kind of research you do: a predictable breakthrough is no breakthrough at all.

The good scientists always have speculative ideas. Sometimes these ideas come out of nowhere, in the moment. Most of these ideas are very bad… but a few represent the real breakthroughs. And that is what research is really about. Trial and error on a massive scale. You try things until it sticks. If you knew what you were doing, it would not be research. But that is not what you will find in research grant proposals.

What you find in grant proposals are soviet-like 5-year plans… any scientist that follows such plans is doomed to mediocrity. So, what do good scientists do? They lie about what they will do. To each other. All the time.

by Daniel Lemire at August 01, 2014 02:00 PM

The Outlaw Way

140801

WL:

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

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

Accessories:

Clean High Pull from blocks: 5rm – 5X1@95%, 5X1@90%

Note: The goal is to pull to the middle of the rib cage. This means weight should be heavy but elbows should still break. Knees MAY re-bend.

Strength/Skill:

1a) Strict C2B Pull-ups: 3XME unbroken – if less than 4 unbroken, rest and complete 8

1b) Strict GH Raise: 3X8 with controlled tempo throughout

The post 140801 appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by rudy.coach at August 01, 2014 01:53 PM

Alexis C. Madrigal : The Atlantic

The Future of Iced Coffee

I have seen the future of iced coffee.

There I was, wandering the grocery-store aisles—when suddenly, next to the kombucha, opposite the rotisserie chickens, I spotted something I never thought I’d live to see.

A blue and white carton—like the half-pints of milk that come on elementary school lunch trays—emblazoned with the words Blue Bottle New Orleans Iced Coffee.

This coffee is legendary in the Bay Area, and now that Blue Bottle has expanded to New York, I’m sure its name echoes on the streets of Manhattan and Williamsburg, too. Brewed with chicory, cut with whole milk, sweetened with cane sugar, it’s a cold coffee beverage that is at once sophisticated and unpretentious. It’s not an austere challenge to the Starbucks-trained palate like so much of high-brow coffee culture. It just tastes good in an interesting way.

James Freeman, the founder and CEO of Blue Bottle, created his version of  old New Orleans drink back when his company was a stand at the Berkeley Farmer’s Market, only 10 years ago. It was an alternative to iced lattes, which he told me were a “compromised beverage” because the hot espresso hits the ice, changing its flavor profile.

NOLA iced coffee, by contrast, was perfect. Maybe it wasn’t the pinnacle of coffee, but it was my favorite coffee experience.

Not aggressively artisan like so many Portlandia products, it was a delicious, not financially ruinous luxury that I learned to love in the ruins of the 2008 economy. And now, here in my grocery store behind the rotisserie chickens, were cartons of NOLA GODDAMN ICED COFFEE.

As I piled the last five cartons on the shelf into my red basket, my mind vacillated between evangelical excitement—HALLELUJAH!—and the kind of dread I get seeing Ice T on Law & Order.

What if this carton was terrible? What if this beverage, which accompanied me into adulthood, was just a lame knockoff, a packaged imitation, The Monkees of cold coffee?

I knew Blue Bottle had taken tens of millions of dollars of venture capital—and you know what that means. After their second round of investment in 2012, one former Stumptown Coffee barista and popular coffee blogger said of Blue Bottle, “If you were to go out into the coffee community—not the consumer community, but the coffee community—and ask coffee insiders to describe Blue Bottle, ‘high quality coffee’ would not be used by pretty much anyone.” Were they really going downhill, or was this just my-favorite-band-got-popular hipster coffee syndrome?

This drink might let Blue Bottle challenge Starbucks, which controls the vast majority of the ready-to-drink market. It would be the latte of the 2010s—and you know what that means, too.

But I had heard things about Freeman that made me wonder if he even could sell out. He was famously compulsive and exacting, carrying a special coffee kit on the road, slipping into In-and-Outs to beg for hot water for his travel kettle, then grinding beans by hand on the plastic benches outside. This sensibility extended to his company. One time, I requested an iced espresso drink at a Blue Bottle–serving cafe in San Francisco and was refused out of fear that I was a surreptitious inspector from the coffee company. (Blue Bottle really did run undercover inspections of their customers to make sure they weren't mistreating their coffees, so everyone was a potential tattle-tale.) Annoying, no? But this guy took brand seriously. I had also heard he had been a professional clarinetist, which was oddly reassuring.

You get the sense from him that it is still as much of a passion project now as it was when he was roasting 5 lbs of beans in a garage in Oakland; that spirit remains,” said Jessica Battilana, a former Tasting Table senior editor, who has covered the San Francisco beverage scene for nearly a decade. “You meet him, and he doesn’t seem like a pompous jerk, more like a quirky nerd who’s made a go of something he really loves.”

Back at the grocery store, I hurried to the checkout, snatched a carton off the conveyor belt before it could be bagged and ran outside to try it. Fighting off my son’s grabby hands, I managed to get the carton to my mouth and take a sip.

I did not have to think. My tongue knew. It plugged my brain directly into the memories of all the other places I’ve had this beautiful coffee: three alleyways, one converted electrical factory, the fanciest coffee shop in America, two farmer’s markets, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and now, the sidewalk outside the market.

This coffee was the real deal. Maybe not everyone will like it as much as I do (my wife thinks it’s too sweet). But right away, I sensed it was going to be huge. Blue Bottle was already making 10,000 cartons a week, even though they’d only rolled out in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York.

Somehow, Freeman had scaled perfection.

On behalf of all craftspeople, including writers, I had to know how.

Blue Bottle CEO James Freeman at W.C. Morse Building Blue Bottle in Oakland (Alexis Madrigal)

Meet James Freeman. It is California and it is Oakland, so the sun is streaming in through the big windows of a converted old truck showroom. The white tile on the floor inside matches the white brick outside. Freeman is dressed in a dark chambray shirt, matching striped skinny tie, and gray cardigan. His hair is white, but he doesn’t look old.

We sit down at one end of the high table that runs the length of the cavernous space. To our right, behind a transparent wall, mechanics fix the world’s fancy, finicky espresso machines. A flight of different iced coffees and a little pudding form a dotted line in front of him. He is explaining how he is trying to resist the evils of the poodle.

Not a literal poodle, but the poodle that appears in Goëthe’s Faust.

“This production manager Arno I mentioned,” Freeman says, “he was the second barista I ever hired and he was a German literature major, and Goëthe was a big thing for him. And I remember reading some of Doctor Faustus a while ago—you know, to get to know Arno better—and there is a great, great metaphor in it that I’ve been thinking about so much. It’s the prevailing metaphor of my last 18 months. In the book, Mephistopheles appears first in the guise of a poodle. Who could resist a poodle? So lovable, so cute.”

Stop for a moment to appreciate that this is a devil poodle, because Mephistopheles is the devil (roughly). But for Freeman, this poodle is actually about a different varietal of evil.

Sure you can make a lot of money from this. It’ll be easy. You don’t have to care so much,” he says in a conspiratorial whisper, like a devil poodle would talk. “How can something so irresistible end up being so poisonous? It’s that mindset: It’ll be easy. You won’t have to care. It’s hard to care.”

He pauses for half a beat. “I think about that a lot, especially with this influx of investment. There are a lot of people telling me how I can make my life easier. But is that the right decision to make, or is that the poodle coming into the room?"

I’ve listened to many interviews with him and I know his conversational affect. He says he makes a cappuccino before he puts on pants. He revels in cheery pedanticism about his personal collections of stereo equipment and old cars (“old French cars,” he would say). He relishes the tale of his failure as a professional clarinetist ("good enough to get the jobs I didn’t want, not good enough to get the jobs I did.”) And he talks about coffee, of course, in ways that are intricate and unembarrassed. He once described one lot of Brazilian coffee like this: “It had this luminous shimmery top-end, very caramely body, heavy without being pudgy, and it had this beautiful brightness and layers and layers of flavors ... like thinking about your wedding day.”

But going into our interview, what I found most interesting about him, and a defining trait of Blue Bottle’s business maneuverings, is that he considers all the micropsychological conditions that someone might be in as they enter a cafe. “Sometimes people go out for their first coffee of the day and that’s a very vulnerable time in someone’s life, while they’re waiting for that first cup of coffee,” he told the Food Seen podcast, for example.

His approach has differentiated Blue Bottle from a lot of its competition. Ever since the early 1970s, when George Howell started traveling around the world on a mission “to seek out the best coffees on Earth” for his Boston store, The Coffee Connection (since sold to Starbucks), many of the finest coffee people have focused their businesses on ever-more involved, meticulous, and obscure sourcing. They see their role as deepening the relationship between coffee farmers and consumers.

Nowadays, at the San Francisco company Four Barrel, they sell coffees by essentially blogging about the trips they take to see the trees and the people who tend them. It’s all origin stories and earthiness. ("He pointed out the prevalence of Pache plants, a dwarf mutation of Typica. We always have a soft spot for Typica, the ‘mother bean’ that carried the wonders of Arabica coffee beyond its Ethiopian home.”) This is a beautiful way of seeing and participating in the coffee industry.

Blue Bottle is different. Yes, their coffee buyer flies around the world, but travel writing is not part of the brand. They’ve always been known for consistent, delicious blends, for sophisticated brewing methods, for perfectionism. And nary a coffee cherry or tree can be found on their website. Instead, we see beautiful cups of coffee and contexts for drinking them. Sure, there are fancy single-origin coffees for sale, but the images show it being made into espresso, not harvested. Freeman fell in love with coffee roasting it in his oven and meticulously developing his brewing methodologies at home, not on a finca under the trees.

Freeman believes coffee makes us the people we want to be. “I am actually able to change the brain chemistry of my customers,” he has written. And his personal obsession has been perfecting the art of constructing coffee, not growing it. Making coffee is “a performance that lasts 90 seconds,” and that alters the people who experience it.

“In terms of the semiosphere of coffee, there’s just so much imagery of the cherry and the tree, but people buy this,” he told me, tapping one of his coffees. “That’s what people think of as coffee.”

For our purposes, two events dominate the terrain of coffee history as a kind of thesis, anti-thesis: the rise of canned coffee and the the appearance of the latte.

Coffee has been a key part of life for centuries, of course, a legal stimulant available at a low price per dose. Civil War soldiers needed it for battle. “Soldiers drank it before marches, after marches, on patrol, during combat. In their diaries, ‘coffee’ appears more frequently than the words ‘rifle,’ ‘cannon’ or ‘bullet,’" wrote historian Jon Grinspan in The New York Times. “Ragged veterans and tired nurses agreed with one diarist: ‘Nobody can “soldier” without coffee.’"

Now, the value of the coffee trade is a commodity second only to petroleum. It’s a pharmacological necessity for the masses, from Vienna to Virginia to Vanuatu.

Strangely, Civil War soldiers may have had access to better coffee than the mid-20th century American shopper. For decades, food engineers at the big coffee brands of the day—Folger’s, Maxwell House, Hills Brothers—systematically reduced the cost of their product by adding ever-cheaper beans into their blends. They used a less expensive coffee varietal known as robusta that was easy to produce in bulk in Brazil—and even took the lowest grades of it that they could find. Over time, they replaced the actual smell and flavor of coffee with marketing and some engineering tricks. “Just before sealing the powdered coffee in the cans, manufacturers inject a simulated coffee aroma,” wrote Taylor Clark in his book Starbucked, “so when consumers open the container, they get a whiff of fresh coffee, which, because it’s entirely fake, instantly vanishes.”

Perhaps the canned coffee magnates should have tried to compete on something other than price, but coffee is such a daily necessity that diners and grocery stores alike used it as a door buster, making their money on other, higher-margin products. In that business environment, even tiny price increases might have been enough to bring a company’s market share down. So competition stayed fierce, prices stayed generally low, and quality kept dropping. While consumers didn’t seem to notice the difference month over month or year after year, eventually they just stopped drinking as much coffee. And why not? It was crap. If they wanted caffeination that tasted all right, they could turn to soda. In 1962, per capita coffee consumption went down for the first time in the statistical record, according to Clark.

During the decade after that low-point, people like Howell in Boston, Alfred Peet of Peet’s in Berkeley, Oren Bloostein of Oren’s Daily Roast in New York, and Jerry Baldwin, Gordon Bowker, and Zev Siegl of Starbucks in Seattle began to lay the foundations for today’s coffee culture.

These early coffee lovers were an eccentric bunch by most accounts, craftspeople as much as business owners. They set up small shops in cool places and tried to get people to buy into the idea of better coffee. In 1982, they formed the Specialty Coffee Association of America. At that time, they held a few percent of the American coffee market. Even in the late 1980s, there were just a few hundred shops dedicated to brewing and selling coffee in the entire county. These small, scattered places could not really compete with the big brands. And then suddenly it was easy.

Thirty years later, specialty coffee holds 37 percent of the market and there are more than 24,000 coffee shops.

What changed?

The latte. Well, the latte and a man obsessed by scale.

That would be Howard Schultz, who’d been brought to Starbucks by Baldwin to do marketing. In the late 1980s, the original partners sold the company to Schultz. Baldwin, for his part, turned his full attention to Peet’s, and Schultz set Starbucks on the path to megascale.

Schultz began to push Italianate sophistication and the practice of pouring espresso shots into very hot milk. The Starbucks latte, as it developed, became to its espresso+milk European ancestors what Panda Express is to high Sichuan cuisine: deracinated, but irresistible.

After all, Americans love milk. “It was always milk drinks,” our own Corby Kummer, author of The Joy of Coffee, told Clark. "They’re easier to drink, and it was also a logical transition for someone going from a big tall cup of drip coffee. People think they like espresso. They don’t.” (Kummer’s book delves into this history, too.)

Starbucks now has a dominant, near-hegemonic position in the American specialty coffee market. All its competitors are a mere fraction of its size. And yet, many people in the coffee industry would say that Starbucks coffee is terrible, or at best, should be buried in a venti glass of hot milk.

Blue Bottle has been a standard-bearer of the post-latte coffee revival, which looks a lot like the one Starbucks itself participated in during the 1970s: weirdos and dreamers connected in loose, West Coasty networks by love of coffee.

When Freeman was getting Blue Bottle off the ground, Eileen Hassi was getting Ritual running on San Francisco’s Valencia Street. The two brands have become part of the new artisan (our generation’s “specialty") coffee establishment, along with a select few other companies like Chicago’s Intelligentsia, founded by Doug Zell and Emily Mange, and Portland’s Stumptown, the creation of Duane Sorenson. And of course, there are the other Bay Area stars like Jeremy Tooker’s Four Barrel, as well as Jerad and Justin Morrison’s Sightglass.

If I squint back through the mists of history and Seattle, there is something oddly parallel about Starbucks in 1984 and Blue Bottle in 2014. And that thinking, in some ways, culminates in the NOLA Iced Coffee.

“Have you been to our shop on Mint Plaza?” Freeman asks me. Indeed I have been, as have many other readers of The New York Times, at least in spirit, because they profiled the place in January 2008 when its $20,000 Japanese siphon coffeemaker went into operation: “With its brass-trimmed halogen heating elements, glass globes and bamboo paddle, the new contraption that is to begin making coffee this week at the Blue Bottle Café here looks like a machine from a Jules Verne novel, a 19th-century vision of the future.” 

“I thought up that shop in 2007, so it was a long time ago,” Freeman continued. “You walk in and it is filled with mystery. Like, what are those things? Coffee is difficult and mysterious! And that kind of betrays how I thought about it in 2007... With that carton, though, there is no manual or training. There is one word on the carton that you need to know, and that is ‘open.’ It’s so easy and it is very delicious.

“This is where it starts or it can start: ‘I don’t like coffee, but I like this. So maybe I’ll check out one of their shops or maybe I’ll look them up online. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe,’” he concluded. “There are all kinds of things that can stem from this.”

Out of all the companies in its cohort, Blue Bottle has been the most ambitious, not just in the number of its stores—which is still small—but the type of stores that it has built. Recently, it’s begun to make acquisitions, too, snatching up Handsome Coffee Roasters in Los Angeles and the Internet coffee company Tonx. And Blue Bottle just so happens to have a delicious, milky beverage of its own on which it could build a huge business.

“This is a move right out of the Starbucks playbook—by putting a ready-to-drink product in gas stations, Starbucks reached populations that would never find their way into a Starbucks cafe," said Leif Haven, who covers the Bay Area coffee scene for Sprudge.com.

They’re not the only company trying to scale in this way, of course. Stumptown looms on the horizon as another major-investor-backed coffee brand. Twitter-Uber-Square founder Jack Dorsey is an investor in Sightglass. And there are other small, nimble startups going after the Frappucino-dominated ready-to-drink market.

"Black Medicine company, Kickstand, Project Juice are three I can think of that aren’t even associated with a well-known roaster or brand. Blue Bottle is simply one of the highest-profile efforts,” Haven said. “Since they’ve placed it in Whole Foods, it’s probably one of the largest scale iced-coffee ventures this side of Starbucks.”

All of which returns us to the question we began with: Can Freeman turn Blue Bottle into Starbucks without … turning it into Starbucks?

“Could we be the first 20-store chain, or 50- or 100-store chain that doesn’t suck?” Freeman asked rhetorically, in an interview with The New York Times in January. The question can be applied to his new product, too: Can Blue Bottle be the first company to make 20,000 or 50,000 or 100,000 cartons of iced coffee that doesn’t suck?

Blue Bottle’s Jen Apodaca and brewer Mike Schnebeck at Fort Point Brewing Company in San Francisco (Alexis Madrigal)

If Blue Bottle succeeds in scaling, it will be thanks to people like its West Coast production manager, Jen Apodaca, and mornings like this one at Fort Point Beer Company, which squats at the base of a bluff in San Francisco, across Chrissy Field from the Bay. It’s foggy, of course, but the orange of the Golden Gate Bridge can be seen reaching out to Marin like an invitation.

The brewery is white and blocky, topped with a red tile roof. Through the facility’s two huge roll-up doors, there is shiny metal everywhere. Kegs are stacked against a back wall, and there are two rows of huge stainless steel brewing vats. Because if you want to brew hundreds of gallons of coffee, you need to find a brewer with big vats.

That would be Mike Schnebeck, head brewer at Fort Point, and the kind of tall, naturally strong dude who would have been really good at sports if he hadn’t been too busy playing the bass. He’s in charge of actually making the coffee with the operational guidance of Apodaca.

Apodaca got into the business through her work in Chiapas, back when “I was into politics and I went to work for the Zapatistas and was like, ‘I’m gonna support the revolution!’” she said. “Because those guys sell coffee. And I was gonna import it and sell it. Then I moved to Portland, and realized how expensive the roasting machines are, and was like, ‘I’m gonna get a job as a waitress.’”

But she made her way back to coffee, apprenticing in roasting at McMenamin’s in Portland, which has a small coffee operation, then moving to Intelligentsia as a roaster and quality control specialist, before she got recruited to Blue Bottle last year.

Schnebeck leads us up a ladder to a platform that stretches between two steel cylinders, one taller than the other. Each has a hatch. He opens the smaller one and a rich coffee smell comes wafting out.

The previous night, coarse-ground coffee and chicory went into the vat along with 700 gallons of water. They gave it a little mix and then let it sit for 14 to 16 hours, depending on the batch. “If you just scaled this down to a five-gallon bucket, you would just do a couple of stirs of the coffee and water and let it sit. Some separation does naturally happen, but a lot floats to the top,” Apodaca said. “It looks like brownie batter.”

She knows this intimately because when the deadline arrived to get the coffee ready for market, some of the regulatory approvals to use the Fort Point facility didn’t come through. Just in case, she designed a back-up system that would have involved brewing the coffee in buckets in their own facilities.

“The operation was gonna be 75 five-gallon buckets. I had to calculate this. We were gonna try to do it over the course of four days,” she said. “It was gonna suck so bad. I’m so glad we didn’t have to do that. But I still have the plan. It’s approved, so, if we ever want to, it could be done.”

Schnebeck, an old home brewer, is not impressed by the difficulty. “Seventy-five? You get 10 people doing that? It wouldn’t take that long.”

The light falling through the portal illuminates just the top of the vat. The top of the mixing apparatus hangs above the coffee line, grounds clinging to it. It’s the most beautiful slurry I’ve ever seen.

Blue Bottle NOLA iced coffee brewing (Alexis Madrigal)

The hatch is closed. Another hour goes by, and they begin draining the coffee into the adjacent 800-gallon kettle (equivalent to 25 barrels of beer). It comes pouring out of a tap like a waterfall—a caffeinated, cold-brewed waterfall. Foam covers the coffee, except where the stream from hits the liquid. It forms a dark-brown eye at that spot, the color fading outward to mocha.

Alexis Madrigal

Back in the other vessel, all the liquid is gone. Only the grounds remain. They pile up, forming a landscape with organic lines that remind me of cooled lava, or the photos our robots on Mars send back of places where water seems to have once flowed. The coffee grounds go to a composting facility where they become dirt, eventually.

Schnebeck pumps the coffee out of the kettle, through an in-line filter, and into a huge plastic bag that, when filled, resembles an enormous square brown waterbed. That gets shipped up north to Clover, a large dairy that mixes in the organic milk and and sugar, pasteurizes all that together, then “bottles” and distributes the cartons.

It turns out that the biggest difficulty in brewing NOLA iced coffee in these containers is the cleaning. The chicory gets stuck in all the wrong places, clogging up the works. So, most of the work for the Fort Point people comes after the coffee is gone.

Alexis Madrigal

There is something chimerical about any industrial-scale food process: the delicacy of an individual’s process grated onto the grandeur of our civilization’s technical progress. Even the gross ones—like dragging turkeys through ice baths, or grinding shrimp into powder—can seem thrillingly fantastical. We don’t know what it’s like to make one pencil, so the ability to make a thousand or a million of them is not that impressive. But we do know how to make one cup of coffee, so it is possible to understand the insanity of producing 10,000.

It took Blue Bottle a year and a half to get to the point where they could regularly produce iced coffee at this scale. The seed of the idea was a can of cold cappuccino that James Freeman had on a plane to New York in late 2011. “I got this canned cappucino for, like, six dollars or something. And I opened it and I was like, ‘This is so horrible. This is so horrible,’” he said. He started trying every ready-to-drink cold coffee on the market. “The range of tastes is somewhere between terrible and horrible.” (He makes two exceptions to this general rule: products from Portland's Stumptown and Oakland's Black Medicine.)

He tried to figure out how these beverages had gone so bad. “You think about the psychology. Nobody is like, OK, let’s have a meeting and let’s invest millions of dollars because we want to develop this horrible product. Nobody does that,” he said. “It’s always with the best intentions.”

So what was going on? Freeman found a source who had worked with big beverage companies, who could explain the problems. First, making a shelf-stable product is hard, and it is hard in ways that are particularly bad for coffees.

“It was sort of a spooky story around a campfire, like, ‘Gather around kids, I’m gonna tell you how a frappuccino is made. No, no! That’s too scary!” Freeman said. He learned about a machine called a retort, a supercharged, industrial-scale pressure cooker, into which bottled coffee is inserted, pressurized, and heated to 240 degrees.

“Basically what survives that...” Freeman’s voice trails off. “It’s the same way that canned chili is made, you know?”

To keep the beverages liquid during that process, the manufacturers also have to add stabilizing chemicals like guar gum, carrageenan, or other additives.

Then there are the FDA regulations about acidity. To extend their shelf lives, certain types of drinks need to have certain (high) acid levels to keep microbes from breeding. That requires a whole other set of processes to keep the beverages drinkable: more sugar, ultra-pasteurization, etc.

“When I heard all that, I thought, that sounds hard, but it had to be possible,” Freeman concluded. So he started writing checks, bringing in a food science lab to help them develop the drink and jump through the food-safety hoops. The lab worked with researchers at the University of Guelph in testing the safety of the processes that they developed. “When something passed muster and [microbes] didn’t breed, I would say, ‘Oh, good, no Canadians died,’” Freeman joked. “Just imagine a line of really nice Canadians stepping up, ‘Oh, I’ll try that.’"

Meanwhile Freeman used his every-other-Thursday R&D sessions to try to find the right ingredients and recipe. They would blind test different formulations and pilot processes to find something that they could be proud of. It wasn’t easy. After fending off heavily engineered options from the food science lab for a while, they made their first serious attempt at a product employing a sterilization method called high-pressure processing (HPP). Freeman’s favorite coconut water (Harmless Harvest) uses HPP, and he had high hopes for it with coffee because they wouldn’t have to heat the coffee. “These machines take up most of this room, and you load the coffee in a silo filled with water, lock it in this chamber, and it’s like sending it down to the bottom of the ocean,” Freeman said.

It’s actually more intense: the pressure at the bottom of the Marianas Trench is about 1,000 times what a human walking around on the earth’s surface would experience. HPP applies 87,000 pounds of pressure per square inch to foodstuffs, or almost 6,000 times atmospheric pressure. The microbes the FDA is worried about, for their part, can’t withstand “pressures above 60,000 pounds per square inch,” so HPP is generally considered a safe alternative to pasteurization.

HPP worked pretty well. Freeman was satisfied that they had something they could sell. The team piloted some black and NOLA iced coffee products in some Blue Bottle cafes, just to see if people would buy them. What they found was that they would lose a lot of money per bottle, that NOLA iced coffee is very popular (that they already knew), and that they had no idea how to go to production scale.

“At the end of the day, I don’t know how to do this, and I don’t want to hire a dozen people to figure out how to do it. And I don’t want to end up with a product that we lose a bunch of money on by the time it gets to the store or try to charge $10 for,” Freeman said. It was frustrating. “Maybe other people have gotten to that place before. Maybe there is a systemic reason it can’t work,” he thought.

“The whole thing is more like a thought experiment or a bet that I knew I might lose. Because if it couldn’t be just as delicious as the product we’re serving, then why do it? It’s stupid,” he said. “I mean, it’s tempting. There are a lot of temptations along the way.”

The devil poodle rears his cute, adorable head again! But Freeman couldn’t bring himself to put out an inferior product or commit business suicide by trying to sell $10 iced coffee.

And just when they’d given up and the development process had stopped, Ron appeared.

That would be Ron Megahan, a guy who worked his way up at Whole Foods from checker to vice president. Blue Bottle hired him in September of last year, and Freeman began to tell him about the failed experiments of the previous years. They went back to the food lab with one key change in the operation: they combined the coffee with raw milk and cane sugar, then pasteurized the whole thing together. The food lab spun out different versions of the pasteurization process, and one—actually the standard in the dairy industry (HTST: high-temperature, short-time)—was able to pass their blind taste tests as indistinguishable from the control version made by hand.

All they needed was a big supply of raw milk, and it was Megahan who realized that this problem was actually going to be the solution to the hurdle Blue Bottle encountered in its last attempt to create a drink for retail. “We don’t need to hire a fleet of trucks and all this team and lose millions of dollars until we get it to scale,” Freeman said. “What if we just work with a dairy? Because that’s what they do. They pasteurize raw milk, they put it in trucks, and they deliver it to stores.”

They met with the dairy, Clover. Clover got excited. They reached out to Fort Point Brewing Company, which had excess capacity at night, and could decant the coffee. They’d created a lean, scalable operation by depending on the strong regional ecosystem of food and beverage companies in the Bay Area. And they were off to the races.

Or, more precisely, to the Natural Products Expo West food trade conference in Anaheim, California. Back in March, Freeman and his team started pouring the beverages for supermarket people looking for new products. “I remember texting Arno, who is our head of production,” Freeman said, “and saying, ‘You’re going to have to buy all the organic chicory in the world, because we’re going to need a lot of it.’"

Next summer, look for the cartons to roll out across the country. They might also be joined in the Blue Bottle lineup over the next couple years by two new products: one black iced coffee and an intriguing Arnold Palmer-like drink made from the cherry that surrounds the coffee pit we call a bean.

I started out wanting to know how Freeman had managed to scale his operation so well, imagining there were secrets to be found in the engineering process. And certainly, there were a few tricks, or at least, methodological approaches that helped. The rigorous blind testing—which exists throughout Blue Bottle—keeps them honest. The raw milk trick let them find the taste they were looking for. The San Francisco food company ecosystem let them scale quickly without bringing all the infrastructure inside their company. All those things mattered.

But everywhere I looked, the most important component of scaling was the ideas of the people working with Blue Bottle. It’s Freeman avoiding the devil poodle, and Apodaca coming up with her bucket-brigade contingency plan. It’s Schnebeck tending the decanting process. It’s Megahan realizing that Clover would solve their distribution problem. It’s the quality-control testers going over every batch. It’s the Canadians who didn’t die.

Blue Bottle’s success at scaling comes from hiring and partnering in the right ways. Founders like Freeman scale their organizations in their own image, and the corporate person they create, that golem, moves like a shadow behind the founder.

Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ pivotal owner and executive, was a salesman. By his own admission, he was not the real coffee lover among the early employees. In his book about the company, he doesn’t even mention the quality of the coffee in the introduction, focusing on the in-store experience and on the way Starbucks treated its employees. He described his own “vision and values” as “the combination of competitive drive and a profound desire to make sure everyone in the organization could win together.” I’m not intimating that Schultz didn’t care about coffee, but he most certainly did not place the aesthetic experience of coffee drinking at the center of his company.

It is impossible to read Freeman’s ode to the art of roasting coffee, included in the book he wrote with his wife Caitlin, and not believe that he cares about coffee. Coffee, after all, saved Freeman. While he can make light of his failure as a classical musician, consider that he spent the better part of 30 years trying to perfect playing the clarinet. And then realized that his life as a musician was over. He’d never make it in the field to which he’d dedicated his life.

“For me, no matter when I got to bed, I always felt a sense of dread when the alarm went off at 4 a.m.,” Freeman wrote of roasting. “Classic Kierkegaard, straight out of The Concept of Anxiety: animals are slaves to their instincts and hence feel no responsibility, but humans are free and therefore constantly aware of their failure to live up to their responsibilities to God—or to Coffee.”

The only thing that staves off the dread is to get up and make the coffee. “Every working morning, roasters choose to animate their terrible feelings of anxiety, dread, and responsibility and face the daunting task of roasting coffee,” he continued. “That first decision to get up in the morning is a mirror of all the hard and lonely decisions that must be made for the rest of the roasting day.”

Freeman doesn’t wake up at 4 a.m. to roast beans anymore, but the decisions are only getting harder and lonelier. He’s the only person who can keep Blue Bottle from becoming like the companies that he was reacting against. And that damn poodle, who is also a demon, is about as cute as a squat little milk carton emblazoned with a whimsical blue bottle. Will Freeman fail to live up to his responsibilities to coffee, especially as investors begin to expect returns?

“The investors are like, ‘Why not? The sky’s the limit!’ There is that encouragement to think big, which I don’t think I naturally possess,” he said. “But I think that’s been good for me. And this New Orleans is a great example. If you can put this in a bottle: why not?"








by Alexis C. Madrigal at August 01, 2014 01:07 PM

512 Pixels

Apple's CDN goes live with ISP interconnect deals →

Dan Rayburn:

Since last year, Apple’s been hard at work building out their own CDN and now those efforts are paying off. Recently, Apple’s CDN has gone live in the U.S. and Europe and the company is now delivering some of their own content, directly to consumers. In addition, Apple has interconnect deals in place with multiple ISPs, including Comcast and others, and has paid to get direct access to their networks.

Early tests show Apple is using this $100 million CDN to distribute OS X upgrades to customers as directly as possible.

This investment is another example of Apple liking to control the whole stack, but the company isn't an ISP. Paying for direct access (not unlike Netflix) puts Apple in better standing with companies like Comcast, but the net neutrality implications are a little icky.

That said, with Comcast, Time Warner and others having the ability to slow down any one body of traffic and hold it hostage isn't Apple or Netflix's fault they have to play the interconnect game. It's the federal government's.

Permalink

by Stephen Hackett at August 01, 2014 12:46 PM

Inconsolation

cclive (and clive): So that’s what quvi was for

I knew I had quvi on my list as a component to some other program: clive and cclive are related to it.

2014-07-31-lv-c5551-cclive

That’s cclive specifically; clive was obsoleted sometime last year in favor of cclive, but the two projects are obviously related. Sometimes old versions like that will continue to work, but for me, clive only generated errors.

cclive, on the other hand, works without much prodding. In the above case, just cclive and a URL was more than enough to pull down a YouTube video. Good first try. And a good progress display. ;)

In addition to the options that cclive can pass to quvi, there seem to be quite a few flags specific to cclive: download speed caps, useragent masking, retries and timeouts, filename handling and special character controls, plus timestamps, resuming broken downloads and even triggering an external command after a download is finished.

All that being said, it’s still quvi that does the heavy lifting, and it’s the quvi project that determines which sites are compatible. So don’t expect cclive to suddenly make a previously inaccessible site … accessible.

It’s hard for me to pick between this and youtube-dl. I’m accustomed to the latter but I like cclive’s style and structure. I’m not going to advise one or the other — in fact, you wouldn’t be losing much ground by installing them both and trying out each, from time to time.


Tagged: download, flash, manager, video

by K.Mandla at August 01, 2014 12:30 PM

Bonus: A dozen remainders

I told myself a few weeks ago that if I came up with a dozen inaccessible titles, I’d list them here in their own post. Honestly, I didn’t think I’d come up with 12, but as it turns out, there are quite a few.

  • arecordmidi: I found arecordmidi while I was researching midirecord, and I dropped it on my list as a potential title. As you might have expected, it wouldn’t compile on my Arch system, and to be honest, even if it had, I doubt I would have known how to put it to use.
  • cliweather: I drew the line at cliweather because it did very little aside from pull weather information from Google, and had no big configuration outside a README.md file. It’s functional as a quick script that displays weather — and it’s even smart enough to try and echolocate your machine on the globe — but I got the feeling it was really just a personal script that wasn’t intended for wider distribution.
  • clusterssh: By its own admission, clusterssh relays ssh commands to a range of servers through multiple xterm sessions. This, to me, says it’s not only graphical, but it would require a lot of servers to playtest. If it’s okay with you, I’ll claim inadequacy on that point.
  • docopt: If I understand this — and this time I really might not — it adds documentation to software by way of python. It’s not really an application as I understand it.
  • dugroup: I put dugroup back on the list after I mentioned tdu a few months ago. After a quick review of that post and what dugroup can do, I realized I said most everything there was to say in May.
  • elm: elm is a truly ancient newsreader whose source is still available online, but as you might imagine, wouldn’t compile for me. Here again, even if it would build, I’m not sure I could get it to work, modern e-mail services being what they are.
  • listlast: Before you go traipsing off through the Internet, looking for an application called “listlast,” I’ll tell you it’s just the alias used by an e-mailer for ls -lrt. This should give you the last edited file at the top of the list, making it a quick glance to find the most recently modified file. A clever trick. ;)
  • minex: minex made it on my list as a web explorer distributed in minino, but I’m fairly confident it’s graphical. The dependencies suggest it, even if I can’t find them in either Arch or Debian. If you can get it working, please send us a screenshot.
  • nedmail: nedmail is Plan 9‘s e-mail tool. The source code is available at the link, but it wouldn’t build for me, of course. Between this and elm, I’ll be sticking with alpine.
  • rc: The Plan 9 shell. And of course, shells are verboten.
  • rdup: CorkyAgain mentioned rdup in response to rsnapshot, but I’m afraid looking over it suggests it’s for more complicated setups than I can concoct. :(
  • rn: I promised I would take another look at rn, but I can’t find a source. And after swinging wildly at elm and nedmail, I don’t hold out much hope of getting it built, let alone configured and working.

That’s good enough for now. If I can collect another dirty dozen, I’ll bring them to your attention. … :)

by K.Mandla at August 01, 2014 12:15 PM

The Outlaw Way

140801

Flexibility
4×0:20 Box Shoulder Stretch
photo-4

Static Shaping
3×0:30 Front Hold on Boxes
3×0:30 Back Hold on Boxes
photo 2-4
photo 1-4

Skills and Drills
3×15 3″ Wall HS Shoulder Shrugs DEMO
3×20 Wall HS Shoulder Taps DEMO

The post 140801 appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by Kaitlin at August 01, 2014 12:06 PM

Inconsolation

codespell: Prevents embarrassing code

Today is Pick on Kernel Developers’ Spelling Abilities Day.

2014-07-31-lv-c5551-codespell

As if they didn’t have enough work to do, along comes me and codespell to harass them about their spelling mistakes. :\

Spelling is sometimes important though, so a spellchecker specific to code is probably a good idea. And since I have no ability when it comes to creating software, I have to have something to complain about. O_o

codespell is neat stuff, and I don’t say that just because it has a lot of color in it. For one thing, you can step through a folder of code word-by-word, and codespell will give you the chance to correct things interactively.

2014-07-31-lv-c5551-codespell-corrx

Aside from that, codespell can write corrections directly into files, print a summary of the changes it suggested, and access custom dictionaries. There are quite a few other options, include one to — gasp! — strip out all that lovely color.

As I understand it, codespell’s main reference is part of the release, but is derived from Wikipedia’s page of common misspellings for machines (and-or technology).

If you really want to put codespell through its paces, I would suggest matching it head-to-head against something like aspell (or ispell or …). The difficulty in that, of course, is that aspell (or ispell or …) is likely to stumble over any portion of code that doesn’t look like a standard English (or other language) word. Which means codespell might end up saving you time.

And now for my regularly scheduled pity party, where I insist I would make much more use of codespell if I had a stick of programming ability. I’ll spare you that this time; if I had spent a tenth of the time learning to write software as I have moaning about my inability, I’d have come up with something vaguely usable by now. :roll:


Tagged: check, code, spell, text

by K.Mandla at August 01, 2014 12:00 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Giveaway: Cathay Pacific First Class Amenity Kit

Every Friday is giveaway day. Comment to win!

HONG KONG CATHAY PACIFIC AIRWAYS

If I had to pick one favorite airline, it’s a no-brainer: Cathay Pacific all the way! I’ve been fortunate to fly Cathay on at least a hundred flights over the years. I’ve flown most often in Business Class, which is really nice, and sometimes in Peasant Economy Class, which can be surprisingly decent.

About ten of those flights, though, have been way up front in the quiet and super-personal First Class cabin. I’d never pay the $8,000+ fare for First Class, of course—I book these flights using miles earned through travel hacking.

Oh, and I also come home with a bunch of extra amenity kits. This one can be yours.

What you need to know:

  • This is the male version of the latest Ermenegildo Zegna kit—but ladies, feel free to enter. Many of the items are unisex, and this makes for a nice small travel bag regardless of gender.
  • This giveaway is available to readers worldwide. We’ll ship anywhere!
  • Our cats and biased judges will pick someone on Sunday night at 6pm PST

Enter this week’s giveaway by posting a comment, then check back on Sunday night. We’ll announce the winner and send them the prize!

***
Update: Comments are now closed. Congrats to Veronica Perez, selected by cats and a random number generator to win this great bag! Everyone else, thanks for entering. We’ll have another giveaway next week.
***

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by Chris Guillebeau at August 01, 2014 12:00 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Living like you’re old

There’s a saying that you should live each day as if it were your last, which is supposed to help you fully enjoy each moment. I’ve been recently thinking about another way of looking at it: living each day as if yesterday was your last. What do I mean by this? Well, let me explain how I got around to thinking about this in the first place.

I am a bit of a pessimist when planning, which is perhaps a little surprising to people who know me in person because I’m generally cheerful and positive. I think it’s precisely because I think about risks and safety nets that I can easily focus on the bright side. Now, thinking about what can go wrong often leads to dealing with ultimate consequences. (I can’t be the only one who routinely thinks about death before biking in city traffic, am I? But I bike anyway.)

From time to time, I reassure myself that hey, life so far has been pretty darn awesome, actually, so even if it were abruptly cut off or made significantly more challenging, things are on the whole pretty good. I might not have worked on things of lasting significance (and what could really be significant, anyway, in a universe probably heading towards heat death in gazillions of years?) and there may be more awesomeness ahead of me, but even after the thirty years I’ve been around so far, people have told me that some of my thoughts have been useful, and I’m happy with what I’ve been learning so far. That’s as good a start as any, and anything else is icing on the cake. Instead of accepting the common view that life is incomplete unless you do X, Y, and Z, I like to think that life is pretty good, actually, and that things just get even more wonderful. (This is why I haven’t quite gotten the hang of bucket lists–I don’t have that burning sense of urgency and incompleteness.) I would prefer to keep on going, but I don’t have to worry too much about missing out.

While chasing down some notes about hypomnemata (those personal notes I wrote about while thinking about my handbook), I came across Michel Foucault’s The Hermeneutics of the Subject (2001, translated by Graham Burchell in 2005; you might be able to read it online). Here’s the segment that got me thinking about this particular reflection:

With regard to our life, and this is the central point of this new ethics of old age, we should place ourselves in a condition such that we live it as if it is already over. In fact, even if we are still young, even if we are adult and still active, with regard to all that we do and all that we are we should have the attitude, behavior, detachment, and accomplishment of someone who has already completed his life. We must live expecting nothing more from our life and, just as the old man is someone who expects nothing more from his life, we must expect nothing from it even when we are young. We must complete our life before our death. The expression is found in Seneca’s letter 32: “consummare vitam ante mortem.” We must complete our life before our death, we must fulfill our life before the moment of death arrives, we must achieve perfect satiety of ourselves. “Summa tui satietas“: perfect, complete satiety of yourself. This is the point towards which Seneca wants Lucilius to hasten. You can see that this idea that we must organize our life in order to be old, that we must hasten towards our old age, and that even if we are young we should constitute ourselves in relation to our life as if we are old, raises a series of important questions to which we will return.

(p110-111)

Aha! People smarter than me have thought about the same thing, but more eloquently and more deeply than I could have. In the same section, he writes about how society typically thinks old age is not as awesome as youth, but actually, old age is pretty cool because that’s when all of your philosophical work comes to fruition and you’re safe from many of the things that disturb other people. This reminds me a little of how my mom is slowly making peace with growing old. Sometimes it makes her sad. I want to tell her that it doesn’t have to be all that bad. Granted, I am only turning 31 next month, so it’s quite possible that I don’t know what I’m talking about. We’ll see in forty or sixty years. But if Foucault and Seneca say something along those lines with the advantage of quite a few years of experience (Foucalt was maybe 55 when he gave those lectures on hermeneutics that were later transcribed and translated for that book), maybe I’m onto something, or maybe I can take advantage of the springboard that they’re offering.

I’m partly writing this reflection for myself, too, decades down the line. If Future-Sacha gets caught up in the confusion of the world, at least she’ll be able to look back and say, “Okay, clearly you thought this at some point in time. What changed? What’s true?” I would like to grow old like the way I am now, but I don’t entirely know how things will work out yet. Still, if I look ahead a little and figure out how I’d like to live–old every moment, so that I can be young every moment–then I’ll probably have a higher chance of reaching it, I think.

The nice thing about reading philosophers (especially classic ones!) is that they’ve often come up with short, clear ways to say things that you’ve been trying to untangle. Like this, from Seneca’s 12th letter (“On old age”):

When a man has said: “I have lived!”, every morning he arises he receives a bonus.’

Every day above ground is a good day. This is already more than I could have asked for, and what I have is already enough. Anything beyond this is icing on the cake and fudge on the brownie. (So remember that, future Sacha, when you’re figuring out what could go wrong or you’re worrying about opportunity costs. It’s okay.)

I still have a lot to learn about growing old. I imagine that when I am properly old, I’ll be less fazed (“That can’t bother me! I’ve been through worse.”), more appreciative (“Ooh, there are all these little things you notice with experience.”), and better at reflecting, learning, and teaching. I think this process of growing older will be interesting. Who’s with me? =)

The post Living like you’re old appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at August 01, 2014 12:00 PM

The Outlaw Way

140801

WOD 140801:

BBG-

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

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

Strength/Skill-

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

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

Conditioning-

Alternating EMOM for 20 minutes:

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

The post 140801 appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by rudy.coach at August 01, 2014 11:27 AM

Crossway Blog

Video: A Word of Encouragement from Jen Wilkin

Thank You!

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learn More / Read an Excerpt

The ESV Women’s Devotional Bible

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

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

Learn More / Read an Excerpt

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

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

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

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

A Brief Introduction to This Series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They Know Not What They Do

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

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

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

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

Not the Whole Story

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

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

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

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

'Noetic Effect of Sin'

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

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

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

Social Basis of Morality

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

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

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

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

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

Three Lessons

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

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

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

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

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

Making Sense of the Bible

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joy and Sorrow Intermingled

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

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

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

Inexpressible Hope

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

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

Overlapping Realities

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

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

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

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

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

FW &SF, or, On Faith and Works in Science Fiction

The fine folks at First Peter Five web journal (or 1P5 to you) asked me to contribute an essay explaining if and how and why my faith influences my science fiction writing. The editor asked to to answer in a thousand words or less, but we all know that was not going to happen.

The short answer is that I am eager and willing to make Christ the core of my art for two simple reasons: first, readers have asked, demanded, and begged that I do so; and second, Christianity is innately more dramatic that other worldviews, and Catholicism in particular is more mystical, magical and more-visually oriented than our iconoclastic brethren from heretical denominations. Rome invented Romance; Rome invented Science; and so the Scientific Romance is natural to us.

You may read it in it native environs here, or just click below the link.

But there was one area sacrosanct from my proselytizing effort. I did not use my science fiction stories to preach nor promote my worldview. I thought then that the honor of a gentleman, not to mention the pride of workmanship every craftsman should embrace, made it unseemly to preach my worldview when I was being paid to entertain. To use stories to spread my atheist views would be to impose on my customers, who came to me for a rollicking good space opera filled with exploding planets and colliding galaxies and stunning space princesses and stalwart space heroes. To give them a syllogism when they came for a space war, or an editorial when they came for an apocalypse, would cheat them of their hard-earned science fiction-buying dollar. To give them anything of the current world and its current controversies when they wished for escape into the future would be to play my beloved patrons false.

For I was one of those readers who oft had bought a book expecting a science fiction speculation and instead was forced to endure some rant about the issues that once upon a time absorbed the shallow attention of the intelligentsia. Since most of my reading consisted of books written twenty years before my time, I discovered that the only thing more boring than reading about the controversies of the day was reading about controversies long dead and written entirely by people long ago proved wrong.

Naturally, it was with considerable pride at my own cunning that I hid my personal opinions and paid attention only to the Muse, by which I mean I followed the needs of drama and ignored the itch to preach. Unlike other writers, as a newspaperman, I had an editorial page on which to scratch that itch to preach my opinionated opinions to the world.

When the Internet first came into my life, I assumed there was some danger that left-wing readers of mine would discover my journal and hence my opinions on the current issues of the day, but I hoped that I would gain more readers than I would lose, so I was never reluctant to share more strongly held beliefs on any topic.

In October 2003, the very first of my novels, The Golden Age, received its very first review. The reviewer excoriated the work, heaping every opprobrium on it, on the grounds that in the remote far future half a million years hence (which is when the story is set) the godlike beings who are our remotest descendants, commanding a technology which enables them to reorganize mind and matter and energy to any configuration at whim, did not seem at all concerned with environmentalism or racism or gender issues.

(I should mention that both race and sex were optional to the superbeings of this era, as was whether to have a physical body at all, and that death and extinction could be reversed, so that there were no endangered species and no non-artificial species.)

However, the more vexatious vehemence of the termagant reviewing the work was reserved for the climax. The fact that the hero won the heart of his estranged wife and had a second honeymoon was anathema to this particular critic. She did not criticize the plot, character development, word choice, or any other element of the craftsmanship. She took a personal detestation to me because I wrote about romance and marriage as if romance and marriage were good things. This particular critic hated love, romance, marriage, and all good things in life.

This was when it first was driven home to me that some readers were orcs — that is, beings to whom fair is foul and foul is fair — in terms so strong and plain that they could not be denied. There were people who claimed to be science fiction fans who had absolutely no interest in science fiction at all, but merely in the news of the day and in the long-dead abortive philosophy of the Victorian crackpot Karl Marx.

Then in August of 2009, I became the target of a Two Minutes Hate organized by an editor at a rival publishing house.

She combed through back issues of my journal and found a month-old editorial in which I mocked the SyFy Channel for caving to political correctness and vowing to try to put as many sodomite and lesbian characters onto their failing channel as possible, no doubt in an effort to alienate their non-far-leftist fans. The point was not that I cared one way or the other about the sexual misadventures of other people, but that the SyFy Channel, by showing the white feather to the thugs of political correctness, had in some small but real way encouraged an informal political censorship and made it harder for science fiction writers like me to sell my wares.

I did not like people telling me what to write. I thought in my naivety that all red-blooded Americans would feel the same way, and that all science fiction readers — a genre that prides itself on nonconformity — would even moreso. In my response, my joshing was — in my typical fashion — honest and blunt, and I called the perverts perverted.

There is one thing Leftists hate more than honesty, and that is bluntness.

So at the urging of this business rival, some 40 or 50 people who were not readers of mine wrote to tell me that they were boycotting my work. I attempted to point out that one cannot boycott wares one has never purchased. I soon realized that logic and sweet reason would not influence members of a worldview whose main selling point was a false promise to free the true believer from all limitations of reality and all obedience to social conventions, including the conventional behavior of honesty, forthrightness, and sanity. They reacted with the weak and womanish fury of the guilt-ridden, hacked my Wikipedia page, my TVTropes page, and generally made a lingering nuisance of themselves. They pouted and said they would not be my friends no more.

The sheer, shrieking, screaming, dishonest foulness — combined with the putrid crudeness and puerile tantrum-tactics of these orcs — slew forever even the slightest desire I might have had to entertain them or earn my bread from them. I was 41 years old when I heard an argument that convinced me to no longer to support the pro-homosexual position. Logic forced me, very much against my inclinations, to adopt the pro-chastity position. I was not a Christian at the time, nor was I destined to become a Christian for quite some time. But I had mightily offended Christianity’s main rival religion in America, which is a death cult called Secular Progressivism. And Progressivism is a jealous God. A pro-chastity atheist is not welcome there. At the time, to be honest, I thought them large in number, not merely loud in volume. I thought my stance might require some fortitude on my part, or involve me in some financial loss.

This turned out not to be the case.

It was a logical argument whose meshes I could not escape that convinced me to depart from the camp of the sexual liberators and their sexually perverse mascots, but there was something much more powerful than a logical argument which drew me out of the camp of the atheists and into the fortress of the Church. After a series of miracles, visions, visitations, religious experiences, and being hit over the head by a divine two-by-four, I converted and vowed my life to Christ.

That matter was private, and I made no effort to spread the news, but when asked a direct question by an interviewer, I responded honestly, as a man must when asked such a question. I was hardly going to deny Christ before men, lest He deny me before a more august audience.

 

I told one amateur reporter from one amateur school newspaper about my conversion, and in a moment every webpage that mentioned my name now was aflame with hatred and contumely because I was a humble, meek, and mild follower of Christ, and I had vowed no longer to hurt or hate my enemies, but to love them.

I confess this was a little amusing to me, since my previous atheist self had no reluctance to duel or maim and small reluctance to kill or be killed when someone offended my honor, whereas all those expressions of the deadly sin of wrath were absolutely forbidden to me now. Why these strangers whom I had never offended and who know nothing about me, but who like to play-pretend they are my enemies, would be more frightened of me now that I was a milky and meek follower of the Prince of Peace and no threat to them whatsoever is a matter for psychological or theological speculation.

The wheels of the publishing world turn slowly. Several of my books, which I had written when yet a die-hard, dyed-in-the-wool atheist, came out after news of my conversion did. More than one editor or book critic, deceived by my desire to tell a story rather than promote a worldview, were convinced that my atheist books were Christian in tone. One of them even called a book containing a scene that rather unsubtly mocked Christianity a pro-Christian apologetic!

Readers, never tell yourselves you can determine an author’s personal opinions from his writing, unless he is, like C.S. Lewis or his warped antimatter image Phillip Pullman, someone who declares his partisan loyalty from the outset.

I wrote stories with nakedly religious endings of pure hope when I was an atheist because the story logic required such an ending. Likewise, I wrote stories with a nakedly atheist ending of pure despair when I was a Christian because the story logic required such an ending.

Meanwhile, the lamps of civilization are going out one by one. The more useful barometer of the life expectancy of any civilization is the degree to which the populace at large is willing to accept insolent, insulting, bare-faced falsehoods in their midst without umbrage and without objection. The more outrageously obvious the lie and the more tolerant the people are of it, the clearer it is that the unseen bonds of mutual trust on which society — any society — is based are relaxing and evaporating.  The speed at which the society around me became addicted to lies was truly shocking to me, and still is.

The one limb of this rising swamp of untruth which sloshed over into my professional life was when the Science Fiction Writers of America began expelling members or firing employees for being unwilling to bow rapidly enough to the glaringly absurd pieties of the politically correct left-wing.

It was nakedly and openly political, and Christians and conservatives were told to shut up and pretend to be lunatics along with the screaming lunatics or else face the pretend wrath of the lunatics. (Their wrath, of course, is just as make-believe as everything else in their make-believe world, from global warming to Republican racism to the innocence of the Palestinians. In reality, they are cowards.)

I publicly and with great umbrage resigned from that suddenly fetid organization and shook the dust from my sandals, for it stank in my nostrils. SWFA has betrayed everything for which it once stood. These people are Philistines. May the Almighty smite them with emerods.

A time came when a small but bold publisher wrote me out of the blue asking if I had any stories, even one previously sold elsewhere, that he might republish. An anthology of my Night Lands tales — including two of the tales previously mentioned here, an atheist story I wrote while a Christian and a Christian story I wrote while an atheist — was published. And the readers and critics who reviewed the anthology loved the Christian story. (Yes, that one, the one I wrote while I was an atheist.) They wept. They had dreams about it. They praised it and overpraised it in such fulsome terms that I dare not repeat some of the compliments lest I be accused either of exaggeration or hallucination.

It was shocking to me. It was unbelievable.

And I made a sackful of money in a shockingly short time.

In rapid succession three things became clear to me:

First, I have a gift. I did not earn it, and I take no credit for it, but I can write a story that can make readers feel as if an eternal spirit has brushed them with the pinfeathers of her wings.

Second, we mortal men are chained prisoners with fetters on our feet and mind-darkening drugs in our bread and water for so long as we remain in this dungeon of the Fallen Estate of Man. We are patients in the lazaret, our bodies rotting around us, who have forgotten what solid sunlight and shining green grass or the wine of the wind feels like. It is the mission of the muses to remind us of these simple, wholesome, lovely and heavenly things: golden sun and emerald hill, blue fountain and white cloud. And it is the duty of the poet to serve the muses.

This means it would be wrong of me not to use the gift to its fullest measure.

Humans are homesick for Heaven. If I can remind even one faithful brother of his first true love, I might save him from being a Laodicean.

Third, the orcs are beyond mortal reach. Most are already below the feculent bottom of the fen of filth that forms this worldview and busily burrowing deeper, digging a grave.

If I wrote a book like Ayn Rand or Robert Heinlein and argued using merely mortal words and mortal logic, none of my words would reach this sunken soul. There is nothing there to get a grip on. All the normal human emotions, all the human organs to which I might address an appeal are long lost, rotted away.

But no one is beyond salvation. The orcs are damnable fools. It is sound theology to say so. But they are not damned fools. That is a sin to say, and Our Lord straightly forbids it. He can reach them with His pierced hands even though my human arms are too short.

Hence, if I write books deeply informed by the Christian worldview, and write on divine topics following divine teaching and perhaps a hint of divine inspiration, the muse might be able to reach the ear of an orc. An orc that mere stories about space princesses being rescued from space pirates by a space marine cannot possibly reach.

I am a philosopher. I know what philosophy can do. I also know what it cannot do. It cannot reach those who have cropped their ears. The lamp of reason has no light for those who have gleefully prodded out their eyes in adoration of the abomination of desolation, their sad idol.

The Novels of John C. Wright

 

Now, if I use my art to uphold the faith, will I offend anyone?

The question is meaningless. The orcs do not merely hate sunlight and happiness and romance, they think the weather is out to get them. They fear policemen and love wild bears. They think Mohammedan terrorists are the good guys and Jews are not an oppressed and hated people. They think two persons of the same sex can have sex and that this requires the sacrament of marriage to sanctify and celebrate their filthy unnatural sodomy.

They think common sense is a hate crime, and therefore they avoid it at all costs. These people LIVE to be offended. They BREATHE being offended. They LOVE being offended. To avoid offending them would leave them with nothing to do.

Merely by writing a story where the hero wedded the heroine, I offended the orcs. Good stories offend them because they are good.

The only stories they like – well, to measure what they like, see what they reward. Just look at those that won nominations the Nebula Award this year: a tale of despair about a bride imagining her comatose husband (beaten to death by Southern bigots) to be a dinosaur with no science fiction elements in it; a tale of despair concerning priests murdering a child with no science fiction elements in it; a tale of a homosexual offended by his bigoted sister with no science fiction elements in it.

The orcs don’t like science fiction. They don’t like the romance of progress nor the deep fears or high hopes of the future. They don’t like romance at all. Their world is dull and  gray, filled with jagged red stabs of hate and the dripping black of nihilism.

Will I lose sales because I am Christian? I cannot impress upon you, dear reader, how blitheringly stupid that question is. Lose sales, indeed! Sales?

Perhaps those of you who were born in the faith do not realize what is written over the wide front gates of pearl next to the baptistery, those same open doors that invite all infidels to become faithful. I passed through those doors. Do you not recall? Really? TAKE UP YOUR CROSS AND FOLLOW ME. That is what I was promised when I joined your army.

It does not say, “Take up your little pink baby blanket,” does it?

When I was confirmed I took the name Justin Martyr after Saint Justin Martyr, the patron of philosophers, my vocation. He was stabbed to death for refusing to recant his belief in his Lord. His crimson entrails were spilled out over the floor of the jail cell where he departed this world to his reward.

I can imagine some Protestants not understanding the cost involved in crossing that threshold. The Anglicans, after all, never faced persecution. They are always the fools and dandies of the State, for they were and are an established State religion. They were the persecutors, not the persecuted. And certain Protestant sects avoid graphic representation of saints and martyrs or ignore the saints altogether. But not the One, True, Apostolic, and Catholic Church. We cannot forget our roots. The world, and the Prince of this World, will remind us that we are strangers here if ever we get too comfortable.

The conclusion is this: The core of science fiction is stories based in solid speculation about the progress of technology and the nature of man, man’s place in the universe, and so on. They are stories of high hope or deep fear, tales of magic and imagination. The Catholic Church invented and nurtured the scientific method and scientific speculation, and outside the Christian worldview, science becomes politicized, pointless, and turns into Lysenkoism, Nazi race science, or environmentalism — that is, a harlot of the party in power.

Outside Christianity, outside hope of Heaven and fear of Hell, the hopes and fears are finite and watery.

Outside Christianity, the magic is not in life. For the pagan or neopagan progressive, life is pain followed either by endless nothingness or by endless reincarnations of endless pain. No good stories take place in the worldview outside Rome. Rome invented romance, hence the name.

Catholicism invented science fiction. Just ask Jules Verne.

I could not avoid telling stories in the Christian way for Christian audiences in a Christian spirit even if I wanted to. Seeing how aggressive and yet how foolish our enemy is, it would be unwise not to want to. The sky is growing darker and the sea is rising, and only a fool does not see the storms to come. There is no refuge outside the Church and no comfort.

Let me not be accused of being courageous. I am not. The only threat the enemies of Christ have so far brought to bear, despite the fact that I am as loud and clear-voiced about my faith as it is possible to be, has been a few weak-minded dribblers trying to voice witty insults. But their wits failed them, and they can only choke with hatred and humiliate themselves in public. They were not going to buy any books of mine in any case, no matter what. I could not write a story to please them — like their award-winning dino-porn about a homosexual child-murdering priest — even if I wanted to.

And their stories lack magic. I do not mean they cannot write a ripoff of the surface features of Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. I mean that their stories are limited by their dull and claustrophobic world. They live in a coffin called Progressivism.

To them, life is a machine, and morality is caused by statically random mutations in the genes controlling the meat robot they call themselves. They are bodies without souls who live chasing vain pleasures, screaming at imaginary dangers, blind to real dangers, and who return to the elements at death like the beasts they think they are. There is no difference between male and female in their world, nothing is familiar because nothing is exotic, there is no justice and no injustice, there is only a meaningless struggle, a moment of disappointing pleasure-seeking, and death. Yes, it is a coffin. That is where they live. That is the kind of tale they tell. Coffin tales.

 

But I am a Catholic. In my world, every sunrise is the trumpet blast of Creation, more astonishing than the bomb burst, and every nightfall is the opening of a vast roof into the infinite dance of deep Heaven, where the stars and planets reel and waltz to the music of the spheres.

When I was in China, the tour guide saw me stop to give alms to beggars. He watched in wonder and asked me why I was ‘tipping’ the beggars. I told him our God walks the Earth in disguise dressed as a beggar, and any man who does not give alms with both hands is stricken with a curse and flung screaming into a lake of fire.

One might think that an odd reason to give alms, or even an impure or superstitious reason, but no one can say it is a prosaic reason. To see God in a beggar’s careworn and quotidian face is the very soul of romance.

Romance? Let me say something of the wild poetry that now rules my life.

I have a charm chalked on my front door to call a blessing down from wide Heaven. I carry a Rosary like a deadly weapon in my pocket and hang the medallion of Saint Justin Martyr, whose name I take as my true name, atop my computer monitor where he can stare at me.

Two angels follow me unseen as I walk, and I live in a world of exorcists and barefoot friars, muses and prophets, healers who lay on hands, mighty spiritual warriors hidden in crippled bodies, and fallen angels made of pure malicious spirit obeying their damned and darkened Sultan from his darkest throne in Hell. And I live in a world where a holy Child was born a secret king beneath a magic star, and the animals knelt and prayed. And from that dread lord, the small Child will save us.

You might think my world inane, or insane, or uncouth, or false, but by the beard of Saint Nicholas, by the Breastplate of Saint Patrick, and by the severed head of Saint Valentine, no one can say it is not romantic.

My life these days is a storybook story. If there were more romance in it, it would be enough to choke Jonah’s whale. Without Catholicism, there is no romance. Outside the Church, where are the miracles?

Should I hide this? Should I hide a world larger and more glorious than mortal worlds?

It is the only type of story worth a man’s time to tell or heed.

 

by John C Wright at August 01, 2014 05:00 AM

The Art of Non-Conformity

6 Discoveries From Near and Far, Volume IV

SMB-Acquarium

I. Around the World

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


II. On the Blog

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


III. A Blast from the Past

Something from the AONC archives.

  • Homecoming and the Adventure Detox — When you went away weeks, months, or years ago, you were prepared for culture shock in your new surroundings. Coming home, the reverse culture shock hits you out of nowhere, which is all the more difficult…

###

by Chris Guillebeau at August 01, 2014 04:50 AM

Responsive.org

Escaping Old Ideas

The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.

– John Maynard Keynes

by Bud Caddell at August 01, 2014 04:26 AM

512 Pixels

A Dad-built NASA simulator →

Two thoughts came to mind when I saw this link:

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

Permalink

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

Responsive.org

Reid Hoffman’s Tours of Duty

According to Reid Hoffman, there are three types of “Tours of Duty” that function as time-limited, goal-based, and explicit contractual agreements between workers and companies:

  1. Rotational – multi-year, used for training and rapid skill-building and functioning as an on-ramp from one world to another
  2. Foundational – multi-year, wherein the worker and the company become intertwined (my estimation without having read the book is that these are typically positions of management/leadership where an extended “stay” is desirable)
  3. Transformational – may be shorter, and are designed to be highly specific agreements between an individual and a company; where the first two may be generalized, Transformational tours have a particular mission that is designed to create mutual change for the company and the worker

by Clay Jones at August 01, 2014 02:58 AM

Zippy Catholic

Freedom implies equal rights

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

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

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


by Zippy at August 01, 2014 02:08 AM

July 31, 2014

Feed: stratechery by Ben Thompson

Pleco: Building a Business, not an App

This past week has not been the first outbreak of independent developer angst over the app store, but it feels like it has been one of the more intense. The pump was primed by the news that Kim Kardashian: Hollywood is on pace to make $200 million this year, news that was in stark contrast to Brent Simmons’ observation that there didn’t seem to be many indie iOS developers (I think his is the post that kicked the discussion off; Simmons’ blog contains a good roundup of all the posts that ensued).

The high point though – or low point, I suppose – was when Jared Sinclair revealed the sales numbers for his excellent iOS RSS reader Unread:

Unread for iPhone has earned a total of $32K in App Store sales. Unread for iPad has earned $10K. After subtracting 40 percent in self-employment taxes and $350/month for health care premiums (times 12 months), the actual take-home pay from the combined sales of both apps is $21,000, or $1,750/month.

Considering the enormous amount of effort I have put into these apps over the past year, that’s a depressing figure. I try not to think about the salary I could earn if I worked for another company, with my skills and qualifications. It’s also a solid piece of evidence that shows that paid-up-front app sales are not a sustainable way to make money on the App Store.

First off, Unread is a great app that I myself use, and Sinclair is a very interesting and provocative blogger who has written some really strong pieces about design and iOS 7 in particular. I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting him in person and consider him a friend, and admire his willingness to share his financials even if they aren’t as great as he might have hoped.

That said.

Sinclair’s results are not a “solid piece of evidence” of anything. They are an anecdote. And as long as we’re drawing grand conclusions from single data points, I thought it might be useful to look at someone on the other side of the spectrum. So I called up another friend of mine, Mike Love.

pleco-phone

Love makes Pleco, the preeminent Chinese dictionary on the app store (iOS, Android). Pleco is not by any means a new app; in fact, it was first developed for the Palm (I actually bought a Palm in 2003 for the express purpose of using Pleco). Here’s Love on its genesis:

I was an exchange student in China and launched the app on Palm in 2001. The signature feature was handwriting recognition (licensed from Motorola) which nobody else had at that point. The problem [for other Chinese dictionaries] was that Palm didn’t have a Chinese font built-in, it did not in fact have Unicode support [or other Chinese text encodings]…you could only get Chinese working on it all through a hack. So having it all in one place, no extra setup needed, no buying licenses to three different $30 apps to get it working, that was kind of the key part of it.

The one other thing we had besides the handwriting and Chinese support was that we exclusively licensed the Pocket Oxford Chinese dictionary…[everyone else used] CEDICT which had been less exhaustively edited and had no parts of speech or example sentence.

What stands out to me about Love’s approach was that from day one his differentiation was not based on design, ease-of-use, or some other attribute we usually glorify in developers. Rather, he focused on decidedly less sexy things like licensing. Sure, licensing is particularly pertinent to a dictionary app, but the broader point is that Love’s sustainable differentiation was not about his own code. Sustainable differentiation never is.

I decided to do the iOS app pretty much as soon as Apple announced the app store…but I was in the middle of a pretty ambitious update for Palm and Windows Mobile, so we were pretty late and there were a bunch of other dictionaries on iOS [by December 2009, when Pleco for iOS launched].

Love noted that although Pleco was quite late – there were multiple Chinese dictionary apps in the store – they were fortunate that Apple had just started allowing free apps to offer in-app purchases. So, even though Pleco had always been a paid download on Palm, Love immediately took advantage of the new business model:

Our initial plan in iOS had been to have some sort of free lite app, some sort of slightly nicer paid app with a minimum set of features, and then you could buy other stuff as add-ons. Then in October 2009 Apple announced they were lifting the ban on free apps having in-app purchase so immediately we retooled the whole thing to be free with in-app purchases.

Love thinks the fact he started from day one with the new business model in mind gave him a competitive advantage to the dictionaries already in the store, but I think he sells himself short; after all, it’s been five years and only now are most independent developers starting to realize that free with in-app purchase is the only viable monetization model. To put it another way, Love differentiated himself again by being a student not just of APIs and frameworks, but of business models as well. More from Love:

Unlike others, our free app had not only CC-CEDICT (the evolution of the aforementioned CEDICT), we actually licensed another Chinese-English dictionary which we called the PLC dictionary and offered that in our free app and we thought it would be a nice differentiator compared to all of the CC-CEDICT apps because it had sample sentences and other nice things that they didn’t have.

This point blew me away. Love invested real money into differentiating his free app (Love still had the great handwriting engine, but iOS’s built-in handwriting – while hugely inferior – had lessened that advantage). Love was confident that after he won in free, he could make up the difference with his plethora of paid add-ons, which at this point included not only additional dictionaries – several of them exclusives – but also modules like stroke order diagrams, different fonts, a document reader, and a year later, optical character recognition (OCR).

At this point I asked him about price. One thing to note about developing on Palm was that significantly higher prices were the norm. Pleco on Palm was available in three different bundles, depending on your choice of dictionary, for prices ranging from $60 to $120. Surely that wasn’t possible on iOS, or was it?

We launched with a basic bundle for $50, a professional bundle for $100, and a complete bundle for $150. So pretty close to the Palm prices actually.

But surely prices have fallen, right?

We actually charge mainly the same prices. Our lowest bundle is $40, but it doesn’t include an additional dictionary now, just features. Some people didn’t like the dictionary we were offering in the basic bundle so we felt it would be more flexible to have a cheaper bundle that didn’t have any dictionaries with the assumption that people could buy whatever dictionary they wanted to go with it. The pricing change helped though – we’re actually netting more off of the basic bundle now than we were when it was $50. The cost reduction actually did us some good.

Pleco's bundles. Individual features and dictionaries are also sold separately.

Pleco’s bundles. Individual features and dictionaries are also sold separately.

Love’s high prices have not hurt sales:

  • Pleco has about 100 times the number of customers as Pleco on Palm/Windows Mobile (thanks to being free)
  • Those free customers convert at about a 5% clip, meaning Love has about 5x more paying customers than he did previously (Palm/Windows Mobile did not have a free edition)
  • Net revenue per customer has been cut by a third, primarily due to significantly higher royalty rates charged by publishers who realized Pleco was cutting into their book sales

Pleco also has an Android version that makes about a third as much revenue as the iOS version, although Love noted it takes up a lot more than a third of his time. I asked him if it was worth it:

As a brand expansion, yes. The number of sales we get from the fact that when a typical student starts their Chinese class or exchange program and you get a little sheet, and the sheet says “Here’s some useful Chinese things you should get” and Pleco is one of them, that’s very valuable, and making sure that Pleco is the only app on there and you don’t need to recommend some other app for Android, that’s valuable.

I think this is a crucial point: Love owns his niche, and he is willing to do whatever is necessary to ensure that remains the case.


In a follow-up post to the one quoted above Sinclair wrote:

Arguments that I naively built and marketed an RSS reader in 2014 aren’t relevant to the heart of my article. Any polished app — in any category, with any amount of marketing or promotion — is a lottery. Increasing the marketing budget is just as likely to increase the potential losses as it is to increase potential sales. Each niche is an apple or an orange. It’s all a gamble.1

Love is testament this is absolutely not true. He has identified a niche – Chinese language learning – and over many years he has worked diligently to be the app for that category. Much of that time has not been spent on development or design. Rather, it’s been spent understanding and listening to customers (which led to the aforementioned bundle change), making business deals with slow-moving publishers, careful consideration around pricing and app store presentation, investments in both free and paid differentiators, and a whole bunch of time spent on an Android app that doesn’t make that much direct money but that marks him as a leader in his space.

Make no mistake, Love has had his breaks, particularly his having started with favorable licensing terms, but I would ask every indie developer who is bemoaning his or her fate in the app store:

  • Are you serving a niche that has a clear need, an audience that is willing to pay, and that is large enough to sustain your app?
  • Have you developed sustainable differentiation that is more tangible than just look-and-feel?
  • Do you have a fully thought-out monetization model that lets you make a meaningful amount from every customer you serve? If your app is truly differentiated then you need to charge customers accordingly
  • Have you invested just as much if not more effort in non-development functions like making partnerships, licensing, promotion, etc.?
  • Have you made an Android app?

All of this is table stakes for any developer, indie or not, and as much as I like Sinclair personally, the lessons I draw from his experience is not that the app store is broken, but rather that he built a bad business (particularly in his choice of market). If doing everything I listed doesn’t sound attractive, or realistic, if all you want to do is develop and make something beautiful, then you need to get a job that will pay you to do that. To be an indie is to first and foremost be a businessperson, and what I admire about Love is that he is exactly that. His development skills are a mean, not an end.

To be clear, Apple could do much more to make things easier for developers of all sizes. Two in particularly would make a big difference:

  • Trials: One of the big advantages Love has in his space is that it is possible for him to offer a highly useful (and differentiated) free app along with a whole slew of paid add-ons. There are other categories, though, where to remove features would render the app useless. These sorts of apps need app-store supported time-limited trials along the lines of the Windows Store:

    The Windows Store lets developers set up time-limited trials of up to 30 days with the click of a button.

    The Windows Store lets developers set up time-limited trials of up to 30 days with the click of a button.

    This would quickly make clear which apps in a given niche were the best, because customers could try them all, and that developer could charge accordingly. Over the long run, different niches would end up with different apps at different prices, with price as a signifier of quality (which, of course, the customer could verify through a trial)

  • Paid Upgrades: The key to any sustainable business, whether it be a restaurant, airline, or app developer, is to make money off of your best customers over time. Apps with a service component, like Evernote, or ones with an ever-increasing array of in-app purchases, like Pleco, do this successfully. Again, though, there are other types of apps that are complete experiences unto themselves. Right now there is little motivation for a developer to invest time in improving their app, because the people who are mostly likely to appreciate those improvements – the current customers – can’t pay. It is true you can release a separate app entirely, but then you lose access to the original app’s data, plus you have no means of communicating with your current customers to let them know why they should update.

Apple really should care: the iOS ecosystem is one of the iPhone’s biggest differentiators, and absolutely one of the reasons Apple maintains its impressive margins. But independent developers also need to appreciate that the iOS app store, with its minimal barriers to entry and massive consumer audience, requires that they first and foremost be businesspeople.

Love reminisces:

I do miss the Palm days. The thing about that is it was much more about writing apps for people like me. I think a lot of people complaining about the state of the app store now are realizing it doesn’t work that way anymore – but in the early days of the iOS app store it did. People on Palm just wanted you to add cool stuff. They wanted more features, they were excited by the same things I was excited by.

This is the critical point: developers all want to write an app for themselves, which means everyone has. That’s why there is no money to be made in something like an RSS reader. But there are whole swathes of people out there who have really interesting and specific needs – like Chinese language learning – just waiting for someone who can not only develop, but can also do market research, build a business model, and do all the messy stuff upon which true differentiation – and sustainable businesses – are built.2

  1. In a follow-up conversation, Sinclair expounded on this, saying, “The scale of the App Store might lead a newcomer to believe that even a small niche is capable of generating satisfying revenues for a solo developer.” To me this seems to be saying the same thing, but judge for yourself
  2. Note: For this article I also interviewed Elia Freedman, another former Palm developer who has built the best financial calculator on the app store (no, really – look at the reviews). My thanks to him for this time, and definitely check out both his apps (he has a whole suite of calculators), as well as his very thoughtful blog (where he disagrees with me about trials)

The post Pleco: Building a Business, not an App appeared first on stratechery by Ben Thompson.

by Ben Thompson at July 31, 2014 08:38 PM

The Brooks Review

∞ Compassionate Tools

I like to think that there was once a point in time, in this country or the world, where humanity prevailed — and I also like to think that the ‘majority-rule’ screwed it all up by trying to be ‘fair’ to everyone.

Microsoft Word, perhaps, best characterizes this when it comes to software. Because at one point Word was a really good program, which was both powerful and easy to use and understand.

Word 5.1 for Mac OS, released in 1992, was a very popular word processor owing to its elegance, relative ease of use and feature set. Many users say it is the best version of Word for Mac OS ever created. (source: Wikipedia)

Today, as you know, Word is a bloated mess that is likely still used only out of tradition alone and not out of any kind of preference. It’s what we know, not what we choose.

But how did it get that way? I think, or rather I assume, because Microsoft started adding features for every edge case — Microsoft couldn’t just add features that made sense, because then it would be unfair to people that wanted other features which Microsoft had not added. Right? So instead of risking losing any potential customer, they just went for the every feature under the sun approach.

Right or wrong, I like to imagine that at some point when it came time to pay your taxes to the IRS you could call up a real person. And you could then explain to said real person that you cannot afford to pay your taxes. You could make your case in person, to another person, and have them decide whether breaking you financially was worth the small amount the government wanted to collect. After all, this really is the way the system should work.

It should make sense to keep people from becoming homeless, or so financially burdened with taxes that they cannot afford to clothe their children, but then that system would not be fair in the least.

We should strive not to be fair on a whole, but to achieve fairness with each person. If paying taxes means you will go homeless, there should in fact be compassion there to analyze the situation and make a decision on a person-by-person basis. Fairness be damned.

But, what likely happened, is that another tax payer caught wind and shouted the most feared words in all of America: “THAT’S NOT FAIR!”

Motherfucker, life isn’t fair, get over it.

Life is about compassion, not fairness.

The moment we forgot about compassion is the moment workers became drones, unable or unwilling to be compassionate out of fear of losing their jobs. These workers simply value their jobs more than they do the ability to show basic human compassion to other people.

There are exceptions to this rule, of course, and those are the people and companies which we love.

For the most part these apathetic drones are being forced into apathy as they know that compassion is a free one-way ticket to homelessness and little else.

But all of this extends outside of government, and to our small elite world of software and computing devices. Because if we look back at how great programs became great messes, we see a common theme: software wanting to be fair.

The thought that continues to rattle around my head is that we have too many apps being made to be fair, and not enough apps being made to be compassionate. That’s not an easy distinction to make, so let me list out a few examples.

Fair:

  • Word
  • Excel
  • Windows
  • Firefox
  • Mail.app
  • Amazon.com
  • Apple Weather App

Compassionate:

  • Writer (Pro)
  • Ulysses
  • Mailbox
  • Acorn

Of course, we slap the trendy term of “opinionated” to apps that are actually just compassionate. Writer isn’t great because of design, it’s great because it says I am here to keep you focused on writing and if you don’t like what I am: please go somewhere else as we won’t be adding your feature.

The same can be said about almost every app on that list — and a great many more.

These apps are compassionate not because of what they are, but because of what they aren’t, and what they will provide to the user.

Ulysses allows for writers to house all their works in a constant and lovely user interface, and act on those words by exporting them to a plethora of different formats. It’s not about designing while you write, it’s about writing and then, and only then, doing something with that writing.

Word on the other hand offers no such solution, because in the world of Word, there is only Word. Word exists to create Word files. Because as you know: Word is not about words, it’s about Word.

“Inventiveness, passion, and courage comes from indies, not from people who watch the bottom line.”

I’ve come to realize that there is only one way to make truly compassionate software, and that is for the person, or people, behind that software to have a clear passion for the software they make and for the people for whom they make the software.

The apps listed above might be apps that you don’t like, or that you have written off for not having feature XYZ, but you wrote them off because you hold no expectation that those apps will ever get that feature. They won’t get that feature because it goes against the passions of those that made it, regardless of how any one feature may change their profit margin.

But, even in the face of stubbornness, it’s hard to sit back and say that these apps are lacking in compassion for their users. I’d venture to say it is near impossible to say such a thing.

Because when it comes right down to it, a compassionate app displays one clear marker: the genuine belief that the app itself will help its users do better.

Here’s the marketing copy from Microsoft on Word:

Polished documents, anytime, anywhere, on all of your devices

Here’s the marketing copy from Ulysses III:

If you love to write, and write a lot, you’ll love Ulysses III.

Word tells you what it can do, and Ulysses tells you who it is for.

Comically, here is the one take away from Photoshop’s marketing:

Get all the latest creative apps, plus seamless ways to share and collaborate. All right on your desktop.

Compare with Acorn:

Everyone needs to edit photos at some point, but not everyone has the time to learn complicated super pricey photo editing software. This is why we created Acorn.

Again Photoshop is about its features, and Acorn is perfectly humanistic in what it will do with you.

The tools that lack compassion all show the same thing in their marketing: how great the tool is, and all the crap the tool can do.

The tools that have compassion all show the same thing: how the tool will help you.

I don’t know about you, but give me a compassionate tool any day of the week.

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

by Ben Brooks at July 31, 2014 08:20 PM

Justin Taylor

A New Interactive Bible Study Curriculum for Students with Intellectual Disabilities

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

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

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

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

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

The Art of Non-Conformity

Worst Case Scenario: Losing It All in Europe

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When you’re evaluating a big decision, sometimes it’s helpful to ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?”

Most of the time, the worst-case scenario doesn’t actually come to pass.

But sometimes it does. Tera and Wes told us this story at Pioneer Nation:

We got the dream job. The one our careers had been waiting for: filming in New York and across Europe. The timing perfectly aligned with a cruise we already had planned for vacation through Israel and Egypt.

Then, if it could go wrong, it did go wrong. Hurricane Sandy. Our crew going home early. No time to back up our footage. Arriving in Europe two days late. SIckness. But we finished the work, filming ten people in four cities over the course of six days.

It was vacation time. And it was Wes’s birthday. While on the train from Rome to the cruise terminal, one of our bags was stolen—the bag with all our footage and photography gear.

We sat on the sidewalk, debating our next move. Go back and try to recover our gear, or go forward and get on the cruise? Wes finally looked at me and said, “When I am 80 and I tell my grandkids this story, I want them to know that I chose experience over work. I touched the pyramids and walked through the holy city.”

So we went. I will admit it was hard. I was bitter and spent the first several days very angry. All that work… gone. But we saw things that I truly never thought I would see. We took photos of the pyramids on Kodak disposable cameras. We experienced life and we have stories to tell our kids.

Thankfully, we did manage to make things right with our client, by returning to Europe and reshooting the work. We still work with that client regularly. She showed us tremendous kindness by trusting us to fix the mess we were in.

What a story! It just gets worse and worse as it goes along. Everything stolen! No backups!

But even in this story, the moral is the same: it’s pretty hard… but then it’s okay. They were still glad they took the trip.

###

Image: Thomas Hawk

by Chris Guillebeau at July 31, 2014 06:22 PM

CrossFit 204

Workout: Aug. 2, 2014

Practice makes perfect!

Note the upright torso position. Strive to keep your chest up as you bounce at the ankles.

Triple Twos

Row 2,000 m

200 double-unders

Run 2 miles (4 block laps)

by Mike at July 31, 2014 05:12 PM

Workout: Aug. 1, 2014

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

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

Press 3-3-3

3 rounds of:

20 chest-to-bar pull-ups

30 shoulder presses (75/45 lb.)

50 air squats

Time cap: 15 minutes

Skills

Part 1

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

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

No bowing, get hollow.

Work:rest – 1:1

Progression 2 – 2 sets of 24 shoulder taps

Done with the back to the wall this week.

Rest 30 seconds between sets.

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

Rest 30 seconds between sets.

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

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

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

Part 2

3 rounds of:

Row 300 m

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

by Mike at July 31, 2014 05:07 PM

Crossway Blog

Video: The Picky Eater Approach to Bible Study

 

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

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

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

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

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

Cal Newport » Blog

Do Goals Prevent Success?

An Effectual Understanding of Impact

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

What explains this impact instinct?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s Sarasvathy describing effectuation in action:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Literary Envy and the Last Redoubt

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

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

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

He then identifies the two sides

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

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

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

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

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

We are entertainers first and crusaders second.

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

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

United Underworld02

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

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

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

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

The writer, Mr Raymond, goes on to say

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

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

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

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

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

United Underworld

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is from one of their award winning efforts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The article goes on to say:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

.

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

The Urbanophile

Summer Reading List

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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


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

by Aaron M. Renn at July 31, 2014 02:50 PM

Crossway Blog

Stay in the Word with ESVBible.org Reading Plans

ESV Bible header

It can be a challenge to consistently read the Bible, and many times it’s even more challenging to know where to begin!

ESVBible.org has a variety of free reading plans to help you get in the Word and stay in the Word. Examples of these reading plans include a chronological reading plan, the M’Cheyne one-year reading plan, a daily Psalm, or a plan to help you systematically memorize Scripture.

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

How it Works:

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

Calendar Icon

 

 

 

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

reading plan drop down menu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Create a free account and track your progress!

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

Inconsolation

caesar: Julius would be proud

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

2014-07-30-lv-c5551-caesar

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

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

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

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


Tagged: game

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

cheat, cheat, cheats and cheat: So many cheaters

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

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

2014-07-30-lv-c5551-cheat-chrisallenlane

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

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

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

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

2014-07-30-lv-c5551-cheat-jahendrie

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

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

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

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

2014-07-30-lv-c5551-cheats-lucaswerkmeister

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tagged: cheat, data, manage, text

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

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

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

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

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

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

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

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

image

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

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

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

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

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

In the meantime, wobbling away!

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

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

Alexis C. Madrigal : The Atlantic

What Is Pinterest? A Database of Intentions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Evan Sharp (Pinterest)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was our head of discovery.

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

The process is part of the experience.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How would you compare yourself to Facebook?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


* After I published my story, a reader pointed out that John Battelle coined this phrase in 2003 to define a larger set intentions, which is to say, all searches. My usage is much narrower. My apologies for any confusion.








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

Table Titans

Front Porch Republic

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

malthus

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

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

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

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Stay or Go When Ebola Breaks Out?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reflections from an Overgrown Garden

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

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

Harvesting

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

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

Pruning

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

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

Weeding

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

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

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

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

Bring Back the Holy Kiss

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

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

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

Public Rap

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

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

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

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

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

Wide Diversity

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

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

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

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

Greet one another with a holy kiss.

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

Balancing Administration and Teaching in Higher Ed

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

*****

What do you do every day?

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

How did you decide to work in higher education?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

The Art of Non-Conformity

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

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Here’s round I.

***

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

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

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

***

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

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

###

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

512 Pixels

E.W. Scripps spinning off newspaper business →

Dan Monk:

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

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

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

Permalink

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

Lift Big Eat Big

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


Article written by Pro Strongman Matt Mills

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


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

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


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



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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Application to Strength Sports

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

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





Accessory lifts

Deficit Sumo Deadlifts

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

   

Raised Sumo Deadlifts

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






Sumo RDL

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

by Brandon Morrison (noreply@blogger.com) at July 31, 2014 12:43 AM

Responsive.org

Amazon on Hachette

So, at $9.99, the total pie is bigger – how does Amazon propose to share that revenue pie? We believe 35% should go to the author, 35% to the publisher and 30% to Amazon. Is 30% reasonable? Yes. In fact, the 30% share of total revenue is what Hachette forced us to take in 2010 when they illegally colluded with their competitors to raise e-book prices. We had no problem with the 30% — we did have a big problem with the price increases.

The Amazon Books Team responds to the controversy surrounding ebooks and the publisher, Hachette.

We’re starting to see that when a responsive organization is pressed up against the wall on a PR challenge, they speak transparently and reset the truth, as in this case. See also Elon Musk’s note regarding the fires in Tesla S models.

by Bud Caddell at July 31, 2014 12:23 AM

July 30, 2014

Responsive.org

Cost of Network is the New Cost of Entry

This is the reality that Brad and I stared at in 2003 as we were developing our initial investment thesis for USV. We saw the cloud coming but did not want to invest in commodity software delivered in the cloud. So we asked ourselves, “what will provide defensibility” and the answer we came to was networks of users, transactions, or data inside the software. We felt that if an entrepreneur could include something other than features and functions in their software, something that was not a commodity, then their software would be more defensible. That led us to social media, to Delicious, Tumblr, and Twitter. And marketplaces like Etsy, Lending Club, and Kickstarter. And enterprise oriented networks like Workmarket, C2FO, and SiftScience.

Fred Wilson shares a story and his initial investment thesis at Union Square.

The only moat that a company can build for itself these days, to protect it from competitive threats, is a network – replete with users, data, and partners. A newer, better Facebook gets launched everyday of the week, but none of those new startups have your friends as users. And until one of them figures out how to cost effectively acquire you and your friends, you’ll stick to Facebook.

by Bud Caddell at July 30, 2014 11:58 PM

Mr. Money Mustache

Is Mr. Money Mustache Ruining Your Marriage? (Part 2)

Scene from a recent sunset, where I paddled out on the lake and wrote down a few things.

Scene from a recent sunset, where I paddled out on the lake and wrote down a few things.

In our last episode, we reviewed a particularly spirited example of the classic battle over frugality, cheapness, and the freedom to spend one’s own money the way one sees fit. Some version of this same clash is surely occuring a thousand times over in every city of the world on a continual basis, for it lies at the root at human nature itself. This is why I find it so interesting.

For example, while some couples end up at war and never get anywhere, others find that frugality brings peace. Check out this quote from an email someone sent me the very next day in response to that last article:

“My wife absolutely loves Mustachianism too, even though she has never read your stories or visited your website. She just loves the man I’ve begun to transform into (biking to work, fixing things in the house, carpentry, no more TV, long walks, etc.)”

 

Another woman shared her story of sudden Mustachianism-induced change the same day:

“Since then, we have sold the SUV and bought a used compact car, paid off all of our debts, sold the house and gotten another (1000 sq ft total!) in the city, close to transit and work, and live on 30% of what we used to. I have lost 30 lbs in the process, hubby lost 40 lbs, happier and feeling so much more accomplished. (…) I’m not planning on retiring soon as I’ve made my priority working one day per week for now until my daughter gets into school, but with the changes I will have my home paid for in 5 years and will be retirement ready by 48. This is truly a 180 degree change from before.”

 

We could write a whole encyclopedia about personality types, feelings, and relationship dynamics before we even got to the start of what is going on here, then move on to take an expensive series of counseling sessions. But to take a massive shortcut and just go right to the answer, I believe that the biggest cause of fights like this is in our different responses to authority.

Through a combination of genetically-inherited temperament and socially programmed character, we all end up at different places on the obedience scale. Some kids actually listen to their parents and do things like eating whatever is put in front of them at dinnertime, whereas my own son will gladly enter a battle to the death before accepting verbal commands to do something he feels is irrational or unfair.

I could write this off as childish, but unfortunately I am the same way*. If a person or society  imposes a rule on me, it had better have some identifiable logical reason behind it. Otherwise, I find myself digging in and willing to fight against it – quite enthusiastically to the death if required. Watching the response of Gimli (that Invincible Dwarf with the Giant Beard in Lord of the Rings) when the prospect of battle comes up, I feel an eerie kinship with the diminutive badass.

So let’s suppose you are the frugal one in your relationship, and your spouse is prone to wasteful spending. Hey, I’m on your side too – most of the shit we spend our money on is rubbish and you end up richer and much happier if you just simply stop buying it. But how do you spread this obvious logic to your spouse?

Well, for starters, you don’t do it by watching over his or her spending and then nagging every time you see something you don’t like. While this is your natural temptation, and it does work for those who happen to have obedient spouses, it will backfire miserably for the other 75% of us. This is because you are trying to impose authority on someone who does not like to be bossed around. Note that in the success stories above, each side was fueled by the positive results of frugality rather than just obediently following the instructions of a spouse.

So instead of nitpicking the symptoms (individual spending decisions), you need to address the root cause: Your Goals in Life.

Your first task is making sure you both are working towards the same common “Why?”

This step may take minutes, or it may take years.

There are plenty of good Whys out there, but they can be elusive at first. My own Why is simply “to live the best life possible”, from which stems a desire for health, personal growth, free time to explore my interests and even more free time to raise my son. I found that none of these could be optimized with a full-time job getting in the way, so my very first task was eliminating dependence on that job.

When you add in the environmental side of things and the fact that to waste natural resources is quite simply to be an asshole to all other humans and other living beings on the planet, the choice for me became even clearer.

Some people might get stuck with irreconcilable differences at that very first step. A vegan might find it unacceptable for moral reasons to live with an omnivore like myself, for example. And I’m personally stubborn enough that I couldn’t live with someone who insisted on a full-sized SUV for personal transport. Better to just sidestep such lifelong conflicts instead of spending a lifetime fighting them. But if you’re already locked in with a wife and kids, it is time to be more patient and creative because honoring your responsibilities comes above serving your own personal ideology**.

Once you can agree on your definition of The Best Life Possible, it often helps to start by Painting the 10-Year Picture.

For example, one brilliant reader named Andy wrote in and shared a story of his own success at flipping the frugality switch. His approach in a nutshell was, “If we keep doing what we are doing now, here’s where we will be in 10 years. But if we do it this other way (sell the expensive car, pay off our debts, live a different way), we will be over $200,000 further ahead, which will make our lives much better.”

He conveyed this message by giving a slightly silly Powerpoint presentation to his own wife. And the results were so good, he sent in the slides to share with you:

Make Our Money Sing: A Money Mustachian Adventure

Most people cannot see the connection between lattes, sandals, V-8 engines, and a million dollars. But it’s really there – changing relatively simple spending habits will indeed make the difference between Broke and Millionaire over a reasonably short time period. A slideshow like that one makes the math clear.

Other people might be more impressed by emotional appeals rather than monetary ones. The fact that you start living more happily immediately when you spend more time outdoors, for example. The relationship between debt, stress, and death. The idea of retiring in your 30s or 40s instead of after you get your discounted senior citizen bus pass. Or the incredible benefit of not having to worry much about money and careers when you’re busy with the bigger job of raising your kids.

All of these things are the direct result of living a frugal lifestyle, which is in turn just a slight change to a few dozen little daily life habits. These little changes are ridiculously effective, and also ridiculously easy, which is why I find it ridiculous that almost everyone is broke in this country except those with such ridiculously high incomes that they can’t manage to spend it all.

But the enforcement over those little decisions needs to come from within each person, rather than from an outside authority or an angry budget. You can make yourself save, and Mr. Money Mustache can make you save because you’re reading this freely and then independently deciding whether or not to implement it. But your husband or wife can not make you save. At best, they can only inspire you to want to save.

On the other side of the coin, the Frugality Enforcers among us may need to sit back and do their own math. If you are already saving over 50% of take-home pay, for example, the odd indulgence will not derail your dreams of early retirement. And if your income is really high, you can indulge almost constantly – you just have to be a bit strategic and avoid the biggest money pits like luxury cars, long commutes, and yachts. My own frugality is hampered by my taste for luxurious housing and food, for example. But by approaching these luxury add-ons as part of a generally calculated and frugal lifestyle, the bank is not broken and the family’s spending still ends up around $2000 per month.

In fact, I find that allowing yourself to be imperfect enhances the experience of being human. Beer and wine are bad for me, but I still get drunk occasionally. I know that luxury is just another weakness, but I still indulge in it occasionally. The key to all this is to acknowledge that you are doing something unnecessary and slightly wimpy, laugh at yourself, and then do it anyway with full gusto. Then you’re free to get back to your normal disciplined self in regular life.

Strategy for Frugality Without Deprivation:

Start with your regular life. Start introducing challenges for yourself which build your Frugality Muscle. Embrace the successes and laugh at the inevitable failures. Note how quickly this becomes fun and makes life worth living. Now throw in the odd unnecessary luxury and laugh again at how large and decadent your life is. You could do this all day. What were all those other people whining about who said this would be hard?

 

*And have been since birth according to Mom. This is why I cut my own son some slack for his stubbornness, and attempt to use rational logic rather than fist-backed discipline to do my half of the family’s management.

**Which sounds a bit Unyielding and Old Testament, but the science on happiness seems to back this up: being honorable and consciously choosing to serve others leads to a happier life, because you’re constantly challenged and reassured that you are doing the right thing. Making selfish choices is like having that third piece of cake: thrilling initially, but quickly followed by a much longer period of unhappiness and repercussions.

 

by Mr. Money Mustache at July 30, 2014 11:44 PM

CrossFit 204

Workout: July 31, 2014

Jay loves N.Y., and running.

Jay loves N.Y., and running.

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

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

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

 

by Mike at July 30, 2014 10:35 PM

Be Coachable

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But I’ve always done it this way.”

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

“This way is slower.”

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

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

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

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

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

“No, but I’ll try it.”

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

“Cool.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Mike at July 30, 2014 10:31 PM

Caelum Et Terra

Anathema

If anyone says that Miles Davis was not a freaking genius, let him be anathema:

 


by Daniel Nichols at July 30, 2014 09:57 PM

ASCII by Jason Scott

WHAT the Cloud?

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

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

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

00_coverscreenshot (12)

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

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

Well, let’s hold up there.

IMG_3701

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

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

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

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

And I got them.

samurai

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

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

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

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

00_coverscreenshot (11)

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

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

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

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

It is not new.

But it does rule.

screenshot_01

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

The Outlaw Way

140731

Five Observations from the 2014 CrossFit Games:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go pick up a barbell.


WOD 140731:

Rest day.

The post 140731 appeared first on The Outlaw Way.

by rudy.coach at July 30, 2014 08:37 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

On the Cost of Upgrading Your Fleet of Warships

Upgrading Your Warship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

###

Image: Joriel

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

512 Pixels

AgileBits announces 1Password extension for iOS 8 apps →

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

Permalink

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

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

The Wright Perspective: Seven Right Ideas (Faith)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the Whole Thing

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

Daniel Lemire's blog

Predicting your future performance

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

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

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

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

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

Can you guess the best indicator of future success?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Koinonia

PROOF Is the New TULIP — A New Paradigm for Explaining God's Irresistible Grace

(Can't see the video? Watch it here)

9780310513896Every generation is called to reframe the glorious grace of God for their day.

Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones have answered that call with their new book PROOF, a powerful new paradigm for explaining the intoxicating joy of God’s irresistible grace.

Montgomery explains a number of years ago he struggled to communicate the historic doctrines of grace in a way that was helpful for his people. While TULIP had been used for that purpose in the past, he insists “it hasn’t been the most helpful tool in magnifying the glorious gospel of God’s grace.”

This is where PROOF comes in.

Each letter refers to 5 facets of God’s grace, which the video above walks through in detail. Watch it and then engage Montgomery’s and Jones’ book to help you better communicate God’s grace in a way that is helpful for your own people.

by Jeremy Bouma at July 30, 2014 06:32 PM